From the end of March to this past week, the John Street Pasture located in DUMBO, Brooklyn, has been a “living art installation” by artist Andrea Renoysa. The living art installation was a quite pretty crimson clover field. Prior to the installation, the lot was abandoned. Now, the land will be turned into condos.
Recently, a handful of goats were delivered and used to graze the field as the “final step in the installation.” As the goats grazed the field, people interacted with them and took pretty pictures.
And then Madani Halal, who sourced the goats, came to pick up the animals. Brooklyn Paper reported: “‘[The goats] are moving on to the next chapter of their lives,’ said Imran Uddin, whose father owns the business. ‘They were just brought down to clear the clover.'”
Gothamist, who was reporting on the installation, feigned sadness and shock with an “OH NO!” reaction. If Gothamist was truly concerned with the fate of the goats, they would have used the opportunity to highlight the inherent cruelty of using animals as “food.”
Thankfully, the panic over the arrival of the Halal truck at the installation was ultimately unnecessary: According to a statement from Brooklyn Grange, the goats were spared from slaughter:
“[The goats] were a lively and bright spot for the installation as it came to a close and served as a fun punctuation mark for a great art project. Everyone found them endearing and enjoyed their presence which is what led to the decision to save them.”
So people learned that it’s not okay to kill cute animals? I thought everyone knew that already, as that’s why most people gasp in horror at the thought of eating a dog, cat, or bunny, but not a cow or pig.
If the criteria to save an animal from slaughter is that the animal be “endearing,” then I have to say I find that deplorable. All animals are worthy of our moral concern, not just “endearing” ones, not just “cute” ones, not just “smart” ones, etc. I’m sure those goats were endearing, but I do not think that would be a trait exclusive to the handful of those particular animals anyway: Most animals, especially those who we have “domesticated” as livestock (e.g., goats), would come across as “endearing” if you spent time with them.
And if the people involved in the installation could acknowledge how likeable, sociable, and “endearing” animals could be, why ultimately promote animal exploitation as food? Brooklyn Grange’s statement to Gothamist said:
“All goats, even dairy goats, are eventually slaughtered for meat production. This is the nature of our food system and one of the issues that this project set out to highlight.”
Slaughtering animals for food may be the nature of our food system now, but it doesn’t have to be that way forever. Moreover, that animal exploitation has traditionally been a part of our food system is not any reason to continue it.
I think it is important to interact with animals, although I would suggest visiting a farm sanctuary instead of a farm where animals are killed for food. I don’t think this installation was the teachable moment that it wanted to be. Ultimately, it reinforced that animals are ours to exploit, objectify, and commodify. This was evident from the notion that “the next chapter” of the goats’ lives had to be slaughter. While it is apparent that these goats most likely have had a much nicer life than other animals exploited for food, ultimately having a “nice life” doesn’t matter all that much. Humanely raised or not, animals raised for food are still being prevented from enjoying his or her natural life span, having relationships with their friends and family, and just being whatever species of animal s/he is.
Examining the comment section Gothamist (which, admittedly, is almost always a mistake), it seems like most people could not care if the animal was “endearing” or not, and sadly proves my point that any potential teachable moment was lost on the public. There were worse comments on the site, especially when an argument about veganism and meat eating began, but honestly I do not care to re-read those comments again.
I’m glad the goats were saved, but I wish people would carry this concern further. Reject speciesism, and consider all animals worthy of concern.