Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Slavery Sarcasm

Today's Bizarro is brought to you by Controversy Industries, Inc.
"Looking for trouble? We've got it in over 250 different styles and colors!"

I normally post cartoons a week after they run in papers, but this one has attracted a lot of negative mail so I wanted to address it sooner.

Contrary to what many people assumed, this cartoon is not intended to make light of slavery or racism. My intention was to point out that modern "feel good" marketing techniques are no more honest than this kind of technique would have been during legal slavery in America. My earnest apology goes to anyone who misinterpreted it. I'm not into pushing those kinds of buttons.

Words like "free-range," "organic," and "humane," make consumers believe that animals are being well treated and that the environment is not being damaged. This is a patent lie in virtually all cases. Animal agriculture at current rates is always cruel to animals and damaging to the environment. Any animal that goes to a slaughterhouse has experienced the ultimate cruelty. It's a no-brainer, there is no such thing as "humane meat".

I don't personally believe that cruelty to any species of animal is less immoral than cruelty to our fellow humans. To me, we are all the same in our desire to be pain free, happy, and alive. I don't believe this because I am vegan, I am vegan because I believe this.

For the record, I also refrain from buying products from countries with serious human rights issues. (Although everything under the sun is made in China so to be ardent about this I'd have to live naked in the woods.)

I hope this alleviates some angry readers. If not, send me an email and I'll respond personally.
If you're interested, here is a website about what your animal-based food goes through.


melissa said...

It never really occurred to me that you were making light of the plight of slaves. Rather, it seemed to me that you were equating the suffering of animals to the suffering of human slaves during the Civil War era.

Of course, I'm coming at it from the point of view that animals deserve the same consideration and respect that people do, but I'm probably in the teensy minority there.

A person who believes in animals' inherent inferiority to humans might think that you were "lowering" slaves to the level of animals. I urge you not to worry about offending those people.

Alice (as in Wonderland) said...

It's sad, because only somebody who doesn't know what happens to "free range" chickens (or the cows who provide "humane meat") would think you were making fun of slavery.

I wish all slaughterhouses had glass walls. Everybody would be vegan.

xen said...

I can't help but laugh when people talk about that animals were killed humanely. To me that is one of the biggest contradictions I can think of. Being humane and killing has nothing to do with each other.

Glad to see I'm not alone when it comes to this contradiction.

Great cartoon and great post.

Keep them coming.

Craig Zablo said...

Whoa! I knew from reading the cartoon [and not your commentary] that THIS one would be controversial... but isn't that what a great artist is supposed to be?

John Platt said...

I think some companies would have engaged in "greenwashing" no matter what the era.

Escapist said...

Instead of a "humane killing", I think of it as a humane death. In the wild, how many animals eaten by other animals get a humane death? Compare a quick, relatively painless death in a slaughterhouse to being ripped apart by a predator, still alive. Or maybe a painful, drawn-out disease?

Of course, this reasoning requires that animals are treated well during their lives, which they most certainly aren't in many cases.

Penny said...

Escapist, please...spend a day following any animal from any factory farm to the slaughterhouse. The journey *alone* is an absolute nightmare and nothing that any thinking being would willing foist upon another. Terrified, denied food and water, crammed into trucks, jostled around until bones are broken, forced to continue moving even after being injured...and that's just the journey there.

That "humane" death often doesn't result in death at all. Animals are skinned while still alive.

I once dated a guy who grew up on a ranch and had worked around livestock all his life. He took a job at a slaughterhouse, thinking he could easily handle it.

He made it two hours.

He's been a vegetarian ever since.

Seriously, with all due respect, educate yourself.

Tanja said...

I got it straight away and I think it's a great cartoon, but maybe that's because I'm a vegan, too. However, it's the "dreaded comparison", as Marjorie Spiegel calls it. There are still many people who think that comparing the suffering of animals to the suffering of people is somehow demeaning to human beings, when in actual fact the two are very closely intertwined. Check it out on, search term "The Dreaded Comparison", or get the book from your local library.

Shortcake said...

yea i got it right away. but apologies are always warranted when mentioning touchy territory.

@alice- yea, and weren't located in remote areas where nobody goes in the first place...

doug nicodemus said...

oh my god you are being controversial again! hold out your hand and i shall wack it 10 times. i think you should tell them to go____ themselves. keep up the good work.

Sara said...

Dude, I thought this one is brilliant. The tag line under the picture explains it perfectly, and I love the contradictions inherent in it. I think there will always be people who go off the deep end about things before they think, or understand what they are talking about.

