[Content warning: though FFL’s less-graphic images were chosen for this interview, this article contains images some readers may find distressing. Reader discretion is advised.]
Filming For Liberation is a new audiovisual activism project with an aim to spread the harsh truths that they capture as far as possible.
Collecting stills and videos from farms, slaughterhouses, circuses and zoos in Europe, FFL produces photography that is sometimes shocking, tragic or horrifying, and always stark, revealing and crystal clear in its brutal honesty.
FFL also photographs portraits, sanctuaries, rallies, protests and demonstrations, as well as the rescues they conduct, providing beautiful, heartbreaking witness to the happenings and raw emotion of each situation. Afterward, they share their photojournalism for free, without watermarks, and simply ask users to credit and/or link back to FFL’s website or social networks.
Based in Europe and founded in early 2016, FFL began its public investigation work around March, and have since collaborated with various organisations and publications throughout Europe, including Germany’s International Working Class Vegans who used FFL’s images on 10,000 flyers and stickers they made.
Speaking to us on the condition of their anonymity, FFL told us about their activism, day-to-day work, the difficulties they face, and how anyone can become involved in activism.
VI: How and why did FFL form? Why did you decide that going out and collecting this footage was something you had to do?
FFL: We were so inspired by JoAnne McArthur’s project We Animals, so we thought that we need to use all our skills to visually capture animal exploitation in order to generate a debate in society to end institutionalised violence against animals. We decided this because we became animal liberation activists ourselves thanks to seeing pictures and videos that someone had gone out and got. The phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” is still valid, but if you add an image to a good argument, it is irrefutable.
VI: How many people are part of the FFL team? What do you do outside of your campaigning?
FFL: It began as one person project and then later more people joined the team. There is not a set number of people – anyone involved with each investigation is part of the project. We are from all walks of life, united for the animals.
VI: What makes FFL’s activism different from other animal activism?
FFL: Filming For Liberation’s activism is focused on obtaining and distributing images of animal exploitation and rescues. We are simply a part of global activism. We provide some hard-to-get images, and others are responsible for sharing them, to make articles, to use in campaigns etc. If we would talk in terms of a wider movement, we would be part of the graphic content team.
VI: What is your goal and purpose?
FFL: The goal is to lay the foundation for a debate in society to end institutionalised violence against animals in order to question and fight speciesism.
VI: What does your activism entail? What do you do on a daily basis?
FFL: Our daily work focuses on investigating the animal exploitation industry in all its variants; studying places, remembering names, taking notes of schedules, going to meetings and interviews, emailing, and ultimately preparing everything for each investigation.
VI: What is the hardest thing about your activism?
FFL: The hardest part of our activism is to be recording or taking pictures of animals being exploited and killed without being able to do anything more than record or photograph it, looking at all those animals knowing that the only way to end this injustice is by telling their stories to make society empathise with them.
VI: What is it like being on the front line? What does it feel like to come face-to-face with legal, socially acceptable, profitable, institutionalised animal cruelty?
FFL: You feel deep grief plus rage when leaving the centres of animal exploitation. But to watch all this cruelty closely is also what pushes you to keep fighting for the animals every single day. While you are inside, though, you have to keep shooting photographs and stay levelheaded. That’s your role.
VI: Have you had any close calls with police, security, farmers, etc? What happened?
FFL: No close calls at all, but we have some small anecdotes. One time the veterinarian of a big industrial slaughterhouse discovered our intentions. When we arrived after not sleeping and driving 600km, he said, “I know what you are coming for, and we are not interested in any kind of photographs in here”. So we just drove back losing time and money for petrol. It is clear that the industry does not want people to know what goes on behind its walls, because once people know the truth, people have the power to decide whether to remain part of all that violence.
VI: What’s the most surprising thing you’ve encountered through your activism?
FFL: What we find surprising about activism in general is seeing activists publicly attacking other activists for their way of working. Positive, constructive criticism is always more than welcome as that advances the movement, but continually slandering the work of other activisms doesn’t benefit the animals in any way. We urge people to make their criticisms in private and in a positive way.
VI: What’s the worst thing you’ve encountered through your activism, on farms?
FFL: We find animals still alive in dumpsters filled with rotting corpses. Inside the farms it’s normal to find corpses of animals that have died due to lack of basic care. For livestock farmers the animals just translate into economic terms – if the farmers will not gain economically from the animals who are ill or weaker, they just let them die slowly in a container.
VI: Do you find it difficult to do what you do? What helps you to keep going and to not give up?
FFL: We certainly have some difficulties doing our work. Technical difficulties because of the low-light scenarios, there’s a lot of movement, and especially because we have limited time. On the other side, there’s the difficulty of being exposed to stressful situations psychologically. But anyway, all these difficulties are trivial when compared to the situation of animals on farms and in slaughterhouses. We feel the need to tell their stories – that is what helps us to keep going on. We owe it to them.
VI: What would your advice be to people wanting to get involved in front-line activism? Can anyone do it? What personal traits does one need?
FFL: We think that the people who decided to get involved in frontline activism do not need any advice but all our support. Of course anyone can do it. We volunteer in animal rights organisations and animal sanctuaries, but with this project we simply feel the need to do something more autonomous, to put all our skills at the service of animals beyond our volunteer work. To enter farms and slaughterhouses you just have to be prepared psychologically.
VI: For people just starting out in (any form of) activism, what would your advice be?
FFL: For people who want to start doing activism the best thing to do would be to join local animal rights organisations, or volunteer at animal sanctuaries. Read and learn about strategies to argue in defence of animals with the public. Put your best sills, whatever they are, to service the cause of animal liberation.
VI: Lastly, what do you want the world to know about FFL?
Our only claim is that our images may serve to change the situation of injustice in which the animals are, which may serve organisations, individuals and campaigns that question speciesism. We cannot leave the website without first thanking Elena Wewer and The Vegan Independent for the opportunity given to us to express some ideas and to show our work.
You are more than welcome, FFL. Thank you for all your incredible work and your time given talking to us. We wish you every success for the future.
All photos by Filming For Liberation.
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