Sep 5th
    The eyes have it. My goal is to capture the faces - and eyes - of the pigs in intensive farms. Perhaps that can help me - and you - relate to them as individuals better

    The eyes have it. A pig in a Spanish intensive farm that I just photographed. This pig is NOT covered in outdoor mud. I can only assume it is shit. This pig has spent its entire life on hard floors with no bedding, away from light, cramped in a small space. My goal is to capture the faeces – sorry, faces – of the pigs in intensive farms. Perhaps that can help me – and you – relate to them as individuals.

    If there is one theme to this year it is this: to connect

    If there is one aspect of intensive farming that makes it so powerful it is this: it is hidden from view

    If there one way to relate to animals it is by meeting their eyes.

    If there is one thing I ask of you it is – to keep looking. 

    For all you may read about the horrors of intensive farming, the grisly facts and figures, there is nothing so powerful – or transformative – as meeting a pig face to face that is stuck in a shit-filled dark shed with no light and little space to move.

    As a photographer I spend a lot of time focusing on subjects’ eyes. Look this way please. Yet an animal’s gaze that can be even more powerful than a human’s. Partly because they have no words – the eyes are our way in – and partly because they don’t know how to lie. The eyes are our point of connection.

    The above pig – and those below – were photographed on my first day in Spain, inside a small hut planted anonymously on a hot, dry hillside. My intention with these is not to take pictures that shock, rather pictures that communicate something of the emotional experience of being an animal in an intensive farm. It is the eyes.

    The pigs are both scared of me and intrigued. The heat is hard to bear, the floor covered in excrement and the pigs closely confined

    The pigs are both scared of me and intrigued. The heat is hard to bear, the floor covered in excrement and the pigs closely confined

    Young pigs being reared for meat.

    Young pigs being reared for meat.

    A sow, one of many, in a gestation crate

    A sow, one of many, in a gestation crate

    My goal is to go undercover into as many intensive pig farms as I can and already I’ve managed to get into one farm as a supposed reporter and two others with the help of an informed and experienced local. I cannot mention his name, so we might as well call him Manuel and assume he is vastly tall or perhaps really really small. Maybe with bright blue hair. Whatever your imagination wants.


    Catalonia in North East Spain is a hot spot for intensive pig farming.

    Catalonia in North East Spain is a hot spot for intensive pig farming.


    Catalonia (Catalunya) – the heart of Spanish intensive pig farming

    I am in Catalonia, the beautiful territory around Barcelona in the North East of Spain that slides down from the Pyrenees towards the sea. Summer refuses to leave – the earth is dry and the heat rises off the tarmac yet the sprawling hills are also rich with trees and long grass.

    But in those hills are many small secrets.

    This area is home to a vast number of small intensive pig farms that are dotted around the countryside and to the untrained eye  appear as nothing other than quaint farm buildings.  Inside they are hot and cramped and festering with thousands upon thousands of lives that pass year-in year-out without ever touching natural soil or grass.

    A prettier side to Catalonia

    A prettier side to Catalonia

    My contact – did I call him Manuel? – has been into these places before. He is a vegan. He is young. He is more morally developed than me. Of this I am sure.

    We sit down in the morning and plan our day.

    Will we get busted? Will they make me try some sweaty ham?

    Read on…and more importantly keep looking.

    A sow awaits birth of her piglets in a farrowing crate.

    A sow awaits birth of her piglets in a farrowing crate.


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    1. I already did say I was wrong about it being unecessary and I apologised, but I want to repeat that. Your photos hurt. Brilliant work.

    2. Such sadness. Sometimes I wish I were still clueless about factory farming. I wonder if we will see an end to it in our lifetimes?

    3. I doubt it I really do. But I am sure the opposition (and awareness) will increase.

    4. When I feel overwhelmed by all the cruelty and feel like “what’s the point;it won’t ever change”,I keep reminding myself that I don’t have to be a part of it and remind myself that there are many others who feel the same. Together, we can make a difference, even if it is only for a small amount of the animals. Any animal saved is better than none at all. Your photos help remind me of that.

    5. thank you Linda and well put. It’s always good to speak to others who feel the same. We support each other.

    6. Indeed…pictures ARE very POWERFUL!! They changed me to Vegan…I MADE myself look and listen and look some more….as huge tears kept rolling down my cheeks…

      I …..GOT IT…..after the looking and the listening…….by George…..I finally GOT IT!!!

      Thank you Martin…keep snapping…. Cheers, Valerie

    7. Thank you Valerie. You are ahead of me. Not vegan yet but moving that way…

    8. Martin , your photos are so powerful , I am writing whilst in tears. Pigs are such intelligent creatures and their eyes are so expresive. No words needed.
      My own two pigs , Wilber and Charlie are currently grunting and groaning at the back gate as they wouldn’t come back from their walk (due to the amount of acorns currently on the ground) and as it is now spitting with rain they are demanding to be let back into their barn! They really don’t know how lucky they are – for which I am very glad.

      Can I please share a clip on with your followers from youtube of an undercover investigation into an RSPCA ‘freedom food’ pig farm. I am sure many people saw this report in the press , but the film clip is truely shocking. Many people fool themselves into thinking ‘organic’ or ‘freedom’ foods equates to better animal welfare standards and hence justify eating meat. dream on!!

    9. hi odette, lovely to hear from you. I am glad you are still reading. I will indeed share this, thank you for showing and reminding us we can’t hide behind labels. HOrrible. but thank you

    10. I agree with Linda, just yesterday I had that very conversation with a friend (it was about the torture of cats for ‘religious’ fun in Peru)I dont wonder some people choose to turn a blind eye, it is so depressing, but every time someone new decides not to be a part of it then its a minute step closer to better behaviour from humans.

    11. brilliant photos. poor pigs such wonderful animals too. I am not vegetarian but I do make sure I buy british meat as I am aware of the appalling conditions in some european countries, just dont understand how they get away with it!!

    12. Odette..
      Have just watched the rspca freedom food clip…
      Everyone I speak to as a vegan says either
      “I don’t eat much meat” or I always buy farm assured, free range etc..
      REALLY .. they should watch this..

    13. Omg, these photos cut, so tragic.

    14. Dear Martin,
      You have such a great work. I admire you braveness and courage to go for the animals. I’m a fresh vegan and it is just great to have the chance to see how real world works. It’s sad to know the truth, but it is important to give us strength to pursue a lifestyle that is free of animal abuse.
      In case you hadn’t read it yet, I suggest Jonathan Safran Foer’s book “Eating Animals”. I finished reading it some months ago and it really opened my eyes for this matter.
      Keep the great work on!

    15. Hi Martin,things have been hectic and I was quite behind, but I spent a rainy day catching up on all you have been up to. Quite scary stuff, and very, very sad in places. No doubt your experiences have been live-changing too! I can’t say that I am surprised that you have changed your eating habits and have joined the vegetarian club….. Love to you and Ann , and of course Bug and Moose xx

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