Animal Factories: Exposing Sites of Capture
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Several years ago I visited a farm in southern Australia, near my hometown of Hobart, Tasmania. When using the word 'farm' I suspect that the first image your brain might conjure up is one of animals roaming in green fields. However, while this farm was surrounded by green fields, the animals being raised there were not allowed the freedom to roam them. In fact, apart from the day when they would be forced into tightly packed crates to be trucked to slaughter, they would never even see daylight. This was a modern meat chicken farm, with the birds raised for one of Australia's biggest poultry companies.
The farm consisted of eight long, windowless sheds, each housing many thousands of birds at various stages of the short 'growth cycle' that ends at a mere six weeks old, well before the birds have reached adulthood. By the time they are sent to slaughter their bodies fill the sheds such that they have almost no room to move.
This was not the first time I had been inside a factory farm; my involvement in animal advocacy has exposed me to many of the horrors inflicted on farmed animals, through text, image and first hand experience. But as I walked away that night, I looked back and was struck by just how much those rows of sheds, lit by spotlights, reminded me of images I had seen of concentration camps, though without the need for guard towers. I was also intensely aware that, while I h ad just seen, and heard, and smelled, and felt the warmth of the bodies of the thousands of sentient creatures captured inside these sheds, there was no sign of them from the outside.
This experience was the impetus for a project photographing external views of factory farms at various locations around Australia. Ultimately I undertook field trips to locations near Hobart and the Tasman Peninsula, Tasmania; outer Adelaide, South Australia; outer Perth, Western Australia; Canberra and regional areas of the Australian Capital Territory and central New South Wales; Mangrove Mountain, New South Wales; and Meredith, Bendigo and the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria.
It was an overwhelming experience to visit and photograph so many factory farms, and yet know that there were hundreds, if not thousands more farms of this type in Australia alone. For example, in one 13-hour day-trip my companion and I travelled over 500 kilometres within a 120 kilometre radius of Adelaide, and photographed 39 farms with a total of 328 sheds - and yet there were many more in the v icinity that we missed, or ran out of time to visit.
Watt YM, 'Animal Factories: Exposing Sites of Capture', Captured: The Animal within Culture, Palgrave Macmillian, M Boyde (ed), United Kingdom, pp. 75-84. ISBN 978-1-137-33049-9 (2013) [Research Book Chapter]