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National Geographic Features Our Open Rescue Photography

by | Aug 11, 2023

Rescuing a dog from a hot car is a heroic act. Rescuing a sick pig from a factory farm is grounds for arrest and jail time.

In 2011, our founder Jo-Anne McArthur photographed María González Sola, an activist with Animal Equality, rescuing a distressed hen from a factory farm in Spain. Over a decade later, this photograph and her story appears in National Geographic in an article exploring open rescue and the movement’s history.

At a Spanish egg production facility, Animal Equality activist Maria Gonzalez Sola holds a hen being rescued from one of the facility's battery cages. Spain, 2011. Jo-Anne McArthur / Lauren Veerslaat / We Animals

At a Spanish egg production facility, Animal Equality activist Maria Gonzalez Sola holds a hen being rescued from one of the facility’s battery cages. Spain, 2011.

Jo-Anne McArthur / Lauren Veerslaat / We Animals

The Animal Equality team bring the rescued hens to the veterinarian for care. Spain, 2010. Jo-Anne McArthur / Animal Equality / We Animals

The Animal Equality team bring the rescued hens to the veterinarian for care. Spain, 2010.

Jo-Anne McArthur / Animal Equality / We Animals

Hens rescued by Animal Equality enjoy their first sunny day at a sanctuary. Spain, 2010. o-Anne McArthur / Animal Equality / We Animals

Hens rescued by Animal Equality enjoy their first sunny day at a sanctuary. Spain, 2010.

Jo-Anne McArthur / Animal Equality / We Animals

“Unlike other covert animal-liberation operations, members of the global open rescue movement reveal their identities, arguing that these animals have the right to freedom,” writes Rachel Fobar of National Geographic.

The article goes on to describe some of the more recent open rescue efforts by activists in the US, including Direct Action Everywhere and their 2017 Smithfield exposé and resulting trial surrounding the open rescue of two piglets, who were later named Lily and Lizzie.

Fobar writes, “Open rescuers argue they have a right to rescue animals in distress, modelling this argument on US state laws that protect rescuers from facing civil or criminal penalties if they break a window to rescue an animal in a hot car.”

Patty Mark holds Susie, a rescued hen formerly used for breeding in the broiler chicken industry. In the background, Prince, a rescued sheep born inside a slaughterhouse, snuffles through the contents of a wheelbarrow. Australia, 2013. Jo-Anne McArthur / Animal Liberation Victoria / We Animals

Australian activist Patty Mark pioneered the open rescue movement in 1993. Pictured here she holds Susie, a rescued hen formerly used for breeding in the broiler chicken industry. In the background, Prince, a rescued sheep born inside a slaughterhouse, snuffles through the contents of a wheelbarrow. Australia, 2013. Read more about Mark’s pioneering work via her Unbound project story.

Jo-Anne McArthur / Animal Liberation Victoria / We Animals 

“It’s wonderful that 12 years after this photo people are still talking about it, I think that is one of the reasons why these types of actions are carried out, because of their visual impact, we do not have to cover our faces, we must not hide to save lives. These acts were/are done with an open face because we have nothing to hide from, we are convinced that helping those who need it is an act of justice.” — María González Sola

Such acts of compassion come with immense challenges, forcing rescuers to make difficult decisions in split seconds, determining which individuals to save and grant the chance to experience a life of joy and fulfilment.

“Laws should not be upheld when they are unjust. Open rescuers break laws by entering properties to expose vicious abuses and help the suffering. If we are justified in helping suffering humans, and the animals we love, such as dogs and cats, as well as the wild animals we revere and bring to wildlife centers, farmed animals deserve the same treatment. Let’s face, and end, the disconnect.” — Jo-Anne McArthur

Explore more visual stories about open rescue efforts of animal advocates around the globe.