Whatever you may think of PETA, this is a genius move IMHO. By honoring Naruto, the crested black macaque with a famously goofy grin, as “Person of the Year” the organisation is emphasising that “he is someone, not something”. And what a person he is! I only wish he were able to revel in this accolade – though as long as he is safe and happy…. Go Naruto!
“In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods. They have not forgotten this”
Calling all cat-worshippers! I have to ask: are you 100% satisfied in your own mind that the Pets-At-Home igloo bed you selected for your feline is up to scratch? Or did you go straight for the cat’s whiskers and lavish £50 on the deluxe Mr Snugs KatDen, only to find kitty curled up in the closet on your sweaters?
For a crashpad truly befitting your furry god or goddess, maybe, just maybe, you should have called upon the services of an ar-cat-ect. Yes, really. I’m serious. There is a wonderful organisation called Architects for Animals
which every October invites architects and designers to make, submit for display, and donate their creative catnap-eries at their annual “Giving Shelter” exhibition and auction. All proceeds go to animals in need. This year, Architects for Animals’ 10th, the recipient is FixNation, an L.A. charity that spays/neuters stray, abandoned, and feral cats. Isn’t that purrfect?
Take your pick from these fabulous puss palaces.
There’s no doubting who’s the star of that show!
Now, a quick flip of the coin, from the money-givers to the money-makers – from the compassionate donors to the fat cats of re-tail.
(Apologies for all the corny cat puns. But you’d better brace yourself for more to come – I can’t resist😄)
A certain business better known for its vegan meatballs and Scandi style has also been getting creative for cats. Available for purr-chase is the ‘Lurvig cat cube’, designed to mix and match with the human furnishings. Infinitely adaptable to cat-er for every possible puss preference.
Even so, I can imagine Felis Catus looking on with cool disdain as we wrestle with the flatpack – a disdain that despite our best efforts, may well extend to the finally completed cat-ready creation.
Oh well, it can always double up as a bedside cabinet.
So that takes care of the cat crashpads. Now how about the fur-niture?
“Cats are connoisseurs of comfort”
Recent pet industry consumer research shows –
80% of millennial companion-animal ‘parents’ regard their pets as family members. (What is wrong with the other 20%, one has to ask)
Americans spend more on cat food in a year than on baby food
And, music to the industry’s ears, 76% of millennial pet parents are willing to splurge on cool stuff for their pet before buying something for themselves.
Discovering just how much millennials are in thrall to their felines, the pet industry is naturally keen to create new product opportunities for the splurging. Would you splash out on these miniature marvels from Japan for your fur baby?
This is fur-niture for felines of the highest craftsmanship. Nothing but the best.
So, now that’s all the kitty comforts sewn up, what does Santa Claws plan on bringing this Christmas?
“Cats seem to go on the principle that it never does any harm to ask for what you want”
I’m sorry, but I have it on the best authority, the standard supermarket pet stocking is not going to cut it this year. Don’t you know, a cat needs some a-mews-ment? A chance to show off her cat-leticism? So how about one of these?
Catastrophic Creations make these ‘Indiana Jones Bridges’ to order. If you are cat-crazy enough to measure up your home for one, expect to get ambushed from on high, that’s all I can say.
From the pampered puss who has everything, back where we started – to the cat who has nothing. We too can help give a cat a home.
If you’d like to help feral cats near you, click here for simple instructions, using materials that would probably otherwise be thrown away, to make a cosy shelter. It may not be as zany or stylish as the ones above, but it will keep them snug from the winter cold and wet.
And/or sponsor a cat pod with the RSPCA. The charity took in 6,390 cats to its shelters last year. “With the current cat overpopulation crisis facing the UK and our centres housing hundreds of cats – more than the number of dogs and rabbits combined – [the cats] need our support more than ever.”
And if you are considering bringing a new companion animal into the family, don’t forget #AdoptDontShop!
For more stylish designs from Architects for Animals, take a look here
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has a brand new emoji app for animal champions everywhere. Senior Advocacy Strategist Michelle Feinberg invites us to download the peta2 sticker app available now from both the App Store and the iMessage-specific App Store. All the stickers are 100% vegan and cruelty-free!
