Main pic, top by Stephanie de Leng. See her background piece and more at Masia Lavanda.com
It’s not Animal Farm, Babe or Chicken Run, but a movie experience in Liverpool today and tomorrow will put you off your bacon sarnie for ever.
The immersive journey around the slaughterhouses of the world is unlikely to have meat-eaters queuing around the block. For, like me, millions of us are hypocritical. We polish off beef, pork, lamb, chicken and other living beings without ever thinking - or daring to think - about the lives animals endure on their journey to the dinner tables.
Universally, we are all bit players in a game called Out of Sight, Out of Mind.
The footage at the end of this piece I dare not open, even peek at, as it strikes at the very core of my double standards
Monday and Tuesday at the University of Liverpool, inside the Guild next to Starbucks in Mount Pleasant, an event is taking place designed to shock. It is X-rated for all ages, not just the over 18s.
Animal Equality is becoming the first animal protection group in the world to transport people inside factory farms and slaughterhouses via virtual reality technology in collaboration with film company Condition On
The iAnimal project was filmed over eight months inside pig farms in the UK, Germany and Italy as well as a slaughterhouse in Spain. In all of these countries, and most of the western world, the majority of pigs killed for meat are intensively reared inside barren, filthy sheds.
Through a headset, viewers will be taken inside the farm and slaughterhouse, trapped alongside all the other animals, and sharing their fate. You stand next to a sow while she gives birth for the sixth time to piglets who will soon be taken away from her. You experience the extreme confinement of the birthing crates. You witness the daily suffering that takes place inside a pig farm. You are right there when they take their last breath.
It was a sight that moved Downton Abbey actor Peter Egan to tears as he narrated the film.
The footage at the end of this piece I dare not open, even peek at, as it strikes at the very core of my double standards.
I can’t imagine ever killing an animal for food, yet if somebody does the slaughtering for me, I will devour the meat without question.
You can watch the footage for yourself, but I can't because of childhood memories of squealing pigs awaiting their fate in an abattoir near where I lived, still ringing loud in my subconscious.
Without even delving into the realities of the press handout I know they are right: essentially I should be a veggie.
Ok, I buy organic meat from ethical farms and butchers, which is a sort of compromise. But I still worry about the appalling conditions of the millions of creatures who suffer wretched existences on their way to our plates via sanitised supermarket packaging and a cheap source of protein for families.
Award winning butchers such as Edge and Son and farmers market favourites the Anglesey Butchers, do their bit by assuring us that every morsel of meat leaving their counters began with at least had some quality of life and their last journeys brief with with either abattoirs on the premises or near by. And the success of these businesses shows there is certainly a market for meat with animal welfare at the core of its values.
Says Peter Egan: 'I have never seen anything as shocking as this in my life. It’s devastating, and completely inhumane. Virtual reality enabled me to experience, close up, for just a few minutes, the horror of the short lives of factory farmed animals, to see what they see, to get a real sense of how they live. It has shocked me deeply, and it has strengthened my resolve to help them."
Paul McCartney once famously said "If slaughterhouses had glass walls, we would all be vegetarians", but of course they don’t.
Toni Shephard, UK Executive Director of Animal Equality, said: "Virtual reality opens up worlds that used to be hidden from us and there is nothing more secretive than the way animals are reared and killed for food. Animal Equality believes people have the right to know what happens in modern farms and slaughterhouses so that consumers can make informed decisions about the food they buy. Now, through our cutting-edge iAnimal project, we can open up these secretive worlds and allow everyone to experience first hand how farmed animals live - and die.’
Watch the seven minute film here or get the whole immersive experience today and tomorrow (Mon-Tues April 25-26 at University of Liverpool, inside the Guild next to Starbucks, 160 Mount Pleasant, L3 5TR.