The Right to Live Without Suffering: Saving Animals With Open Rescue

The Right to Live Without Suffering: Saving Animals With Open Rescue

Open rescue turns belief into action, intervening to free animals from pain and suffering. This movement reflects the idea that all animals, regardless of their species, deserve a life without cruelty and exploitation.

In a world where the meat industry treats cows, pigs, and chickens as machines in food production, organizations like Animal Equality are working to end cruelty and give animals the life they deserve—a life without suffering.

From undercover investigations and ending some of the cruelest farming practices to creating and strengthening animal laws and promoting plant-based eating, the work of animal protection organizations are building blocks towards a kinder future. But while we take action toward a future goal, there is immediate action taken by activists that protects individual animals from suffering in the present: open rescues. 

What is Open Rescue?

Simply put, open rescues are an action taken by activists who rescue sick and suffering animals inside factory farms and provide veterinary care. While courts have upheld the legality of these rescues time and time again, it doesn’t stop the meat industry from attempting to prosecute these animal defenders and further conceal its cruelty.

As opposed to undercover investigations, where the activist conceals his or her identity, open rescuers choose to reveal their identities, document their actions through photos and videos, and openly share their experiences with the public.

Open rescue initiatives have a profound impact on public perception. By sharing unfiltered images and stories of animals rescued from dire conditions, activists reach a broader audience. 

The History of Open Rescues

Animal Equality and open rescue advocates are driven by unwavering compassion to shed light on factory farming through action. It bridges the gap between consumers and farmed animals, encouraging a deeper understanding of the factory farming industry and a connection with the animals exploited in food production.

The ideology behind open rescues, a type of animal liberation action, is built on a few important principles:

  • Liberation of Animals: Open Rescues are all about freeing animals from places where they’re mistreated or exploited.
  • Non-Violence: These actions reject any form of harm, both to animals and property. The only exception is if damaging property is needed to save the animals.
  • Making It Public: Open Rescues aim to share videos or pictures of their actions with the public through media, like news outlets or social media platforms, to raise awareness..
  • Identity Revealing: At least one person involved in the rescue needs to take responsibility for it. They let people know who did it.

Open rescue activists often draw parallels between their actions and existing laws that protect individuals who rescue animals from immediate harm, such as animals left in hot cars. They assert that these laws provide a legal basis for their actions, emphasizing the urgency of saving animals in distress. 

However, the meat industry continues to seek prosecution of these individuals in an attempt to hide this suffering.

In 2017, activists entered a Utah pig farm owned by Smithfield Foods, a major pork producer, to expose animal cruelty. They documented their actions and posted footage online, even rescuing two sick piglets. Prosecutors sought theft and burglary charges, with potential lengthy sentences. The jury later acquitted them in a Utah trial, marking significant progress for the ‘open rescue’ movement. 

Beyond individual rescues, open rescue serves as a catalyst for larger systemic changes. Activists involved in this approach often work towards introducing or amending laws that recognize the rights of animals and advocate for improved living conditions. 

While organizations like Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) have made headlines for their open rescues in the United States, credit for its inception goes to Patty Mark, the visionary behind the Australian nonprofit Animal Liberation Victoria. 

In the 1990s, she pioneered this movement by capturing the daring rescue of chickens from an egg factory on film. This trailblazing approach has inspired activists worldwide, including Animal Equality as we completed our first open rescue in 2007.

Animal Equality’s Impact Through Open Rescues

September 2007: Animal Equality embarked on its first open rescue as our team liberated six pigs from a factory farm in Spain, offering them a chance at a life free from suffering. One of them, Gracie, lived to be fifteen years old. Her picture hangs in the home of the President and Co-founder of Animal Equality, Sharon Nunez, who helped to rescue her. This act of courage sets the stage for a new era of advocacy that would challenge the agricultural industry.

December 2009: On Christmas Eve, Animal Equality carried out its first open rescue of lambs in Spain. This rescue was not only an act of kindness but also a historic moment, as it became the first-ever live-streamed open rescue, reaching hearts and minds worldwide.

Sharon Núñez, Animal Equality’s President & Co-founder, filming an animal protector holding a rescued lamb from a factory farm in Spain.

September 2010:  Animal Equality activists rescued five hens from a massive farm housing 160,000 animals. One animal underwent an extensive eye surgery for an infection-related mass and another received veterinary care. 

These hens were enduring a cruel process known as forced molting, where they suffered severe food deprivation and darkness to stimulate egg-laying cycles. Kept behind bars for eleven months, these hens suffered from nutritional deficiencies and liver damage. The rescue team documented this ordeal to shed light on the hidden suffering within such facilities. 

This rescue occurred within battery cages, where hens live a life inside a tiny cage with a dozen other animals. They have only the living space the size of a sheet of paper.. Animal activist and photographer, Jo-Anne McArthur, joined the cause, amplifying our mission through powerful imagery.

September 2013: This compassionate momentum continued when six hens were rescued from an egg factory farm in Germany. 

March 2015: Animal Equality extended its open rescue efforts to the Italian lamb meat industry. The daring rescue operation resulted in the rescue of a lamb named Basilico, who was given a second chance at life.

Basilico living a life free of cruelty after being rescued from a factory farm in Italy.

August 2016: Animal Equality’s investigators rescued a weak, young bird from a British chicken farm named Gloria. Among hundreds of abandoned chickens left to die, our investigators found Gloria, who had miraculously survived among the piles of corpses, despite the cold and darkness. Now Gloria can live her life in the sunshine.

December 2017: Animal Equality’s investigators performed a rescue operation for Louis and his three siblings from a chicken farm in Germany. These chickens, including Louis, are intentionally bred by the animal agriculture industry to significantly accelerate the size of their bodies. Within a mere 35 days in today’s factory farming conditions, these birds can attain a weight of five pounds. Observing their injuries and inability to walk, Animal Equality intervened, relocating them to safety and a sanctuary environment. Here, they received the necessary care to heal and were provided with the chance to lead healthier lives.

You Can Help The Future of Open Rescue

The transparent and compassionate approach of open rescues serves as a powerful tool for raising awareness, influencing legislation, and fostering a more compassionate society.

While navigating legal challenges, the open rescue movement stands as a beacon of hope, inviting individuals and organizations to actively participate in reshaping the narrative of animal advocacy.

By joining our Love Veg movement and encouraging friends to do the same, you can create a positive change that aligns with the values of open rescues. Think about swapping animal-based products such as meat, dairy, and eggs for plant-based options in your next meal.


With rich emotional lives and unbreakable family bonds, farmed animals deserve to be protected. You can build a kinder world by replacing animal food products with plant-based ones.

The Right to Live Without Suffering: Saving Animals With Open Rescue

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