Speciesist Imagery: The Silence of the Gators

Sunday, August 6th, 2006

Awhile back, I stumbled upon an AR blog called Vegan Activist. If you’ve never heard of it, go now. (Just make sure you come back here when you’re done browsing!) The blog is primarily visual, with a few different series of speciesist images (Speciesist Ads, Speciesist Children’s Books, Speciesist Product Packaging), as well as some anti-speciesist pictures. The speciesist series are really fascinating, and collectively they just go to show how pervasive speciesist images are in most (all?) cultures. Once you start looking…well, images that depict animals as objects to be used and comsumed are literally everywhere.

Since becoming an ARA more than ten years ago, I’ve become more and more cognizant of these types of visuals. In particular, I’ve noticed that greeting cards are littered with speciesist artwork.

Take, for example, the following card (which I bought for my sister’s upcoming birthday):

Happy Birthday from Uncle Joe

The average omni might scan the card quickly and chuckle at the absurdity of one alligator giving another alligator an alligator-skin handbag crafted from the carcass of old Uncle Joe.

In contrast, I look at the card and see The Silence of the Lambs. (Think: Buffalo Bill.)

As someone who views animals as sentient beings, deserving of basic (“human”) rights, an alligator-skin handbag is akin to a human-skin suit. Both are cruel, vain, and completely unnecessary. Yet, when we carve up animals in the name of fashion, it’s, well, fashionable. Not so much with humans.

This card, to me, is a jab at those who would shudder at cannibalism – right in their expensive leather shoes. In my reading, it uses irony to subtley reinforce an animal-friendly idea. To those who don’t think like me, it’s just a goof on anthropomorphism, maybe, or a cutesy portrayal of consumable animals.

So how do you read this card? Is it the kind of thing that respectable veg*ns can laugh at, even though the illustrator might not have intended it to have a pro-AR message? Speciesist or anti-speciesist (or both)?

Since there’s no shortage of speciesist images, whether on our TVs, in newspapers or magazines, on product packaging – or even displayed proudly over the entryways to many a storefront – this will most likely be a recurring series on easyVegan.info. If you’ve got an image you’d like me to include, send it in (contact info here).

In the meantime, do check out Vegan Activist. I also found one Flickr group devoted to such images, Speciesist Ads, that’s worth a look. If you want to see more, remember: tags are your friends!