“Just remember that the things you put into your head are there forever, he said. You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget.” Cormac McCarthy, The Road
Last night I received an email from a friend asking me to share some very disturbing, heart wrenching, graphic images of animal abuse. I didn’t know how to reply. I still haven’t….
I couldn’t sleep after seeing the attachments they’d sent to me, and I’ll never be able to forget what I saw.
This happens every day to me on Facebook and Instagram, having a quick five minute scroll to pass the time, and *BAM* you’re hit with a set of very graphic images of animal torture and abuse that will lodge itself inside your brain, and makes you hate the world a little bit more than you already do.
Not that these images don’t have a place in animal activism; they absolutely 100% certainly do!
Vivid pictures from factory farms, abattoirs, hunts, labs, fur farms, puppy farms, dolphin slaughters, and the rest reflect society’s mistreatment of animals. They are important markers in our shameful history. The people and pages that post these photos online are just as offended by the images as you, and I believe sharing them on social media certainly raises awareness and inspires others to stand up and do something! You’ll agree that graphic images (no matter how quickly you try to scroll past them) are very hard to ignore, and impossible to forget. They create an emotional connection to the issue and raise discussion -hopefully having an impact on consumer behavior at the checkout and beyond.
Before I went vegan, graphic posts on social media had a huge impact on me, and without them perhaps I would never have made the connection. I believe they are very powerful and definitely have their place, but is it the right way to spread awareness to the average meat eating Joe? JoAnne McArthur, author of We Animals says that the impact of sharing these images “depends on the viewer. Just as one person will see a graphic image and make a positive change based on the experience of seeing it, another person will turn their eyes from it. We are all affected by different images and therefore different tactics, which is why a variety of tactics is crucial to creating change, as history has shown in all movements.”
However, as Lauren Ornelas from the Food Empowerment Project points out “If we only show them suffering, we’re not showing them enjoying some semblance of a normal life”. By sharing images of beautiful animals without the violence and abuse – as the individuals they are, with personality, feelings and traits no different to ours – we stop promoting the concept of them as commodities. “Right now, there are many images of human-caused animal suffering on the Internet, but if they are not matched by a passionate verbal message—not necessarily or always exactly where the images are being shown, but as the overall ethical language and context—it seems likely that most people seeing them will say, ‘Oh, that’s terrible,’ but will not connect what they are looking at with personal responsibility or action. I also think that images of animals suffering and abject need to be in contrast to images of these same animals living in happiness—images that are not just ‘postcard’ pretty, but expressive, evocative, and moving.” says Karen Davis, founder of United Poultry Concerns
If you follow The Vegan Box on social media, you’ll find that at least once a day we post an image of a beautiful, happy animal. We are not trying to sugar coat ‘veganism’ (as I’ve been accused of before) rather I am attempting to create awareness that the animals used for food and fashion are not so different to their beloved dog or cat – full of life and joy. I also want our social media pages to be a ‘safe space’ for our followers, who likely already follow many vegan pages and are exposed to a heap of graphic content every day. I wont shy from drawing the connections, and saying what needs to be said, but I want them to know that if they need a little cheering up they can pop on past and read a uplifting rescue story, or look at a beautiful lambs or pig enjoying their life.
“Sometimes, it’s the happy stuff that packs more of a punch, because—as in my case—the viewer says, ‘LOOK WHAT WE ARE TAKING AWAY FROM THEM!’ JoAnne McArthur, We Animals
So, what do you think? Do you share graphic images, and does it work for you on social media? I’d love to hear….. Please comment below 🙂