Vegetarian Elite
Lights, Camera, Animals: In Focus with Photographer Jo-Anne McArthur      
Welcome, friendly viewers, to Vegetarian Elite! We’ve all heard of the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” but today, we’ll meet a remarkable young woman whose photos speak volumes on the way humanity interacts with animals.

Hi my name is Jo-Aanne McArthur. I’m a photojournalist from Canada.

Using the medium of photojournalism to communicate with people all over the world, Jo-Anne McArthur provides rare insights into the inner complexities, depth of understanding and beauty of our relationships with animals.

Hi, sweetheart. Hi, guys.

Jo-Anne’s photos have been featured on “The New York Times,” “Elle Canada,” “Canadian Geographic Magazine,” “The Globe and Mail” as well as many other publications. Some of Jo-Anne’s clients include the Jane Goodall Institute, Green Party of Ontario, the World Society for the Protection of Animals, among others. Her work has brought her to over 40 countries on all continents.

I was interested in photography since I was a child. I would memorize magazines, all the photos in magazines, all the photo albums at home. I never thought that I could actually become a photographer because I imagined photographers to be middle aged white men and not something that I could do for some reason. But once I finished my studies, I pursued it because it’s what I wanted to do in my soul.

When Jo-Anne was 11 years old, she was living in Ottawa and heard a dog barking restlessly in a neighbor’s backyard. With the inherent kindness that became the driving force behind her incredible photos, young Jo-Anne asked the neighbor if she could start taking the dog, named Duke, for walks. It was seeing Duke’s excitement and joy during their walks that made Jo-Anne realize that animals had feelings just like us. This realization has become the basis of what she wants to communicate to the world with her photojournalism.

I always had a deep love for animals and I really admired people who protected animals. I am one of the women who, or children at the time, who was influenced by Jane Goodall, and seeing her and Dr. Dian Fossey and seeing what they are doing, always moved me to the core. And I guess in my early 20’s I became vegetarian and started thinking about, I didn’t want to eat my friends.

When and why did you become a vegan yourself?

It’s funny becoming vegan. I had been vegetarian for a few years and I thought veganism was too extreme. And I couldn’t possibly do that very hardcore, and then I went to Farm Sanctuary to do an internship, and on day one I was there witnessing the animals and learning information about why those animals were there. It was a done deal, so my day one of veganism was April 1, 2003, and I never looked back.

Mostly self-taught but with mentoring from other great photographers, Jo-Anne has developed two aspects to her photographic career. She does portraits, editorial, food and event photography in her hometown of Toronto, Canada to support herself. But to fully express her noble visions, Jo-Anne also spends five to six months of each year abroad working on documentary projects such as We Animals.

We Animals is a project I thought of probably about 12 years ago, and I thought of the title before I even started taking photos for it. We Animals is about the fact that we are all animals, we are sentient beings and we all deserve equal respect. None of us should be made to suffer. From that, I decided I wanted to take photos of animals and our relationships with animals, and our uses and abuses of animals and expose these issues to the world.

What is the main message that you are trying to convey to the public through your art?

The point of the project is to document all the different things going on around the world. Lately, I have been trying to document more primate issues, whether it’s vivisection labs in the States, or bush-meat issues in Africa. So this year, I‘ve been to Africa. I spent some time in Southeast Asia documenting bear bile farming and lots of time shooting rodeos and zoos, and factory farms, many other investigations in Europe and in Canada, having to do with factory farming and the processing of animals.

And then recently in the Antarctic, I was working with Sea Shepherd. And so we would go down there and get in the way of the Japanese whaling fleet and try to intercept their whaling. I’ve seen some great things too as well though, I try and balance the work with going to sanctuaries and documenting the amazing work of people who are rescuing those animals and giving them a voice.

Jo-Anne is a wonderful woman who does such great work by going and traveling throughout the country, bringing issues to the forefront so that people can see what’s going on there with animals. So hopefully we can make change and make this a better planet for not only humans, but for animals as well. Jo-Anne, I commend you, keep doing what you are doing. Thank you.

After these brief messages, Vegetarian Elite will be right back with our feature on photographer Jo-Anne McArthur. You are watching Supreme Master Television.

I think that the forgiveness that animals have for us, always shocks me to the core. Just to see their playful natures and their relationships with people, it’s great.

I’ve got 5 rescues right now. There is a Spy, Bubs, Wonder Woman, Mister Man, and Vanessa in the back.

Welcome back to Vegetarian Elite for this week’s feature on photographer Jo-Anne McArthur, who uses her talent behind the camera lens to give voice to our animal co-inhabitants. We visited Jo-Anne in her home and witnessed her in action taking portraits of her adorable rescue dog, Sammy.

