One photographer has begun capturing the moment that rats and mice born inside laboratories and used for testing are released to the outside world.
For these rodents, life has only ever consisted of being kept in dark cells, removed only to have a substance injected into them or spread across their fur. Photographer Rachele Totaro has been working closely with La Collina dei Conigli, an Italian charity who have recently saved mice and rats from labs. Although some of the rodents suffer fatal injuries, laws in Italy permit healthy animals – or those considered ‘salvageable’ – to be released to charities or individuals who wish to care for them. Totaro explains:
Every year in Italy, hundreds of thousands of animals die in laboratories. Some are used for lethal tests, but most could be saved; many are used for experiments from which they could easily recover and restart normal life; others are not actually used in test, but are kept in laboratories as a surplus of safety or control, and once the experiment has ended they become “a useless expense” for labs.
And now Totaro has been capturing the moment some of the rats and mice first see sunlight. She enjoys the critters “curiosity for a brand new world to discover [and] how deeply they enjoy their first moments of freedom.” She says each of the animals reacted differently when taken outdoors, which only demonstrates that they aren’t “mere numbers,” but rather they are individuals with attitudes and personalities.
All images used with permission of Rachele Totaro. View more of her work here.