To give you a flavour –
Let’s get downloading. This app is going to clock up some serious mileage! Fun with an important – themost important – message…
ANIMALS ARE NOT OURS
TO EAT, WEAR, EXPERIMENT ON, USE FOR ENTERTAINMENT, OR ABUSE IN ANY OTHER WAY
Brian Valente’s photo of a laughing seal is a finalist for the 2017 Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards. (Photo: Brian Valente/Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards 2017)
The 2017 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards finalists have been announced, and this year’s crop doesn’t disappoint in the humor department with hilarious expressions, amusing antics and even a little fun with perspective.
While you may laugh out loud (or at least crack a grin), keep in mind the contest has a serious goal: highlighting wildlife conservation efforts.
‘Let Me Clear My Vision’ is one of 40 finalists in this year’s contest. (Photo: Arkaprava Ghosh /Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards 2017)
This year, more than 3,500 entries from 86 countries were submitted to the contest, which was started by photographers Paul Joynson-Hicks and Tom Sullam.
From 40 finalists, the category and overall winners will be announced Dec. 14. The overall winner gets a week-long, all-expense-paid, photographer-led safari in Kenya.
‘Hitching a ride’ is a 2017 finalist. (Photo: Daisy Gilardini/Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards 2017)
“Conservation was always at the heart of the competition, along with the fact that people seemed to enjoy images of animals doing entertaining things,” said Sullam in a statement. “But essentially living in a country that has some of the best wildlife in the world — Tanzania — and seeing how destructive human actions can be to this wildlife, made us want to do our little bit to help.”
A terrifyingly big grin in ‘Smile.’ (Photo: Eugene Kitsios/Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards 2017)
Joynson-Hicks and Sullam recently released a new book of some of the funniest photos (the “best of the best,” they say) to come through the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards. Some of the proceeds go to the Born Free Foundation, a wildlife conservation charity.
Any mom will immediately understand why this photo is called ‘MOM MOM MOM MOM.’ (Photo: Barb D’Arpino/Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards 2017)
Take a look at more of our favorite finalists, including the fed-up mother owl above who has had it with her little ones.
‘Animal encounters’ is a 2017 finalist. (Photo: jean-Jacques Alcalay /Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards 2017)
He needed to get a better view — or maybe he really likes crowd-surfing.
‘WTF’ is a thing even in the animal kingdom. (Photo: George Cathcart/Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards 2017)
Redditors would have a field day with this elephant seal photo as a meme.
Fun with perspective in ‘Outsourcing seatbelt checks.’ (Photo: Graeme Guy/Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards 2017)
It looks like this giraffe is peering into the plane as it comes in for a landing. Maybe this airport employs wildlife as part of the security team.
All aboard the ‘Foster Monkey Escape’! (Photo: Katy Leveck/Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards 2017)
These two monkeys in Indonesia are making a getaway on a borrowed motorcycle.
What a cutie in ‘Cheering sea otter.’ (Photo: Penny Palmer/Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards 2017)
This sea otter is living his best life and loving it. We should all be so lucky.
How in heaven’s name did that wildebeest get up there – insane!
Animal rights and art have not always been easy bedfellows. Belgian artist Jan Fabre got into hot water for a performance in which he threw several cats up a flight of stairs, who let out pained meows in response. Damien Hirst, meanwhile, is famed for works featuring a formaldehyde-soaked shark, a pig’s head, and even a piece that required the killing of 9000 butterflies. The most recent example, however, was at Colorado’s Aspen Art Museum, where – as part of the show – turtles were made to amble around an art exhibit with iPads attached to their shells.
But there are also plenty of examples of animal rights being championed by the arts. Vivienne Westwood and Stella McCartney are well-known for their anti-fur and anti-leather stances, whereas Morrissey is outspokenly meat-free, once writing the memorable lyrics: “It’s not “natural”, “normal” or kind/ the flesh you so fancifully fry/ the meat in your mouth/ as you savour the flavour, of murder”. Then, of course, Rembrandt, one of the greatest painters of all time, was a pioneering vegetarian. Here, we look at some of the most compelling animal rights artivists.
Performance artist Jacqueline Traide, sickened by cosmetics testing on animals, wanted to convey the cruelty of it to the public by having the procedure done to herself. She was tortured for 10 hours in the performance, which was done in a vitrine in the Oxford Circus branch of Lush, as shocked pedestrians looked on. Amongst a number of activities, Traide had her mouth held open with a vice, was force-fed, had a strip of her hair shaved off, and was given two injections.
