The animals that humans often consume as food – such as sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, cows, and turkeys – are often maligned as stupid, dirty, and unfeeling: a characterization that is often used to justify their abuse on cruel factory farms. However, the truth is that these animals’ emotional lives are far more complex than we could imagine. Cows, for example, often form deep friendships, and are capable of holding grudges against one another for a long time! Mother cows on dairy farms frequently exhibit signs of deep distress when their calves are taken from them. Chickens, too, are well-known for being caring, affectionate mothers, hence the expression, “mother hen.” Pigs are renowned for their high level of intelligence and have proven that they possess a more advanced level of cognitive ability than a dog or a human child.

A New Zealand photographer named Cally Whitham has now turned her lens on these often-ignored animals as part of a project called Epitaph. In the process, she has allowed their true beauty to be expressed. These breathtaking pictures reveal that – despite claims to the contrary – farmed animals have a life and a consciousness, that, in many ways, is similar to ours, and that they deserve to be treated with a lot more respect than they currently receive within our modern-day agricultural system.

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The “Epitaph” portraits were made to look like Rembrandt paintings.

They shed light on an intriguing side to farmed animals that many people seldom see…

…and ask the viewer to consider this animal as an individual.

A hint of joy or laughter seems to be expressed in the eyes of this pig.

This ram appears to be a wise old soul.

Whitham’s related photo series, Bovine, focuses exclusively on cows.

Many people can go their entire lives without ever meeting a turkey.

We think this sheep is beautiful!

Just like the previous pig, this one seems to be laughing at a private joke.

This picture, from Whitham’s North series, exemplifies the kind of life all farmed animals should be able to enjoy: one in which they are free to run and explore, rather than being confined in a cramped, toxic factory farm environment.

 

These stunning images leave us with a lot of questions about the true complexity of farmed animals’ cognitive and emotional abilities. They don’t aim to answer any of these questions, but instead, ask the viewer to look at the animal who is being represented and consider their own feelings on the matter. Further samples of Whitham’s amazing work can be seen on her website.

To learn more about just how dynamic farm animals are, check these articles:

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All Image Source: Cally Whitham