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Archive for December, 2011

Sue Coe

December 30th, 2011 2 comments

The good folks at Our Hen House have produced an excellent short film about Sue Coe. Sue describes herself as an artist whose work is reportage. To learn more about her work, go here and here.

Sue Coe: Art of the Animal from Our Hen House on Vimeo.

My first recollection of Sue Coe’s work was during the turbulent Thatcher years of the 1980s, which we appear to be reliving under the present Tory-led coalition government. I recall seeing copies of her ‘How to commit suicide in South Africa’ for sale in Compendium, the Camden Town independent, leftie bookshop beloved but now lost. Then, Sue received controversial coverage in the media for her drawings of the IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands. I did not catch up with her work until I had moved to the USA and saw the exhibit, Porkopolis, in Washington, DC in the late 1980s or early 1990s. I wrote to her then as PETA’s Executive Director expressing admiration for her work and offering any assistance I could. Many years later, I went along to hear her speak in Baltimore when she was a guest lecturer at the local art institute. Her talk was like a breath of fresh air with all its insights, controversies and humour. Afterwards, I introduced myself and we went for coffee. Since then, we’ve become friends and colleagues.

She is the most important living artist in our time. The craft in her work is truly amazing. There is, also, a subtle cleverness in her referencing to the artists and their work that inspires her. I am proud of the fact that Sue was a regular in The Animals’ Agenda magazine I used to publish.

In the film, Sue describes herself as a worm turning over the soil reporting on the world she sees. I like to think of her more as someone who holds up a mirror to society challenging us to consider our stupid ways. But, in doing so, it is done with such an uncompromising vision that is remarkable if disturbingly beautiful.

We’re all the better for seeing the world through Sue Coe’s eyes.

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2011 Animal Rights Image of the Year

December 20th, 2011 2 comments

The Animal Equality inspiring protest in Puerta del Sol, Madrid.

The Spanish animal rights organisation, Igualdad Animal (Animal Equality), bring attention to animal exploitation with a dramatic protest on International Day for Animal Rights on December 10.

Four hundred activists from several countries each hold in their hands carcasses of farmed animals (e.g., chickens, pigs, lambs) although one is holding the body of a dog. The protestors stand silently in the organisation’s t-shirts in ordered rows.

The image of the supplicating protestors asks us to see how we treat animals but also there is a sense of forgiveness about what we do to them. The protestors hold out the dead animals in supplication demanding the viewer to see the responsibility of our actions. We are not made to feel guilty. Although we should. Nor are we confronted with self-righteous indignation, which is all too frequently the currency of the animal rights protest.

Instead, we are asked politely to stop, look and think. In doing so, we participate in the protest rather than passively observe it. There is a shared complicity with the protestors. No one is innocent. We are all responsible for animal exploitation. We must all act. We could be standing there, too, with dead animals lying in our outstretched arms. Most likely for many, they are standing there with dead animals in their shopping baskets.

Convocatoria 10 de Diciembre 2011 – Igualdad Animal / Animal Equality from IgualdadAnimal | AnimalEquality on Vimeo.

Compare and contrast the simple sophistication of this protest with those which are easy and unimaginative. Generally, they make their point at the expense of someone else, including body size, economic class, gender and race. There is no understanding, even recognition, of the intersection of oppressions. Instead, there is the excuse that ‘it’s for the animals’ which, somehow, magically makes possible any action permissible.

Of course, their objective is to make the link between our bodies and those of the animals we consume. After all, according to Darwin and today’s dominant culture of material science and evolution, we are all of us animals. Embodying animal protest with our bodies may make us feel that we are making the point, even becoming ‘one’ with the animals’ exploitation, and, surely these protests are successful in this regard. But I remain unconvinced as to the effectiveness of the message and what is trying to be said. All too often, it is all about manufacturing personal transformative moments when people recognise for the first time animal exploitation and start the journey down the path toward vegetarian, vegan, cruelty-free living. This is why the animal rights movement is more like an evangelist cause rather than a sophisticated political initiative treading the corridors of power.

