Second Livestock

Austin Stewart (US)

Second Livestock, a virtual reality world for battery-farmed chickens, is a speculative project drawing parallels between how we treat animals and how we treat ourselves. Through a straight-faced parody of Second Life (a virtual reality world for humans), the project attracts visitors into a conversation about the reasons behind, and consequences of, people choosing to spend more of their lives in virtual spaces.

The work exists as a performance, an installation, and on the internet, and presents itself as eliminating the need for the physical space required for free-range livestock, through ‘Virtual Free RangeTM’. This gives livestock the experience of free-range life while living within the confines of a facility.

The vocabulary and visual language of the project mocks the marketing devices and hype of technology firms that introduce new, ‘disruptive’ technologies.The artist performs the presentation in the persona of the CEO of Second Livestock. After the presentation, the visitors are invited to participate in an open discussion and experience the virtual reality (VR) world through a prototype of the CCI (Chicken-Computer Interface). This prototype consists of an Oculus Rift VR Headset and a custom-made omni-directional treadmill.

Second Livestock went viral in 2014 being covered by many international news outlets. This coverage led to a grand conversation across the internet about the ethical implications of virtual reality for chickens and virtual reality in general.


Austin Stewart is an American artist whose works of critical design are not meant to provide answers or support a particular opinion, but to instigate debates on pressing contemporary issues. He endeavors to make work that engages broad and diverse audiences. He received his B.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and his M.F.A. from the Ohio State University. His work has been exhibited internationally and has received extensive press coverage around the world.


The Farm Cyborg section of the exhibition explores how over the last decade we have begun outfitting plants, landscapes and animals with sensors, actuators and wearable computers.