It has been 111 years since Upton Sinclair published The Jungle. His intention was to shed light on the impoverished and arduous lives of America’s growing immigrant population, however, perhaps subliminally, he exposed the odious conditions of the meatpacking industry. He famously said “I aimed at the public’s heart and by accident I hit in the stomach.”
Like many Americans, I was content to blissfully ignore the deplorable conditions of what has been labeled “factory farming”. Factory farms are large, industrial operations whose business model is maximum profitability from animals slaughtered for food. Little concern is placed on the actual welfare and comfort of the animals themselves. Recent numbers from the ASPCA state that nearly 99% of farm animals in the United States are raised on factory farms.
Let me state early in the project statement that I am not opposed to people eating meat. It is a personal preference. While I myself no longer choose to do so, I am completely comfortable with others who like a good steak, a tasty chicken sandwich and the requisite Thanksgiving turkey.
What worries me are the lives of the animals themselves. Millions of cows, pigs, chickens, goats and turkeys are living terribly short lives on factory farms. They are used and abused in order to get the most tender cuts of meat, the highest quality milk, the plumpest breasts of chicken. The corporate governance does not care for the quality of life of the animals themselves.
There is hope - across the United States there are over one thousand farms who reject the idea of factory farming. They instead provide humane and comfortable living conditions for all of their animals. The majority of them also reject the use of growth hormones and any other chemicals that are used to enhance the quality of the product at the expense of the animal’s quality of life. Some of these farms are “Certified Humane”.
It is my intention to photograph these farms to provide an example of the positive instead of sneaking a camera into a factory farm to highlight the negative.
I am not a photojournalist and I have no intention of doing any kind of “exposé”. I am fine art photographer and I will approach this project in the same way. I will photograph only on black and white film and my goals will be to document both the lives of the animals themselves as well as the wonderful people who make their living running these farms.
Lastly, let me tell you about a few Longhorn Cattle that live on a small farm nearby. I’ve been walking down to visit them rather frequently. They are relatively friendly, and unless they are feeling particularly lethargic, will usually come over to the fence to visit. They are inquisitive and charming animals. There is emotion in their eyes. As I was photographing them one day it occurred to me that animals don’t want for much. They want a clean place to live, fresh food and water. Most animals, like most humans, are highly social and want time to spend with each other.
My goal with this project is simple awareness; that anyone who views it will start to question the origins of their animal products and if perhaps that can make a better choice for both themselves and the lives of the animals.