The abuse done to animals is no mystery to anyone. It is a well-established fact that people do cruel things to those beneath them, and second perhaps only to other people, animals are offered the most torturous experiences by their friendly, brainy cousins, the humans. For a species of unparalleled intelligence and sympathy, for apes modestly titled Homo Sapiens, we very rarely set good examples for any other life sharing this planet with us. Swathes of their homes destroyed for even more space for ourselves while, perplexingly, homelessness still persists as an unresolved issue worldwide. When we’re not murdering one family of chimpanzees or dogs, we’re making them perform. Animals go extinct, and the more animals disappear, the quicker it is that we will follow them.
One such facet of animal cruelty is illegal trade, which is why projects like Photographers Against Wildlife Crime are, unfortunately, increasingly necessary. As their Kickstarter page explains, ‘The illegal wildlife trade is the world’s fourth biggest criminal activity after drug smuggling, the illegal firearms trade and human trafficking.’ The project is a compilation between a list of photographers who have provided images of the illegal animal trade around the globe. The aim is to publish them all together in a hardback book, once the Kickstarter funding minimum is reached – £20,000.
The fare on offer is no different to any campaign like this; a variety of animals – baby gorillas, elephants, orangutans – in a variety of scenes, all in distress. They are the type of photographs that, though all are harrowing, people have been desensitised towards. The feeling you have when looking through them is, of course this is happening. Where there should be surprise, is a nod: yep, I see this all over the internet. That said, there are three images in the collection that might make one stop and linger. Bruno D’Amicis’s shot of a baby Fennec Fox illustrates precisely just how fragile the creature is, waiting between two feet for someone to purchase it. Fragility again, in the image of a volunteer comforting a baby rhino in its sleep, taken by Brent Stirton. The third is, in its quiet absurdity, the most disturbing of the prospective book’s collection. Wearing a glittery, collared outfit, alone on a stage, the photograph is a stark symbol for much more than simply our treatment of the closest of our cousins.