Monday, December 2, 2013

Media, Power, Social Change, and the Feline Absent Referent

My colleague Cheryl Abbate who is a graduate student of philosophy and animal ethics at Marquette University in Wisconsin shared this bizarre news story with me (please click to watch the video).  PETA paid for a somewhat graphic image of a cat undergoing medical experimentation to be posted on buses to raise awareness about Nonhuman Animal testing at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.  In the clip, the news station frames the story as a question of obscene imagery and First Amendment rights.  The newscaster, the bus management, and the public are all presented questioning PETA's legal ability to post the imagery publicly.  Never once is the animal testing actually discussed.

Really, the image isn't even that graphic compared to the scads of absolutely horrific, keep-you-up-at-night, scar-you-for-life, secondary post traumatic stress disorder-inducing imagery that is out there (I just returned from a research trip to the Tom Regan Animal Rights Archive and I'm still trying to recover from the images I saw).  But why has the news story focused only on the First Amendment when the big elephant in the room (or suffering orange cat in this case) is staring us right in the face?

If the viewers relied solely on what the news story presented, they'd never even know there was a problem with the systematic torture and killing of cats in their community.  The university's violence against Nonhuman Animals is completely ignored.  Instead, attention is drawn to the  violence to those humans made uncomfortable by the image or those worried about harm to their business.  An attempt to raise awareness about the interests of the vulnerable has been manipulated as a story about the interests of the privileged.

Research has demonstrated that vegan rhetoric is often distorted by mainstream elite-controlled media to either defame and dismiss veganism, or twist animal-positive ideas to support the status quo.  The media is an agent of socialization created and maintained by those in power.  In this case, the multi-billion dollar science industry and the large university get the privilege to shape reality.  These entities not only hold tremendous sway over the community, but they have also infiltrated the institution of media itself.  As we know, the media is run by powerful white men and their corporate interests.

Indeed, many social movement scholars question the ability for social movements to successfully utilize the media to disseminate messages of radical social change and equality.  On the other hand, the power of morally shocking imagery was also demonstrated.  Many concerned citizens have been contacting the university with complaints.  Fortunately, the news team and others working to maintain the existing power structure can't follow the buses around and try to deflect everyone's attention from Nonhuman Animal rights to First Amendment rights.


Cole, M. and K. Morgan.  2011.  "Veganphobia:  Derogatory Discourses of Veganism and the Reproduction of Speciesism in UK National Newspapers."  The British Journal of Sociology 62 (1):  134-153.

Freeman, C.  2009.  "This Little Piggy Went to Press;  The American News Media's Construction of Animals in Agriculture."  The Communication Review 12 (1):  78-103.

Sampedro, V.  1997.  "The Media Politics of Social Protest."  Mobilization 2 (2):  1985-205.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Depicting Endangered Species

Does the public care about saving endangered and threatened species?

Yes and no.

Certainly, we say that we do, but our actions certainly tell a different story, as most of us go about our lives as if anywhere from 200 (on the very low end) and 100,000 species are not becoming extinct every single year, according to estimates from the World Wildlife Fund.

Unlike the previous five major extinction events in the world's history, what we are living through, according to most scientists, is caused primarily by humans. And yet most people do nothing to slow down the climate change which is largely responsible for many of these extinctions, for example, nor do they think about where the exotic wood that their furniture came from and what animals may have once lived in the rainforest from which it came, nor do they worry about the seafood that they eat and whether those fishes are being fished to the point of extinction, for example.

What would make us care, and more importantly, do something?

Studies (see for example Gunnthorsdottir 2001) show that people care more about animals that are attractive than those that are unattractive. So this article from January 2013 on the threatened nature of four arctic species highlights how "adorable" those animals are. As ridiculous as the headline seems, most readers really do care more if the animals are adorable, and thus may take some action to save them.

Artist Justin Steinburg took a similar approach. In a series of illustrations that he did for the World Wildlife Fund, he represented a number of endangered animals as sugar skulls that are used on the Dia de los Muertos--the Mexican Day of the Dead. This is the day when people through out much of Latin America pay respect to their dead ancestors. According to Steinburg's website, "we must learn to celebrate the beauty of these endangered animals while they are still alive."

