Children’s literature provides many examples of animal protagonists that undergo life-and-death challenges, often at the hands of human captors or tormentors, that inspire sympathy and support. Animals orphaned at a young age: Bambi, Dumbo, and Elsa the lion cub in Born Free; pigs and their clever relationships with other animals, including Wilbur and Charlotte the spider in Charlotte’s Web, or Babe (the pig) from the 1995 film, who after losing his mother to slaughter is adopted by a maternal herding dog named Fly.
In all these instances, we grieve with the animals for their losses and cheer when their actions and relationships transform their fate. Similarly are the stories that go viral of the cow escaping the abattoir or the pig or chicken jumping from the slaughterhouse-bound truck. These animals are hailed for their bravery, and we advocate for their freedom.
And then the confessed “animal lovers” who volunteer at companion animal shelters and donate to rescue abused and neglected animals and consider their “pets” no less than beloved members of the family.
Our feelings about animals are complex and often altruistic.
So, why do we so easily ignore the wretched plight of billions of sentient animals who, every year, pass through the factory farm system? Animals who are little more than babies, with natural life spans exponentially cut short by the brutality of the mechanized complex of torture and neglect?
With found images (and a late-in-the-process discovery of We Animals Media), I wanted to document the typical life of a piglet born on an industrial hog farm. I wanted to create an essay that would demonstrate living (and dying) conditions in the industrial animal farming complex while also trying to capture the spirit and agency of these same animals as sentient, complete beings.
For those interested in learning more about animal lives and understanding animal-to-animal and human-to-animal relationships from a different perspective, check out Jo-Anne McArthur’s body of work We Animals.
Suggested reading and resources
Thinking Pigs: A Comparative Review of Cognition, Emotion, and Personality in Sus domesticus (2015). Lori Marino and Christina M. Colvin
We Animals Media