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Emancipation For All, by Zoe H. Kolln, 2015  (Woodcut print, 28 x 20½”)

Because I am a civil-rights activist, I am also an animal-rights activist. Animals and humans suffer and die alike. Violence causes the same pain, the same spilling of blood, the same stench of death, the same arrogant, cruel, and vicious taking of life. We don’t have to be a part of it… When I look at animals held captive by circuses, I think of slavery. Animals in circuses represent the domination and oppression we have fought against for so long. They wear the same chains and shackles.  —Dick Gregory

All prejudice is connected through the same violence and hatred—the hatred and domination towards another group of sentient beings on the basis of illogical and unjustifiable arguments such as color, shape, size, gender, ability, and creed. The injustices experienced by any particular group are linked to larger systemic and institutionalized forces. The parallels between human and animal slavery can be seen by simply looking for them. From the separation of families to the mutilations and stripping of individuality in the form of brandings and taggings; to the commodification and auctioning of humans and animals as legal property; to the beatings employed by violent weapons like bull hooks and whips; to the cruel and crowded transportation; to the confinement and chaining; to the discrimination used to justify slavery – both humans and animals have been and are victims of these monstrosities. Many philosophers, authors, activists, and even people who have survived human atrocities have written about the comparisons between human and animal slavery and the similar ideologies implemented to justify the discrimination of those deemed as ‘others’. Author and activist Alice Walker writes of human and animal discrimination being connected in her preface to the book, The Dreaded Comparison: Human and Animal Slavery by Marjorie Spiegel.  Walker sums up the validity of the book when she writes: “The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for whites, or women for men.” In both halves of this image I see domination, humiliation, oppression, violence, and discrimination. The only difference is the species of the victims—both speciesism and racism have been and are to this day, continuously used as if they were perpetual weapons of mass destruction, leaving everything in their path broken and shackled.  The main figures on each side are forced to perform and work without so much as a thought to their interests.  They wear the same chains and shackles.  They are humiliated in the same ways, they are dominated under the same forms of hatred, and their livelihoods are stolen under the same violence and oppression. This is the essence of this piece. The borders are intended to be overwhelming; the amount of figures depicted are just a drop in the ocean of suffering that has occurred in the wake of slavery.

This work cannot be used without expressed consent from the artist and it cannot be used unless the artist is credited.


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