ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS published an interactive map on Sunday revealing the locations of more than 27,500 farms and animal agriculture facilities, including 5,812 identified using satellite imagery, many of which do not appear in public records.
Users will be able to pin new locations to the map, known as Project Counterglow, and attach photos and videos documenting animal cruelty and health violations. The animal agriculture industry has spent decades fighting to avoid the disclosure of information about facilities where animals are raised for food.
The map is meant to offer a rare bird’s-eye view of the scale of the industry, while also providing a research tool for activist investigators. Kecia Doolittle, the leader of the team that created the map, is an animal rights activist who has participated in a number of farm investigations herself.
Footage uncovered by Doolittle and others over the years has revealed conditions such as overcrowding; wounded, sick, and dead animals left in pens with the living; painful procedures like tail removal and castration without anesthesia; and physical abuse by farmers, at times resulting in boycotts or criminal charges.
Most recently, as The Intercept reported on Friday, activists with the organization Direct Action Everywhere captured footage of a harrowing mass kill method called ventilation shutdown. The closure of meatpacking plants due to Covid-19 outbreaks has left farmers with nowhere to take mature livestock; in response, they have exterminated millions of animals.
One particularly torturous tactic involves corralling pigs into a barn, closing the doors and windows, and shutting down the ventilation system. “This causes the buildup of excessive temperature and moisture from body heat and respiration of the animals and results in death from hyperthermia,” according to guidelines from the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, which endorses ventilation shutdown in “constrained circumstances.”
Doolittle said that despite her knowledge of the industry’s brutal practices, this method caught her off guard. “I didn’t believe it was real,” she said. To Doolittle, the use of ventilation shutdown should be a call to action, and more than images are needed. “There’s already lots of bad pictures of pigs on the internet,” she said.
She hopes the Project Counterglow map will be a place where activists can share information and tactics, feeding a movement of smaller-scale farm investigations carried out as acts of civil disobedience.For many animal welfare advocates, the pandemic has only highlighted the need for better transparency around animal enterprises.
If a similar project in Australia is any indication, backlash against the map’s creators could be significant. Project Counterglow began as a partnership with the organization Aussie Farms, whose Farm Transparency Map launched last year to the outrage of the farming industry. Its release led to the passage of federal legislation in Australia that criminalized the use of a website or social media to incite trespass on a farm.
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