(Further info about the EU ban on animal testing for cosmetics here
Email your MP to support global fight against cruel cosmetics here)
Portuguese artist Zoe Birrell once made an art installation consisting of 420 dairy cows, each made from vegan fair-trade chocolate, and each equalling her body weight of 53kg. The life of a modern dairy cow is marked by the emotional stress of the loss of her baby calf, combined with the hormonal effect of being kept perpetually pregnant. It inspired Birrell to respond to these psychological and physiological issues, considering the ethical alternatives, as well as, how it related to her own femininity.
Jonathan Horowitz stopped eating meat at the age of 12, after his parents took him to a bullfight when on holiday in Mexico. The artist’s heavyweight Go Vegan! exhibition at a former New York meat-packing plant, LaFrieda Meats, aimed to normalise the idea of meat-free living. Horowitz compiled a portrait gallery of more than 200 celebrity vegetarians, as well as a video installation featuring Paul and Linda McCartney, arguing for veganism through the medium of modern living: commodity culture.
Banksy, the king of street art, made a return to the road with his puntastic project Sirens of the Lambs. Making appearances around the world, such as New York City and Glastonbury, the piece was a “moving sculpture”, in which a truck full of shrieking cuddly animals being taken to slaughter, drove around. The work is designed to highlight the issue of animals being farmed for their meat, but without the usual, depressing consequences.
Sue Coe grew up hearing the rattling of chains and screaming from the local abattoir at her home in Hersham, England. The normalisation of mass slaughter, which she also saw at abattoirs from Liverpool to Los Angeles, became the inspiration for her graphic paintings and drawings. These works are imbued with a mind-warping darkness and death, that the viewer can hardly ignore.
Artist and animal rights activists Alice Newstead once painted herself silver and suspended herself from hooks to protest the fishing of sharks, who are threatened with extinction (around 100 million sharks are caught in commercial and sports fishing every year. Piercing the skin of her shoulder blades, she was hung for 15 minutes, as blood streamed down her back.
Asher Jay uses her digital graphic skills innovatively to inform the world about animal abuse. In Africa, Jay made screensavers of a poached rhino horn dripping with blood. In China, she integrated elephant tusks into Chinese language characters to encourage a halt in ivory buying while her enormous images of elephants killed for their tusks were projected in New York’s Times Square. “I wanted to visualize the scale and brutality of the crisis and use art to tell the blood ivory story,” she says. “Each year, 35,000 elephants are slaughtered; that’s one every 15 minutes.”
Rocky Lewycky’s project Is It Necessary? addressed the problem of factory farming in a violent new way. The work was comprised of hundreds of ceramic animals – pigs, cows, turkeys, fish – neatly positioned together. Each day Lewycky would enter the gallery space, elect an animal, and brutally smash it to pieces, leaving the white sculptures to reveal their blood-red interiors.
New York artist Dan Witz came over to east London to create his project Empty The Cages. For it, he placed chicken claws and pigs heads in 30 different locations around the streets of Shoreditch, in order to subtly raise the issue of animal consumption, and its dire consequences. Witz explained: “Climate change, deforestation, wildlife extinction, water waste, air pollution and ocean dead zones (among other things) are all directly attributable to meat, dairy and egg production.”
(I urge you to check out what Dan has to say about some other work he did with PETA, and how it made him feel)
Different societies and cultures always tend to draw the line of what sort of animal is okay to eat differently. Elephants, dogs, and silk worms are all consumed in places around the globe. Sacramento-based multimedia artist Gale Hart tackled this issue with her project Why Not Eat Your Pet? It juxtaposed images of devastating animal cruelty with pets that have sinister, child-like innocence.
‘Cutting Sword’ – that’s what ‘Kiri Ken’ means in Japanese. And these exquisite masterpieces cut from paper are the work of artist Kiri Ken.
That may not sound like the best name for someone making artwork of this fineness and delicacy. But Japanese swords are revered as works of art themselves, each one individual, and of consummate precision, balance and beauty.
Kiri’s ‘sword’ though is miniature. She makes her matchless marvels with a scalpel.
