How Animal Activists Exposed the Brutality of Factory Farming

Last week’s episode of the Get WIRED podcast introduced listeners to Direct Action Everywhere—one of the most radical animal-rights organizations around—and the group’s leader, Wayne Hsiung. We learned how the group has been utilizing VR cameras to capture footage so immersive, viewers literally can’t escape the sights and sounds of a factory farm.

This week, WIRED senior writer Andy Greenberg takes us inside another DxE operation, with an activist named Matt Johnson. Earlier this year, Johnson received a tip from a whistleblower that a pig farm in Iowa was about to attempt a ventilation shutdown—a process during which large clusters of livestock are killed at once by turning off airflow in a closed barn and pumping in heat, effectively suffocating the animals. It’s a procedure that is supposed to happen only as a last resort and as quickly and painlessly as possible. In this case, Covid-19 and the farm’s overpopulation of pigs had spurred its ventilation shutdown plans. But Johnson had a feeling that the process wouldn’t be anything close to painless euthanasia—and he was right.

While last week’s episode involved complicated VR camera rigs, this week’s episode covers how Johnson and his team used off-the-shelf technology and internet-enabled hidden cameras to capture the footage. We explore what this means for the future of surveillance, and the concept of sousveillance—using the same technology to surveil powerful entities instead of the other way around. It’s another episode you won’t want to miss.

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