Your cartoons usually force me to *think* about something, rather than just give me a quick laugh. Thanks. I *like* things that allow me to look at my own assumptions about the world. That is one of the reasons I came to your blog. That and I don't read the local dishrag that passes for a newspaper, so this is the best way to see your cartoons. I've also discovered it is more fun/interesting/thought provoking to read them with commentary!

"3 Thighs" Piraro said...

Great comments from everyone. Really cheered me up after a day of reading angry emails. You guys are the best.

Dann said...

I got the point the first time. I have no problem with your choice in eating habits.

I do have a problem with equating a chicken with a human. It is more of that "a rat is a dog is a boy" nonsense.

Humans are light years ahead of every other species when it comes to reason, thought, perception, etc. To suggest otherwise is to denigrate humanity.

xen said...

@dann: If we humans are so much more superior. Why do we need laws in our society and why do we have so many wars around the world?

Sure, we have a more advanced way of communicating and so on, but still we are more or less still in the stone age when it comes to a peaceful society.

So a cat have never solved a mathematical problem, tried to use diplomacy to get peace or created some kind of advanced technology; but the cat is far more able to get along with other animals and cats than we are able to get along with each other.

Craig Zablo said...

xen, I understand where you are coming from about the superiority of animals and how cats get along with all other animals... I just have one question then:

How did the term "cat fight" come into play? ; )

B.A.D. said...

Great Panel, I didn't really get how it could be taken as making light of slavery. But as numerous other comments have pointed out, most people who have no idea how the meat/dairy/egg industry operate wouldn't get the joke and could be led to misinterpretations.

Escapist: First and foremost it is a killing as the animals are being striped of their lives well before their time (after living in confined and brutal conditions), and as you are well aware the idea of a humane killing is well absurd.

I would like to recommend you look into slaughter processes and you will quickly realize there is nothing humane about the way in which animals are killed in our societe.

Dann said...


We have laws as a result of our superior development not in spite of it. Laws are our collective expression of concern for people that we don't know and will never meet. They are the result of our ability to see beyond our clan/tribe.

If you live somewhere safe and/or can protect yourself, laws against murder are superfluous. Supporting such laws serves to protect others in instances that you will never hear about.

Animals on the other hand, are at best conscious of their pack/pride and care about little beyond it.

Wars currently exist because there is tension between the common human desire for freedom [or to be left alone] and the desire of a few to impose their narrow vision on the rest of humanity. The price to maintain freedom must continually be paid.

This should be recognized as progress since we used to have wars to figure out which narrow vision was to be imposed and "none of the above" was not an acceptable answer. That significant change being the direct result of the development of western civilization.

As for the sociability of cats....well I'll point out that they have those traits because they were domesticated by humans to have those traits....and that I doubt that mice and birds think of cats as being peaceful creatures.


Rebecca C. Brown said...

I love any cartoon that simultaneously advocates for non-human animals and illustrates the hypocrisy of being a yuppie.

I don't think Dann is ever going to be convinced that non-human animal abuse is wrong until he lets go of the notion that being less intelligent (as we define intelligence) means that you *deserve* to be abused. It's a cliche to draw this analogy, but it still stands: Is it okay to physically abuse a mentally retarded human because they are unintelligent? Believing that lack of conventional intelligence justified abuse is how we ended up with slavery in this country to begin with.

Laws and wars and cars and culture are indicative of humans' superior ability to invent laws and wars and cars and culture, not of a greater right to be free of pain and abuse. Believing that it's appropriate to abuse other animals is usually rooted in some spiritual understanding of a "soul," or a basic ignorance of how pain is processed neurologically. The more you understand about animal brains and behavior, the more you appreciate that intelligence and emotional capacity varies among species by degree, not by kind.

Rebecca C. Brown said...

Believing that lack of conventional intelligence justified abuse is how we ended up with slavery in this country to begin with.

Gasp! Let me clarify this sentence. Slavery was justified by white Americans due to a completely PERCEIVED lack of intelligence among African slaves. In in absolutely no way believe that intelligence is distributed disproportionately in some races/ethnicities/genders over others.

Dann said...


Nothing in my comments suggested that abusing animals was acceptable behavior. My complaint is with respect to equating animals...presumably chickens....with humans on a moral scale.

