25th June 2021

Rachel Smith, Freedom for Animals' investigator


I am an Investigator from Freedom for Animals. My job is to visit places that keep animals captive, and collect evidence of animal abuse, suffering and neglect.

I have visited many zoos and aquariums across the UK. I keep my identity a secret, posing as a member of the public or a volunteer. I use hidden cameras or pose as a photography student to openly take film and photos of animals and the ‘enclosures’ that keep them prisoner. 

No matter where I go, whether the zoo or aquarium is big or small, whether they claim to have ‘high welfare standards’ or not… I always find animals in desperate need. Doing this job has strengthened my belief that keeping wild animals captive is horrendously cruel and deeply unethical

You can read more about the horrors of zoos and aquariums and get a picture of some of what I have documented.

In all honesty, the job I do is both amazing and awful at the same time. I am proud to do what I do, to collect crucial evidence to support campaigns for animal freedom, and an end to their captivity. I can focus fully in the moment, determined to do the best job I can and to walk away with footage that will show what animals are going through. 

But I also have moments where the reality of what I am photographing, or secretly recording, kicks in. When I catch the eyes of the animal, the individual that I see on the other side of the bars or the glass. That’s when I find my anger and sadness rising up inside me, when I have to see yet another individual desperate for their freedom. 

This is also what motivates me to keep doing what I am doing. It is for them and for the future that I want to give them. A future of freedom.

This gorilla is held against her will at London Zoo.
I saw her turn her back on the crowds leaning against the glass.
I think she was trying to block them out, one of the only ways she had to escape them. 


That is why I am writing this today. I need the help of my fellow animal activists, you reading this blog, to help to make sure I can keep conducting these crucial investigations and so together, we can help those being held captive against their will. 

One amazing way you can do this, is to join us as a Freedom Champion for animals. Your monthly gift will make sure we can continue to do these crucial investigations, and gather the evidence we need to help animals. Your donations will fund travel costs, equipment costs, tickets, accommodation, cameras, reporting, video production, outreach… and everything else fundamental to a successful investigation. 

Now with lockdown easing and businesses opening up, I can once again get out to visit zoos, aquariums, mobile zoos and other animal-exploiting businesses. But I need your help to make this happen.

Another way you can help is to report animal suffering to us directly. This information can be used to identify places that have particularly bad practices or animals being neglected. Of course, like I said above, animals are always suffering in these captive institutions, but your information can help us be strategic in which places we should visit.

My final request is that I ask you to spread the word about what life is like for animals in zoos and aquariums. Even though the suffering of these animals may not (always) be graphic, it is still great. Animal captivity for the benefit of humans can never be justified.

Let’s do all we can to help animals who desperately need us. Thank you.

Join us as a Freedom Champion