The relationship between Art and Animal Rights has been a tricky one, with the famous works of Damien Hirst featuring a formadeyde-soaked shark and a pig’s head. However, there has over the years been an increasing number of artists using their creative tools in the fight to give a voice to the voiceless. Some of the world’s most compelling animal rights artists are unapologetic in their work, calling out abuse where they see it and forcing us to view our norms from a new perspective.
Jonathan Horowitz stopped eating meat at the age of 12, after his parents took him to a bullfight when on holiday in Mexico. The artist’s heavyweight Go Vegan! exhibition at a former New York meat-packing plant, LaFrieda Meats, aimed to normalise the idea of meat-free living. Horowitz compiled a portrait gallery of more than 200 celebrity vegetarians, as well as a video installation featuring Paul and Linda McCartney, arguing for veganism through the medium of modern living: commodity culture.
These billboards featured as part of Horowitz’s Go Vegan! campaign via biennaleonline.org
This Washington, DC, artist paints with a purpose – to deliver “hard slaps” to social norms and myths of all kinds. A renowned vegan artist, her work conveys political and social ideas, including the plight of non-human animals. It encourages viewers to carefully consider how their daily choices impact the lives of animals. Her provoking, norm challenging pieces show the power of art for change in the world.
Costumed, Dana Ellyn – available at prints.danaellyn.com
Banksy, the king of street art, made a return to the road with his puntastic project Sirens of the Lambs. Making appearances around the world, such as New York City and Glastonbury, the piece was a “moving sculpture”, in which a truck full of shrieking cuddly animals being taken to slaughter, drove around. Laugh Now, another of Banksy’s famous pieces and seen below depicts a monkey, his shoulders are sloped and his face is drawn; although the eyes are in shadow, his expression shows that he feels downtrodden and ashamed, this work illustrates the arrogance of humanity – once evolved from apes but now making them perform demeaning tasks in public at the behest of humans.
The award-winning photojournalist has been documenting the plight of animals on every continent for more than a decade. A native of Toronto, she also created the We Animals project, an animal media NGO dedicated to documenting the lives of non-human animals impacted by human activity around the world. Their goal is to build bridges between social movements and inspire solutions that will result in a kinder and healthier world. More recently, Jo-Anne and her team have been working on HIDDEN: Animals in the Anthropocene, a new project that shines a light on the too-often ignored animal victims of our human habits. Talking about the truth of our relationship with animals, McArthur notes that we often think of veganism and vegetarianism as ideologies, when eating animals is an ideology too – it’s just the predominant one, so it’s invisible to us.
Gary Smith giving water to thirsty pigs at an LA Animal Save vigil. USA, 2017, from WeAnimals.org
Sue Coe grew up hearing the rattling of chains and screaming from the local abattoir at her home in Hersham, England. The normalisation of mass slaughter, which she also saw at abattoirs from Liverpool to Los Angeles, became the inspiration for her graphic paintings and drawings. These works are imbued with a mind-warping darkness and death, that the viewer can hardly ignore.
Asher Jay uses her digital graphic skills innovatively to inform the world about animal abuse. In Africa, Jay made screensavers of a poached rhino horn dripping with blood. In China, she integrated elephant tusks into Chinese language characters to encourage a halt in ivory buying while her enormous images of elephants killed for their tusks were projected in New York’s Times Square. “I wanted to visualize the scale and brutality of the crisis and use art to tell the blood ivory story,” she says. “Each year, 35,000 elephants are slaughtered; that’s one every 15 minutes.”
Asher Jay, In Our Palms, depicting the dire ecological ramifications the cash crop has on pristine rainforest habitats.
Rocky Lewycky’s project Is It Necessary? addressed the problem of factory farming in a violent new way. The work was comprised of hundreds of ceramic animals – pigs, cows, turkeys, fish – neatly positioned together. Each day Lewycky would enter the gallery space, elect an animal, and brutally smash it to pieces, leaving the white sculptures to reveal their blood-red interiors.