Animal magic: why is this photographer giving away her life's work for free?

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Animal magic: why is this photographer giving away her life's work for free?


Photojournalist Jo-Anne McArthur has been at the forefront of animal rights for the last 15 years. In that time she’s documented animals in every kind of condition (both humane and harrowing), in over 50 countries, released a book and been the subject of a documentary about animal rights activism.

Georgina Wilson-Powell

Fri 7 Apr 2017

Her work has been exhibited around the globe and used by many national and international publications but now she’s opening up her archive to allow people to use her photos for free, to help the animals she cares so much about.

“Helping animals is always my goal. I’ve been photographing our relationship with animals, and abject animal cruelty, for fifteen years. This work has amounted to a large archive, which is used and shared by many and my having to manually find and send high resolution images to people and organisations every day was inefficient. I’ve wanted to create this free, searchable database for years.”

Having secured funding for the project called, We Animals, McArthur’s huge portfolio of thousands of images, many of which haven't been seen until now, has been catalogued and logged by a team and is now a free resource for educational, activist and charity groups.

“People shouldn’t have to pay money to help animals, and I know that quality, beautiful, high resolution images are scarce, and can be expensive too,” McArthur says. “Making the We Animals project available to anyone helping animals, helps animals. And that gets us one step closer to winning the fight for animal justice.”

As for McArthur, she’s not hanging up her lens by any means. Her new book, Captive, is out this summer.

“’Captive aims to contribute to the ongoing mainstream conversation about zoos, and the ethics of captivity,” she explains. “The images in Captive were taken on five continents over the course of a decade, most recently across Europe in collaboration with the Born Free Foundation. Captive asks us to look at these animals in a different way, to see them as so often are: captive, bored, with no autonomy which leads to frustration and despondency. From there, we can decide if it’s really worth keeping these individuals behind bars and in tanks."

Picture of a wolf by Jo-Anne McArthur

A rescued wolf at W.O.L.F. (Wolves Offered Life and Friendship). Bella-Roux’s life began in Alaska, her first year and a half was spent in a small kennel, being let out (and physically beaten to keep her under control) once a day. She was adopted but it didn’t work out and she ended up at W.O.L.F. Bella has blossomed, becoming an ambassador and joining her wolf friend Rajan in educational programmes. She and Rajan have become one of the Sanctuary’s super couples.

Cora Bailey holding a piglet by Jo-Anne McArthur

Cora Bailey is the founder of Community Led Animal Welfare (CLAW) in Johannesburg, South Africa. Here she is pictured working to help people and animals at the Randfontein municipal dump in Soweto, which is one of the most dangerous places in South Africa. 400 people live at the dump, with families, friends, animals and even farmed animals like pigs. This ailing piglet was rescued and now lives at a sanctuary. Her name is Jojo.

A picture of a happy sheep by Jo-Anne McArthur

Summer the rescue sheep enjoying the sun at Farm Sanctuary, USA. Sanctuaries are incredible places where rescued animals enjoy a life with autonomy, the choice to make friends and space to roam. They are also places where visitors can be educated about animals just like them who suffer horrendous treatment inside modern day farms. More and more zoos are looking at developing more of a sanctuary model, where the space exists more for the animal than the human animal observing them. 

Raabia Hawa poses with a kitten in Kenya

Raabia Hawa in Kenya, with her newly rescued kitten. A model and TV personality turned conservationist, Hawa is the founder of the Ulinzi Foundation and Kenya’s first female Muslim Honorary Warden with the Kenyan Wildlife Services. Hawa has a charisma that draws people in, making her an incredibly compelling spokesperson for animals.

A close up of a goat sticking his tongue out

Meet Kenny, a cheeky young goat at Edgar’s Mission, a sanctuary for farmed animals in Victoria, Australia. Farm sanctuaries play an important role not only in rescuing individual animals from the cruelty of factory farming, but also in introducing these animals to the public, showing their individual characters and telling their stories. Edgar’s Mission’s motto is: “If we could live happy and healthy lives without harming others, why wouldn’t we?”

A moon bear in Vietnam

A rescued Asiatic moon bear at the Tam Dao sanctuary in Vietnam. Animals Asia has rescued hundreds of moon bears and Malayan sun bears from an industry which keeps bears in small cages and taps their gall bladders for bile, which is used in traditional Chinese medicine. This is a dying tradition, and more and more bears are being spared this life of deprivation and agony. Organisations like Animals Asia and Free the Bears are leading the way through both sanctuary and policy efforts.

Karyn Boswell with her horses

Karyn Boswell is the founder of Penny Lane Animal Sanctuary in Canada. She poses with her beloved friends Penny and Teddy. Karyn is a soft spoken and humble woman who devotes all her energy into raising her family and saving farmed animals. She and her family have just bought a larger, 58 acre sanctuary. They are currently raising funds for better buildings and enclosures for the animals. 

A hand touching a pig snout in a lorry

Activist Karen Bowman at a Toronto Pig Save vigil in Canada. The Save Movement promotes bearing witness to animal suffering. A transport truck full of pigs bound for slaughter stops at a red light, and people interact with the animals. The Save Movement, and these acts of bearing witness, are catching on worldwide, with over 130 Save groups now in operation around the globe.

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