A cockroach isn't a whale...and neither is a human. Whatever animals may be capable of thinking and emoting, it surely isn't on the same level as that of humans. Having a sense of scale/perspective doesn't automatically mean that one is legitimizing animal abuse.


Rebecca C. Brown said...


But if your point isn't that non-human animals deserve to be abused because humans are superior, then what is your point? Dan didn't say with his cartoon that humans and non-human animals are the same in every way. I can't speak for Dan, but I also don't see any evidence in the cartoon that he thinks enslaving humans is the same as enslaving animals. He was noting that both have been historically abused, and that masking abuse with self-gratifying language is dishonest. Dan's not saying that cows should fly airplanes or that chickens should teach statistics.

Jezzka said...

seriously, this one is brilliant.

Jezzka said...

i never heard of chickens teaching statistics, but what if i taught statistics to a chicken? would that be animal cruelty? but maybe not...chickens are smart, they're just chicken.

in college i had 9AM statistics class. i was bored to tears and getting up that early made my eyes feel like someone rubbed lemon juice in them. now that is cruel! boo statistics.

dan, i think the kids on your blog are fighting again...hope this helps.

Dann said...


My point is clear. Equating humans with animals is a disservice to humanity. By making a point by way of "noting that both have been historically abused", Dan is equating abuse of humans with abuse of animals.

Ironically, if humans were to operate on the same level with other animals, we would eat them without giving it any second thought. The only reason we can have this discussion is because humans have a higher order of thinking/thought capacity.

A capacity that other animals lack.

Animal abuse is bad enough. Human abuse is far, far worse.

Dann said...

Oh and before I go...great work Dan. Keep it up.

I may not always agree, but I always enjoy the art and the mental workout.


Baloo said...

Stay away from France. They might put you in a cell with Brigette Bardot. On second thought....

jmarcv said...


So what happens to all the animals when Everyone becomes Vegan?

6Deep said...

While I do see the "point" (and I do agree with the point) that you where trying to make regarding dishonest advertising & animal cruelty, I feel that the comparison and depiction to the tragedy/evil that was "slavery" and is "racism" shows an insensitive view of the issue and is a completely demeaning comparison!

I cant help but notice that the majority of the bloggers that applaud this cartoon do not appear to be of the race or depiction of those whose ancestry is the product of slavery (and either do not grasp or appreciate or maybe care about the complete and ultimate savage dehumanization brought about by the practice of slavery).

Whether or not you intended to "equate" the inhumane cruelty to animals with the savagery forced upon an entire race of human beings, that is in fact what you did. As artists (whether visual or performance) with thought provoking material, we are often controversial and our blunt analysis forces people to look in the mirror. However, I didn't see that this cartoon was an appropriate comparison. I think that those who find nothing wrong with it are part of a population who are still in agreement with the status quo of seeing people of color as less than (hopefully it is a subconscious issue that can be devolved).

While I do promote freedom of press/speech/expression, I think a truly conscientious artist must know the difference between "blunt" & "insensitive". I do applaud the vast majority of your work, and for the record I am also a proponent for the humane treatment of animals.

jmarcv said...

6deep, I dont know how you can say bloggers 'do not appear to be of the race or depiction of those whose ancestry' without being a little racist yourself.

We should remind ourselves that the Civil War was a long time ago and there are no survivors to tell us how they feel about this comic. That we would be offended on behalf of ancestors we never have even spoken with is to me just causing the 'problem' to linger, especially in the light of you yourself making the distinction of what the intentions were vs what could be construed. So I urge you to lose your demons as well. Being myself an individual classified as Afro-American, I can say that for me, I believe that being an 'American' is moving closer to the goal of Unity you yourself share than creating division by clinging onto our race hangups.

B.A.D. said...

6Deep I don't recall declaring my nationality or race, but as it seems to be a concern of yours my ancestors were slaves. Dan's point is just as valid and I do not find it upsetting in anyway. Slavery was wrong then, and it is still wrong now.

Baloo said...

We have a professional offendee here, I see. I suppose I have to chime in here to point out that slavery was not invented by White Southerners, but is an institution that has been universal for most of human existence. Indeed, the use of the term 'people of color' is a red flag that indicates that you're listening to a close-minded ideologue. I'm sure most of us here are descended from slaves and slaveowners both. Have I made this obvious enough?

Canaduck said...

Awesome cartoon, as usual, Dan. I'm vegan already but have been doing a lot of research on organic/free-range/cage-free "humane" meat in order to educate others about what a joke it is.

I've found out more terrible things than I'd ever have imagined.