It may sound far-fetched, but I spent my Saturday afternoon doing just that. An organisation called Animal Equality have filmed 360 degree footage inside factory farms and slaughterhouses, which is available to view online. The footage is known as iAnimal. You can look around by dragging the mouse to the left or right.
Excitingly, it can also be viewed with virtual reality headsets. Though decent headsets are very expensive, Animal Equality are kindly loaning them to animal rights groups at no charge, along with the smartphones that slot into them. Naturally, our group jumped at the chance to try them out. They even sent us a massive box of leaflets to hand out to those who watched the video.
It’s a fairly simple concept – you open the video on the phone, plug in the headphones and clip it into the front of the headset. When someone puts on the headset, the video automatically starts playing. They see things from the point of view of a pig on a factory farm, with a narrator explaining what’s happening. It’s an extremely immersive experience – though I was previously aware of virtual reality, I had no idea how realistic it was.
We set up a table on the street, enticing people to watch with the promise of a free vegan cupcake if they made it through the whole video. Everyone was told beforehand that the images may be disturbing and that they could remove the headsets at any time. We didn’t allow young children to view the footage.
It was a rainy day, but there was no shortage of people doing their Christmas shopping. Many passers-by had never experienced virtual reality before and were eager to try it. Some were more excited about the technology than the cupcakes!
Most people were very shaken up by the footage – they had no idea about the reality of factory farming. Afterwards, we spoke to them and gave them some more information. We made sure everyone left with a leaflet on veganism.
I felt that this was one of the most effective forms of activism I’d ever taken part in. Since the video is six minutes long and we only had two headsets, we weren’t able to reach as many people as we do with forms of activism like the Earthlings Experience. But the impact it had on people was huge, and I’m confident that many people will change their lifestyles as a result. We’re planning on holding another similar event soon.
If you’re part of an animal rights group and would like to hold an event like this, simply contact Animal Equality and they will hopefully loan you some equipment.
What do you think about this type of activism? Is it effective, and would you try it? Leave a comment below!