Photographer receives death threats after images suggesting animal abuse go viral

Mar 11, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Photographer receives death threats after images suggesting animal abuse go viral

Mar 11, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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They say to never work with children or animals. Personally, though, I rather enjoy working with animals in the studio, and I know many photographers who adore working with children. Mixing the two, though, is often fraught with risk, especially for children who aren’t used to being around animals. This is what photographer Mercer Harris is discovering after announcing his Easter sessions to Facebook this week.

The photographer has now gone on to receive death threats both online and over the phone. The photographs of what appear to be clear examples of animal abuse at the hands of these children and captured by Harris has naturally upset a lot of people.

I first discovered the images when I saw the above posted to Facebook by a friend. It shows ducklings being grabbed, strangled, and seemingly shaken and tossed by their limbs.  Some of the images had apparently been on Facebook for a while, but it wasn’t until he posted this year’s Easter sessions, that people started to take notice. And for all the wrong reasons.

Harris told PetaPixel that since these images started to go viral, people have started to call his local agricultural authorities, city hall and the sheriff’s office to complain. They have determined that he’s done nothing wrong. Harris says that people are “selectively picking out and cropping a small number of photos selected from his entire body of work”. He also says that misinformation is being spread about what’s seen in the shots.

He went on to say that “We’ve never had an animal harmed or die” in over 30 years of photography. He says that the goal is to share the love between animals and children, and that adult supervision is always just out of frame. The type of supervision that might be required to step in when, say, a rabbit is grabbed by the ears or ducklings are being choked.

 

Where was this supervision in the above images? Why did Harris continue to shoot? he claims the images are being “selectively chosen”, and well, yeah, because these are the ones that seemingly show animal abuse. And if there isn’t a problem, why would he delete them and pretend like they never existed on his Facebook page? Why would he not simply explain the truth if they’re being taken out of context?

Of course, one can’t really blame the children. Many of them are very young and simply don’t know any better. They don’t understand. But why aren’t the parents teaching their children respect for these creatures? How did they not immediately step in at the first hint they were going to do something questionable? Why is Harris continuing to shoot and not immediately reprimand the children or parents or end the shoot? And why the hell would he post them to Facebook knowing how they look?

Harris has since deleted all portraits with live animals and most of the content from his Facebook page. The images received a lot of negative attention before they were removed.

Now, the older images that continue to remain on Harris’ page have started to see some new comments, too.

Harris says that the ducklings are purchased for the 2 days during which the sessions run. That these ducks would otherwise be sold to commercial growers who slaughter them as food. After the shoot, he says that the ducklings and bunnies are donated to private homes. The ducks are raised to live out their lives in private ponds and the rabbits are given to interested customers.

Personally, if I was doing these shoots and saw the parents letting their children do these things to those rabbits, they’re the last people I’d want giving them a permanent home.

While I agree that death threats toward Harris, his staff and his clients (whom he tagged in the images he posted to his page) are definitely a bit over the top, how did he think these images would be perceived? How could he not expect some kind of backlash?

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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58 responses to “Photographer receives death threats after images suggesting animal abuse go viral”

  1. Mark Ratcliffe Avatar
    Mark Ratcliffe

    Nice piece John, the sheer audacity of Mercer to post the images in the first place problem says a lot about his attitude to the animals, it beggars believe that none of the animals was Injured !

  2. Duncan Knifton Avatar
    Duncan Knifton

    should see what the Event togs are saying…..
    He’s taken a LOT of flack…and rightly so!

  3. Patty Oaks Avatar
    Patty Oaks

    what a dumbass

  4. Darcy Evans Avatar
    Darcy Evans

    I hope his business suffers. Personal attacks / death threats are unacceptable though.

    1. Alan Gamble Avatar
      Alan Gamble

      Agreed, loss of business and charges of animal cruelty if applicable but still no excuse for death threats.

      1. Motti Bembaron Avatar
        Motti Bembaron

        Yes, he should be charged for animal cruelty.

  5. Joao Cardoso Avatar
    Joao Cardoso

    Did the photographer helped showing those little children how to handle the animals ? Sure not. He had a “mission”. A stupid mission.

  6. Noah Tahl Avatar
    Noah Tahl

    why would he delete them and pretend like they never existed on his Facebook page?

    Here’s your answer, provided in the story:

    The photographer has now gone on to receive death threats both online and over the phone.

    Regardless of the circumstances, That seems like a pretty good reason right there.

  7. James J. Fodelmesi Avatar
    James J. Fodelmesi

    Stupid photographer and obviously more stupid parents!

    1. Kathryn Elizabeth Rogers Avatar
      Kathryn Elizabeth Rogers

      Have to agree with this if any kid handled a pet of mine like this I would have had a go at the parents

  8. Mindy Delmez Avatar
    Mindy Delmez

    Death threats are definitely too extreme, but I certainly wouldn’t be able to photograph this.

