Some viewers actually stopped eating pork after watching this 360° film.
When it comes to immersive journalism, we have seen a lot of powerful VR videos. We have even highlighted a few in our VRScout show, hoping to showcase the heartfelt work from a few creators like RYOT and Vrse who are giving us a sense of true human connection in virtual reality. These are just a few examples of compelling stories that are helping to push forward the language of storytelling within this new medium.
But what happens when a creator pushes it too far?
That is what Animal Equality, an international animal advocacy organization, may have just done with their latest VR experience that places you inside a slaughterhouse and factory farm. Now available publicly today for the first-time, the latest project dubbed “iAnimal” gives you a look at the life cycle of factory farmed animals from gestation to death, in this case pigs. But that may be putting it too lightly – this VR video is disturbing for many.
I’m not kidding you. The roughly 10-minute long video was previewed at Sundance Film Festival in January to select attendees and some viewers told us they have stopped eating pork since watching the film.
In fact, it was so disturbing that viewers were actually upset and raised the question about the ethics of showing such disturbing content in virtual reality to attendees who may be experiencing VR for the first-time. One lady stood up during an immersive journalism panel in tears, stating that she was up all night because the images were so disturbing, which sparked an entire debate about VR ethics and censorship of content.
Even with warnings, viewers didn’t quite understand how powerful the medium can actually be. And with VR being in such an experimental stage for journalists with no boundaries having been set with content, Animal Equality may have just set it for us with their video.
With that being said, viewer discretion is advised before watching the iAnimal VR video below:
To save you from some of the intense details, the film places you inside a factory farm and slaughterhouse with families of pigs, seeing the inside of a gestation crate where they are impregnated, a farrowing create where they give birth, and later the slaughterhouse where they are killed for meat.
“iAnimal brings people to experience, for the first time, what life is like in a modern factory farm,” said Sharon Nunez, Executive Director of Animal Equality. “Viewers will inhabit the cruel world humans have created for animals, feeling their suffering. This extremely empathetic experience will change, and save, lives,” she said.
No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal and Downton Abbey star, Peter Egan, were so moved by this project that they they narrated the film in the U.S. and the U.K.
“I have never seen anything as shocking as this in my life,” said Peter Egan. “It’s devastating, and completely inhumane. Virtual reality enabled me to experience, close up, for just a few minutes, the horror of the short lives of factory farmed animals, to see what they see, to get a real sense of how they live. It has shocked me deeply, and it has strengthened my resolve to help them.”
And I am sure this is the hope for Animal Equality, to shock viewers with an experience that could only be this powerful with virtual reality.
The project is probably best viewed with a Samsung Gear VR or a Google Cardboard viewer. For those seeking a non-VR experience, the films are also available for download from the iAnimal app, website and YouTube.
If you do end up watching this in VR, let us know your thoughts!