Activists gathered outside Wagner’s Meats in Mount Airy on Monday to protest the slaughter of farm animals and promote a vegan lifestyle.
The event was planned by Maryland Farmed Animal Save, which is an arm of an international movement to raise awareness of livestock before slaughter. Anita Karjnc founded the first group in Toronto in 2010, and the movement has grown to include over 190 groups.
Karjnc attended Monday’s gathering in Mount Airy before driving to Virginia and North Carolina for similar events.
“It’s not a protest. It’s a vigil in the sense we’re here to bear witness,” Karjnc said. “See animals suffering? Don’t look away, and try to help.”
A crowd of about 50 people gathered on the sidewalks outside Wagner’s Meats for the local group’s first vigil.
Wagner’s Meats is a family-owned business that was founded in 1953. It processes locally raised beef, lamb and pork and sells fresh cuts of meat in its store at the same location.
Michael Wagner has owned Wagner’s Meats for three months, since taking over for his uncle Tom. He watched the protesters as he stood outside the store on Monday.
“It’s their right [to protest]. They’re allowed to do it,” Wagner said. “It’s our constitutional right.”
Wagner sent an email to the group saying he respected their right to protest and asked them to in turn respect his private property. Previously, protesters have tried to enter the property, he said.
A shipment of beef cattle arrived Monday morning before the start of the protest, Wagner said. No other shipments were scheduled for Monday.
The protest was not meant to target the family business, workers or drivers, but to object to the system of supply and demand for meat, said Barbara Krause, 60, who drove from Pennsylvania to participate. Krause, who said she has been a vegan for the past 7½ years, held a sign that said, “We are all animals. Be kind go vegan.”
Montana Lopatic, 19, rode to the protest with Krause. She said she supports the save movement, because it is a love-based approach to making people more aware that packaged meat in the store comes from a live animal.
“What inspired these actions is there’s a disconnect between products people buy and the animals that need to die,” said James Aspey, an animal rights activist from Sydney, Australia, who was also at the protest.
Mount Airy officials and Maryland State Police were notified of plans for the protest prior to Monday. Officers in four vehicles monitored the gathering and parked their vehicles alongside the entrances to the store.
Wagner approached the protesters at the beginning of the event and offered them a case of bottled water.
Despite the protest, Wagner said he expected Monday to be a regular day. Wagner’s Meats employees start their day at 6:30 a.m., so the protest did not affect their commute.
An hour into the protest, some regular customers had already stopped by to show their support for the local business. Some customers have been coming to the butcher shop for over 50 years, Wagner said.
“I think we’re part of Mount Airy,” he said.
The business processes livestock from farms in Frederick, Carroll, Montgomery, Howard and Baltimore counties, Wagner said.
City of Frederick residents Stacy Slusher, 47, and daughter Kendall, 11, attended the vigil. Both switched to vegan diets three weeks ago, after being vegetarians for more than a year. They watch animal documentaries together and chose to go to plant-based diets for health reasons.
Neither realized there was a meat processing plant so close to home.
Kendall, who will attend West Frederick Middle School this fall, held a handwritten sign that said, “Love animals. Don’t eat them.”
Despite steady rain, both stood along the guardrail and pointed their signs toward oncoming cars. A few honked their horns in support.
“I think this is very interesting,” said Slusher, who plans to attend future protests with Kendall. “I think it’s worthwhile.”