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Artwork Details
Published:  April 1, 2005

Author Details
Author:  Mirka Hokkanen
Mirka was born in Helsinki, Finland. In 2002, she graduated Magna Cum Laude with her B.A. in Fine Arts from Rockford College in Rockford, IL. Mirka recently received her Master of Arts from the University of Dallas. She currently attends the University of Dallas where she is working on her Master of Fine Arts.
Why Do We Treat Animals The Way We Do?
by Mirka Hokkanen
There is a loss of respect for or alienation from other-than-self beings. Why do we value ourselves so high above other living animals when there is no natural or innate order that lifts us? Animals are seen as food; resources and commodities, instead of living and breathing beings with a will to live just like you and me. Even relations with our fellow humans are more often devoid of meaning and guided by calculations of use and gain.

The ball is rolling. Can the commodification, the transformation of relationships with others to a status of amusement, resource, burden or possessions, be explained by pure momentum of convention? We repeat and accept what others have done before us. Why fix something if it’s not broken. Corporations and the government help keep a mass deception on a roll. Facts about factory farming, animal laboratory tests, cheap labor in the developing countries etc. are mostly unavailable to the public. In a sense we are free to make choices, but the choices are outlined by the commodity culture buffed by the government and large corporations. It is made effortless to conform to the commodity culture that is so readily provided for us.

Convention links with history to give a better understanding where things could have gotten off on the wrong foot. Starting with colonization followed by affairs like slavery, treatment of women, the World Wars - western history has a trend with aggression and forced superiority on others. After the Second World War and the depression that followed a new spirit of “competitive expansiveness” boomed in America. The economy flourished and collecting money, things and services slowly became and end in itself rather than serving as a way to satisfy needs.

From the new territory opened by the expanding economy, commodity culture lifts its head and cries out buy, buy, buy! It depreciates what we have and elevates what we don’t. Commodities are attached powers and values that normally should be present in relations with other people. As other living beings lose independent value they become more objectified and seem to exist to satisfy our tastes and preferences. For example factory farmed animals are seen as food and circus animals as entertainment. I doubt either would choose a life in the factory farm or circus if they were given a chance.

Human value has been elevated, by humans, above other life forms. All the previously mentioned reasons, habit, history and culture with self-centeredness are part of claiming superiority. We believe ourselves to be intelligent, autonomous and have a sense of the self beyond other creatures, but what do those properties have to do with a creatures wish to live and experience it’s unique life. What do the capacities that we value in humans have to do with inherent worth? How can we know how an animal feels satisfaction about living or how it feels terror or loss at a factory farm, laboratory or a cage? The artificial hierarchy we assume seems fake within this world- compared to evolutionary, ecological, ethical and spiritual ideas. We need to become conscious of the appropriate privileges and responsibilities of our kind among our fellow species.

The Artwork
All pieces 15 5/8" x 15 6/8", oil pastel and screen print on gessoed board.


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