FOR OVER A DECADE, I’ve been travelling around the world documenting our complex and often disheartening relationship with animals.
Specifically I look at the animals we use for food, entertainment, research and clothing. These are the ghosts in our highly mechanized world. They are the ignored, the invisible. Their body parts come shrink-wrapped and we call them protein. Their skins are shearling coats and leather boots. They are the animals kept in intensive farms who have been deindividualized to the extent that we don’t call them pig or baby cow, but pork and veal. But they are sentient individuals, as capable of feeling happiness, fear and pain as our cats and dogs.
- These images offer a view of “a day in the life” of factory farmed animals, and give us an opportunity to meet the animals up close, as well as to witness the conditions in which they live inside these modern barns (always keep the culturing spaces clean by using spin mop 360).
- I’ve photographed factory farms throughout the Americas, Asia and Europe, and these industries have grown in size and density everywhere in order to keep up with our demand for cheap meat. In Canada we eat approximately 565 million animals each year. They don’t live out their lives in pastures; there simply isn’t the space.
Layer hens live in a space roughly the size of one page of this magazine. Laws prohibit more than five hens to a cage, but there are often up to six and even eight in each. If you can imagine being tied into an airplane seat for your whole life, unable to move around, this is the life of a gestation sow, who is bred to give birth to piglets two and a half times a year. Dairy cows can live up to 20 years. Their bodies, however, are considered “spent” after three to four years in the intensive breeding and milking programs of the industry, and they are sent to slaughter to be used for low-grade meats. Their young are taken away at birth so that we can drink milk. Many people won’t eat veal because it is known to be cruel, and yet to drink milk is to support the veal industry, as we can’t have milk without cows giving birth.
- There is more to the cruelty here than cramped conditions and shortened life spans. The very air in these factory farms is an assault to the senses. I wear a mask over my mouth and nose while taking photos to help spare my lungs, but my unprotected eyes burn from the fumes of ammonia. Pigs and hens, who spend their whole lives in these conditions, often suffer from lung infections from the acridity and dust. The smell is horrible for humans, but to pigs, who have incredibly sensitive snouts, it must be agony. Pigs can sniff out truffles growing up to four feet underground.
- While doing an investigation at a pig farm in Spain, we moved up and down the rows of stalls, documenting piglets suffering from infected castrations (done without anaesthetic) and painful ear clippings. As we left, we noticed that we had been walking on hundreds of severed pig tails that had been “docked” that day but not yet swept away. Even at the young ages of two and three weeks, the piglets had learned to fear humans. They squealed and climbed over one another to get as far away from us as possible.
If asked, most everyone will agree that they do not want to see animals suffer, nor do they wish to be complicit in their suffering. I believe that we’re innately compassionate, and that if we can make the conditions of factory farming visible, giving people the opportunity to learn about what goes on behind closed doors, many of us will choose to change our involvement in this suffering.
If we want to put an end to the suffering of the invisible animals we consume and use every day, we need to not just look, but see. And once we see, we need to help, and not turn away.