“Some of the Darkest Places in the World”: Joaquin Phoenix in Slaughterhouse Photo Book | Photography


Strapped in the darkness of a narrow hallway is a pig with desperate eyes. Every strand of hair is defined, and every line, wrinkle and crease on her body seems to express the cruel conditions of her life. The photo, by Finnish photojournalist Kristo Muurimaa, is just one of many shocking images compiled in the Hidden photo book. Created by photojournalist and animal rights activist Jo-Anne McArthur, Hidden shines a light on factory farms and slaughterhouses on an industrial scale and is an indictment of the meat industry.

McArthur and 39 photographers from 16 countries who contributed to the book are flawless and unapologetic about what they reveal. “My best images are those where I am up close with a wide angle: the calf in the wheelbarrow, put in a crate; the rabbit, ears back, obviously next in line for slaughter, ”Muurimaa said.

Joaquin Phoenix, who at this year’s Oscars used his best actor acceptance speech to champion veganism, wrote the book’s foreword. “The photojournalists depicted in Hidden have entered some of the darkest and most disturbing places in the world,” he says. “The images they captured are a burning reminder of our unforgivable behavior towards animals and will serve as beacons of change for years to come.

Cruel conditions… a doomed pig among the bodies of the others, all slaughtered while fully conscious in Mexico. Photographie: Igualdad Animal / Jose Valle / Animal Equality

One image, taken by Polish photojournalist Andrew Skowron, shows disheveled chickens hanging by their feet from a conveyor belt of metal chains, approaching human hands that cut their throats. Like the rest of the book, it features images of the short, confined life of farm animals, from the birth pen to the slaughterhouse floor. As Hidden contributor Stefano Belacchi says: “We must always remember that the animals depicted in these photos will be dead when the public sees them. I feel a great responsibility when I think about it.

McArthur has long used photojournalism to defend animal rights. “Animal photojournalism demands radical empathy and self-awareness,” she says. “Viewers need to shift their focus and view the world through the eyes of a different species, while retaining the truth about humanity’s undeniable role in history. She also points out that by bringing these images to light, “it poses a fundamental threat to the deeply entrenched societal systems that endure, largely unchallenged. Seeking out these visual stories is in itself an act of resistance. “

Hidden reveals in often gory detail how little we know about what goes on in these windowless walls. Photographer Francesco Pistilli started covering the Italian meat industry eight years ago. “I discovered that companies had moved the animals indoors to prison-style factories in the middle of nowhere in rural areas, out of the sight of nervous consumers.

Next in line ... the rabbits arriving for slaughter are stacked in the bleeding area where the killing is performed in front of them in Spain.
Next in line… the rabbits arriving for slaughter are piled up in the bleeding area where the killing is carried out in front of them in Spain. Photography: Aitor Garmendia

The stories in its pages are revealing and brutal. They are proof of the urgency facing animals around the world, from industrial agriculture to climate change, and provide valuable insight into the relevance of animal suffering to human health. “I do this job because I want others to see what I see when I look into an animal’s eyes,” explains photographer Louise Jorgensen. “To see that there is someone like you looking behind those scared, pleading eyes.” I capture the emotion in the eyes to understand that animals, like us, are emotional and sensitive beings with the same capacity to feel joy, love and to suffer greatly.

While the focus of this photobook is driven by activism and the desire to see a change in the treatment of animals around the world, contributor Aitor Garmendia insists that the artistic dimension has not been lost: “I want the aesthetics of a photo and its beauty to catch the viewer’s eye and thus serve to understand horror and injustice.

Horror and injustice ... immediately after birth, this calf, soaked in amniotic fluid, was sent to die for being born too weak.
Horror and injustice … immediately after birth, this calf, soaked in amniotic fluid, was sent to die for being born too weak. Photograph: Animal Equality / Dulce Ramirez

The Hidden editors expect these viewers to be a diverse audience, from animal rights groups, which some of the contributing photographers already work for, to documentary photography aficionados, as well as those of the general public. that call into question the treatment of animals. McArthur plans to donate copies to politicians, lobbyists, policy makers, farm groups and celebrity chefs, to elevate the discussion of animal rights and welfare to a higher level of concern. public.

She adds: “When I first saw the book Inferno by war photographer James Nachtwey, I knew immediately that I wanted to make a similar book for animals. To this day, Nachtwey’s images are globally recognized and used to spark conversations about how we can and should do better for each other. My goal with Hidden is to get the same visibility into animal suffering.

Hidden is released later this month.


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