Photo Gallery: Precious Animals, A Project of Dutch Photographer and Filmmaker Jan van IJken

Precious Animals is a photo-project about the relationship between animals and humans who live in the Netherlands. On the one hand, it focuses on animals as manufactured consumer products, with efficiency playing the leading role. On the other hand, it shows the very same consumers of “food animals” pampering their own pets and other cuddly creatures.

The project displays photograph Jan van IJken’s non-judgmental search for answers to questions like, “What is an animal’s life worth in the Netherlands?” and “Why do we have animal ambulances and canine psychologists, and at the same time pen millions of chickens with clipped beaks in a coop?” It shows his recognition of the strange dichotomy between exploiters of animals, such as factory farms that manufacture edible products out of them and scientists who do genetic research on them, and, at the opposite extreme, animal-lovers’ expressions of affection for their own pets — or for animals in general. That affection can be shown in bizarre ways, when, for example, dogs are dolled up in clothing, pets are put to rest in special pet cemeteries, and workshops are offered on cow cuddling.

Precious Animals was commissioned by the Rijksmuseum and NRC Handelsblad as part of their series “Document Nederland.” The photos were exhibited in the photo museum Huis Marseille in Amsterdam from November 2005 to February 2006, along with a special supplement of NRC Handelsblad and the publication of the photobook Dierbaar.

The series was published in many international newspapers and magazines (e.g. De Morgen, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, El Mundo Magazine, Eight, Mother Jones Magazine and Days Japan). It received a Humanity Photo Award and an International Photography Award and was selected for American Photography. For more information, visit

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About Robert Grillo

Robert Grillo is the director of Free from Harm which he founded in 2009 to expose the food industry’s exploitation of animals and foster greater empathy for farmed animals. As an activist, author and speaker, Grillo focuses awareness on the animal’s experience and point of view, drawing on insights from sociology, psychology, popular culture, ethics and social justice to bridge the gap between humans and other animals. As a marketing communications professional for over 20 years, Grillo has worked on large food industry accounts where he acquired a behind-the-scenes perspective on food branding and marketing. His new book, Farm to Fable: The Fictions of Our Animal Consuming Culture, reveals how popular culture uses a variety of fictions that condition us to consume animal products and perpetuate fasle perceptions of animals that make us feel better about exploiting them

1 comment

  1. Impressive collection of images. My heart goes out to the photographer – it is painful to look at them, taking them takes courage and strength.

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