Steinburg's illustrations, in borrowing the iconography of the Day of the Dead, highlights the fact that these animals are themselves on the brink of death, spurring the viewer to take action to help save them.

But it's worth noting that he also highlights their beauty, and that the animals he picks--a gorilla, a panda, and a tiger--are all among the most charismatic of the large animals, and thus, already those that we would feel most drawn to, and most likely to want to save.

If pandas, arguably one of the "cutest" of all of the animals (if you don't believe me, check this out), are on the brink of extinction, then what hope is there for an "ugly" animal like the Rabb’s fringe-limbed tree frog?

In fact, the fastest growing group of endangered species, with 1,895 out of 6,285 species in danger of extinction according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, are amphibians, one of the least-liked of all animals.

That spells bad news for the tree frog.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Arrow Pierces Deer's Face and Lives to Tell the Tale: The Importance of Survivor Images

This morning, the story of a young deer in New Jersey who's face was punctured by a hunting arrow went viral.  The story ends happily enough: Through human intervention, he survived and lives to see another day.

While the news coverage was problematic for many reasons (mockingly nicknaming the deer "Steve Martin" after an arrow through the head gag he popularized, referring to him as "it," celebrating the wildlife department for saving him when the same agency is actually responsible for facilitating "hunts"), the shocking image is powerful enough to transcend speciesist media and offer a glimpse into the real horrors of killing Nonhuman Animals for "sport" and/or "food."

"Hunting" (I place the term in quotation marks to denote it as a euphemism) is like a private club or secret society for men who seek to consolidate their dominance in exclusive yearly meetings made inaccessible to the public.  Men convene in the woods to "bond," "appreciate nature," "get some fresh air," "catch up with friends," "learn life's lessons," etc.  All of these charming sentiments obscure the primary activity that differentiates "hunting" from a camping trip or a hike:  The intended slaughter of deers, bears, and other free-living animals.

Men use the seclusion of the back country to enact patriarchy in these male-only spaces.  The practice is reinforced with highly ritualized behavior.  "Hunters" spend thousands of dollars on licenses, guns, gun accessories, camouflaged dress, lures, etc.  Boys are initiated young and forced (killing is not usually a natural or desirable thing for children) to fire weapons at the Nonhuman Animals they once considered friends.  Killers often end the ritual by consuming the flesh of their victims.

For us advocates (women in particular) who are "uninitiated" in these secret male gatherings, killers assume that we "don't get it" or "don't understand" when we protest the violence.  Like all displays of male power, "hunting" is presumed necessary and any disagreement is thought to indicate ignorance.  This deflection of feminized resistance only reinforces "hunting" (a practice of male supremacy) as for men only and legitimizes male power.

Survivors offer a glimpse into this protected, hidden world.  "Hunting" classes recommend that killers keep their dirty work out of view of the public who would be offended.  Taxidermied corpses portray the animals still alert in life.  But survivors show us the horrors that the patriarchal pro-"hunting" ideology and murder-scene cleanups obscure.

Another survivor in Colorado.
At the time of the news report, wildlife authorities were seeking to help her.

The fact that many National Forest areas and parks practically shut down to the public for men to enter with weapons and inflict genocide on the innocent civilians of the woods demonstrates state-supported male entitlement to feminized spaces.  As eco-feminists explain, Nonhuman Animals and the environment, like women, are treated as resources that exist for men to pleasurably consume.  "Hunting" survivors are not unlike refugees living in farmed animal sanctuaries, rape survivors and slave narratives--they live to tell the tale of male violence.  They make the invisibility of oppression visible again.

See Brian Luke's Brutal:  Manhood and the Exploitation of Animals for more information on masculinity, speciesism, and "hunting."

Friday, November 1, 2013

Zoo Animals Around the World

Artists who photograph or otherwise represent non-human animals are one of the major inspirations for this blog. How they look at animals--whether wild or domestic, or in the wild or in captivity--tells us a great deal about how society as a whole sees, and also treats, other animals.

