Animal cruelty, animals, Annabel Ruffell, bear bile farms, Canada, compassion, Documentary film, Factory farms, farm animals, fur farms, hope, Jo-Anne McArthur, kindness, love, photographer, photography, photojournalist, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, rescue, sanctuary, The Ghosts in our Machine, weanimals.org
My name is Annabel Ruffell and I am the founder of Journey for Earth, a global awareness company committed to inspiring change for humanity, the environment and animals, one choice at a time.
I first came across Jo-Anne through a documentary called “The Ghosts in our Machine”…where the journey that she is on touched me greatly. She brings awareness to the 4 animal industries around the world through her beautiful, truthful, honest, sad, sometimes hard to see photographs that she takes on the front lines. I knew I had to contact her and share her journey here, as I am a huge animal lover and advocate.
Jo-Anne McArthur is an award-winning photojournalist who has been documenting the plight of animals for over ten years on all seven continents. Her documentary project, “We Animals”, is internationally celebrated, and over one hundred animal organizations, including Sea Shepherd and the Jane Goodall Institute, have benefited from the use of images from this project. Many organizations have also worked with her closely on campaigns and investigations. Recent awards include: 2013 Compassion for Animals Award; 2011 Canadian Empathy Award; one of CBC’s Top 50 Champions of Change; Farm Sanctuary’s 2010 “Friend of Farm Animals” award; Huffington Posts WOMEN’s “Top 10 Women trying to change the world”; one of 20 activists featured in the book “The Next Eco Warrior”; and the “Shining World Compassion Award” by Supreme Master Ching Hai. Jo-Anne and her work are featured in the Canadian documentary, “The Ghosts in Our Machine”, and her first book, entitled We Animals and published by Lantern Books, comes out in December 2013.
Photo credit Kiley Stephens
1) What Journey are You on?
My journey isn’t one that I spend much time planning, to tell the truth! In work and life I try to say YES! to as many things as I can and just run with it! It has really worked out so far, though I get a bit run down, but the up side is that I’m also really excited about life too! I did realize, years ago now, that my life journey, and calling, is to use the skills I have to make the world a better place for animals. I do that through photography, and documenting the plight of non-human animals around the globe. I’ve been to all seven continents now to document our uses, abuse and sharing of spaces with animals. I take photos of these complex and often cruel relationships so that others can see, learn and change. I think that humans are innately compassionate and that if we can see what goes on behind the closed doors of animal industries, we’ll want to change what’s happening. And so I document the lives of animals in factory farms, fur farms, puppy mills, bear bile farms and many other places where animals are abused, in the hopes that the images will enlighten us and be a part of the movement to right these wrongs. These photo essays and stories make up the We Animals project, that I’ve been working on for over a decade now. The images have been seen by millions of people around the globe and me and the project are also the subject of a Canadian documentary film called The Ghosts In Our Machine, which premieres in the USA on November 8th. I’ll keep documenting animal issues as long and I can and disseminating them as well, via organizations, publications, the internet and through the We Animals Humane Education Programs.
I’m on another journey too. It ties in. I try to bring kindness into everything I do. I’m not always successful. But it’s one of my main goals as a human being – to be kind to others. There are a million ways to do it and I’m learning all the time. At the end of my life I’d mainly like to look back and know that I’d been kind. And helped raise awareness about animal cruelty as best as I could.
2) What has been one of your greatest challenges over the years, either with the work that you do or in another area of your life, and how did you overcome it?
I’ve been really lucky and I’m blessed with a wonderful family, reasonably good health and lot of love in my life. My greatest challenges are much smaller than what so many people around the world have to live through. Poverty, poor health, living in war and under dictatorships, losing loved ones, etc. I’m privileged and I have a lot of freedom. There are big challenges in my work, to be sure, which are physical and emotional, but I’ve been able to overcome those and I’ve been given a lot of tools and support in order to do so. One particular challenge in my work with We Animals is making the photos as visible as possible. It’s been hard getting these stories out into the main stream because people are resistant to seeing the horrors of animal cruelty at our hands. I need to work really hard to get the images out there, and I need to do it creatively as well. The internet has been incredible in terms of disseminating the images, as have animal organizations around the globe.
I’ve also struggled with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which came as a result of spending so much time documenting animal suffering. Leaving animals behind after I’ve photographed them – and I’ve met hundreds of thousands of these animals – is really traumatizing, because their lives are traumatizing, and I’m not helping them directly. Activists really need to look after themselves and make sure they are balancing the good with the bad, the victories with the sadness. So I’ve learned to look after myself a little better by taking more time to enjoy life, family, fun, and therapy helped with the PTSD too!
3) What is your greatest hope for our planet at this time?
The continuation of a raised earth and animal consciousness. We are in a bad place because we’ve created so much pollution and such a disconnect between us and the planet and animals. There are too many of us and we are consuming too much of everything, we’re literally devouring the planet, its animals and all of its resources. But we are becoming acutely aware that we’re on a very bad path and that things need to change. I think things are changing. I think more people are fighting for good. My hope is that we collectively change the destructive path we’re on. My hope is that we spend more time teaching empathy and deep ecology, so that future generations place kindness and eco-centric living at the fore, rather than the human-centric living we’re doing now.
A few more of Jo-Anne’s beautiful photographs…
What Journey are YOU on?