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Seb Alex: On photographing the animals society doesn’t want to see

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Alex is an animal rights activist and lecturer from Lebanon. He was chosen as a fellow for the animal photojournalism organization We Animals Media last year, and uses the power of photography to shine a light on the many ways humans exploit animals.

POLLY FOREMAN: While walking around an Indonesian rabbit farm with his camera, Seb Alex noticed a baby rabbit was about to suffocate. They had become squashed between their mother and the side of the tiny cage they were being kept in, and neither had any room to move. Alex has been photographing farmed animals for years and rarely intervenes, but he decided to use his hand to gently push the mother aside to save her baby. “Hopefully I was able to help,” he says. “Those moments are when you realize that humans do anything to other animals just to make a profit off of them.”

Alex is an animal rights activist and lecturer from Lebanon. He was chosen as a fellow for the animal photojournalism organization We Animals Media last year, and uses the power of photography to shine a light on the many ways humans exploit animals. As part of his role, Alex visited a wide range of farms and slaughterhouses in Indonesia, where he lives.

Photos, he says, play a key role helping people understand the hidden world of animal agriculture. “Someone has to show these. Because the industry relies on the public not paying attention or thinking about the impact of their choices”…

Despite the fact that most people eat animals, the majority have no idea how they’re raised and killed. Being confronted with photographs, Alex says, encourages people to think about the victims. “We are visual beings,” he says. “Photographs help us face the direct impact of our choices”…

The animal farms Alex visited are terrible, but they are not uniquely so. A misconception that many people living in the west have is that such farms are confined to other countries, and not present within their own. There is a tendency for places like the UK, for example, to insist they have excellent animal welfare. But this is a lie, Alex warns.

“If I ever share anything online, I say don’t use this opportunity to raise any type of racist comments about what’s going on here just because it’s here,” he explains. “Because this is happening wherever you are in the world.”

The main difference between photographing in the west and Indonesia, Alex says, is that countries like the UK and US hide what they do from the public. This keeps up the “high welfare” facade that so many of us believe in. The vast majority of animals in these countries are raised in unmarked factory farms hidden from view. There, they are subjected to cages, mutilations, and painful deaths.

“I have tried in so many countries in Europe and in and other parts of the world to just simply ask: ‘hey, can I come in and take photos inside the farm inside a slaughterhouse?’. It’s always a no, straight up no”…

Photographing these animals is important work, but it understandably takes a huge mental toll. One particularly difficult moment for Alex was leaving a chicken factory farm following an accident. After slipping on the floor, his leg fell through a meter of chicken waste, covering his shoes and trousers in excrement. The farmer helped him get clean and he left the farm, but it hit home that the chickens were trapped there in those conditions…

The vast majority of Alex’s work has focused on hidden animals in terrible situations. But he’s now planning to go to Namibia in southern Africa to document some of the remaining few who live their lives free from human interference. “I’m thinking for the first time maybe I’ll be able to take photos of wild animals, in the wild, just being themselves, and not see them suffer in any way”. SOURCE…

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