In the latest showcase of Rooney Mara's deep commitment to her roles, the actress and animal rights activist went undercover to investigate the inhumane conditions for the billions of animals currently trapped inside factory farms, awaiting slaughter. Inspired by the video that first inspired her to make the leap from vegetarianism to veganism, she partnered with the nonprofit Animal Equality to document her visits in a new short film titled With My Own Eyes.
"It's so much more awful than you could even imagine," Mara says as she takes a closer look at the factory's "gestation crates," where pigs who have spent their entire lives on the farm repeatedly give birth until they're slaughtered without ever having felt fresh air. "All the different rooms that we went into just felt like hell on Earth to me, but really that maternity ward, especially the mother pigs—that was probably the worst place I've ever been," she says. "I kept thinking about my sister who just had a baby, and thinking about how beautiful that was—that instant desire to nurture and protect your child. So I can't imagine how awful it must be to be literally trapped and crushing your own babies and not be able to do anything about it."
Mara acknowledged that "pigs are an easier entry point," because they're more similar to humans and pets than animals like chickens, but her visit to a "chicken farm" crammed with 50,000 animals, which have been bred to grow too quickly to bear the weight of their own bodies, still makes her feel "physically sick." "You have to meet people where they are, and you can't force people to change. All you can do is be an example," she says after removing the face mask she wore to ward off the smell. "I don't know what the right way is because this is horrific abuse that is happening and it's destroying our planet. You have to at least acknowledge and look at where this is coming from and what is happening to these animals."
Mara's commitment to a fully vegan lifestyle stretches back nearly eight years. (After ridding her closet of animal products, she later cofounded Hiraeth, a high-end vegan fashion line that Sadie Sink, Stranger Things star and fellow vegan, debuted on the red carpet last fall.) Since Mara and Joaquin Phoenix, another fellow vegan actor who's now also Mara's fiancé, began dating in 2016, both have doubled up their efforts as animal rights activists—like when they led the charge at a National Animal Rights Day demonstration this past summer, wearing rubber gloves and symbolically carrying dead birds.