In these haunting photos by Canadian photographer Gaston Lacombe, we see animals kept in non-American zoos in conditions that most of us would find inadequate, to say the least.  Yet the reality is that many American zoos keep animals in conditions very much like these; many are better, for sure, but many are very similar and some are even worse, even as zoos both in the U.S. and around the world are all changing their message from "entertainment" to "education" and "conservation."

Either way, much of what is happening for the zoo visitor is looking, and much of what is happening for the zoo animal is being looked at, and all that the gaze entails.

From John Berger:

"The zoo cannot but disappoint. The public purpose of zoos is to offer visitors the opportunity of looking at animals. Yet nowhere in the zoo can a stranger encounter the look of an animal."


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Wounded Messengers

Photo by Mansura Khanam.
Pigeons are one of those birds considered to be among the lowest of animals; it is found at the bottom of the sociozoologic scale based on its use value to humans, and many people consider them vermin.

Bangladesh-born photographer Mansura Khanam has been photographing injured pigeons who are convalescing at the Wild Bird Fund, New York City’s rehabilitation center for wild birds.  These pigeons have suffered a whole host of problems thanks to their contact with humans, including Sharon, above, who suffered lead poisoning.

From CNN:

Through Khanam’s patient lens, the birds stare directly back at the human viewers. Eye to eye, it is harder to see them as “flying rats.”

They challenge us to acknowledge them.

These are monogamous birds whose mating rituals include aerial wing claps and special calls. These are birds that collaborate – males and females share nest-building and incubating time.

We are reminded that these adaptable creatures are in fact wild, and that we share a habitat.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Companion Animals Then and Now

Buzzfeed recently featured a series of photos sent in by readers of their pets from the past and the present to show how cute they continue to be, now that they are no longer puppies or kittens.

But these photos of the equally charming people posed with their animals show something else as well: the power of he human-animal bond.

Because unlike some people who buy or even adopt animals and then abandon, sell or surrender them after they find that they no longer fit into their lives, the people in these photos are just as devoted to their companions as they were years before when they first brought them home.

Beautiful indeed.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Water and Watermelon for Dying Pigs

In the United States, the laws on transporting animals to slaughter are extremely lax.  The government suggests that transporters ideally keep trips under 8 hours, but at the very least give the animals a break from the truck once every 24 hours.  Animals are often deprived of food and water for hours or days because it will be wasted on a body that is about to be killed. Many drivers simply don't care or can't be bothered to let the animals out for a break. On the long transit to their death, these "food" animals are exposed to all elements, be it searing hot or so cold that the animals begin to freeze to each other and to the truck.  The journey is so brutal, an estimated 1 million pigs die in transit each year.

In this moment, these victims on route to the slaughterhouse are probably receiving the only bit of compassion they will ever know from humans, their last (maybe only) glimpse of sunlight, and certainly their only taste of watermelon. The ones trapped in the middle of the countless overheated, filthy bodies receive nothing. 

Photo by Anita Krajnc

As this image circulates across Facebook and advocacy networks, the response from viewers speaks to the power of emotion in narratives and photography.  Photographer Anita Krajnc writes:  "[ . . . ] if you haven't yet made the connection between the pleasure of your bacon and the misery of these animals' lives and death, may this image cause a change of heart."

Breaching the false divide between human and nonhuman/consumer and product, these women don't just ease the suffering of these pigs, they restore their personhood.  No longer faceless, nameless commodities, the pigs become individuals.  This image asks us to reconsider our relationship with so-called "food" animals.  Commodities or neighbors?  Friends or food?  Things or persons?  Rights-bearers or property?

Daisy enjoys some watermelon under happier circumstances.
Pigs Peace Sanctuary in Stanwood, WA.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Zoo Animals

What do people think about when they look at animals in zoos? 

Research has shown that the average visitor spends thirty seconds to two minutes per enclosure (Mullan and Marvin 1999). Visitors barely watch the animals, and ignore the educational signs about them. After visiting the zoo, for many visitors, the take home message is that humans are superior to other animals, according to social ecologist Stephen Kellert (1979, 1997).

But what do zoo animals think about their lives, while people are watching them? There's no real way to know, of course. 

