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SPEAKING FOR THOSE WHO CAN’T SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES

SPEAKING FOR THOSE WHO
CAN’T SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES

Activist Artists: Sue Coe

Sue Coe is an award-winning artist and illustrator who for decades has used her talent in drawing and printmaking to expose cruelty and injustice. Much of her work explores the inhumane treatment of animals in factory farming, which she learned about first-hand growing up next to a slaughterhouse, hearing pigs screaming every day. She has investigated and brought attention to animal cruelty in animal agriculture, slaughter, industry, entertainment, and medical research. She is outspoken not only for animals, but social injustice issues such as the KKK, Apartheid, AIDS, war, poverty, famine, and more. Her work is published in newspapers, magazines, and books; is included in numerous museum collections; and has been sold at charity auctions to support animal rights organizations. For a complete list of Sue Coe’s work visit Galerie St. Etienne.

ZOOICIDE: Seeing Cruelty, Demanding Abolition (2018)

How do you deal with what you witness? Is there place you can go to decompress or a routine that allows you to re-energize after being immersed in a project and the experiences behind it?
I don’t think animal activists, who have shifted their awareness to animal oppression, the murder of the environment, the relentless assault on the poor—which is most of us—can ever be at peace in a world of continuous violence against others. You become the wrong alien existing in an imposed alien landscape, where billions of beautiful animals are being murdered, and it’s totally normalized.

“Courage is the ability to find hope in despair”; I heard that little homily somewhere….. And will stick it in the same place as, “When they go low, we go high.” I prefer a drooling wet dog lick to the face. Even observing wild animals live lives of joy, or companion animals who are safe, brings forth a kind of dread, that their situation is so precarious. Making art is my way of disciplining despair into something positive—and sharing with our activist family—who understand.

You Consume Their Terror

I have read that your artwork is a way to release your anger. Is that an accurate assessment?
If it is, it hasn’t worked too well of late. I am not released! I am in a perpetual fury. Art, the technique, is about slowing time down. It’s both a ritual and a mission. It’s the discipline of craft, balanced with a search for meaning. As an added bonus, I expect my work to help make social change and support activists and the struggle for justice for animals.

While you are drawing in public, does anyone stop to ask about what you are doing?
Yes. Drawing in public opens a dialogue. People are curious. On some level, for example, zoo visitors know zoos are prisons and are morally wrong and somehow seeing an artist draw engages those thoughts. Drawing, rather than photography, makes the process of witnessing shared and transparent.

Gustavito

Many of the images and the stories behind them made me cry. In particular, Gustavito, the hippopotamus. It has been weeks since I read Zooicide for the first time and I cannot stop thinking about him. Which of the animals you visited or heard about touched you the most?
Thank you for crying for Gustavito, your tears will fill the ocean for change. Every day there is another terrible story. The tragedy is zoos still exist, but the stories of individuals trapped in those structures are always poignant.

Last week was the news of animals burned to death at Chester Zoo in the UK. Today, an escaped lion is shot. As usual, the headlines were: “the staff was devastated.” What does that tell us? Humans are capable of feeling, but not feeling enough to demand the abolition of zoo prisons?

I have seen on my zoo trips animals being taunted to perform, children screaming at animals to get a response, men grunting and banging their chests to mimic what they think gorillas should be doing … the plexiglass divider being struck to make noise. It’s not merely to get the animals to be animated props. Zoos are not about us looking at animals, but forcing animals to gaze upon their oppressors. The thrill of human power and control over a tiger or lion, just a few inches away, acknowledged by the victim.

Animals resist by never looking at us. They have the ability to look beyond humans. The noise levels for animals is horrendous: traffic, planes, city noises, the shouting. The animals have broken minds, the pacing, the swaying, the flying into bars over and over again, tigers repeatedly diving into a small pool of water a thousand times a day.

You have been an animal rights activist for many years. What do you see as positive or negative changes in activism today?
Negative in the almost complete corporate takeover of the animal rights movement in the USA, which is predictable, and has happened in every social justice movement in recent history. Reliance on wealthy donors dilutes the message of abolition of all animal use and going vegan as baseline, which is the absolute minimum we must do. Corporate control of the movement has created top down structures of a dominant class that mimics exactly what we are struggling against.

The positive is that grass roots animal activists are immune. They are bold and creative. One person, going vegan, can support another person to go vegan and it doesn’t take money, it takes heart and intelligence and it’s not for sale. It is free and gladly shared.

