Occasionally, my Facebook feed produces some massive ironies with its juxtapositioning of photos and stories. You may recall I wrote a blog last year about one such instance (https://www.pohpsanctuary.com/blog/a-bitter-irony). This morning, it laid another in my lap.
The first story concerned a group of animal activists (for this, read Compassion Warriors or Heroes) in California. They had lain in wait outside a slaughter house for a murder wagon carrying a doomed cargo of pigs, on the last stage of a miserable and utterly unnecessary journey into hell. There, in an emotional vigil, they stopped the truck and gave the terrified creatures water. As an act of ‘witness’, a group of 60 people shed tears and tried to let the inconsolable victims know that they were loved. Was it a futile act? Well, they’ve been doing it twice a week for two years and finally, the mighty LA Times has taken notice. It resulted in a very fair, if not quite favourable report of their attempts to make a difference and bring a halt to theriocide. Maybe the notion that the vigil actually offered some comfort to the poor pigs, who are all now dead is flawed, but at least Los Angeles now has the hideous truth laid before it, perhaps alongside the eggs and bacon, on its collective breakfast table. And truth eventually spreads.
If you’re not aware, this type of vigil activity goes on all over Canada too. Surely you saw that one kind individual was even (farcically) prosecuted for giving helplessly dehydrated pigs water? (Fortunately, justice and common sense ultimately prevailed, and she was found not guilty.) I am proud to say I have friends who have braved the emotional minefield of participating in such events and attended vigils themselves. Personally, I know that I would be destroyed by seeing and experiencing the horrors of even the pig’s confinement. So when I saw, directly beneath the harrowing photo of the slaughter bound pigs, in almost shockingly stark contrast, the picture below, it was almost a form of relief.
It’s by a lady called Sarah Parsons, an artist from Kelowna. Singlehandedly, Sarah has set out to raise funds for sanctuaries, particularly those that offer care for pigs. In her own words:
It’s estimated that One Billion Pigs are slaughtered for food every year. Overwhelmed by this staggering figure Sarah decided to create a new art project to raise awareness of the plight of our Pig Friends through Art Activism and future community outreach.
Over the course of a year - Sarah Parsons will be sketching a minimum of eight ‘Pig Themed’ drawings each month to raise money for Animal Sanctuaries. The Drawings will be $25 each. Every month the Sanctuary will change. If the original sells - prints may be available.
All of her art work has the same fairy tale quality about it. It presents fantastical representations of pigs, often depicting what is, on face value, an Elysian ideal of their personal relationships. Each delightful picture she draws exudes love, positivity, gentleness and an obvious caring about the subject matter. She has begun this project of her own volition and has already been successful in raising a substantial amount of money for the sanctuaries she supports. You may find her project at https://www.facebook.com/OneBillionPigs/ . I would encourage everyone to like and share it.
So does Sarah Parsons also attend slaughter house vigils? Or is depicting animals in this way being 'head-in-the-sand' about the reality of human cruelty?
Well to me, Sarah is also a Compassion Warrior, and also a hero. Whilst the people of LA, featured in the article, and the kudos worthy people who do the same all over the world are tackling the grim truths of theriocide in their way, Sarah Parsons, in her departure from harsh realities, is presenting an inkling of possibility. She depicts, in a touching way, what could be, if we could but dispossess ourselves of our limited, speciesist perspective and properly interpret the way animals really are.
If you look at the picture and merely see two pigs unrealistically dressed in cutesy clothes, you’re missing the point entirely. What I believe Sarah is trying to reveal is that animals have emotions. They are sensitive. They care deeply for one another. They experience love. They value their lives. They are joyous, harmless, vulnerable creatures that experience themselves every bit as richly as we may. There is an allegorical quality to the drawings, whose simplicity belies the complexity of revelations that the artist seeks to share, if we can but allow ourselves to see beyond our deeply embedded prejudices.
So what then, if we were to look at the experience of the pigs in the murder wagon in the way Sarah Parsons is able to perceive them, rightfully identifying with them as, thinking, important, sentient beings, wholly at our mercy?
Surely we would dissolve in grief over the hideousness we bestow upon them. Our self-recrimination would be boundless. Our internal torture about what we allow to pass would consume our souls. How can we possibly allow such things to occur and still believe that there is an iota of decency in our race?
In seeing the two pictures, side-by-side, another thought struck me.
What if Sarah Parsons, through her eyes and her innocent, beautiful, idealised perspective, were to draw the truth of what is happening to those tragic beings in the murder wagon? It’s a picture that I, for one, would never want to see. Not only would it be a vile corruption of a lovely and enchanting possibility, it might show us an aspect of human created reality simply too dreadful to bear.
More of Sarah Parson's art may be explored at her website http://www.sarahparsons.ca/