Daniel Zakharov is a photographer whose series Modern Wilderness focuses on the daily lives of animals. In these images, which feature the lives of zoo animals, we see the animals engaged in the limited activities that their captivity allows them: pacing, sleeping, watching, and thinking, perhaps, as Alison Nastasi writes, about the conditions of their own existence.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Police Dogs and People

Two heartbreaking photos came out this week to remind us of the incredible bonds that form between police officers and the dogs who work with them. While Clinton Sanders has written of the complex and even contradictory relationships that form between police officers and the patrol dogs who work with them--the dogs are "both occupational resources and weapons" but at the same time are members of the officer's household and spend more time with the officer than the officer does with members of his or her own family (Sanders 2012)--it is clear that a very tight bond forms between officer and dog. This is demonstrated in the following two photos.

The first is of Kaiser, a police dog in Plymouth, Massachusetts, who is taking his final walk on the police force before his retirement due to kidney disease. Shortly after this photo was taken, Kaiser's partner and caretaker, Officer Jamie Lebretton, made the heart-wrenching decision to put him to sleep. He wrote, "RIP my boy. I could not have asked for a better partner or friend. You made me a better person, a better handler, and a better cop. Till we meet again, Kai. I love you and will miss you daily."

This second photo is of another police dog, Figo, at the funeral of his human partner, Jason Ellis, of the Bardstown, Kentucky Police Department. Officer Ellis was shot and killed in an ambush on a highway interstate five days earlier, with Figo by his side. During the funeral, Figo, who has now been retired to live permanently with Ellis' family, reached out with his paw to touch the casket. Observers have speculated that Figo may have been able to smell that his partner was in the casket and was trying to reach out to him.

Both images are heartbreaking signs of the love and respect between human and dog.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Dead Animals/Dead Animal Images

Animal rights advocates have long used images of dead and suffering animals as a way to draw attention to the exploitation of non-human animals by humans, just as anti-abortion advocates have long used images of aborted fetuses to protest abortion. In both cases, activists use the stark images of dead animals or fetuses to arouse in the passerby empathy, moral outrage, and, ultimately, action. They hope that people will change their outlook and take action to stop the suffering that they are witnessing.

Photo by Lawrence JC Baron
While these tactics are well-used, these photos from 2011, sent to me by Eric Greene, represent a much less common approach. These protesters, from the Spanish animal rights group, are not holding signs of dead animals, but are actually holding the bodies of  recently dead animals. Many of the protesters, as in the case of the man at the left, have been moved to tears by the animals they are holding and the action in which they are participating.

Photo by Lawrence JC Baron
As Eric mentioned to me when sending me these images, animal bodies are around us in many ways: we see them hanging in butcher shop windows or in pieces in the meat section of the grocery store. We see them on the side of the road as "roadkill." If we live in a hunting state, we see them whole in the backs of pick up trucks. If you have ever lived with a companion animal, you have probably cradled that animal in your arms while he lay dying, just as the man in the photo above is doing. But to see people standing in the street with hundreds of dead animals in their arms? It certainly begs attention.  This second picture, in fact, reminds me of a military cemetery like Normandy, with each human/animal body as a tombstone. Certainly for the activists, it is a war that they are fighting, and while the animals won't get a grave with a marker, this act is their commemoration.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Social Construction of Cockroaches

For many, cockroaches are stereotyped as dirty, file, disease-ridden, and unworthy of life.  Admittedly, even vegans sometimes have difficulty overcoming the "heebie jeebies" cockroaches can sometimes trigger--our socialization against certain animal species is that strong.

In many areas of the world, cockroaches are eaten as food.  Some places (like Russia and Jamaica) even use cockroaches in traditional medicine.  For Westerners, however, cockroaches are considered so vile, they are only worthy of human contact in derogatory "fear factor" contests. In fact, many of us find cockroaches so creepy, they are suitable for Halloween costumes.

Yet, as Sociological Images points out, "What seems normal is not necessarily  natural or inevitable."  Apparently Americans were not always so disgusted by cockroaches, as evidenced in this advertisement from the 1930s or 40s depicting well-to-do women gleefully participating in a cockroach race.  

Incidentally, cockroach racing resurfaced in Australia in the 1980s, where it continues today, albeit with the more charismatic hissing cockroach.

