iAnimal took UoB students on a virtual reality tour of a slaughterhouse. Food Editor Tamar Smith describes the experience
Last week, Animal Equality joined with VegSoc to bring the iAnimal campaign to our university’s campus. The campaign was centred around the iAnimal movie – an interactive virtual reality which places the viewer personally in the position of a pig, from birth in a cage, to a life lived in an enclosed cell, and eventually to the slaughterhouse.
The experience is definitely hard-hitting. It’s difficult to watch, and not many people who came to see the campaign felt able to take part in the virtual reality tour right through to the slaughterhouse. The footage is raw and honest, and it certainly does not sugar coat the meat industry’s methods in producing the pork on your plate. You witness the beating of pigs, insanitary conditions, tiny cells in which they live, castration without anaesthetic, electrocution, pigs having to live and sleep in their own faeces, and more.
Paul McCartney once said: ‘If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.’ This quote seems to sum up the iAnimal experience. Making the walls of the factory farms and slaughterhouses of the UK, Italy, Spain and Germany completely transparent, iAnimal attempts to educate viewers on what happens in the life of the animals that they eat, in order for them to get onto their plate. And it’s pretty brutal. What’s more is the fact that the footage was taken from factory farms in the UK and throughout Europe, which emphasises how your decisions regarding your diet have a direct influence upon it.
When I visited the stand, I’ll admit I was unable to watch the entire virtual reality experience, as the footage is very disturbing. However, I did manage to watch it online afterwards, at ianimal.uk, and even on a computer screen, the message hit home hard. The campaign doesn’t necessarily seem to be saying that farming animals is wrong and we should all stop eating and enjoying the taste of meat. Rather, it seems to be focusing on the corruption of the industry of animal agriculture, emphasising the cruel practices and the dire need for reformation.
As you enter into the virtual reality, you witness the insanitary conditions that pigs are forced to endure. You see the entire space wherein they are kept. Having barely enough room to turn around, pigs clamber over each other and are left without any form of stimulation throughout their days. They have no access to sunlight or fresh air, and nursing mothers are kept laying down in the same position day after day by a metal cage above her.
Even if you don’t feel the need to completely swear off meat after viewing the iAnimal virtual reality, you will probably see the merit in reducing the amount of meat and animal products that you buy and consume. We live in a capitalist society, after all, and every penny that you give to the meat industry is a penny to encourage and support the needlessly cruel practices of factory farming.
The closing words of the virtual reality experience sum up the message that they’re sending through exposing the reality of factory farming: ‘You don’t have to see the world through the eyes of a pig to recognise the cruelty and suffering, but you can see an end to this. Please, leave meat off your plate.’