**TRIGGER WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES AND UPSETTING CONTENT BELOW**
Martina is from Sweden. For the past few years, Martina has dedicated her time documenting the reality of factory farming, taking photographs of the animals in farms and slaughterhouses throughout Europe.
Here she explains why she does it.
How did you start getting involved in photographing factory farmed animals?
I was participating in demonstrations firstly and I travelled to Poland to attend a five-day vigil outside the third-largest slaughterhouse in Europe (it was the third-largest then) I have always loved photographing nature and architecture and I had a good camera. My girlfriend at the time asked me to bring it with me. This is when I started documenting the pigs and when I decided that I would do everything I could to make everyone aware of what the animals are exposed to.
Nobody will be able to say that they didn’t know!
I decided not to go home to Sweden as planned instead I travelled through Europe documenting farms and slaughterhouses and attending all kinds of protests and demonstrations.
To get the evidence; the photos and footage, do you go at night or in the day? What are preferable conditions?
It all depends on what the purpose of the footage is. I have visited factory farms during the day so I can record a conversation with a farmer or worker. I have also been involved in open campaigns which are during the day for a live broadcast. We believe that everyone should have the right to see how the animals live. We don’t believe it is a crime to investigate or reveal the realities of factory farming. I have mostly done my work at night which is more nerve racking as you can never predict what might happen.
What victories have you seen as a result of your work?
I have had a lot of people getting in contact with me saying that my footage has affected them, either to reduce their consumption of meat or to go vegan. In Sweden, there is a programme that reveals errors in our society and my footage of a dairy farm was screened. It was very big news as the largest company in Sweden was involved in this very farm.
“This coverage broke peoples trust”.
Confidence with the Swedish company and the authorities about animal welfare was reduced significantly. Since then more about the reality of factory farming has been shown on the media in Sweden.
Witnessing the horrendous conditions and abuses that take place in factory farming, how do you deal with this emotionally and mentally?
I often tell people that I don’t feel much when I go into the factory farms. I put up a shield to help me cope and focus on getting the footage. Putting up a shield has helped me many times. I also immerse myself deep into the work to avoid feeling anything. The more I work the less I have time to feel. This method worked well for a long time.
But sometimes the shield breaks and then you feel it all. At the moment I’m taking it easy with animal rights work. I’m trying to work on my psychological health so I can come back stronger than ever for the animals. For over a year I was documenting factory farms almost every night and during the days I was either outside slaughterhouses or editing videos and photos. I didn’t want to waste any of the time so I literally didn’t sleep.
My heart got totally broken when we went into a pig farm in Sweden. There were dead piglets everywhere, blood on the walls from slammed piglet heads and mothers who had lost all hope. This sight wasn’t particularly different from other pig farms we had visited but that night we decided to take one of the newborns with us. He was half the size of his siblings and he wasn’t really moving, we knew he was going to die. We wanted him to die in a calm place and not in this hell.
When we got home he started to improve and I got my hopes up and thought we could save him. A few hours later he was cold and turning blue. I panicked and was screaming for the others to come and help. The injury and inner bleeding in his leg spread through his whole body. I sat with him in my arms while we said our goodbyes. I only knew him for a couple of hours but sitting with this dead beautiful boy in my arms broke me down more than anything I’ve ever experienced.
We named him Billy and buried him in the back garden. I thought that I would never be able to go inside another factory farm again, especially a pig farm but I did, many times. I had to shut down all emotions to not feel.
I started to get panic attacks every day and at night suffer from nightmares. Nightmares about the pig farms, the pigs surrounding me and screaming for my help. I’d wake up and not be able to move. To stop the nightmares I stopped sleeping, I couldn’t bear to see the suffering and pain. Instead, I worked every second possible so I could make a difference to these animals lives.
One day I was just staring at the wall unable to move. A lot of people have tried to tell me to take care of myself. To not break down completely and never be able to help animals again. I have finally learnt to listen. This fight is a long fight and we need to last and be strong for them.
“This fight is a long fight and we need to last and be strong for them.”
Do you have a safe space, family, friends and support? A supportive environment?
My animal right activist friends are my support. I find it important to be surrounded by people who can relate to you. I also recently realised that surrounding myself with vegans who are not activists can be good for me. To be a healthy activist we need to have other things on our minds as well.
The Media continues to portray animal activists as extremists, terrorists or militant activists. What are your feelings?
The media often don’t let animal activists comment or give any version of the events whether it’s about a demonstration, vigil or open action while the police and farmers are allowed to be heard.
Terrorism has nothing to do with animal rights. Terrorism is the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce the government or its citizens to further certain political or social objectives. Most organisations, groups and individuals that fight for animal rights are against violence. The truth is we are fighting against oppression and violence. Our aim is to try and change this image the media has portrayed about people being active for animals.
“The truth is we are fighting against oppression and violence.”
Do you have any dreams that you are working on involving the liberation of animals and the end to animal factory farming?
My goal is to work for the liberation of all animals but I have an immediate goal that is to inform and bring about awareness of the reality inside farms, slaughterhouses and other facilities that exploit animals. Knowone should be able to say that they didn’t know about the reality of animal agriculture.
This year myself and some amazingly driven people have created an organisation called Total Insyn with the goal to demand total transparency in animal agriculture. During our campaign, we documented farm activities, had 4 open actions inside farms and organised protests and petitions for more transparency. We are now working on getting more involved politically.
We need to shake the facade that the companies have ensured upon us and that we have relied on for so long. I believe most people would prefer to distance themselves from the use of animals but we must not give people the chance to look the other way and ignore what is really happening.
What are your feelings on organic farming as a viable alternative to commercial factory farming?
Regardless of whether animal husbandry is ‘better’ animals will suffer as long as humans continue to see animals as theirs to use. It’s about justice.
How do you think others can help?
I talked about this in a lecture I gave last summer. All of us who fight for animals often feel inadequate because there is so much to be done but that feeling can destroy us. It is important to review our conditions in our life and then build a plan. Ask yourself; what are your qualities and how can you contribute to changing people’s views of animals? Find people to collaborate with, use your strengths to do activism and don’t be afraid to challenge yourself.
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