• Lynley Tulloch is a writer on animal welfare

Over Queen's Birthday weekend I took part in a social experiment entitled Caged Being in Ponsonby. I was there to mark a kind of imprisonment, one that is largely invisible. I hoped that in making myself visible, it would change in some small way the reality of those who are forgotten and unseen.

The experiment was organised by animal rights group Safe in conjunction with Manifest, a creative content agency. It was designed to raise awareness of factory farmed animals.

This experiment was a world first. Forty people were confined to a 56.2m cage for 40 hours. This gave us around 1.2sq m space each - about the size of a telephone box.


We had no mobile phones, books or creature comforts. The floor was concrete with a thin carpet that made our muscles ache. We had no pillows, no softness and most of all no autonomy.

Our captors controlled all aspects of our lives and we were only let out to go to the toilet at set times. We ate muesli and soy milk four times a day. It was an attempt to simulate the conditions for factory farmed animals.

Many may see this experiment as radical. Indeed, those that criticise people speaking out for animal rights often label them as sentimental, extreme or out of touch with reality. It's a common way of dismissing valid concerns for the distress animals endure at the hands of humans.

I believe that most New Zealanders are not cruel. But our culture is one of denial, where we tend to filter out and dismiss valid concerns by animal rights advocates.

We believe that our economy depends on factory farming animals and it is a necessary evil, when in reality it is just evil.

In New Zealand every day 125 million animals, mainly pigs and chickens, endure extended periods of time (often their whole lives) in a cage. From pigs in sow stalls and farrowing crates, to hens in cages, they are packed in tightly in their jails, cogs in a vast and harsh machine that we have come to accept as normal.

With regular monotony, it spits out the end product - a dozen eggs, packaged bacon. Streaky, honeyed, smashed, poached, scrambled and smoked, these products slip seemingly innocently into our busy lives. We stuff them in our mouths and the being that suffered and died for them out of our minds.

So to bring the being back into the public eye I agreed to be part of the experiment. I was squished and felt terribly uncomfortable. After 40 hours my head hurt, my eyes were red and dry, the air was stuffy and unbreathable. I ached from trying to sleep on the hard concrete floor. I yearned to have what all beings on Earth want - their freedom.

Feeling claustrophobic physically and mentally put out, I coped by curling up and trying to drown out the nonstop noise of other caged beings. I knew there would be an end to it. For the 'other' caged beings, there is no end.

I stayed confined for the duration of the experiment. I was there for the mangled, the discarded, the sad. I endured for the layer hens and chickens raised for meat, driven mad with their unspeakable conditions. I endured for the highly intelligent pigs, with their soulful eyes.

And I also did it for me. I have looked into the eyes of beings in a cage, and I can never unsee what I saw.

This spurs me on to fight for their freedom, and to encourage others to help them also. The best way to do this is to think carefully about where your food comes from, and to stop paying industries to do the unspeakable.