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Behind the Scenes of WildAnimalSuffering.org

Written by Vegan Hacktivists Team | December 21, 2022

Our team is proud to launch our final project of the year: WildAnimalSuffering.org. A departure from previous projects, which have primarily focused on encouraging people to go vegan or become active in the movement. WildAnimalSuffering.org is an educational website about the real living conditions of wild animals. Its purpose is to showcase the myriad ways in which they suffer and the scale of their suffering.

While there are a plethora of resources available, the Wild Animal Suffering (WAS.org) project came out of a need to provide a visual primer to current animal advocates and members of the general public. After all, wild animals are often neglected in research and discussion in the vegan and animal protection movement. Much of animal advocacy is focused on farmed animals,  thanks to increasing awareness of the horrendous conditions of factory farms and the need to combat rising consumer demand for meat products. While the general public finds these realities abhorrent, the subject of wild animal welfare remains relatively unexamined.

Likewise, the idyllic depiction of wild animals in media is one in which adult mammals like lions, elephants, and whales (or rare and exotic animals) are thriving in their natural habitat. As WAS.org shows, this is far from the reality. When depicted, media illustrations of wild animal suffering  often represent highly individualized and regionalized impacts. (Think of the viral video of the sea turtle with a plastic straw or most recently, hundreds of whales washed up on Australia’s shores.) Suffering is not reflected as a constant for the whole of the population in their respective ecosystem.

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This is where WildAnimalSuffering.org hopes to elevate and change the conversation, in partnership with key organizations and experts specializing in wild animal welfare. 

“[The website] offers an accessible, engaging, and visually stunning introduction to the significant and pressing issue of wild animal suffering,” says Cat Kerr of Wild Animal Initiative, one of our partner organizations. “The site fills a need by curating the best available information and resources all in one place, and I could see it becoming a key tool in building the movement.”

“With its clear, concise explanations and visuals, this site is ideal for people who are looking to learn about the lives of wild animals and what we can do to help,” says Leah McKelvie of Animal Ethics, who has reviewed the project. “I hope it inspires people to think differently about addressing not just anthropogenic harms but also natural ones.”

As mentioned in our recap of AVA Summit, staff members from these aforementioned organizations provided real-time user feedback about the project before its launch. The result was a productive collaboration and an accessible site enriched with scientific research and ethical arguments through videos, podcasts, literature, as well as resources for short and long-term action items.

The project initially evolved from a conversation with Jack Hancock, who is best known for his street interviews and philosophical debates under the alias Humane Hancock, and lent a hand in shaping the content for WAS.org. In the past few years, Jack has focused his efforts on raising awareness of the suffering of wild animals in hopes of changing the public discourse so that further research and advancements in technology can improve and save their lives.

“For this issue, you just need to acknowledge that all animals matter [and] that their suffering is important,” says Jack in his video overview of the subject. “It doesn’t matter if the animal is in our house, in a farm, or in a jungle. Their suffering matters to them, and it should matter to us.” 

[Blog] WAS.org illustrations
The illustration reflects the project's effort to showcase a diverse variety of species, including mammals, birds, insects, rodents, and amphibians. Illustration by Kate Rodman.

One Team, One Dream

At the core of WAS.org are the designers and developers of our team who dedicated their creative efforts and technical knowledge to this project.

The project highlights the custom and original illustrations developed by Kate Rodman, our Director of Design. Because much of Kate’s personal work consists of drawing animals, it was an opportunity for her to apply that skillset to a real-life project. For the website's main image, she drew inspiration from an episode of Planet Earth over a decade ago, in which a baby elephant was separated from its mother — a deeply moving and memorable experience for her.

Discussing her art style, Kate says: “It was important to show suffering without turning people away with shock or gore. The illustrations should be attractive and enticing, making the user curious to scroll and see more. The strong texture and depth adds a mature and serious tone, especially along with a more muted color palette.”

The project team aspired to showcase a diverse variety of species, since the project is about representing various animals from different environments, all who face very different struggles. The project features representation from across the animal kingdom including mammals, birds, insects, rodents, and amphibians.

“The typical project at Vegan Hacktivists doesn't have this style of storytelling, with illustrations, scroll animations, and background effects,” says Stephan de Vries, our Lead Architect, a role focused specifically on developing and upholding best practices in writing code and user experience design. 

Technical challenges that developers encountered included implementing the site’s pie charts, which show specific illustrations depending on the user's scroll position, and ensuring that people across various mobile and desktop devices would have a seamless experience.

“What's unique about this project is that by creating an immersive experience for the user, it can influence how they view the topic,” says Stephan. “Knowing this, it was important to create a user experience where the user would feel as if they were, even for a second, experiencing life in the wild.”

About the Author
Vegan Hacktivists Team

We are a mission-driven tech organization focused on building data-driven, disruptive, and innovative projects to help see an end to animal exploitation.