Often times words are not enough when I consider animal cruelty. Words fail me. No words describe animal exploitation. No words say how I feel. No words could possibly express how I imagine what the animals suffer.

This is when I turn to Sue Coe. To say her work is unique and special is to understate its ability to tell truths the world would rather not know. Now, we have her new book, The Animals’ Vegan Manifesto, to explore and inspire us further to act for social justice regardless of species.

The beast sits on our doorstep, lies next to us in bed, hides inside our flesh. We are the Nazis. There is no escaping it. Nazi is a condition of humanity.

This is one of two texts to read in The Animals’ Vegan Manifesto. (p. 4) We are now in the world as seen through the eyes of Sue Coe, the artist who prefers to be described as a visual journalist. This is a collection of more than 100 images “carved from the wood of wild cherry trees, the former homes of bears, squirrels and birds, cut down by the Millennium pipeline.”

The narrative begins with the depiction of animal exploitation, which sparks a revolution led by grassroots vegans, and ends with a vegan world where the animals enjoy their freedom.

To pick just two of the wood cuts to briefly describe. A male hunter dressed in paramilitary drag aims an automatic rifle at point blank range at a baby bird. In the background, hunters kill a rabbit and deer. (p.34) After the vegan revolution, birds fly in the sky, deer bound across the countryside, and fish jump with joy in the pond. (p. 103)

The second text (p. 119) is the “animals’ vegan manifesto to 2 leggeds” with six principles that conclude “from all of us, of fur, fin and feather… eat plants, not us, thank you.”

Since the 1984, I have followed Sue’s work when I first read about the controversy caused by her  representation of Bobby Sands from the Provisional Irish Republican Army. He was on hunger strike in a Northern Ireland prison. Evidence that she is now recognised as an artist of significant importance, her portrait of Bobby Sands and other works are now held by the Renwick Gallery in the Smithsonian American Art Museum. This is one of many recognitions she deserves.

Her focus ranges across such social justice issues as sex workers, AIDS, animal rights, and capitalism. Regardless of whether you agree with her point of view or not, her perspective demands our attention and forces us to think. There’s no better place to start than with The Animals’ Vegan Manifesto.

To learn more about Sue Coe, visit Graphic Witness and Galerie St. Etienne.

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