According to Cockroach, by Marion Copeland (2003), cockroaches have enjoyed an important role in human folklore, appearing in Aesopian fables and Greek mythology. They become symbols of clever wit, resilience, and survival.   They also represent the dichotomy of light and darkness, as well as power and weakness.

Cockroaches also surface in the story of human slavery and colonization.  For example, most of the species of cockroaches we are familiar with in the United States only arrived to North America with the Spanish colonizers of the 1500s and ships transporting slaves from Africa not long after.  Many oppressed peoples have taken on the cockroach as symbol of the injustice they face.  Alternatively, the cockroach image has also been forced on the vulnerable to dehumanize them and justify their subjugation.

The cockroach's long history in the story of humanity has not gone completely underappreciated.  In The Cockroach Papers:  A Compendium of History and Lore, author Richard Schweid reminds us that cockroaches, too, are sentient beings worth saving.  Smashing the stereotypes (he notes that cockroaches clean themselves as much as cats do, for example), Schweid reminds us that cockroaches serve many important functions for our ecosystem.  Ultimately, he argues, humans and cockroaches can and should coexist.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Cat Imagery in the Suffrage Movement

Cats were a common symbol in suffragette imagery.  Cats represented the domestic sphere, and anti-suffrage postcards often used them to reference female activists.  The intent was to portray suffragettes as silly, infantile, incompetent, and ill-suited to political engagement.

Mocking anti-suffrage postcard

Reads:  "We don't care if we never have a vote."
Photo from the Palczewski Suffrage Postcard Archive

Mocking anti-suffrage postcard
Photo from the Palczewski Suffrage Postcard Archive

Another common theme in anti-suffrage cartoons and postcards was the bumbling, emasculated father cruelly left behind to cover his wife's shirked duties as she so ungracefully abandons the home for the political sphere.  Oftentimes, cats were portrayed in these scenes as symbols of a threatened traditional home in need of woman's care and attention.

Public sentiment warmed to the suffragettes as police brutality began to push women into a more favorable, if victimized, light.  As suffragettes increasingly found themselves jailed, many resisted unfair or inhumane imprisonment with hunger strikes.  In response, jailers would often force-feed female prisoners with steel devices to pry open their mouths and long hoses inserted into their noses and down their throats.  This caused severe damage to the women's faces, mouths, lungs, and stomachs, sometimes causing illness and death.  The British government responded by enacting the Prisoner's Act of 1913 which temporarily freed prisoners to recuperate (or die) at home, at which time they could be rearrested.  The intention was to free the government from responsibility of injury and death from force feeding prisoners.  This act became popularly known as the "Cat and Mouse Act," as the government was seen as toying with their female prey as a cat would a mouse.  Suddenly, the cat takes on a decidedly more masculine, "tom cat" persona.  The cat now represented the violent realities of women's struggle for political rights in the male public sphere.

Sympathetic suffrage  postcard referencing the  Prisoner's Act of 1913
Photo from Collectors Weekly

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

An Act of Dog

Lately I've been posting quite a number of posts about artists using their work to highlight the harm that is being done to non-human animals, or to force people to take action to save animals' lives.

Today's post features the work of Mark Barone, who is painting the portraits of 5,500 shelter dogs, all of whom have already been killed. The paintings will eventually be housed in a permanent memorial museum, and the funds raised from the project will be used to save animals from euthanasia. Find out more about the project here.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Marketing Meat

These vintage advertisements for meat all come from the American Meat Institute (via Buzzfeed). The first one is fascinating because of its headline: "This is Life."

It's not, really. It's death. (To be technical about it, it's a piece of a rib of a dead cow.)

Sure, children need amino acids to grow, just as the ad says (that's where the "life" from the ad comes in). But what the ad doesn't say is that children can get same those amino acids from a variety of plant foods, and don't need meat to get them. Meat really isn't life, and to construct it as such is almost Orwellian in its use of doublespeak.

But the ad also has some interesting bits in the small print. Here you can see the clear link, demonstrated by Carol Adams, between meat and masculinity: it's not just "a symbol of man's desire," but when a woman cooks it, she can be proud of her meal.

