Regan Russell was a beloved, relentless and skilled activist who – for more than forty years – devoted her life to advocating for voiceless animals. But, in an instant, she was silenced, run over and killed, on Friday, June 19th, by a truck packed with pigs as it headed to a slaughterhouse in Burlington, Ontario in Canada.  Protests and blockades have now erupted at the spot where Regan was run down, as a scrum of media assembled to hear from the victim’s family and fellow animal rights advocates. Save Movement founder Anita Krajnc spoke, promising global mobilization in honor of Regan Russell’s life, cut short as she was advocating for compassion to other sentient beings with whom we share this planet. Kranjc told the Huffington Post that, according to activists who were there are the time of the incident, Regan “was in front of the truck when it ran over her.  Some activists were taking videos during the course of the fateful afternoon, videos that have now reportedly been confiscated by police who are investigating the tragic incident. Watch this short video, compiled from the scene of Regan’s death.

Regan was there to take part in a vigil for pigs as part of the Animal Save Movement. The beloved 65-year-old was a fixture at such events, which are designed to raise awareness about the cruelty involved in animal agriculture. Activists give comfort and water to the thirsty pigs who are crammed into trucks. The participants peacefully “bear witness” to the suffering of the pigs as they head to their deaths. As soon as word broke of what happened Friday, JaneUnChainedCanada contributor Ray Kowalchuk raced to the scene and provided this emotional real-time video report on the shocking death of a woman who was an inspiration to the global animal rights movement.

Regan – with her silver bob cut and broad smile – was admired by the animal rights community for her buoyant personality, which masked a fierce bravery that erupted as needed. Fellow activist Jenny McQueen described how Regan once saved her life when McQueen was seconds away from being choked to death during an animal rights sit-in.  The Save Movement issued this statement. “We are devastated to announce the tragic death of Regan Russell, a compassionate animal advocate who was killed… outside of the Fearman’s Pork Inc. slaughterhouse in Burlington, Ontario in Canada. Regan was a fearless fighter and a peacemaker. She bore witness… to offer water to the pigs on a scorching hot day, offering them a final moment of peace – as she had done many times before in legal protest.”

Regan did what she felt was right by being here for these pigs. She attended several vigils and has been participating in animal rights activism since 1977!

Save Movement founder Anita Krajnc has been on site comforting distraught activists and leading  impromptu memorials and demonstrations outside the slaughterhouse.  “Regan was a kind, elegant, strong, and courageous person,” Krajnc said. “She was a mentor to others, and she always did activism with kindness in her heart.” Krajnc added that Regan Russell was a crusader who also advocated for racial justice. “She supported Black Lives Matter, Indigenous rights and she was an intersectional vegan who understood the importance of equality in terms of racial justice and in terms of animal equality,” Krajnc said.

The slaughterhouse says it is cooperating with the police investigation.  Camille Labchuk, the executive director of Animal Justice, said the slaughterhouse has been asked to spare the lives of the pigs who were in the truck at the time that vehicle hit and killed Regan Russell. “We have asked management to get some of these pigs in the truck to a sanctuary in her name,” said Labchuk. Click here to get to know Regan Russell, now a martyr for the animal rights movement, as she is interviewed by the amazing Michelle Labrosse.

“She died fighting for what she believed in,” said Mark Powell, Russel’s partner of 19 years. -Raise Vegan MagazineRegan Russell’s tragic death comes two days after the controversial agricultural gag (“ag gag”) law, Bill 156, was passed in Ontario. Bill 156 is designed to cover up animal cruelty on farms and during transport. It mandates harsher penalties for anyone caught trespassing onto slaughterhouses, even if they are doing so to shine a light on cruelty. It effectively makes undercover filming at slaughterhouses and factory farms a crime. While the passage of this morally bankrupt law and Regan Russell’s horrific death feel like a one-two punch for animal activists on the front lines, the dual horrors have not diminished their determination to seek justice for the billions of animals trapped in a system of industrialized torture. Regan would want us to double down on our efforts. That’s exactly what we are all determined to do. Rest in peace Regan Russell. 

Anita Krajnc, Save Movement Founder, at the scene of Regan Russell's death.

Anita Krajnc, founder of the Save Movement, as a slaughter truck passes her.

Animal activists form a close-knit community. We often refer to our vegan family. Regan’s death is like losing a family member. We will carry on in her honor. Thank you to The Save Movement and Toronto Pig Save for providing these photos.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals published this call to action in the wake of Regan Russell’s death. “We must not allow Regan to have died in vain but instead lament her tragic loss with more efforts, more action, more demands for accountability, and more demands for the end of killing animals for foodand for experimentsclothing, and entertainment. Here are… things that you can do right now to honor Regan and all the pigs who’ve been killed for food:

  1. Buy vegan bacon for someone who isn’t vegan.
  2. Give a vegan cookbook to a non-vegan friend or acquaintance.
  3. Put a sign in your window or on your lawn or slap a bumper sticker on your car urging folks to go vegan.
  4. Take a page from Regan’s book and speak out against speciesism on social media.”