  9. Alex Guy Avatar
    Alex Guy

    “No animals have been harmed or died in our 30 years of doing this” *next picture is of a rabbit held up by it’s ears, followed by a duckling in the midst of being whipped by it’s leg*

    Huh. How exactly does it never happen AND you have photos of the exact moment it’s happening? I mean, these are objectively bad photos even if you aren’t big on animal rights.

  10. Motti Bembaron Avatar
    Motti Bembaron

    A person who can actually take pictures of such abuse surely has some screws missing and in an urgent need of mental treatment. Who in the right mind can watch kids treat animals like that and actually take photos? And who are the morons who actually would go for such a session. Wtf!

  11. Franco Kailsan Avatar
    Franco Kailsan

    someone needs to be boycotted…

  12. Laurie McKay Avatar
    Laurie McKay

    What did he expect – he should be charged with abuse along with parents for allowing this. Where is the SPCA.

    1. Khoi DX Avatar
      Khoi DX

      Did you selectively leave out the part that says the local authorities deemed him innocent?

  13. Deb Coning Avatar
    Deb Coning

    Why cover the kids faces if its totally innocent. Appearances does matter and to see kids choking and shaking ducks and abusing animals in other ways is not acceptable in a world full of intolerance to others. This is the age we should be teaching children love and kindness so they grow up to be good citizens.I am not so sure this is much difference than child porn. To encourage kids to do mean and cruel acts and to profit from it by posting it is just wrong. How will this affect these kids when their older and why are the parents not protecting their kids. Where is facebook in all this. These are the sort of pictures that should be banned. Shame on you facebook and shame all the others involved.

    1. zanzaboonda Avatar
      zanzaboonda

      The children’s faces being covered with frowny faces was clearly not done by the photographer but by someone (likely the article author) who wanted to protect the identity of the children, as they should have.

      1. Deb Coning Avatar
        Deb Coning

        Thanks it just really upset me how someone could be so cruel

        1. zanzaboonda Avatar
          zanzaboonda

          For sure! It’s extremely upsetting, and the fact that the photographer doesn’t understand why is mind boggling.

  14. Cisco Carbajal Avatar
    Cisco Carbajal

    The person should have at least taught the children how to handle the animals first. Maybe they did and kids will be kids. As a photographer myself and photographing kids things like this happen no matter the precautions taken. These kids don’t know better, no kids does at that age. Now… If the photos were of an older child (5-6+??) doing this, then yeah I would have an issue with these photos.
    Again, these lil kids don’t know better. All lil kids are rough with anything because they, #1 they don’t know their own strength #2 they don’t know how to treat animals, they think it’s another toy.
    Now for those of you reading this with kids, don’t act like your kids know better and have never once mistreated and animal. Stop it, they have.
    Don’t hate, send threats or try to ruin this person’s business. Send constructive criticism, helpful comments. Do to them what you would like done to you for a simple fix.

    Have an amazing day everyone. No matter how the day is, cloudy, rain or shine, everyday is a wonderful day.

    1. Motti Bembaron Avatar
      Motti Bembaron

      No one here blames the kids, that would be foolish. What I and I believe many others don’t understand (to say it mildly) is:
      1. How come they let young kids of that age to play with animals knowing they would most likely hurt them.
      2. How anyone can actually hold a camera while animals are tossed like toys.
      3. How anyone can SHARE PHOTOS LIKE THAT.
      4. And….where the F@#@ are the parents?

      1. Cisco Carbajal Avatar
        Cisco Carbajal

        I wouldn’t blame the kid’s either.

        And yes, as a photographer, I agree with your 4 points.

        I hope after this, they will think differently about pets in photos. Family pets only.

        You’re awesome Motti, have a great day.

        1. Motti Bembaron Avatar
          Motti Bembaron

          Agree. This is a rare occurrence and people’s reaction (some very extreme) shows how as a society we cannot tolerate such disregard to living things. I hope the parents did some soul searching after that. Cheers Cisco.

          1. Noah Tahl Avatar
            Noah Tahl

            yes, death threat are extreme but the sad part is that many need to be on the receiving end to understand how stupid they are. Some just don’t have common sense and they would most likely repeat acts like that if reactions are not extreme.

            . . . we cannot tolerate such disregard to living things.

            Your carefully expressed regard for living thing is noted.

          2. Noah Tahl Avatar
            Noah Tahl

            Well, I see that Bembaron has voted my comment up. Perhaps he did get the point I attempted to make and it was not too subtle.

          3. Motti Bembaron Avatar
            Motti Bembaron

            There is a “subtle” difference between threats and real pain. Or maybe you think animals should be regarded differently.