Any oppression meets with resistance, as night follows day. Animal activists are formidable, they won’t ever give up. Economic conditions for radical change exist, but any resistance is being challenged by force. The USA has seven times the number of persons in prison, proportionally, than Canada. There are more pigs in Spain than human beings. Sixty percent of animals are threatened with extinction in only in the last 40 years. These few statistics are staggering. We are seeing the rise of fascism and equally the rise of progressive forces. We have gone over the cliff in terms of climate change and extreme economic inequality, but going off a cliff does not necessarily end in a hard landing. We can find a foothold and go sideways, learn from our relatives, the small crabs.

Lonely Elephant

Do you see hope in the animal rights movement as activists take advantage of social media to spread their messages faster and more graphically than ever before?
Yes of course. But just in case…I think we should relearn going backwards. Discover skills that are not dependent on a backlit screens and satellites. Revolutions happened before social media. We could tell what time of day it was without clocks, navigate oceans without GPS. We found our way by asking and listening, trusting animals, observing what they did, looking at the stars, the plants, and the natural world as guides. The humans who will survive into the next century will be the ones who were the unfittest to succeed under capitalism. They will be the humans who didn’t exploit others.

The genocide against the gentle is increasing at pace. Alongside, the number of ethical vegans and animal activists is rising globally as a reaction. We are witnessing peak consumption in animal products and peak consumption in fossil fuels and the concurrent warming of the planet. Out of this destruction of all life, is being born a global movement for a Green New Deal.

The rise of Authoritarians is to be expected, as the crisis for limited resources worsens. Authoritarians thrive when people feel helpless and despairing. They sell false optimism that only they have the solutions, which require blaming the most fragile victims. The camels “taking the water” in Australia, now being shot en mass, or the “threat” of human refugees on the border. All the lies that can be mustered to keep fear stoked, will be used to divert. Diversions and conspiracy algorithms abound. For those of us who love animals, we have seen something that is so precious, a gift, yet is a terrible burden that we cannot unknow. We cannot let the animals down. We will never give up. We saw what we were not supposed to see. The reality. That makes us formidable.

CRUEL: Bearing Witness to Animal Exploitation (2012)

Update: When this piece first ran, Ms. Coe mentioned that she was “working on artwork for the next election—against Trump,” and that she would hold an art show at the Gallerie St Etienne in September. The art show is still taking place. Below are two images that address a little bit of Year 2020.

Carnivorous = Coronavirus
USA 2020: We Live in an Asylum

If you liked this article Please share it!

Activist Artists: Sue Coe

Sue Coe is an award-winning artist and illustrator who for decades has used her talent in drawing and printmaking to expose cruelty and injustice. Much of her work explores the inhumane treatment of animals in factory farming, which she learned about first-hand growing up next to a slaughterhouse, hearing pigs screaming every day. She has investigated and brought attention to animal cruelty in animal agriculture, slaughter, industry, entertainment, and medical research. She is outspoken not only for animals, but social injustice issues such as the KKK, Apartheid, AIDS, war, poverty, famine, and more. Her work is published in newspapers, magazines, and books; is included in numerous museum collections; and has been sold at charity auctions to support animal rights organizations. For a complete list of Sue Coe’s work visit Galerie St. Etienne.

ZOOICIDE: Seeing Cruelty, Demanding Abolition (2018)

How do you deal with what you witness? Is there place you can go to decompress or a routine that allows you to re-energize after being immersed in a project and the experiences behind it?
I don’t think animal activists, who have shifted their awareness to animal oppression, the murder of the environment, the relentless assault on the poor—which is most of us—can ever be at peace in a world of continuous violence against others. You become the wrong alien existing in an imposed alien landscape, where billions of beautiful animals are being murdered, and it’s totally normalized.

“Courage is the ability to find hope in despair”; I heard that little homily somewhere….. And will stick it in the same place as, “When they go low, we go high.” I prefer a drooling wet dog lick to the face. Even observing wild animals live lives of joy, or companion animals who are safe, brings forth a kind of dread, that their situation is so precarious. Making art is my way of disciplining despair into something positive—and sharing with our activist family—who understand.

You Consume Their Terror

I have read that your artwork is a way to release your anger. Is that an accurate assessment?
If it is, it hasn’t worked too well of late. I am not released! I am in a perpetual fury. Art, the technique, is about slowing time down. It’s both a ritual and a mission. It’s the discipline of craft, balanced with a search for meaning. As an added bonus, I expect my work to help make social change and support activists and the struggle for justice for animals.

While you are drawing in public, does anyone stop to ask about what you are doing?
Yes. Drawing in public opens a dialogue. People are curious. On some level, for example, zoo visitors know zoos are prisons and are morally wrong and somehow seeing an artist draw engages those thoughts. Drawing, rather than photography, makes the process of witnessing shared and transparent.

