“We Animals” is an ambitious project that documents animals in the human environment. As much as we like to forget it, we are as much “animal” as the sentient beings we use for clothes, food, research, experimentation, work, entertainment, slavery and companionship.

With this notion as its premise, “We Animals” aims to identify and break down the barriers between human and non-human animals—fabricated boundaries that allow us to treat animals as objects and not as beings with moral significance. The objective is to photograph our interactions with animals in such a way that the viewer finds new significance in these ordinary, often unnoticed situations of use, abuse and shared space.

Since the conception of the project, stories and photographs for “We Animals” have been shot in over 40 countries, and the photos have contributed to almost 100 worldwide campaigns to end the suffering of animals.

I regularly take part in investigative work with a security team so that I can obtain images of animal use and abuse. For the most part, industries that confine animals for their body parts and fur aren’t open and accessible to people like me, who want to expose how the animals are treated. It’s important that we see how animals live and die at our hands, so that we can know, understand, and hopefully make changes in our consumer habits that reflect compassion and caring for the living things around us.

What we buy and who we eat affects billions of individuals as well as the environment. One of the steps in creating change is identifying areas for change. That’s my mission: bringing to light the lives of the animals we use for our personal advancement.

—Jo-Anne McArthur

Editor’s Note: McArthur’s next book is called Captive and will challenge preconceptions about zoos and aquaria.

This year, the Festival of Political Photography will present images that highlight the political, social and environmental dimensions of food. This includes Jo-Anne McArthur’s work but also many more important bodies of work.

If you would like to see more work like this, we would encourage you to check out these other articles: Darwin in the Streets, a series highlighting the strange parallels between human and animal appearances; Subjective Trophies, highly stylized portraits of hunters with the animals they killed; and Behind Glass, affecting portraits that spotlight our close connection to primates.