Earthlings for Children: Roger Olmos discusses his book Senzaparole [Wordless]
An Animal Rights Article from All-Creatures.org

FROM

Eden Farm Animal Sanctuary
April 2014

Nowhere is the debate on suitable activist material more fraught than with respect to what we show children. The material we use to educate children about animal rights is vital and needs careful selection. They are, after all, tomorrow’s vegans; tomorrow’s animal rights activists.

Earthlings childrenWe are embedded in a speciesist culture where we are inculcated, from early infancy, with the norm of exploiting other sentient animals for the purposes of food, entertainment, clothing and research. We are so deeply encultured with the notion that it is acceptable to use and harm others because they are different to us that we become unable to even see what we are doing, much less critically analyse it. Animal rights activists need to find ways that are acceptable to other people that allow them to critically examine how their lives impact on other animals, without causing them to turn away in defence and denial.

It is understandable that many of us find the idea of only using activist material that is acceptable to humans abhorrent, because we acknowledge that because of our lifestyle choices other animals are forced to experience what some of us cannot even bear to witness. Yet, if we refuse to meet people where they are able to meet us; if we refuse to be cognisant of their capacity to face the truth, are we not merely facilitating them in remaining mindless, distracted and subconscious?

For some people it is acceptable to learn the truth of the experience of other animals through undercover footage of the most depraved acts of cruelty, including the legal, standard practices used in animal agriculture, research, clothing and entertainment industries. They have the courage to bear witness and once they grasp the realisation of the pain inflicted on other sentient beings they make the decision to stop participating in its perpetration and they become vegan. Other people are incapable of facing the pain they have participated in through their lifestyle choices; they find such material deeply distressing and turn away from graphic footage. For people who cannot tolerate their own personal distress at viewing the distress of others, material that focuses on the sentience or the capacity to feel, rather than the actual suffering of other animals, is often more acceptable. For many people, grasping the fact that sentience is not restricted to one species but shared by all the animals used by humans, is sufficient to prompt behavioural change and compassionate, vegan living.

Nowhere is the debate on suitable activist material more fraught than with respect to what we show children. The material we use to educate children about animal rights is vital and needs careful selection. They are, after all, tomorrow’s vegans; tomorrow’s animal rights activists.

Like adults, they differ in the routes to truth and understanding that they find acceptable. The material they have access to depends on the adults who act as their doorkeepers. By ensuring that we provide excellent educational material that children can access, we ensure that they do not become tomorrow’s exploiters.

Roger Olmas has, produced a very important piece of work; one that I believe might well be regarded as ‘Earthlings’ for Children. His book Senzaparole (Wordless) is a depiction of the interaction between humans and other animals that does not shy away from illustrating how our mindless, callous use of them hurts them. Yet it depicts this use in a way that adults will find difficult to censor with any justification. It cleverly targets the prominent ways in which children are encultured into viewing other animals as commodities for human use for food, clothing, entertainment and research in ways that appear harmless to us when we distract ourselves from their reality; when we blindfold ourselves to their exquisite sentience and their capacity to experience the harm we inflict on them.

Senzaparole confronts our distraction and takes off our blindfolds. The sentience of other animals is at the heart of Senzaparole. The illustration of the range of emotions expressed in the eyes and on the faces of our victims, in combination (in the film version) with haunting music and appropriate lyrics (Hope is Gone, by Moby) and very clever use of variety in perspective taking, is truly a work that bypasses our need for the words of human language.

Senzaparole has been commended by Jane Goodall and Nobel awarded writer J.M. Coetzee. It is published by Logos Edizzioni in Italy in collaboration with the FAADA fundation in Spain.

Senzaparole can be purchased in Italian and English at Logos edizioni.

See Eden Farm Animal Sanctuary’s interview with Roger Olmas – PDF


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