The second ad also does two things. First, it suggests that America is literally "calling for more and more meat," as if the aforementioned American Meat Institute was not itself responsible for encouraging the public to eat meat. The AMI, founded in 1906, is America's oldest trade association, helping America's meat industry sell more meat; in the 1940s, they began advertising directly to the public via the ads that you see on this page. Today they do so via websites like and

Second, the ad uses the term "crop" to refer to a greater-than-usual supply of pork available that year, as if pork--the flesh of pigs--is cultivated like wheat. While everyone knows that pigs are animals, and not plants, using language like this is a nifty way of covering up the fact that animals do have to be raised, not grown, and killed, before they can end up in the frying pan.

As we've learned from watching Mad Men, the best advertisers know how to use a combination of language and imagery to sell desire, and to encourage the public to buy products that we don't really need. You might even say, as in the case of these meat ads, that advertising sells lies, which the public buys as truth. Meat is Life. Pork is Wheat. No One Dies.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Art and Dead Animals

Lately I have been struck by artists who use dead animals in their work. The latest artist I've found is photographer Chris Jordan, who visited the Midway Atoll in the North Pacific Ocean, at the center of what is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Jordan photographed dead albatross chicks who died thanks to the plastic garbage they had consumed. He wrote, "These images depict the actual stomach contents of baby birds in one of the world’s most remote marine sanctuaries, more than 2000 miles from the nearest continent."

Friday, April 5, 2013

Dogs in Pantyhose

The Huffington Post published a collection of photographs featuring dogs wearing women's pantyhose (and oftentimes women's shoes).  The dogs are shown mostly from behind and laying down.  Because pantyhose are a sexualized women's garment, the connotations are unmistakable.  Similar to Flying Dog's "Raging Bitch Beer," sexualized images and stereotypes of women as "dogs" or "bitches" are utilized for "humor."  Ultimately, women and dogs are degraded alike (and surely many of these dogs weren't happy being stuffed into hosiery), but Huffington encourages us to relax:  "It's just a joke!"

Image from The Huffington Post

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Landfill Dogs

Shannon Johnstone is a Louisiana photographer and animal advocate who uses her talents to bring attention to the tragedy of America's thrown away pets. She has documented companion animals before, during, and after their euthanasia in a project called Discarded Property, and her latest project, Landfill Dogs, involves taking dogs who have been at her local shelter for more than two weeks, and who will soon face euthanasia, to the landfill where their bodies will be buried, and photographing them where they play joyfully on what may be their last excursion outside in their lives. The great news is that thanks to her talent and courage, most of the dogs Johnstone has photographed have since found homes,  and have not ended up back at the landfill.

Taxidermied Cats

Taxidermy is all the rage these days. This year we have two new reality shows focusing on taxidermy, American Stuffers and Immortalized, Etsy is full of arts and crafts made from dead animals, and artists like Sarina Brewer, Kasey McMahon, and Reid Peppard all uutilize taxidermied animals in their art.

And besides the wild animals who are typically immortalized by taxidermists, generally after they have been shot and killed by hunters, there's now a growing pet preservation industry serving pet guardians who want to forever immortalized their beloved companion animal.

And then there's this cat rug, made by a taxidermist from a cat hit and killed by a car in New Zealand.

The public response to the cat seems to range from artistic appreciation to disgust and horror, as might be expected.

For me, perhaps my concern lies with the fact that this was not simply a cat, but a cat who had a relationship with a person, and, thus, a social identity. It seems to cross the boundary between the impersonal form of taxidermy and exploitation found with bear or zebra rugs, even while maintaining the personal identity of the individual animal, a distinction noted by Emory University graduate student Christina Colvin in a recent talk on taxidermied pets. This cat once had a name, an identity, a past, and, most uncomfortably, all of that can be read in its eerily preserved, for eternity, face.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Men Come from Apes; Women Come from Cows

Image from BuzzFeed:  The 13 Worst Plastic Surgery Ads in the World

This advertisement for a plastic surgery clinic in Bucharest plays on the classic image of man evolving from ape.  That image has long been criticized for normalizing "man" as the epitome of evolution (What about women?  Or people of color for that matter?).  This image feeds into the sexist undertones of the evolutionary story by showing us where women come from:  ugly cows.

