Paul McCartney once famously said ‘If slaughterhouses had glass walls, we would all be vegetarians’... but of course they don’t, and most people remain unaware of the lives and deaths of animals raised for food. But now Animal Equality is changing all of that by transporting people inside factory farms and slaughterhouses using virtual reality technology.
This year we launched our iAnimal project and became the first animal protection organisation to use virtual reality to open up the secretive, sinister world of meat production and allow everyone to experience first-hand how farmed animals live - and die.
Our first iAnimal film takes viewers inside pig farms in the UK, Germany and Italy as well as a slaughterhouse in Spain. In all of these countries, and most of the western world, the majority of pigs killed for meat are intensively reared inside barren, filthy factory farm sheds with breeding sows confined to tiny farrowing crates for weeks at a time when they give birth—a sight that moved Downton Abbey actor, Peter Egan to tears as he narrated the film.
"I have never seen anything as shocking as this in my life. It’s devastating, and completely inhumane. Virtual reality enabled me to experience, close up, for just a few minutes, the horror of the short lives of factory farmed animals, to see what they see, to get a real sense of how they live. It has shocked me deeply, and it has strengthened my resolve to help them." said Peter Egan.
The practices that take place inside factory farms and slaughterhouses are deliberately kept hidden from the public. Animal Equality believes people have the right to know what happens behind these closed doors so that consumers can make informed decisions about the food they buy.
Through the lenses of the virtual reality headset, viewers feel that they are inside the farm and slaughterhouse, trapped alongside all the other animals, and sharing their fate. You stand next to a mother pig while she gives birth for the sixth time to piglets who will soon be taken away from her. You experience the extreme confinement of the farrowing crates. You witness the daily suffering that takes place inside a pig farm. You are right there when they take their last breath.
It is a powerful experience, an intimate experience, and one that moves viewers very deeply. More than 16,000 people in the UK have watched our immersive film since it launched in March, including nearly 9,000 students at 30 universities. Everyone is in a state of shock when they take the headset off, uttering the almost ubiquitous phrase, "That’s horrible, I had no idea they were treated so badly," often adding, "I don’t think I can eat meat again after that."
And that is exactly what I expected. Over the past 20 years I have filmed inside countless factory farms and I have always felt that if I could only take people there - into the farms - so they can see how merciless modern farming is, they would stop eating animals. Pigs with their tails and teeth cut off to minimise injuries that inevitably occur when these intelligent animals are crowded into barren pens; chickens collapsed under the weight of their ballooning bodies and unable to stand or reach the food and water; mother pigs forced to watch helplessly as their piglets die right beside them, unable to help from behind the bars of their cage. Animal Equality’s groundbreaking virtual reality film has now made it possible to show people this misery first-hand (except for the stomach-churning smell of the farm which the animals cannot escape) and we intend to bring this experience to as many people as we can. I have no doubt that we are changing, and saving, lives.
Our next virtual reality film will allow viewers to see through the eyes of the world’s most abused animal – factory farmed chickens. We also have plans to release films about dairy and egg production, raising awareness of the often overlooked suffering that cows and their calves, and hens and their chicks, endure in these industries.
iAnimal is also available for everyone to see on www.iAnimal.uk where you can watch the 360° film and take a virtual tour. Do you dare to watch it and see what the meat industry is hiding from you?
Written by Toni Shephard
UK Director of Animal Equality
Free speech is a right that is worth preserving. SOAPBOX pages are given to others so that they may tell us their view of the world.