Ottawa-born photographer wins COP26 competition with amazing animal footage

Article content

An Ottawa-born animal photographer avoided forest fires in Australia, braved the summer heat in Turkey and sneaked into an industrial farm in Italy under cover of darkness to take his winning photos in Earth Project’s COP26 photo competition.

Advertising

Article content

Jo-Anne McArthur, who was born and raised in Ottawa and now lives in Toronto, was ranked in the top three in each of the competition’s three galleries. The finalists were determined through an online poll and announced during the COP26 climate conference, which ended in Glasgow, Scotland on Friday.

McArthur’s photo of a kangaroo and her joey standing in a burnt eucalyptus plantation in Mallacoota, Australia took third place in Gallery 1, while a picture of a cow being transported at the Bulgarian-Turkish border tied to third place in Gallery 2, and a picture of a piglet next to a sow in a cramped box took first place in Gallery 3.

Animals transported for slaughter from all over Europe through the Bulgarian-Turkish border.  (Jo-Anne McArthur / WeAnimalsMedia)
Animals transported for slaughter from all over Europe through the Bulgarian-Turkish border. (Jo-Anne McArthur / WeAnimalsMedia) Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur /Jo-Anne McArthur / Eyes On Anima

For McArthur, the recognition is a sign that people are aware of the environmental costs of producing animals for food.

Advertising

Article content

“There’s a lot of wildlife and conservation photography out there in the world,” she said in an interview, “but not so much of this kind of investigative work about the billions of animals we use and how it contributes to climate change and deforestation. need to face the truth that animal husbandry contributes to 50 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. “

McArthur has been documenting the situation of animals in the hands of humans for two decades. The 45-year-old vegan is the author of several books and the founder of a media agency, We Animals Media, which compiles and distributes her photos and videos as well as the work of other animal photojournalists. Her latest book, co-edited with Keith Wilson, was published last year; Hidden: Animals in the Anthropocene features works by 40 photographers documenting animal stories.

Advertising

Article content

A sow and suckling pig in a sow barn.  (Jo-Anne McArthur / WeAnimalsMedia)
A sow and suckling pig in a sow barn. (Jo-Anne McArthur / WeAnimalsMedia) Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur /Jo-Anne McArthur / Being Animal

McArthur grew up in Ottawa’s Alta Vista neighborhood and was a child who not only loved animals but also had great concern for them. “I’ve always noticed the loneliness of animals in zoos, and it made me feel bad,” she says. “I was aware of the dogs being kept in the backyard and not walking. I saw the animals hit by cars on the side of the road. These are events that have always really affected me.”

After high school, though she majored in English literature and geography at the University of Ottawa, McArthur was most inspired by an elective in black-and-white photography. “In the second hour, I knew what I was going to do for the rest of my life. It was magic,” she says, crediting her professor, Lorraine Gilbert, as a “phenomenal” teacher.

Advertising

Article content

McArthur also developed an interest in conflict photography and wondered why photojournalists did not take a similar approach to the animal kingdom. Most animal photographers prefer to take beautiful pictures of their subjects in the name of conservation.

“We feel safe looking at these animals, but it gets really uncomfortable for us when we look at the animals we eat and the animals we have on,” she said. “But they are just as sensuous as the tigers and the elephants and the dogs and the cats that we care about, so I was quite driven to tell their stories and show how their lives are filled with pain and suffering.”

The work is difficult emotionally and often dangerous. To get the piglet shot, for example, she teamed up with an NGO and an investigation team to infiltrate an industrial pig farm in Italy’s Parma region and sneaked in at night while the others kept watch. Farmers do not want outsiders to see the interior of the farm.

Advertising

Article content

“People often call what I do to go in and out, but I have never broken anything. I climb fences and I walk through open doors and I want to spend as much time as I can before dawn, on documenting who lives there and what their lives are like, “said McArthur. She could see that piglets had recently been neutered and the wounds looked painful.

Jo-Anne McArthur.  (Photo credit: Josee Van Wissen)
Jo-Anne McArthur. (Photo credit: Josee Van Wissen) Photo by Josee van Wissen /jpg

“It’s very horrible, it’s stressful, it’s uncomfortable, it’s depressing and it’s very scary,” she said. “Unlike most of my colleagues who have been doing investigative work for a long time, I have not been caught. We have had lots of red alarms and we have left many properties quickly and quietly, but I have never been caught.”

lsaxberg@postmedia.com

Advertising

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourages all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments can take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications – you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, which is an update to a comment thread you follow, or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on adjusting your email settings.

Leave a Comment

Advertise