Image from Skeptical Raptor

The cow is laden with symbolism--they are seen as unintelligent commodities in need of husbandry (similar to how women are perceived).  Of course, women are often insulted in being labeled a cow--something ugly and undesirable to men.  Comparison to the ape, on the other hand, tends to be more flattering, as apes are often seen as clever, adaptive, and independent.  They're also seen as the most human of the "animal kingdom."  When being "human" generally defaults to being "male," these images clarify that men are privileged and women must manipulate their sexual desirability to achieve social worth.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Intersecting Oppression in Early Animal Rights Efforts

I'm not sure what the context of this image is, but it was posted by No Kill advocate Nathan Winograd today in honor of the 125th anniversary of Henry Bergh's death.  Bergh was a tireless advocate for exploited and ignored Nonhuman Animals in urban areas.

Notice the African American man in the right hand side of the crowd.  He appears to be gesturing in support of Bergh's attention to the horses.  According to the notes at the bottom, this drawing appeared in Harper's Weekly.  Judging from the dress and the time when Bergh became active for Nonhuman Animals, this scene would have transpired just after the emancipation of African American slaves.

It is likely that the artist intended to demonstrate how Nonhuman Animal suffering mirrored the suffering of many humans.  Indeed, many early Nonhuman Animal activists drew heavily on the claimsmaking of the abolitionist anti-slavery cause, recognizing how oppression worked similarly across many vulnerable groups.

See Diane L. Beers.  2006.  For the Prevention of Cruelty:  The History and Legacy of Animal Rights Activism in the United States.  Athens, OH:  Ohio University Press.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Framing a Story

According to today's Merced Sun-Star"The big rig carrying a load of turkeys overturned near Le Grand, knocking power lines down, the California Highway Patrol reports...It does not appear anyone was injured in the accident. Firefighters and Pacific Gas & Electric employees are responding for the power lines and Foster Farms has been called for the turkeys."

The same story was covered very differently by Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary, a farmed animal sanctuary in Central California whose volunteers raced to the scene of the accident to try to help save the injured turkeys. They reported on their Facebook page, "We spoke with California Highway Patrol officers and offered immediate rescue assistance for the injured turkeys at the crash site. CHP denied our offer to help."

Later, Harvest Home posted the following picture, along with the following: "The crash site is cleared. All that remains is blood, feathers and dirt on the roadside. The bird 'survivors' were hauled to Foster Farms' turkey slaughterhouse in Turlock to be killed later today."

I was struck by how radically different the newspaper--and how the Merced Sun-Star treated the story was no different from every other media account today--treated the story compared to how Harvest Home did. The paper emphasized the fact that there were no (human) injuries, and that power lines were damaged. Other media accounts discussed disruptions to the morning commute. But no media story mentioned the suffering or loss of life experienced by the turkeys, or the presence of the rescue group. 

Obviously, news is created, not "reported." It's not like news is just found, like pebbles, on the ground, to be scooped up by a reporter, and given to the reader or viewer each day in its pure form.

It's actively created and packaged each day by a team of reporters, writers, editors, and producers, all with their own agendas and interests, not least of which are the interests of the corporations who advertise in the newspaper or on the television station. Those interests must certainly be served. Perhaps reporting on the loss of life of the turkeys--both at the crash site, and, for the survivors, a few hours later at Foster Farms' processing plant, was not in the best interests of those advertisers.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Vietnamese Kids Work to Save Animals

Love animals just like you do your own country
When many Americans think of Vietnam, or other Asian countries like China or Korea, they don't likely think of animal lovers. But a group of kids who are part of the Kairos Coalition, an organization founded by former US Marine Robert Lucius, will make you re-think your stereotypes about Asia and animals. They are called Yêu Động Vật, or "Animal Lovers," and they rescue animals, advocate for better treatment for Vietnam's animals, and they have produced these incredible, beautiful, and thought-provoking posters which make Vietnam's citizen's think twice about how animals are treated there.

Who will give me freedom?
Give us light!
Rights to have freedom
Stop: they are our ancestors
We are not food
Mom, what did we do wrong?
Stopping hunting means stopping crime

Rights in pursuit of happiness