Gustavito

Many of the images and the stories behind them made me cry. In particular, Gustavito, the hippopotamus. It has been weeks since I read Zooicide for the first time and I cannot stop thinking about him. Which of the animals you visited or heard about touched you the most?
Thank you for crying for Gustavito, your tears will fill the ocean for change. Every day there is another terrible story. The tragedy is zoos still exist, but the stories of individuals trapped in those structures are always poignant.

Last week was the news of animals burned to death at Chester Zoo in the UK. Today, an escaped lion is shot. As usual, the headlines were: “the staff was devastated.” What does that tell us? Humans are capable of feeling, but not feeling enough to demand the abolition of zoo prisons?

I have seen on my zoo trips animals being taunted to perform, children screaming at animals to get a response, men grunting and banging their chests to mimic what they think gorillas should be doing … the plexiglass divider being struck to make noise. It’s not merely to get the animals to be animated props. Zoos are not about us looking at animals, but forcing animals to gaze upon their oppressors. The thrill of human power and control over a tiger or lion, just a few inches away, acknowledged by the victim.

Animals resist by never looking at us. They have the ability to look beyond humans. The noise levels for animals is horrendous: traffic, planes, city noises, the shouting. The animals have broken minds, the pacing, the swaying, the flying into bars over and over again, tigers repeatedly diving into a small pool of water a thousand times a day.

You have been an animal rights activist for many years. What do you see as positive or negative changes in activism today?
Negative in the almost complete corporate takeover of the animal rights movement in the USA, which is predictable, and has happened in every social justice movement in recent history. Reliance on wealthy donors dilutes the message of abolition of all animal use and going vegan as baseline, which is the absolute minimum we must do. Corporate control of the movement has created top down structures of a dominant class that mimics exactly what we are struggling against.

The positive is that grass roots animal activists are immune. They are bold and creative. One person, going vegan, can support another person to go vegan and it doesn’t take money, it takes heart and intelligence and it’s not for sale. It is free and gladly shared.

Any oppression meets with resistance, as night follows day. Animal activists are formidable, they won’t ever give up. Economic conditions for radical change exist, but any resistance is being challenged by force. The USA has seven times the number of persons in prison, proportionally, than Canada. There are more pigs in Spain than human beings. Sixty percent of animals are threatened with extinction in only in the last 40 years. These few statistics are staggering. We are seeing the rise of fascism and equally the rise of progressive forces. We have gone over the cliff in terms of climate change and extreme economic inequality, but going off a cliff does not necessarily end in a hard landing. We can find a foothold and go sideways, learn from our relatives, the small crabs.

Lonely Elephant

Do you see hope in the animal rights movement as activists take advantage of social media to spread their messages faster and more graphically than ever before?
Yes of course. But just in case…I think we should relearn going backwards. Discover skills that are not dependent on a backlit screens and satellites. Revolutions happened before social media. We could tell what time of day it was without clocks, navigate oceans without GPS. We found our way by asking and listening, trusting animals, observing what they did, looking at the stars, the plants, and the natural world as guides. The humans who will survive into the next century will be the ones who were the unfittest to succeed under capitalism. They will be the humans who didn’t exploit others.

The genocide against the gentle is increasing at pace. Alongside, the number of ethical vegans and animal activists is rising globally as a reaction. We are witnessing peak consumption in animal products and peak consumption in fossil fuels and the concurrent warming of the planet. Out of this destruction of all life, is being born a global movement for a Green New Deal.

The rise of Authoritarians is to be expected, as the crisis for limited resources worsens. Authoritarians thrive when people feel helpless and despairing. They sell false optimism that only they have the solutions, which require blaming the most fragile victims. The camels “taking the water” in Australia, now being shot en mass, or the “threat” of human refugees on the border. All the lies that can be mustered to keep fear stoked, will be used to divert. Diversions and conspiracy algorithms abound. For those of us who love animals, we have seen something that is so precious, a gift, yet is a terrible burden that we cannot unknow. We cannot let the animals down. We will never give up. We saw what we were not supposed to see. The reality. That makes us formidable.

CRUEL: Bearing Witness to Animal Exploitation (2012)

Update: When this piece first ran, Ms. Coe mentioned that she was “working on artwork for the next election—against Trump,” and that she would hold an art show at the Gallerie St Etienne in September. The art show is still taking place. Below are two images that address a little bit of Year 2020.

Carnivorous = Coronavirus
USA 2020: We Live in an Asylum

If you liked this article Please share it!