Interview with Moving Animals - Documenting Suffering to Promote Compassion

 

Don’t you love it when you stumble on something meaningful when casually scrolling through Instagram? That’s how I found out about Moving Animals – a project documenting animals used in the food and entertainment industries around the world.

It might be hard to admit, as someone who strives to make choices informed by animal welfare on what I do and consume, that I’m still unaware of a lot that goes on outside my immediate country and surroundings. It also shocks me how many people are oblivious to some of these issues, with zero exposure to the cruel practices within animal-related industries.

Projects like this are crucial to get a sense of perspective.

Moving Animals is Amy and Paul, two travellers who merge their photography and videography work with activism, aiming to raise awareness of animals rights and their mistreatment across the globe. It’s a proactive and compelling take on a problem that still doesn’t get enough attention.

Their work has been gathering recent visibility, having been featured in several media platforms, which I hope to contribute to with this small interview, and motivate you to check their project and get involved in the conversation around these issues.


Cows wandering freely on the beach in Goa, India

Do you recall when you first became interested in animal welfare and why?

I can’t quite pinpoint when exactly things began for me. For years, I had admired animals, squirmed at seeing them in cages, and avoided meat. When I was 21, I started reading into animal rights and learned more about what animals have to go through. Later, videos and photographs of animals played a huge part in influencing me to go vegan. 

For Paul, it was during his time at university. He took a module that explored the role of animals in literature, and it involved studying a lot of animal rights ideas, which encouraged him to view animals in a different light. 

How did you come up with the idea of Moving Animals?

Part of what drove us to start Moving Animals was the belief that powerful visuals and effective storytelling have the power to change mindsets. We’d been inspired by other photography projects before us, such as We Animals and Filming for Liberation, and so we decided to add our voices to this crucial form of advocacy.

Lara is one of the many animals in tourism trade that are forced to pose for selfies with tourists. They are most often taken from the wild as babies and kept in chains or caged when not performing. Negombo, Sri Lanka.

While working on Moving Animals and your own content, have there been some things that surprised or challenged you? Was there something you experienced that made you think “I was not ready for this” - from both a positive and negative standpoint?

Definitely. I don’t think that you can ever prepare yourself for some of the situations this line of work takes you into. The slaughterhouses are tough due to the fear and the violence, and zoos are heartbreaking because of the length of the suffering. We recently met a horse at Phuket Zoo in Thailand in a barren, empty enclosure. He had no grass, no food, no company - everything natural to him was denied. He stood in the corner of the enclosure, his eyes closed, his head low, and that was his life. It breaks your heart.

On the other hand, we’ve visited some beautiful sanctuaries that have blown us away with their compassion and dedication. Walking into Animal SOS in Sri Lanka - home to over 1,500 free-roaming dogs - was a beautiful experience that we never expected to have. There are so many compassionate people out there working to make the world a better place for animals, and these sanctuaries remind us that there is hope.

Donkey Clinic & Education Centre in Sri Lanka


What is the most rewarding thing about working in animal advocacy?

It’s incredible to hear from people that have seen our work and been inspired or motivated to go vegan. We like to think we’re planting seeds, and encouraging people to treat animals the way they deserve to be treated - with compassion.


From your travels, which countries would you say are the most tuned into the issues of animal rights? 

There are certainly differences in terms of welfare, but across the world, all countries have a blatant disregard for animal rights and the sentience of animals. 

We recently filmed at a pig slaughterhouse in Cambodia. It was brutal - the pigs were beaten with a bat and then their throats were slit. When we published this investigation with The Guardian, some people claimed they’d never visit Cambodia, not realising that at the same time, in England, pigs were being lowered into gas chambers! This latter form of slaughter is even considered “humane” and “high-welfare”, and so it’s clear that no country is better than another in terms of how they treat animals - we all kill them in various cruel ways simply for our own purposes, and this is what we’re desperate to change.

Cows waiting to be sold at a livestock auction to later be slaughtered by their buyers. Lincoln, England

 

What’s holding us back from making more ethical choices when it comes to animal welfare? Is it absence in understanding animal suffering, a lack of education and resources, or is it convenience and selfishness as a dominant species?

It’s a tricky one. People are more than capable of compassion - the majority of us love animals; our dogs, wildlife, elephants, etc. Over time we’ve just divided certain species into those that deserve our compassion and those that we can use for our own benefit. There’s a brilliant theory by Dr. Melanie Joy, which explains the disconnect in great detail, I’d definitely recommend giving it a read!

Many tourists visit this annual fair to partake in camel riding while the animals are suffering in terrible working conditions from painful injuries that often go untreated. Pushkar, India

 

What do you think are some everyday actions that each of us can do to make a positive change in this matter? 

Not eating animals is by far one of the most powerful things we can do to help. By leaving them off our plates, we reduce the demand. We’d also advise people to film or photograph any animal exploitation that they come across on their travels, and send it to the press or post on social media. If published, it may help to draw attention to a particular issue.

What is the main thing you hope people take away from Moving Animals?

We hope that every view our content receives allows others to look through a different lens – one which views animals as individuals, not “commodities” or “property”.

Roadside pet shop in Matara, Sri Lanka

All of the photo credits go to Moving Animals. Check out their website to learn more about their work & give them a follow on socials.