Animal rights is simply my absolute passion.
These works are largely inspired by my activism, and by my part in the continuing fight to end the exploitation of all other animals on our amazing planet.
This papier mâché turkey, the text on her body cut from recipe books gleefully demonstrating how to “prepare” the bodies of turkeys in order to eat their flesh, has taken me about six weeks to complete. In that time around 166 million turkeys have had their lives taken globally.
Those numbers mean nothing to us, yet if each individual killed had a given name, and if I were to start reciting them all, it would take me months. By which time millions more would have been killed. They are all sentient, they are all subjects of a LIFE, and they do not want to give that life up any more than we do ours.
This sculpture was designed to be viewed in a space, three dimensionally. To be closely examined, for her audience to connect with her essence and bear witness to this foul language by walking all around her, absorbing the true horror. I intend for her sweet face and curious stance to draw you in, then for her words to make you wince, to make you think, and feel. For now, as I write in this time of pandemic-induced social distancing, she will have to be viewed on our only modes of communication, those flat screens which bring us all our art and information, as a whole planet full of humans live suspended in a state enforced upon us, ironically, due to our use of other animals as commodities.
The act of using other animals as food commodities is one of the most violent occurrences in our every day lives, yet that violence lies hidden, even normalised, by the language we intentionally decided to use thousands of years ago in order to distance ourselves from it. So while the act is violent, some words we use to describe that act have been tweaked to create a barrier between our sensitivity, or some may say our guilt, and the truth. The most used is of course the term “meat”, which we chose to rename the flesh of others so we did not have to deal with the immorality of breeding, incarcerating and killing them.
Surprisingly, a lot of the language we use in the transformation of a living being to an inanimate object, nothing more than an ingredient, remains unchanged and reflects perfectly that violent truth. Everyone knows that we “slaughter” animals, and most of us kid ourselves that it surely must be quick and painless, even though if used in any context other than killing animals for food the word is understood to be violent without exception. Every cookbook and every online recipe which uses an animal has this brutal language right there on every page for all to read.
So to “chop” her flesh into pieces, to “dice” and “slice” and “mince” parts of her, to “hang (her) head downward” after killing her and then “cut off the head” and “pierce with a skewer”, in a different context may give us nightmares. The tools of this work, the cleavers, mincers and grinders, boning and skinning knives, hacksaws, 'meat' hooks, 'meat' hammers, slicers and dicers, are the torturer's arsenal which makes us recoil in disgust and terror when viewed as a horror movie image. Yet when applied to these animals, who we have separated from the consideration of pain and suffering and the concept of right to freedom from oppression, such words now become fine and normal to use. We see nothing despicable in their use relating to the bodies of others who we have chosen to call “food”. We have become deadened to the violence in our words and our actions, to the horror in text from a seemingly innocent recipe book.
The Roots Of All Evil
This piece is about domestication, capitalism, and human civilisation built on the back of, and possibly destroyed at the feet of, the cow.
The words 'capital', 'chattel' and 'cattle' all have shared origin, meaning property. Cows were our first currency and were used worldwide, as they are still by many cultures. The first ever promissory note was written on cow hide, and we now even have the tallow taken from murdered cows coating our modern bank notes.
The many elements illustrated here all represent the horrible history of our relationship to this species of gentle giants, who we once revered, then turned into our slaves some 10,000 years ago. This history has been as damaging to ourselves as it has to them - creating wars, destroying indigenous cultures, displacing countless peoples both human and others, who have fled before the behemoth which is 'cattle' ranching – in our unstoppable quest for more land and more water. Endless fields of soy, corn and wheat blanket the earth, the vast majority of which is turned into feed for farmed animals. Many free-living species have been driven to extinction, and many humans killed or enslaved, and this still carries on today.
'Cattle' ranching has also been incredibly damaging to the planet we live on, along with all other forms of animal agriculture, decimating vast swathes of pristine wilderness creating loss of biodiversity, pumping harmful 'greenhouse gases' into the atmosphere, creating dead-zones in our oceans due to toxic run-off, and greatly depleting the global supply of fresh water.
Rough estimates of cow numbers on the planet at this time stand at around one billion. Chillingly, over one billion humans do not have access to clean water, and almost one billion are starving.
Those in power have put the planet and her inhabitants in shackles, both real and metaphoric. We are all shackled to each other, humans and domesticated animals, those chains placed by the hands of our own kin. We have the keys to set ourselves and them free, but we have become institutionalised in this most heinous relationship, where they cannot escape and we cannot see another way, cannot wean ourselves off our dependence.
One day we may see this come full circle, when the planet can no longer take the onslaught and civilisation begins to break down as a result. The banner written in Latin tells us that 'Oppression Is Wealth', but with capitalism, oppression may well be the end of us all.
The model here is Hari, a gentle soul who resided at Hugletts Wood Farm Animal Sanctuary, from his birth until passing at age 17. His benign gaze, so penetrating and full of ancient wisdom, was a perfect centre for my bank note. The entire piece was inspired by David A Nibert's incredible book 'Animal Oppression & Human Violence', also using Jeremy Rifkin's 'Beyond Beef' and Hannah Velten's 'Cow', plus the internet for reference. I highly recommend these books, there is so much more in there than I could possibly convey in one artistic statement.