I FINALLY just watched the new documentary Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret over the weekend...twice in two days, that's how much I loved it.
I did the artwork for the Cowspiracy T-shirts during the crowd-funding campaign and knew the doc would be a good addition to the vegan genre, but the final cut exceeded my expectations. It's truly a great accomplishment and I want to make sure you see it, even if you're a vegan veteran and not a newbie (I've studied the motives for over a decade and the film still managed to shock me with some numbers, history, and footage I've never seen).
So you know:
• Cowspiracy is NOT a violent film about animal cruelty, per se.
• It IS an exposé on the environmental movement's failure to discuss animal agriculture (FINALLY!!!).
• It's a fantastic film to watch with meat-eating friends because it's not outrightly vegan until you're already hooked by Kip Anderson's journey (he's the filmmaker) and the interviews he conducts.
• You will learn from vegan experts and leaders you should know.
• Once the vegan conclusions is reached, Kip does a great job covering frequently stated excuses.
• AMAZINGLY, the film has been made available on Netflix—SO accessible! Or via DVDs and digital downloads, too, for just a few dollars.
I promote veganism every day, but the film actually reignited me to do more, especially to influence more influencers, so I'm brainstorming ideas there. And it made me extremely proud of vegans, who I strongly feel are the only people doing any effective activism these days. I really mean that. It's not self-righteousness; it's that given such staggering statistics of destruction caused by every kind of animal agriculture, there will be nothing left to fight for if not planetary health first. At this point, our vegan work is a matter of life and death in more ways than one.
Promise me you'll watch it! This weekend!
*Please give the film a 5 star review, too on Netflix. There's been word that Big Agriculture is having people leave poor reviews.
Thank you for the work you do everyday. I see you!
Because I am an information hound and like to keep my arsenal of animal knowledge stocked (and because I like to win arguments), I'm reading a beautiful book you should read, too, called Of Orcas and Men: What Killer Whales Can Teach Us by David Neiwert.
If you loved Blackfish, you'll gain heaps more in-depth, but easy-to-read knowledge from this book, which is full of absolutely stunning information about the minds and lives of these animals, both free and captive. It's the kind of reading that makes your heart soar/ache and fills you with a sense of solidarity with other activists and a (re)commitment to veganism.
SIDE NOTE: Every time I post something like this that advocates for a specific species, I always get comments from people who have to poo on the parade by asking, "What about cows and chickens and pigs?" Can we agree not to do that anymore?
Even if I understand the sentiment, I don't want us thinking that gaining peoples' compassion is a zero sum game—as if it cancels out the possibility of gaining their compassion for other species. It's no doubt a healthier outlook to think of compassion as an endless resource instead of a limited one if we are going to go on with any activism at all.
Duh, it can be maddeningly annoying when people love some animals and eat others, but winning a piece of anyone's heart/brain for any animal opens a small crack through which other information might seep in.
It's great to be critical, but let's never hate on a win, please. They're not easy to come by (though it helps if you have solid arguments...which brings me back to this book!).
Let me know what you think of Of Orcas and Men, happy reading!
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I am boggled and honored to have my children's books academically analyzed by two university lecturers, Matthew Cole and Kate Stewart.
Their book, Our Children and Other Animals: The Cultural Construction of Human-Animal Relations in Childhood, includes quite a discussion of my work—the imagery and representation of animals, my illustration techniques, compositions—how they all help young readers conceptualize their relation to animals.
I've taken many art history courses and have always been leery of my teachers' analyses of artworks. As an artist, myself, and having drawers full of unfinished work I'd never want anyone to see, I imagine that maybe even Degas would have scoffed at the heavy meaning assigned to any one of his works—maybe a painting he would've wanted to throw in the garbage.
Having my work in the hot seat, though, I have to say, Cole and Stewart shocked me with their accuracy. I was stunned at the clarity with which they perceived not only my intentional illustrative strategies, but subconscious decisions, too.
They captured emotions I felt while painting these books, unspoken messages I wanted to relay to my potential young readers, and they beautifully articulated many of the underlying, tacit motives for designing the book as I did—from the animals' eyes to the composition of racing animals running to an implied, but invisible end.
A couple excerpts (edited here for length):
"...Roth eschews both photorealism and anthropomorphism. The latter is evident in the depiction of animals with small eyes, and the absence of mouths in many cases...foreclosing the anthropomorphic trope of the loving dewy/baby-eyed gaze and the grin directed towards a human view/consumer. Instead, Roth's illustrations emphasize snouts or tails; less 'human' aspects of other mammal's embodiments. Roth's animals, then, are resolutely 'other.' The illustrative style asserts an inaccessibility to objectifying knowledge but also their fascination; their capacity to inspire wonder. Children are tacitly enjoined to take lasting pleasure in the living beauty of other animals..."
In other words, where I don't draw a big, anthropomorphized smiling mouth on a cow, or giant "cute" eyes on a bunny, it forces the reader to relate to the animal on the animals' terms. Kids can wonder about them without the animal serving any need—to be cute or entertaining, for example, as animals most often do in children's books, movies, and toys.
On the illustration in Vegan Is Love, of a silhouetted crowd in a dark room of a marine life park, staring in on a live orca behind glass:
"The humans are depicted as emotionally distanced from the animals as spectacle or experimental tool. Humans' capacities as empathetic subjects are shown to be stunted through their very engagement with objectifying practices. The implicit message is therefore that we confine and kill some part of ourselves as we confine and kill others."
Nailed it. Visiting business where animals are used for entertainment shuts off a part of ourselves, beginning in childhood.
If you love sociology and the study of veganism, too, this academic book is a fascinating look at how we come to relate to animals and what we need to address in order to change the status quo. It'll exercise your mind and help you discuss veganism even more intelligently with others, too. Especially kids.