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Meet The Team: Jo-Anne McArthur – Founder & President

by | Mar 26, 2024

Jo-Anne McArthur – Founder and President. Photo credit: Victoria de Martigny

Meet some of the wonderful individuals behind We Animals in our ‘Meet the Team’ Q&A series. This month we spoke with our trailblazing and humble Founder Jo-Anne McArthur.

[Content warning: Contains confronting images and/or video footage]

What I love about working at We Animals

(Cue Sappy Jo) I truly work with the most fun and thoughtful people. We Animals attracts individuals with diverse skill sets and a common passion to reduce suffering in the world. I also love that we have 110 contributing photographers. We Animals was what I needed when I started out in photography, but it didn’t exist. I’m so proud that We Animals is a growing community with common goals. We face difficult stories and we unwaveringly share those stories. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

What’s my background

Though I completed an undergrad in Geography and English Literature, the creativity and curiosity of photography had me in its thrall from a young age. Almost everything I’ve done since university has included a camera as my tool and companion, be it humanitarian, environmental, or animal advocacy work.

Favourite snack

A huge bowl of popcorn while in bed with a book until the wee hours.

Favourite movie/book (or both)

Documentaries over fiction. Toronto has a documentary cinema called HotDocs, which contributes to making this such an enchanting city.

Books: The Wayfinders by Wade Davis, about language and cultures. Essays by Anne Lamott and Ann Patchett are brilliant and hilarious. For the social justice warrior in me: the works of the civil rights activist James Baldwin. Last but not least, various research to resource myself with life hacks for coping with ADD.

A little about my rescue animal(s)

With my friends John and Julie Makinson, I adopted and co-parented a kind-hearted and complex mutt whom we named Banjo. He was already long in the tooth, and I’m grateful we had five years with him. Being his human companion was a delight, and I learned how to care for someone who had a history of fear and anxiety. RIP my sweet Banjo. Thank you for being my family!

Aerial view of a fur farm in Nova Scotia. Canada, 2014. Jo-Anne McArthur / #MakeFurHistory / We Animals

Jo and Banjo share a cuddle. Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur

Working at We Animals involves dealing with difficult subject matter on a regular basis. How I cope, and my advice for others working in similar fields

Though my empathy is constant, it’s engaged when I’m in the field, writing, or speaking about animals…in other words, I’ve learned (with therapy, and practice!) to focus my emotions so that I’m not always thinking about or overwhelmed by what I know is going on in the world. A lot of people burn out from animal advocacy because the work is hard and slow. The animals need every single one of us to stay in this space as long as possible, so we need to protect our psyches. I also always like to recommend pattrice jones’ Aftershock: Confronting Trauma in a Violent World. A Guide for Activist and their Allies.

One We Animals image that really stuck with me an why

I’m grateful to have been welcomed into this slaughterhouse with my cameras. I got to experience an immersive atmosphere of violence, which has helped me to understand extremes of conditions, extremes of fears, and of disassociations, in humans and other-than-human animals. My heart really went out to everyone there. Sometimes slaughterhouses are more technologically advanced. The captive bolt gun replaces the club, or the electric stunning bath precedes the knife. No matter the country or culture, we’ve created places of needless mass killing, of unnecessary fear. I know that seeing these systems, and the individuals caught in these systems, is a necessary element in advancing all types of animal advocacy.

A distressed chicken hangs upside down with her mouth agape as a worker attaches her to a processing line at a halal slaughterhouse. Indonesia, 2022. Seb Alex / We Animals

A pig screams as she is clubbed before slaughter. Bangkok, Thailand, 2019.

Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals for The Guardian

Favourite farmed animal ethology/behaviour fact

Rats (who are bred en masse for laboratory experiments) giggle when they are playing or being tickled, but our inferior human ears can’t hear these ultrasonic vocalizations.

If I were an animal (other than a human), I would be… because…

Don’t want to have to choose between being a water- or forest-dweller? The problem’s solved if you’re an Amazon river dolphin, also known as a Boto dolphin! It would be dreamy to live immersed in the flooded forests.

Connect with us if…

Connect with me and our amazing team if you want to talk about animal photojournalism, apply for our fellowship, explore our Masterclass, send us work for licensing, or pitch a story you’d like to shoot. We’d love for you to join our community!

Did you know? Our stock platform offers 30,000+ photos and video clips of animal issues around the globe. Non-commercial (free) and commercial licensing available.