In 2018, photographers and videographers Amy Jones and Paul Healey left their charity jobs and lives in London to set out on a worldwide adventure where they witness and document the use of animals in industries around the world. Along their journey, Amy and Paul shed light on animal abuse at human hands across the globe, and create images and video content that’s free to use for activists and organisations – we are proud to feature their content in Vilda. Here, Paul and Amy share their story of embarking on a life-changing, world-changing journey.
After both working for PETA UK for several years, we decided to pack up our London lives to combine our desire to travel with animal advocacy. Since then, we’ve been lucky enough to travel around the world as part of our project Moving Animals, which documents the plight of animals through photography and film.
So far, the project has taken us to many different places: we’ve been to fish markets, performing-elephant shows, camel-riding festivals, intensive egg farms, pet shops, slaughterhouses, crocodile farms, zoos – to name just a few.
It has been an incredible but devastating journey – a typical day can involve trekking to a waterfall one minute, to documenting calves locked in metal veal cages the next. We try to find a balance between enjoying the backpacker life, and our advocacy work, to avoid feeling completely overwhelmed by the suffering that we witness.
Part of what drove us to start Moving Animals was the belief that powerful visuals and effective storytelling have the power to change mindsets, and so every view of our work holds the promise to make the world a kinder world for animals, one person at a time. We hope that every view our content receives allows others to look through a different lens – one which views animals as individuals, not “commodities” or “property”.
Already, we’ve been lucky enough to have our photographs and footage featured by some of the most prominent news platforms, animal charities, and social media channels – allowing millions of people to hear the stories of those that are often left untold.
The power of social media is overwhelming in this regards, too – UNILAD shared a video about elephant riding using our footage, and it received over one and a half million views within 24 hours. To see the comment section full of engagement, including so many pledging “never to ride an elephant”; and to “cancel their plans” to ride an elephant in future, makes it all worthwhile.
It can be a lot of work in the run-up to that victory. One of the things that has helped us through the project is to not doubt ourselves and always aim for the best: we sent our first-ever pitch to the biggest publications in the world and it didn’t work – no one covered our story. But we tried again with the next pitch, and again, and again.
Eventually, a pitch went through and an elephant’s devastating story made the front page news in the most-read English-language news site in the world, helping to spread awareness of how these sensitive animals suffer for our entertainment.
As the project has progressed, we’ve learned that getting the content out there works differently for each issue: we’ve produced videos using our footage and given them to charities to use, we’ve written press releases and pitched them directly to newspapers, and we’ve even researched and conducted our own investigations to substantiate and give more weight to our photographs.
Now, the release of our new website means that our content is readily available for organisations, activists, media desks, and social media platforms – the Moving Animals archive has a growing collection of over 500 images. People can also request video clips and view how this footage has been effectively used across platforms.
Our aim is to add to this archive as we continue to travel to new places. Of course, speak to anyone working in animal rights, and they’ll tell you that there’s always more work to do. It can make it hard to switch off. It means we’re always busy, and never really not thinking about the animals or our project.
It’s so important to take a break from it all when we can – if we’re spending a few days documenting something upsetting, like the elephant rides at Amber Fort, then the week can quickly snowball into an intense, and emotionally-draining work-athon: it’s not just the shoots themselves, but the research, the photo edits, the pitching, and more. So suddenly we find ourselves unable to think about anything other than the suffering of the elephants for a sustained amount of time – it keeps us focused and determined, but we’ve also experienced some burnout along the way.
One amazing way that we’ve found to deal with this emotional toll is to make sure that we visit animal sanctuaries. Often, these visits are incorporated into the project, too – we always want to document the happy rescue animals that we meet – but crucially, these experiences show us a ray of hope amongst all of the suffering. Visiting somewhere like The Primate Trust in Goa – a sanctuary for abused and abandoned monkeys – after having documented performing monkeys – reminds us how the world could be for animals.
These sanctuaries are also a chance to meet and learn from activists around the world, who are working tirelessly to make a difference for animals. We’ve been lucky enough to visit a donkey sanctuary in a tiny, remote desert town; a forever-home for camels, cats, calves and others in the busy city of Jaipur, and a free-roaming sanctuary with over 1,500 street dogs in Ahangama. One of our favourite moments of our journey has been walking through the doors of this sanctuary, Animal SOS, in Sri Lanka, to be greeted by hundreds of rescue-dogs running towards us, tails wagging and tongues lolling. That was a moment of true happiness!
Animals truly value their own lives – from the calf who pushed his nose through the metal bars to watch us curiously, to the elephant who held eye contact with us as she tugged at the chains binding her legs. Until all of the animals that share our world with us are free from suffering – like these sanctuary animals are – we will continue to document their stories through photography and filming, in the hope that we can bring awareness to their plight.
Moving Animals will be a continually growing resource as we now turn our lenses to South-East Asia.
Looking for free-to-use photographs and video footage? View the Moving Animals archive.