          4. Noah Tahl Avatar
            Noah Tahl

            Got it. Animals don’t deserve having threats made against them on the internet, but human animals do. I was too subtle. It’s not the first time.

          5. Motti Bembaron Avatar
            Motti Bembaron

            You lost me there. Not sure where you saw me saying it’s OK to threat people. I said that death threat are extreme. I guess I did not use the right words. Extreme means radical, unnecessary, illegal etc.

            And yes, unfortunately, some realized the gravity of what they did only after being on the receiving end of things. Mind you, I am not convinced this photographer really realized he was wrong.

            The MOST important point is: If someone can calmly take photos of children while they mishandled small creatures, this person should NEVER deal with kids.

          6. Noah Tahl Avatar
            Noah Tahl

            . . . Not sure where you saw me saying it’s OK to threat people. . . .

            From your previous post approving the threats:

            yes, death threat are extreme but the sad part is that many need to be on the receiving end to understand how stupid they are. . . .

            I suggest learning to type more slowly, so you can actually read what you are saying.

  15. Lillian Coutee Feliciano Avatar
    Lillian Coutee Feliciano

    The people making death threats are worse than him. How in earth did thr photographer think these were great shots???? My session would have stopped and removed the animal as soon as one was mishandled.

    1. celeste1234 Avatar
      celeste1234

      I agree, death threats are never cool.

  16. Alecio P Avatar
    Alecio P

    “DEATH THREATS” too much but she is a little bitch without clue on how to deal with the whole situation
    letting the kids handle the animals the way they were, and let’s not forget the parents, they aren’t much better in the whole story.

    1. Heather M Avatar
      Heather M

      He. Let’s leave the misogynistic name calling out.

      1. Alecio P Avatar
        Alecio P

        You are right….

        “”DEATH THREATS” too much but HE is a little bitch without clue on how to deal with the whole situation
        letting the kids handle the animals the way they were, and let’s not forget the parents, they aren’t much better in the whole story.

  17. PorcoRusso Avatar
    PorcoRusso

    Threatening to kill someone over pictures of a bunny being held by the ears? Oh boy, and people wonder why nobody takes the PETA coocoos seriously..

  18. zanzaboonda Avatar
    zanzaboonda

    Most children this age cannot handle animals like this and should not be expected to. Completely irresponsible on the photographer’s part. Unacceptable and inexcusable.

  19. Nerred Nermin Avatar
    Nerred Nermin

    maybe this dude works for PETA? and isn,t hypocrate ,eat meat and wising that this guy is dead? what you think that cows just drop dead by theyself?

  20. Jeff Soto Avatar
    Jeff Soto

    Why on Earth would he even post these? In all fairness, a photo is single frame of a moment frozen in time. To anyone seeing these photos, it’s jarring because it’s all you see. Obviously, the kids should be better educated before the shoot so they avoid handling the animals in this way. But, we are only seeing what….1/125 of a second? Maybe less, maybe more? It’s far too easy to form any narrative we wish from a moment that took less than a second to capture and freeze for eternity. He’s an idiot for posting the images.

  21. Kevin Cheung Avatar
    Kevin Cheung

    The guy made a mistake, but these responses – including the wish that he should lose his livelihood, are grossly out of proportion.

    Heaven forbid anyone should be allowed to learn from their mistakes.

    1. Jason Bodden Avatar
      Jason Bodden

      This is a bullshit statement. The guy made a grave mistake that lasted an entire shoot. An entire shoot of him LETTING the kids abuse these poor animals. Death threats might be a little harsh but I certainly understand their feelings on the matter. To pass it off as “The guy made a mistake”is stupid. I certainly don’t blame the children, though. I fully blame the photographer and parents.

    2. Holly Roa Avatar
      Holly Roa

      he made a lot of mistakes, and kept making them for years…

  22. Kristen Wishlow Avatar
    Kristen Wishlow

    Suffer after posting them?! He shouldn’t even be taking them! Poor animals.

  23. Cynicaleye Avatar
    Cynicaleye

    These images are disgusting.

  24. Travis Gauthier Avatar
    Travis Gauthier

    You have to be licensed and inspected by the USDA to use live animals in photo shoots and this would fall under abuses that would get your license pulled and you possibly prosecuted.

    https://ppmag.com/news/animals-in-studio

  25. Desertdarlene Avatar
    Desertdarlene

    I saw a review on Yelp where someone said she canceled a session with him. She said another mom with a child came in and when the child mishandled a bunny, the mom stepped in to stop it, but the photographer said not to worry about it as bunnies are pretty tough. I think there were plenty of ways to make a cute photo with the animals without having the child actually handle them.

