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May 03, 2019 - The Vegan Authority

Vegan artist: Portraits of elderly farm animals from farm sanctuaries

Vegan artist: Portraits of elderly farm animals from farm sanctuaries
Credit: Isa Leshko - FacebookFile Photo / © Photabulous!

Farm animals, unlike pets, are usually slaughtered before their first birthday.

The typical images we see of cows, chickens, pigs, and the like are of young animals, though it is not something that usually comes to mind. Vegan artist, Isa Leshko, with her photos and stories, shows us what happens if these animals were allowed to grow old.

Through photographs and the written word, Leshko shares the stories of aging animals in her book Allowed to Grow Old: Portraits of Elderly Animals on Farm Sanctuaries, which was published by the University of Chicago Press in April 2019.

Her subjects are old and more often than not, weather-beaten farm animals. Most have been rescued from slaughterhouses or farms after the authorities have intervened in cases of cruelty, and taken to live on one of the animal sanctuaries scattered across the US. A few, like a 28-year-old Appaloosa horse Buddy or Violet a 12 year old potbellied pig, shown above, have been donated when owners no longer able to care for them.

For each image, Leshko said she strived to reveal the unique personality of the animal she photographed. "Rescued farm animals are often wary of strangers, and it can take several days to develop a comfortable rapport with the animals I photograph. I often spend a few hours lying on the ground next to an animal before taking a single picture. This helps the animal acclimate to my presence and allows me to be fully present as I get to know her. In order to be as unobtrusive as possible, I do not bring any studio lighting into the animal enclosures and instead work only with natural light."

In these photographs we see the cumulative effects of the hardships of industrialized farm life, but also the healing that time can bring, and the dignity that can emerge when farm animals are allowed to age on their own terms. Each portrait is accompanied by a brief biographical note about its subject.

Moby writes: “Isa Leshko offers us a deeply personal view into the lives of these animals. Her portraits are tender and present the inescapable fact that each subject is a living thinking creature with an individual history and personality.”

For more information about Isa Leshko and her book, listen to the interview with CBC.

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