Kiri Ken is keeping alive a long tradition of Japanese paper cut art (Kirie) dating right back to 610 AD when Buddhist monk Doncho brought Chinese ‘Tesuki Washi’ paper into the country for the first time.¹
“The method she uses includes drawing the image out by hand on the reverse side of the paper, before cutting it out. This intricate technique, which takes hours to complete, represents the artist’s fascination with wildlife.”
And that is the sum total of what I can find out about Kiri Ken. Maybe she wants to let her incomparable art speak for itself. Speak of “harmony, asymmetrical balance… impermanence and unity with the universe” – the fundaments of so much Japanese culture and art.²
Is it the level of artistry, technical ability and superhuman patience of the image makers, or the wonders of nature, perfection in feathers they’ve caught on camera – which is the more awe-inspiring? I can’t decide. Either way, these pics are stunners.
Are you up with the lark, bright and shining early in the morning? No? Well, not to worry. Even night owls who prefer rising at a more civilised hour can now be eased gently from slumber into the new day by the sweet music of birdsong. All courtesy of – believe it or not – a museum.
If you’re anything like me the very word ‘museum’ may make you want to yawn tiredly and walk off in search of a place to sit down and a strong coffee. But Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Natural History and its design lab The Studio have found a fun up-to-the-minute way to share its treasures with us that is anything but old and dull, dusty and fusty.
Ok, “a natural history museum-based alarm clock” app doesn’t sound that appealing, I’ll admit. But don’t let that description put you off. The ‘Dawn Chorus’ app (Apple & Google) is sheer delight, with 20 melodious bird songs to choose from, in any combination you like.
Move over shrill jarring of the bedside alarm. Make way for the music of nature itself.
“Like nature’s dawn chorus, this app grows louder as different birds join together in song. But unlike those birds that sing outside your window, these ones can be snoozed. Give your phone a shake to rattle the birds on their branches and hush them up.”
But what makes Dawn Chorus different from other museum apps? After all, museum apps are nothing new. Many provide virtual guided tours of their collections.
The thing is, do you actually keep one of those on your phone? Fascinating as they are (and I have used them) I have to admit that I don’t.
So the Studio designed Dawn Chorus to make it a more permanent member of our phone app family, to embed itself in our daily life. One that would open up to us – most of whom are never likely to darken the august doors of the Pittsburgh Carnegie! – the museum’s fabulous natural history resources. And in a way we can interact with, customise to suit ourselves, and ring the changes whenever we wish.
If we’re keen to know more about the little songsters, there’s info on each of the 20 at our fingertips. And all accompanied by the enchanting paintings of Sam Ticknor, an artist with The Studio.
Oh, and did I say? The app is free.
Just one little glitch for those of us who don’t live in the northeast USA – all 20 birds are local to that area. Not that the choristers sound any the less sweet for that.
But, if you are a dab hand at programming, or just like tinkering around, the app is open-source, and you can customise with bird calls from your own neck of the woods too. Just go to Github to download the source code.
It’s The Studio technician Jeffrey Inscho’s hope that the app will raise awareness of the museum’s important conservation work. And that “museums [in general] will play more central roles in our modern society, and apps like this can pave the way.”
The rest of us might just welcome a sweeter way to ease us into the new day
“How we treat animals is often dependent on how they display characteristics we think are human.”
That is why London-based animal photographer Tim Flach focuses his lens on the close-up detail that “beautifully highlights the similarities between animals and humans. Flach told the New York Times that he wants his photos to engage people in debates about our relationship with animals.”
“If you go to the supermarket today, we’re more used to seeing packaged animals with no feathers and no head,” he says. He aims to show us how they should be seen. More and more we are learning about nonhumans’ personality,intelligence, and emotions, that are just like ours.
Animals display loving tendencies towards their young, their family, and their friends
They have proven to be much more intelligent than we ever thought possible
Though we feel like we are above or “better than” animals …
… they are incredibly similar to us in many ways
Their emotional capacity is astounding
Even the animals we consider completely different from us have human-like qualities
If you truly look at the animals around you …
… you will find how much you have in common with them …
… and how amazing they truly all are
Please, please, please check out Tim’s website. I have rarely, if ever, seen such stunning photos of animals. The man is a genius!