  26. Shelley Ricci Avatar
    Shelley Ricci

    This guy was mocking people for saying the treatment of these animals was unacceptable. He thinks it’s funny and has being doing it for years and does not intend stopping. I’m very glad this has blown up. I don’t agree with death threats but everything else is deserved.

  27. Volker Bartheld Avatar
    Volker Bartheld

    Ah, now that’s cool: “[…] Harris says that the ducklings are purchased for the 2 days during which the sessions run. That these ducks would otherwise be sold to commercial growers who slaughter them as food. After the shoot, he says that the ducklings and bunnies are donated to private homes. […]”. So let’s just be cruel to some animals a bit, then throw them away – pardon – “set them free” and feel like a big benefactor since they would have been sentenced to death (=killed for food) otherwise. What a lame excuse and sign of a pretty distorted perspective.

  28. Martini Discovolante Avatar
    Martini Discovolante

    Not to mention that this creep’s work is insipid, uninspired, and grossly over-styled. This stuff would have been dated in the 50s, along with the notion that animals make fine props or toys for toddlers.

  29. suruha Avatar
    suruha

    When my son, at 14 months old, first saw his new baby sister, he reached into her cradle, grabbed her by the back of her sleeper and was going to grab her up! He didn’t know it was a person! But, rather than grabbing a camera, I was right there, stopping him!
    That sort of thing, as photographed, should have been handled, with supervision, until the children KNEW how to handle them! THEN, bring out the camera! That’s just poor judgement on innocent animals!
    Even when looking at breeds that are compatible with children, there are some things you just can’t let happen! They’re just children! The adults need to be in supervision!

  30. davv Avatar
    davv

    yet another clickbait article that has nothing to do with DIY.

  31. joe_average Avatar
    joe_average

    And people complain while they eat their burger or chicken tenders. If you’re not vegetarian, stfu

  32. Sean Avatar
    Sean

    Why the hell would the photographer even post those? I’m sure that this type of thing happens at ALL photoshoots with kids and small animals, but, please, use your head and don’t share those shots. Moron.

  33. timothyf7 Avatar
    timothyf7

    I think it is probably inadvertent animal cruelty and lack of common sense. The photographer has no idea that holding a rabbit without supporting its hind quarters is very dangerous to the animal in any form. I believe that with the ducks, he should not have shot the photo while they were held by the neck. Tossing in a duckling into the water from a foot or so is not really cruelty. I don’t think it was done purposefully, but just out of ignorance of how to handle and teach others to handle animals correctly. A quick trip to a rabbit or duck breeder to answer these handling questions would have been very helpful and would have avoided all of this to start with..

  34. Gina O'Brien Avatar
    Gina O’Brien

    I find it sad to see that someone’s life &/or business can be threatened over silly mistakes that end up in the public eye. I think it was a mistake to post the pics of kids mishandling animals….bad bad move by the photographer but so many keyboard warriors out there who blurt out expletives and violent threats over someone who made a terrible mistake. Most of these people would never speak to the photographer in person in such a manner…..so why do it online? It shows the terrible behaviour of self-righteous people who like to cast stones when they should perhaps look at themselves in the mirror because at the end of the day, they’re no better. The language & message they just communicated is evidence of that. SMH.

  35. meredith Avatar
    meredith

    “Harris says that the ducklings are purchased for the 2 days during which the sessions run. That these ducks would otherwise be sold to commercial growers who slaughter them as food. After the shoot, he says that the ducklings and bunnies are donated to private homes. The ducks are raised to live out their lives in private ponds and the rabbits are given to interested customers.” Oh? So it’s okay to mistreat animals because they would go to slaughter. Those are heavy balls he’s carrying around in his sack. First of all, he’s wrong for what he’s done with the animals in the first place. Second, he’s wrong for the ridiculous statement that the animals go to “interested customers” What. The. Fuck. No death threats from me, but I genuinely hope someone hires him and asks that he be the prop for the photo and get snaps as he’s kicked in the balls, dragged around by the ear, and thrown in a lake. Fair is fair. Put your money where your body is, Harris. I’ll chip in on that photo shoot.

  36. Ra Avatar
    Ra

    Just goes to show the extent to which people have become automatons, conditioned to react to one picture on social media after the other. Just like Pavlov’s dog. Get a grip people. It’s a rabbit.

  37. Cathy Nance Avatar
    Cathy Nance

    It’s a shame that people missed that he deliberately posted the abusive images bevause he thought it was funny and he wanted to show off those images. He likes pain and abusive or he would have never posted those pictures. As photographers we control our body of work. He chose to put those particular images out to the world for eveyone to see. He could have just posted sweet and innocent looking images. Images that the parents would have bought, hung on their wall and were proud to show off. His business page is still down but he is still in business and posting work to his personal page.