are a critical part of any campaign and an important tool to expose an industry.
When I first became involved in the animal rights movement, I saw video footage
of animals in factory farms, laboratories, and circuses. The footage moved me
to change my life, but initially I didnt believe I was capable of documenting
similar abuse. However, once I realized the impact that the actual footage has
the potential of making, I pushed myself to do what I once thought was outside
Video footage is one of the most important tools in exposing
the appalling standards throughout modern livestock farming. Our future campaigns
will be immeasurably strengthened by this vital work, and I urge all groups to
consider using video where they can obtain access to markets, farms, slaughterhouses,
Different types of investigations include those done by activists,
such as open rescues, investigations of specific animals, farms, auctions or slaughterhouses.
Sometimes, investigations are conducted by employees who take video footage.
type of investigation you are doing will help to determine the kind and amount
of footage you need. If you are targeting a specific farm you may return to the
farm for additional footage to give the campaign more credibility. If you are
targeting a general practice (like inherent cruelty in the industry), you might
want to investigate many of the same type of farm to show that the practice is
common and not isolated.
When the target is a specific farm it is possible
to find them and get information from their websites, searching in the yellow
pages and calling information. Some farms have even been located by following
the trucks from the slaughterhouses. Other ways to locate farms include searching
the USDA Census to find out how many farms are located in each county. Once you
have the number of farms, you can drive around the area with your eyes (and nose)
open. Asking people for directions at feed stores or gas stations can lead you
in the right direction. Just be sure to speak the lingo calling female
pigs sows, asking for spent hens.
A major concern about conducting
investigations is that someone might interfere. So how do you make sure no one
is there? Some farms, such as dairies, are outside and there are typically a number
of workers always on hand to make sure the cows are being milked (except for the
veal and replacer farms). In these cases, you should use common sense
and not go if you see a lot of worker activity. Acting as if you belong there
is always a plus. Dressing to fit in has its advantages if someone sees you from
the side of the road.
If the farm seems empty, you should park your car
in between sheds or somewhere so that it is not visible to passing traffic. Be
sure to park your car in the direction that you will be leaving. Sometimes it
is difficult to determine if it is better to go on foot and risk needing to run
or to take your car so you can drive away.
In most cases, it is important
to remember the nature of the business of factory farming namely, that
there usually arent many people walking around on the premises.
make sure you dont see any employees around. I would recommend you do this
with two to three people. One person should be the lookout and driver, while the
other two should take pictures and videotape. When you videotape, use the ten-second
rule: focus on one image and count to ten slowly. This prevents the footage from
being jumpy and hard to use (see more details below). There is a temptation, particularly
when under pressure, to try and grab everything as quickly as possible, flashing
the camera all over the place as if it were a paint brush panning left
and right, pointing up and down, zooming in and out, chasing the action and not
holding it firmly. Not holding fast to the ten-second rule will only result in
a waste of your time and effort.
A few years ago, very few farms were locked.
Although that is changing, many farms continue to leave the sheds unlocked. Also,
remember that some farms have cameras and security. Be sure to check for cameras
on the sheds above the doors and on light posts in front of the sheds or property.
sure to take plenty of film with you. If you have partially-used tapes containing
important footage, keep them safe. Even if it means just having a few minutes
worth of footage on one tape, it is best to start a new one in case anything happens
and your camera is taken. Identify tapes by writing on them the moment they are
removed from the camera and put them somewhere safe.
a wide shot from a distance showing the whole farm is useful. Take a photo or
video of the name of the farm. An exterior shot of the particular building in
which you are going to film is also useful. In both these instances there is no
need to move the camera keep it absolutely still and steady and hold the shot
for about ten seconds. If you do need to pan because you cant get far enough
away from the buildings, take a static shot first, holding for about ten seconds.
Then without cutting, pan very slowly keeping the camera on the same level all
the time. At the end of the pan, hold still for a further ten seconds.
inside the building, an interior establishing shot is very useful - a wide shot
showing the size of the building, the number of pens or stalls, and the overall
condition. If there are specific details you want to show a dilapidated roof,
rat runs, broken windows, etc. be sure to take footage of those as well.
film an individual pen. Frame the shot so it shows the whole pen and it is possible
to visually establish how big it is and how many animals it holds. If the pen
is dark and dimly lit, take a ten-second shot exactly as it is before using any
lights so that the viewer has some feel for the reality. Once youve lit
the area, repeat the process with another ten-second shot.
If the animal
moves out of shot, allow her or him to go before moving the camera. Once s/hes
gone, move the camera quickly to catch up with the animal, and hold the shot still
again - dont try and visually chase the animal around with the camera because
the resulting footage will almost certainly be unusable. Sometimes it is necessary
to follow the action, but try to do so in a smooth and fluid motion, beginning
and ending with ten-second static shots.
Keep in mind that for every animal
there is something to look for in terms of their treatment. Dead animals are obvious
signs of neglect. Welfare needs are important to observe: Do sows in crates have
marks on their faces from banging their heads? How are ducks able to access the
water? How closely confined are calves and hens? How many hens are in a cage?
Be sure to video these and then later document it all by writing down what you
remember and other details about the farm that perhaps would not be evident from
Anyone who decides to do this kind of investigation should be
aware of the potential of trespassing which is against the law, and which risks
arrest and other legal action.
This is definitely just a very small idea
of what you can do. You will always learn more as you do it more. Plus there are
organizations around the country that would be willing to help!
This article reflects only the authors opinion and does not reflect any
positions or policies of Viva!USA