One unexplored aspect is that with some of these actions there is unwittingly an implication that the animals would do to us (if they could) what we do to them. The ‘world turned upside down’ has a strong tradition in art and agitprop but its message must be used with care and respect. Otherwise, all too often, it becomes simply a gratuitous protest lacking any real meaning other than an invitation to voyeurism. Of course, we want to people to look and what are we inviting them to see? These intentionally sensationalist protests border on the pornographic. Attention is drawn to the people in the protest. The animals are absent. This is one reason why the Animal Equality protest is so powerful. The animals are far from absent. They are being held up respectfully for us to see. It is a simple evocation of how we treat animals. Further, it reminds me of the contrast between anonymous violent and illegal actions of some protestors with those who use open rescues as an open, nonviolent and turning upside down the legality of animal status to witness our instrumental use of animals. With the former, the people are the story. Whereas   in the latter, it is the animals, which is, of course, how it should be.

Igualdad Animal is to be congratulated for staging a moving and dignified indictment of our inhumanity to animals in the Puerta del Sol in Madrid.

ADDENDUM

Igualdad Animal released two additional films of the protest. Here they are:

 

International Animal Rights Day 2010 (Spain) from IgualdadAnimal | AnimalEquality on Vimeo.

Día Internacional de los Derechos Animales 2011 || Igualdad Animal from IgualdadAnimal | AnimalEquality on Vimeo.

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Badger Cull Debate

December 15th, 2011 No comments

Caroline Spelman, the UK coalition government’s Environment Minister, announced yesterday in the House of Commons that there will be two six week trials next year, in different parts of England. In this TV debate from Channel 4, Caroline Spelman and Mary Creagh MP, Shadow (Labour) Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, debate the issues. This short film is a good introduction to some of the key issues.

 

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Marti Kheel–A Collective Tribute

December 5th, 2011 2 comments

Friends and colleagues of Marti Kheel — Josephine Donovan, Batya Bauman, Lori Gruen and Carol Adams — have written a collective tribute in honour of the pioneering ecofeminist.

Marti’s ethic was one of active, engaged, empathetic care, not selfish or selfless care-taking. And while she was critical of many, her compassion always extended to them. She was a genuine philosopher, a lover of wisdom, of learning, and of debate. In true feminist form, her philosophical vision sought to challenge aspects of our common ways of thinking about ethics, even those that don’t immediately appear to emerge from masculinist assumptions. Since her earliest work, Marti’s scholarship drew on connections and brought out new possibilities for living more harmoniously with the movements of the natural world. Throughout her writing Marti advocated a nonviolent, emotionally responsive, holistic, and nondominative ethic by which humans may live in harmony with nature and nonhuman creatures.

 

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Stallwood on Singer on Pinker

December 1st, 2011 2 comments

I have known Peter Singer since the late 1970s and greatly admire and respect him. His influence on my understanding of animal ethics is significant. This does not mean to say that I agree with everything he says. Because I don’t. In truth, there isn’t anyone who I agree with completely, including myself!

Given my earlier post expressing my disappointment in Steven Pinker’s new book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, I was intrigued to read Peter’s review in The New York Times.

I’m not surprised Peter liked the book because Steven credits him as a major influence; however, I was surprised to read him say Steven has a

command of so much research, spread across so many different fields, is a masterly achievement.

Mmmmmmmmm….that may well be true but, sadly, it wasn’t true enough with respect to his research on Hitler and vegetarianism and the Third Reich and animal rights.

I would have liked to have seen Peter pick up Steven on this inaccuracy — even more so because he has written about his family’s escape from Nazi Germany and his grandparents death in concentration camps (See Pushing Time Away: My Grandfather and the Tragedy of Jewish Vienna).

 

 

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