Where do you think that puppy in the window of your local pet store came from? The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) states that in the United States, 99 percent of the puppies sold in pet stores are from puppy mills. (“Don’t Buy into Puppy Mills”, The Humane Society) In the US alone, from HSUS Puppy Mill: Facts and Figures 2014, there is an estimated 10,000 puppy mills. Within these breeding factories, also called puppy factories or puppy mills these animals live in unsanitary conditions. There can be multiple litters of puppies in a small cage that are inadequately fed and watered. Many of these animals often suffer with diseases resulting in dying young. The welfare of the animals is lessened all for the gain of the owners of these mills. Less is spend on their well-being and can sold for up to thousands of dollars per pet.
People are not properly educated to where their pets and food that they purchase come from. Lyle Munro discusses that animal cruelty as a social issue. Animals have been a significant part of life in urban cities throughout history but the study of animal abuse is often limited (42). These acts of cruelty mostly happens away from the public eye so we are often not aware of the extent of them. Animal rights activists, organisations and artists alike intend to raise awareness for this issue. Visual activism is generally effective to providing individuals with this needed knowledge. Mirzoeff discusses how this enables individuals to represent themselves and be heard in order to bring upon change (293). Today in the 21st century, the increasing visual world around us is always changing and expanding, thus making living more complex than before. It is our responsibility as citizens to be engaged and aware in the issues present in order to ultimately understand the world we live in (P21: Partnership for 21st Century Learning).
The artists that represent the issue of animal cruelty in general often use morbid techniques that evoke quite strong emotions in the audience. “The artists’ role is to shock the viewer into a new way of seeing and thinking about the animal” (Angela Singer, Artist/Animal, 165). One such artist that demonstrates this is that has inspired my creative work is activist, author and illustrator, Sue Coe. Her illustrations from her book Sheep of Fools (Fig 3.), depicts the inside of a slaughterhouse where she reveals the gruesome truth of the industry. The common individual would not be allowed to enter into these factories, therefore Coe shows what takes place behind those closed doors. “A transformation of unseeing into seeing”(Mirzoeff, 260). Another artist that influenced my creative work is Miru Kim. She shows the connection and similarity that we have with animals,including the colour of their skin (Fig 1 and 2). In my final work, this similarity is shown to stimulate the visual thinking of why we are abusing these animals when there are many traits that we share with them.
My final creative work titled Cruel Origins, is shown below. My subject is situated behind wire fencing to imitate the inside of a breeding factory. The emphasis is on the central image whilst the other photographs add to the idea of the amount of animals in a confined space. The body language portrayed in each image is similar to what the animals in this situation would show due to their lack of exercise and social interaction from this cruelty. Her nudity helps show the connection we have with the animal as well as showing vulnerability. My work has the intention of raising awareness for people to stop and think before they purchase an animal from a pet store or online as to where they originally came from. Activist organisations also strongly advise adopting their pet from an animal shelter instead. This type of visual activism will not stop puppy mills from operating but is a step in the right direction towards creating that change.
Baker, Steve. Artist/Animal. University of Minnesota Press. Minneapolis, London. Non-Fiction Book. 2013.
“Don’t Buy into Puppy Mills” The Humane Society of the United States. Web. Date of Access: 10 June 2016.
Mirzoeff, Nicholas. “Chapter 7: Changing the World” How to See the World. Pages 253-285. Pelican. Penguin House. London.2015. Print.
Mirzoeff, Nicholas. “Afterword: Visual Activism” How to See the World. Pages 287-298. Pelican. Penguin House. London.2015. Print.
Munro, Lyle “The Animal Problem in Social Context”. Confronting Cruelty: Moral orthodoxy and the challenge of the animal rights movement. Leiden, Boston. United States. 2005. E-Book.
“What is 21st Century Learning and Citizenship all about?” P21: Partnership for 21st Century Learning. National PTA. Web. Date Accessed: 12 June 2016.