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Images and text by Jo-Anne McArthur while reporting for The Guardian, February, 2019.

“I disengaged from my self in order to focus wholly on what was happening all around me. I focused on my breathing, steadied my hand, and clicked. And now you see.

Out of the hundreds of pictures I took over a day in a pig slaughterhouse in Bangkok, this one stood out.

A club comes down upon her head as she kneels. Her eyes closed; she screams. The club is meant to stun her, make her unconscious before slaughter, but pigs have a thick skull and the brute force just knocks her to the ground. As the next ones look on, the worker stabs a knife into her neck and splits her open from jaw to sternum.

Everyone asks how I can handle bearing witness to so much violence. It is brutal – words are hard to find – but I find catharsis in action, and momentum surges through people who choose to look and not turn away. Fifteen years ago, it would have been near impossible to get this image seen but we’re amid a global rise of engagement in animal journalism, a collective seeing. This photograph, her story, can foster change, and that is what keeps me grounded.

For conflict photographers, our job is to do our best to capture the moments that tell the story of those who are at ground zero. Who is affected by the war or the violence? What does it look like on the front lines? It’s in these moments that photographs can galvanize, enrage, and inspire. It’s here that still images move.

For about twenty-four hours after I left the slaughterhouse, my senses were painfully heightened. Colours and smells were exaggerated. Touch made me recoil. I wanted to crawl out of my skin and get away from a world so consummately replete with cycles of violence.

We are disconnected from what we eat and who we eat, from the extent of suffering billions of animals are subjected to. I was in Bangkok to help build vital connections between what is happening with the rise of industrial animal farming in Asia and its many consequences.

Investigative work is but one part of the global rise in projects working to bring about justice and equality for non-human animals. On this day in Bangkok, as I stood in blood and soapy water sluicing around my rubber boots, I disengaged from my self in order to focus wholly on what was happening all around me. I focused on my breathing, steadied my hand, and clicked. And now you see.

– Jo

Images and text by Jo-Anne McArthur while reporting for The Guardian, February, 2019.

Read the full story from We Animals Media.

Read the full story from The Guardian – Death by clubbing: the brutality of Thailand’s pig slaughterhouses

 

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