“In addition to our household cat, I had numerous pets – frogs, lizards, rats, turtles, fish, a rabbit and a family of adorable ducks. My childhood was replete with books about animals, animal toys and images of cute and cuddly animals… There I was, like most children, growing up believing I loved animals yet I was consuming animals daily. Whilst my love of animals was fostered, my taste for animal products was simultaneously cultivated.”
New Zealand-born prizewinning vegan artist Claude Jones describes her childhood – conditioned like every typical child into sustaining two completely contradictory ideas about animals at the same time in one brain. What we now, of course, call cognitive dissonance.
“My work seeks to expose such obvious contradictions in the face of widespread, culturally ingrained acceptance of this schism.”
Her work which appears quite simple, has a lot going on under the surface. She employs a deceptively innocent fairytale style, delicately drawn and in soft colours, as if for kids’ storybooks. The animals she depicts are anthropomorphised just as they so often are in children’s books. But our minds struggle to make sense of what our eyes are telling us – the shocking incongruity of the actions they are engaged in. Rabbits, universally viewed as timid and gentle, are seen wielding knives against other animals. A dog is bullfighting, or acting as circus ringmaster to a performing elephant, or experimenting on a hapless rabbit. Any given animal can appear as either perpetrator or victim. And yet all of them portraying ‘normal’ human activities that are not only legal but culturally acceptable, and accepted.
But let Claude continue her story: “For some time [as a child] I could only assume that we ate animals when they had died of old age. … we attempt to compensate for the murder of our fellow sentient beings in bucolic images in stories and animated films of happy, healthy farm animals grazing and sunbathing in lush fields, joyously bounding about, scratching, sniffing the earth, cuddling their human companions, and so on. I soon came to understand the brutal truth and simply could not reconcile my love of animals with harming them, let alone killing them. With plenty of other food options to choose from, at age 16, I decided to become a vegetarian.”
“Much later, in 2010, I finally made the connection between all animal products and animal suffering and decided it was time to shift from vegetarianism to veganism.”
“I find myself simultaneously fascinated and frustrated by our contradictory treatment of animals. Our human-centric perspective of the animal world positions rabbits, for example, as both cuddly companion animals but also as, laboratory specimens, meat and fur “products”. We support an industry that raises millions of pets that are accepted members of families yet trap, cage, torture and kill billions of animals annually for food, fur, leather. My work seeks to expose such obvious contradictions in the face of widespread, culturally ingrained acceptance of this schism.”
Much of Claude’s work reveals her concern about modern science’s meddling with nonhumans. In an earlier post I wrote about the science of gene-editing, CRISPR. Using CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) humans can now edit the genes of both animals and plants to ‘custom-build’ them in any way considered desirable and/or profitable. So already you can for example, if you have the money, order yourself a designer dog with black and yellow stripes – or brown with red spots – yes really. Maybe the creature Claude depicts here isn’t so very fanciful.
Take a look at some of the other bizarre creatures of Claude’s imagination in her Gallery collection, ‘Hybrid”. At one and the same time amusing and nightmarish, I think you’ll agree. But too close to present day scientific reality for comfort.
Fantastical hybrids appear in many world mythologies. The ancient Greeks, for instance, told of the dread Chimaera, a flame-belching monster made of body parts from three different animals. Nowadays the all-too-real ‘chimaeras’ don’t breath fire, but are every bit as monstrous – gene-edited pigs made to grow up with human hearts, ‘harvested’ at the right time to remedy the shortage of human-donated organs for human transplants.
“Jones questions the domination of humankind over all animal life, and our assumed right to meddle with the natural order of other species.”
– Simon Gregg, Art Curator
For me Claude’s powerful art epitomises the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. It speaks volumes about Man’s rationally untenable, schizoid relationship with his fellow creatures.
Visit Claude’s website to learn more, and browse through her gallery of disturbing and thought-provoking pictures. There’s a good chance you will feel the need to fix a conflicted mind (and soul, and life), the inevitable result of attempting the impossible: making sense of schizoid presumptions about our fellow animals that are, unhappily, conventional wisdom today.
If that resonates with you, you could do much worse than trying vegan. It’s not hard and the rewards are great. As great as bringing your life into sweeter harmony with Life. I guarantee it.