When I was single and moving frequently, I didn’t put much effort into decorating my dingy apartments. But now that I’m married, with two kids, and officially settled down, that’s changed. I’ve transformed our basement into something of a shrine to Star Wars and The Legend of Zelda. I hope to add a Quentin Tarantino section next!
Of course, my home decor isn’t limited to pop-culture ephemera. In addition to a veritable Leuvre of family photos, I’ve got a large, framed print of animal-liberationist art. It was originally a postcard, promoting the New York Anti-Vivisection Society. The piece features two angels breaking into a laboratory and rescuing a dog. According to HappyCow.Net, it dates back to the early-20th century. The artist is unknown.
When I first came across the image, I wanted to learn more about the group behind it. I imagined myself writing a book about the New York Anti-Vivisection Society. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much information available, so I gave up the dream as quickly as I thought of it. A blown-up copy of the postcard sits on my wall, beautiful if slightly mysterious.
Since finishing my most recent book, a forthcoming history of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, I’ve been looking for a new project. In the limited time in which I’m not watching my kids, I need something to focus my attention on. Otherwise, I’ll just scroll through Twitter and get super depressed about the state of the world. (As everybody knows, things are pretty gloomy these days!)
I had a couple of ideas, but the one I kept coming back to was a history of how California banned fur. I wanted to document this campaign, in which activists used the political process to achieve meaningful change. Sadly, after getting in touch with some of the people involved, they told me it wasn’t worth a book. Various city governments, and ultimately the state, passed the bans without much of a fight from the fur industry.
So I went back to the drawing board. Searching for inspiration, I loaded the Tom Regan Animal Rights Virtual Archive — a fabulous resource provided by North Carolina State University. Looking through the old texts, I came across a 1925 publication of the Animal Defence and Anti-Vivisection Society. It featured another striking piece of animal-rights art on the cover.
This one featured a woman wearing a suit of armor, standing between a knife-wielding vivisector and a diverse assortment of creatures. It was created by one Walter Crane, a left-wing illustrator whose art was a fixture in socialist periodicals, like The Commonweal. You’ve probably seen his work if you’re familiar with the early labor movement.
Anyway, I definitely want to frame his anti-speciesist piece. To put it succinctly: the drawing is badass! I only wish it wasn’t so narrowly focused on animal testing. The nonhuman movement of a century ago seems to have been disproportionately focused on vivisection, just as one could argue ours is today.
I’m not sure what my next book will be about. Perhaps I’ll look further into the Animal Defence and Anti-Vivisection Society, which was involved in the Brown Dog Affair. Maybe I’ll focus on writing articles for a while. I’m not sure. Either way, I’ll have some sweet art to look at.