When you read about some of the atrocities humans have wrought against animals, it can be easy to disconnect and to pretend as if these actions are somewhere far separated from your own personal world. Everyday there seems to be news about a new form of abuse being used on farmed animals, a new species we are pushing to the brink of extinction, or a new trend in inflicted cruel and unusual torture on pets and other animals that trust us to care for them. While we all wish that the suspended reality where these acts do not exist was real-life, sadly, this is simply not the case.
But what if rather than shutting down, or ignoring the news, and trying to escape this reality, we took action? When you see something that makes you want to look away, chances are you aren’t the only person who is upset, but many other people who are upset too. Australian social documentarian and conservation photographer, Sam Edmonds, knows exactly how hard it can be to witness the myriad of ways humans abuse animals; but, rather than simply pretending it doesn’t happen, he has chosen to showcase it.
Putting his audience face-to-face with some of the lesser known malicious acts, Edmonds challenges viewers to take action. Many of the subjects Edmond’s documents fall outside the purview of mainstream society, and by thrusting them into the spotlight, he brings awareness to issues that rarely get the attention they deserve. So take a look at Edmond’s powerful photos and don’t look away, but be inspired to act!
In this piece, Edmonds illustrates the practice of “pig-dogging,” in which hunters use dogs tracked by GPS to hunt down wild pigs. Edmonds explains to OGP, “Several attempts have been made to end this practice in Australia, but the hunting and agriculture lobbies maintain that it is a necessary practice to protect Australia’s wheat and sorghum industries.”
Wild pigs are considered “pests” and threaten wheat and sorghum crops. This image exists as part of a larger body of work. Edmonds calls it the, “crescendo in the series – the imminent end for the horrified pig.”
This photo brings light to the many animals that are “allowed” to be killed in the name of industry. While pig-dogging may be an Australian phenomenon (for now), the unwillingness of agricultural interests to compromise yields for the sake of fellow sentient beings rings close to home with American audiences. Looking into the terrified eyes of this hunted pig, the photo begs the question, how far are we willing to go for profit?
It is no secret that the massive amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouses gases that humans have released into the atmosphere is causing our environment to rapidly degrade. Warming global temperatures and rising sea-levels all seem too surreal and abstract of concepts to inspire any real fear or desire to change. But, if you put yourself right in the center of the action, the urgency begins to strike you.
Edmonds explains to OGP, “I think that over the last few years animals that call the Arctic and Antarctic regions home have really become symbols for those most at threat by climate change.”
Taking this idea a step further, Edmond’s hones in on the individual, “I really had in mind how terrible it would be to see these places and animals lost, and I wanted to simply capture a beautiful and lasting image of an individual from that context.”
Although we tend to only think of ourselves when imagining the future brought on by climate change, the truth is that other species are really the primary victims of a changing environment.
The Disappearance of Sharks
We’ve been trained in a very social manner to fear sharks. Sharks are “man-eaters” and in order to keep ourselves safe, they need to be eradicated. However, despite our intense fear of these marine animals, we know very little about them. Every year some 100 million sharks are slaughtered, primarily for their fins, which are considered a delicacy. These two photos illustrate the reality of man’s relationship with sharks, showing that while we fear the shark, perhaps it is the shark that should fear us.
This particular photo was captured on a shark research vessel in South-East Queensland, Australia. Edmonds explains, “scientists were studying areas in Australia in which people and large sharks were likely to cross each other’s paths. This has been a real issue for marine life in Australia for a number of years now.”
The Western Australia shark cull has gained notoriety for being on the government’s most controversial solution to dealing with human-shark interactions. Setting out drum lines to capture sharks that could potentially cross into popular tourist areas, the government has killed over 140 sharks, none of which were of the species involved in recent shark attacks.
Seeing this tiger shark cradled so helplessly in the net of these scientists, the photo shows the shark from a perspective we never see in the media.
Edmonds tells OGP, “This 4.5 meter tiger shark – one of the three species listed as a big threat to humans – was tagged by the research team very near one of the largest coastal resorts in Australia, ” he continues, “This really identified for me that sharks are usually around but really nothing at all to be afraid of.”
This second photo further illustrates the fatal results of human-shark interactions in Australia. Shark-finning is the leading cause of shark deaths and is quickly driving entire species of shark into extinction.
This photo was taken in the Australian Museum’s ichthyology department. Edmonds tells OGP,”This fin was confiscated from an illegal fishing boat off the coast of New South Wales.” Shark-finning accounts for the slaughter of 73 million sharks every year, Edmonds explains, “a lot of people in Australia don’t recognize that this is a problem right in their backyard.”
Clearly, the solution to our “shark problem” beings with us…
A Chance to Change
These photos illustrate the complicated and strained relationship between humans and animals, but this is not to say that it is a relationship beyond repair. While these photos show us reality, there is an endless potential to change this reality through education and activism. The first step in solving a problem is understanding the true issue at hand. Underlying these four photos that span various animal issues is a blatant lack in information and knowledge.
So, now that you know, and have seen the impact of reckless human acts: be a Green Monster. Share this post and let’s start to raise awareness for these animals. A picture is worth a thousand words, and these animals need all the words they can get!