Greenpeace UK

December 6, 2023
Artists expose UK corporate and government links to harmful industrial food system
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Artists place augmented reality pig on UK corporate and government buildings, exposing links to harmful industrial food system.

A virtual, female pig has appeared on top of Barclays’ Canary Wharf HQ, two Tesco supermarket stores in London and Liverpool, Cargill port, and other locations, in a new experimental augmented reality (AR) app created by artist, Naho Matsuda and collective A Drift of Us.

SOW AR has been created as a symbol of protest and resistance, exposing companies and the government’s links to industrial meat production. 

Taking the form of a digital sculpture, SOW AR invites the public to visualise the connections between our industrial food system, climate change and the destruction of the natural world. While using the app on a smartphone the public will see a huge, sometimes sleeping, twitching or squealing female pig.

SOW can be seen watching and weighing down on the buildings of some of the UK’s biggest corporate and government actors in our industrial food system. Barclays financed the world’s biggest meat company and notorious forest destroyer, JBS, to the tune of 4.8 billion GBP between 2015 and 2022, Tesco refuses to drop JBS as a supplier, and the government has failed to prevent deforestation-linked products from entering the UK. Meanwhile, JBS is planning to list shares on the New York Stock Exchange, which would give the company access to more money to further expand.

SOW can also be found at animal feed supplier Cargill’s soya plant in Liverpool, and at a newly opened Danish Crown plant in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, where Europe’s biggest pork producer will process cheaper and solely imported pork from Denmark. 

The project builds upon a rise in the use of AR in contemporary art in the public realm. The artists experiment with the rules and possibilities of AR, moving beyond traditional brand subvertising techniques within this new digital medium.

Artist Naho Matsuda said: “SOW is a female breeding pig, she’s monstrous and beautiful at the same time. But similar to the industrial meat industry, SOW is only visible if you choose to look.

Working with visual artist Luigi Honorat, we created SOW AR, a digital sculpture that identifies the key players in the violent and exploitative supply chain of industrial meat, and especially pork, production. It becomes a bit of an adventure to visit these sites since some of the locations are inconvenient to get to and may appear anonymous, sitting on large industrial estates not designed for visitors.

AR technology is rapidly evolving and offers new and experimental ways to share art in an ephemeral but powerful way. We hope SOW helps viewers to visualise the invisible structures in their everyday lives and to imagine a world where power is divided differently.”

The artists’ virtually disruptive app highlights how all of the institutions featured are complicit in the destruction of climate-critical ecosystems like the Amazon rainforest, which is not only decimating unique and important wildlife species, it’s forcing Indigenous communities off land they have owned for centuries. The global industrial food system is also impacting nature, our health and the cost of living in the UK. 

Daniela Montalto, Greenpeace UK forests campaigner, said: “Stopping climate and nature breakdown demands transformative changes to our food system. SOW AR is an inventive way of making this connection explicit, showing that only by cutting our meat production and consumption will we free up enough cropland to feed people first, reduce livestock emissions and create more space for nature.

Industrial meat companies, UK banks financing them, and supermarkets whose supply chains are driving the destruction of critical ecosystems, must be government-regulated, forcing them to align with international goals for climate and nature protection.”

SOW has been developed as part of the Greenpeace UK project, Bad Taste. Access SOW AR App for free on Apple Store or Google Play.

Greenpeace UK
December 6, 2023

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