Mary Shannon Johnstone and Jane M Casteline, two photographer activists who met at Wake County Animal Center where they were volunteering in 2015, struggled to have pictures of rescued pigs put up on billboards in North Carolina, US, as part of a campaign called “Picturing Pig” that aims to make people think about pigs as friends, not food.

This was not an easy task, as there are around eight million pigs kept captive in North Carolina, which is the third largest producing state of pig flesh in the country, and where killing pigs is a $10 billion industry. Many advertising companies refuse to put the posters up, but in the end, one company accepted, though the billboards are both hidden from the road by overgrown foliage.

In November 2023, the billboards were placed beside the I-40 highway that runs through Duplin County and Sampson County in NC. One billboard shows Iris and Brianne, bonded sisters who live at Blind Spot Animal Sanctuary, with the caption, “Life is better with friends. Pigs think so too.” The second billboard shows Daisy, who has lived at Sisu Animal Refuge since 2019, and reads, “Enjoying summer? Pigs like sunshine too.” Both posters also have the words “Pigs Are Friends. Not Food.” 

Johnstone and Casteline said that the obstacles they encountered “speaks to the difficulty in even getting our message heard,” and that they have found the experience “disheartening and frustrating” given that their message is “love and compassion” and shouldn’t be controversial.

North Caroline used to have one of the most restrictive “ag-gag” laws in the US, criminalising investigating animal agricultural facilities. Still, in February 2023, the US Court of Appeals struck down the law for being unconstitutional. In October, the Supreme Court declined to review the decision, meaning the ruling of unconstitutionality still stands.

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.