Hey, Sammy, come here, boo. We’re going to take a picture. I’m often doing animal portraits. So he’s the perfect subject for practice. It’s good to get low on the grass at their level. I think that’s the best thing about taking photos of animals, is, don’t shoot them from a human perspective but shoot them from their perspective. Good boy. You’re very photogenic, Sam.

I’m going to throw stick for you. Ready? Go get it. Bring it here, Samson. There’s my boy. And there is another pose right there. Good job, making my job really easy. What did you see Sammy? Good boy. That’s a nice picture. Good boy. Good boy. That’s a tasty stick. These are great pictures. You’re doing a good job.

Joanne is not only a photographer, but she also strives to work for the better treatment of animals everywhere. Farm Sanctuary describes Jo-Anne as an “Outstanding Activist” who is positive, friendly and promotes veganism through her dinner parties. She works to protect the lives of seals in Canada and volunteers to bottle-feed kittens at the Toronto Humane Society each spring. She also convinced a restaurant owner to stop selling veal for good.

I wasn’t always into animal rights work but I was a photographer for a long time and there was one image in this book that really, really struck me, and that’s this one here. And it was such a painful image for me, just seeing how used this animal is in captivity with its horn cut off and here is this camera crew leaving. It really affected me and I thought, “Well, this is the kind of work that I want to do that shows our exploitation of animals.”

Joanne has worked with closely to 30 animal welfare organizations around the world, including Animal Asia based in China; Farm Sanctuary in New York, USA; and Save the Chimps in Spain. She often offers her photographic services unconditionally for animal sanctuaries to help further their cause.

The most shocking thing that I have seen and photographed was babies being born in a factory farm. They were piglets being born to hundreds of mothers who couldn’t even turn around to see their babies or clean them. That was really overwhelming for me to see something so beautiful in such an atrocious situation. And then another one that really affected me was the bear bile farming in Asia.

I’ve see these bears kept in small cages and being used for their bile. But I also got to meet these bears after being rescued, and one of them even held me, pulled me close with its stumps. And that really shocked me to the core that an animal could so forgiving, after what we had done to it. So experiences like that really renew my drive and my effort to help them. My life’s goal is to help these animals and expose what they’re going through.

Jo-Anne’s work is important because it brings attention to the plight of animals, to environmental issues, and that is especially timely right now, in light of what is going on in Louisiana and the oil spill. I think Jo-Anne’s work serves to bring the issue to people who may not otherwise be aware of it because the medium she uses, because the way she portrays animals, and the images she captures through photography.

And how does the public react to your work, like what are the public’s favorite pictures?

Okay, this is everyone’s favorite image from We Animals. It’s a very happy image. This is shot at Farm Sanctuary. This is Gene, the co-founder, and this is OP. He found OP at six weeks old. He was a veal calf; he was left for dead on a dead pile, a pile of other animals.

But he was still living, and he picked up OP and put him in his car and nursed him to good health, and bottlefed him. And they remained really good friends as you can see in the picture for 16 years. Another favorite image is this one. It was in the Cayman Islands, with Stingrays Tourist Industry. He leads the tourists, he jumped into water and stingrays love him and they’re out in the wild and they’re not in captivity. And they played together. And they would wrestle and roll over each other. And it was just a really loving moment between him and an animal.

At an event for the We Animals project, Jo-Anne stated:

“More than ever, people know about factory farming. They know about adopting a dog from a shelter rather than buying one from the pet store. We know that endangered animals are being slaughtered. We know that wearing fur is unnecessary and cruel. My photos aim to add to this pool of knowledge about animal abuses and and help us understand that these abuses are unnecessary.

The thing is, we all need to start acting on the things we've learned. Time is critical… There are so many compassionate options. So many bikes to ride, so many veggie burgers to devour! Make small and then big changes, and share them with others, ask others to do the same… If not you, then who? If not now, then when?”

With so much love, Supreme Master Ching Hai is honoring Ms. Jo-Anne McArthur with the Shining World Compassion Award, along with a US$10,000 contribution for any needed job-related repairs. Ms. Jo-Anne McArthur, we are ever grateful for your loving heart. May you continue to apply your God-given talents to assist our animal friends towards a happier and safer existence that they so deserve.

To learn more about photographer Jo-Anne McArthur, please visit:

Thank you for your company today for Vegetarian Elite. Up next is Between Master and Disciples, here on Supreme Master Television. May we always stay focused on the noble ideals in life.

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