The plight of the modern animal

APJ ‘Unsustainable Cruelty’ — Cover image by Tommaso Ausili from his series Hidden Death.

By Louise Wright — Issue Editor, Australian PhotoJournalist & Honours Photography student at the Queensland College of Art

Farming has dramatically changed over the last forty years. While meat production and consumption has increased greatly, the number of meat producers has dropped dramatically.

The idealistic images in our heads of what farming looks like are no longer accurate. Animals farmed today are regarded merely as units of production, forced to produce as much food as possible in the shortest amount of time.

These animals are brutally mutilated, crammed into cages, and denied food and water for prolonged periods of time… All so that meat, eggs, and milk are readily and cheaply available.

This is the topic that fuelled the latest issue of the Australian PhotoJournalist (APJ) and is one I hold close to my heart. The images in this journal will also haunt me for many years to come.

Each year the APJ aims to produce an annual magazine that is not only a testament to the unquestionable calibre of our discipline, but also casts a critical eye on global journalism.

It was our aim to give a voice to the animals who met their fate with an undignified and untimely death. By doing so, we can then begin to hear their screams as they endure this unjustifiable cruelty.

Over the years, there has been much debate within the APJ’s editorial boardroom on whether it was appropriate to dedicate an issue to animal rights.

We know that poverty affects 80 percent of the world’s population, and domestic violence 50 percent. This year, 140 million children will die before the age of five, yet, despite this horror, most of us survive. However, no animal commercially farmed will survive, and this year over 60 billion animals will be inhumanely farmed and slaughtered.

The horror endured by the voiceless, regardless of their species, is an issue that needs to be addressed.

This is not a matter of what is a more significant or greater tragedy than the other. The question thus became why it has taken us this long to address this ongoing war we are waging against these sentient creatures.

As someone who is passionate about animal rights and welfare, a vegetarian, and an adopter of a variety of unwanted and secondhand animals (including 12 ex-battery hens, 3 cats and 2 rats), I felt it was high time for the APJ to dedicate an entire issue to the plight of the modern animal.

When researching content for this journal, I came to a realisation — the issues and statistics I was reading about were merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the mass animal cruelty that can currently be seen across the globe. The sheer quantity of animals who are treated as a mere object or unit of production is mind boggling, with the statistics being too large to fully grasp.

In a world of apathy, the cries of mismanaged commercially farmed animals, animals used in experimentation, and animals exploited for their entertainment value largely go unheard. Yet, increasingly, we cannot escape the reality that we are at war: at war with each other, as well as with every living form on this planet. And, as the casualties grow, the most obvious victims will ultimately be ourselves.

From my experience in compiling this journal, I now know too much and can no longer claim ignorance. I hope that readers will also begin to question the way in which we treat our fellow sentient beings, and also where their food comes from, how it lived, and how it died.

The latest edition of the Australian PhotoJournalist ‘Unsustainable Cruelty’ is now for sale online via the Centre for Documentary Practice website:

You can also find out more via our APJ Facebook page: