ACTIVISTS held a vigil outside a slaughterhouse to show compassion to pigs before they were killed for meat.

Members of Animal Aid and campaign group Essex Pig Save gathered outside Cheale Meats, West Horndon, to “bear witness” to the animals led to the abattoir.

The joint vigil, where about 20 campaigners stroked, fed and watered the livestock, was part of the nationwide Animals Are Not Freight campaign.

Animal Aid campaign leader Isobel Hutchinson, described the pigs’ fate as terrifying and brutal.

She added one of the exercise’s aims was to stir the public into considering veganism - a diet she says has “no negative effects” on health.

“We saw pigs who had endured a journey in cramped, stressful conditions on their way to a slaughterhouse, where they will now have faced a terrifying and brutal end.

“It is too late to save the animals we saw yesterday, but everyone has the power to spare countless animals from this same hellish fate by adopting a cruelty-free diet.

“There are substitutes out there for all kinds of meat proteins, and eating as a vegan properly has no negative effects on health,” she said.

But Brentwood nutritionists have opposed the claim, saying diets are not “one size fits all".

Adele Dobson, who runs Remedy Health in Crown Street, said: “I quit veganism in 2012.

“After eating fish and meat, I personally saw a big improvement in health. However, this isn’t an example for everybody out there, because everyone is very different.

“There isn’t a one size fits all in this. I rarely eat meat but when I do it is organic.”

The 41-year-old added the message needs to be about more sustainable and animal/eco-friendly farming.

Cheale Meats was subject of a 2011 undercover investigation by Animal Aid, in which covertly shot film showed pigs being beaten, burnt with cigarettes and the electric goad being used on the face of one pig.

Two Cheale Meats workers were jailed as a result of the investigation.

The company refused to comment on how it has clamped down on animal cruelty, but a spokesman described the company's stance as "non-plussed" towards the activists.

He said: "The activists do what they do and we do what we do - we are poles apart.

"We are non-plussed by the demonstrations."