'The Unheard Screams'
This piece interprets an image of a dragnet, used to catch huge quantities of marine animals in one operation. The target species is shrimps, but there are untold numbers of fishes here who will be thrown back into the sea, or ground up as ‘fishmeal’. They will be either dead already, or will soon perish from their trauma.
For a while I’d been wanting to make a piece of work centred around what is termed ‘bycatch’ in the fishing industry. Online there are plenty of descriptions, and many estimates of the horrific numbers of marine animals - those who are not the ‘target’ species - being caught in nets across the world. These animals suffer terribly in the process of being trapped, only to be thrown overboard when the ‘catch’ is reeled in and the fishes whose bodies are commercially viable have been extracted for processing. Most of the ‘bycatch’ will either be dead already, or will slowly perish once discarded back to the sea, due to the physical trauma of being trapped with millions of other bodies.
In my research, I started to see that most data I was reading, and certainly all the concerns I saw from environment and animal welfare groups, related to protected species, or those charismatic animals such as mammals, sharks and rays, dolphins and whales, turtles, ocean-dwelling birds, or ‘cute’ species like seahorses.
The much revered BBC programme, 'Planet Earth III’ recently featured a section on anchovy ‘fishing’. The point of interest for the film focussed on the sea lions who gather to take advantage of the nets of writhing fishes as they are being reeled in. Great empathy arose from the filming crew as the mammals were seen to be caught in the net, seemingly without means of escape and in danger of suffocation. A heroic rescue ensued. Hearts were gladdened. But right there next to them, by the film’s own admission, were over a million individual fishes. Caught in a giant net. Crushed, terrified, suffocating, dying. The narration even stated: “The anchovy* panic.” Yet their intense suffering was utterly overlooked.
*Using the singular term for a number of any species, such as ‘anchovy’ rather than ‘anchovies’, serves to deliberately depersonalise the individual. This was NOT one anchovy panicking. It was a million anchovies panicking.
There is a vast disconnect between feeling empathy for iconic species, while completely ignoring the absolute terror in the fishes and crustaceans - the target species - being caught and killed in those nets in their trillions annually. That is something that humans need to critically examine in ourselves. They are just as worthy of our empathy as any other species. They feel too. They suffer just like us. We can’t hear them scream, and we’ve been told for generations that they don’t feel pain. But it has been scientifically proven that they do, and that they live complex and rich lives. It is way too easy to ignore their suffering simply because they function in a physiologically different way from us.
Photographic evidence shows these nets being dragged in with millions of terrified beings inside each net. They are crushed and torn apart when trapped in the centre of this vast weight. They are asphyxiated, gasping for life. Their organs rupture as they are brought violently to the surface from great depths. Their eyes bulge out of their sockets. Any who survive this onslaught will be left to suffocate on deck, or they will be bludgeoned, decapitated or disembowelled while still alive.
TRILLIONS of sentient marine animals suffer and die this way every year. We need to widen the scope of our empathy.
"LOVE THIS" - inspired by Gretchen Primack's poem
All farmed animals across the globe have their reproductive systems exploited, in order to create more animals or have their bodily secretions to turn into edibles for profit. The dairy industry exploits the naturally occurring mammary fluids of the female, and discards or renders invisible every living component in the creation of that fluid.
The cow – MOTHER - is viewed only as a numbered vessel, to be forcibly impregnated in order to induce a flow of lactate which will be sold as milk. The offspring – CHILD - is by-product, taken away from their mother at birth and either killed or further exploited for profit, depending on gender. Bulls – FATHER – are the most invisible part of the dairy equation, living largely in solitary conditions completely at odds with their natural needs. All endure short lives of violence, commodification and oppression, and all this occurs behind pretty packaging and advertising with misleading and downright dishonest images of pastoral serenity.
So called "happy" or "humane" dairy is a lie, a marketing trick which we have all fallen for over years of indoctrination. The other animal lives behind the lie are kept from our consciousness. All the cows and calves in this artwork were referenced from photographs of real beings, and all are now dead at a fraction of their natural lifespan, in the name of "dairy".
'Chains Of Deceit'
'The University Of Mad Science'
Cows, like all mammals, only make milk when they are pregnant, and their child is removed from them soon after birth so that we can take the milk. Males are killed for veal and females join their mothers as the enslaved of the milk trade. They mourn the loss of each other as would we.
'Royal Ascot (His Dreams)'
Using horses for sport is ingrained in our society every bit as much as using the bodies of other species for food, and changing that practice will be every bit as hard.
I painted this a few years ago. Titled "Ghost", this represents every horse. Are the blinkers ours? Is the shadowy anonymity placed there by our denial of their choices?