Animal Rights, By Helen Barker
Animal rights is simply my absolute passion.
My 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.
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 fall 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.
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