Image above by Jo-Anne McArthur. Text and calf image by Kelly Guerin. 

View more from the We Animals Asia Series.  

In early 2019, the We Animals team travelled to Asia to document the rise of industrial animal farming. During their time on the ground gathering footage, they documented conditions on a dairy farm in Taiwan. It was We Animals filmmaker, Kelly Guerin’s first investigation on dairy, and this is what she wrote about the experience:
“It’s the mass of cows standing in wet pools of their own filth – you try to capture in pixels what you wish you could convey through smell.”
“Today, in the mountains outside the city, I joined Jo on my first investigation of a dairy farm. Since our time on location is never guaranteed, Jo and I always have to work quickly to capture all the essentials and details before the clock runs out. How do you capture the few images that make up the story of dairy?
 
It’s the mass of cows standing in wet pools of their own filth – you try to capture in pixels what you wish you could convey through smell. It’s the closeup of the cow who made you laugh when she surprised you with an exfoliating kiss on your arm. If you’re in parts of Asia, it’s hundreds of mothers bellowing and straining against the ropes around their necks which stake them in place for the convenience of someone who will come twice a day to milk them. And no matter where you are in the world, the story of dairy cannot be told without the image of the babies. Here, it was a tiny calf with a perfect white heart on his forehead, tethered by a thin piece of twine just out of sight from his mother.
Maybe not every place will be this filthy, and it’s true that there are farms that don’t tether cows for their entire lives. But no matter where you go one truth will always be present: for every cow producing milk for human consumption, there is a calf somewhere going without – or one who was killed, considered nothing more than a waste product of this industry.
 
In documenting animal industries, I’ve come to learn that the details may change but the essentials never do.”
 
– Kelly Guerin, We Animals filmmaker
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