Gordon Meade is a Scottish poet based in the East Neuk of Fife. His most recent collection, Zoospeak, a collaboration between himself and the Canadian photographer and animal activist, Jo-Anne McArthur, which uses poetry and photography to examine the experiences of animals in captivity throughout the world, was published in 2020 by Enthusiastic Press in London.
for Jo-Anne McArthur
All there is, is a pair of red ankle-length boots poking out of the legs of a pair of grey overalls. That is all there is on show in what the photographer has called a self-portrait. I say that that is all there is but, of course, I am wrong. The grey floor is drenched in blood; the blood, no doubt, of a number of just-slaughtered animals. And this isn't only a self-portrait of the artist in question, it is also a portrait of us. We are all complicit in what made the subject of this photograph possible, whether by our own actions, or by our lack of them. At some point, or other, the blood-stained floor will, no doubt, be washed clean, ready for the next batch of pigs, sheep, or cattle, to paint, with our help, the grey floor red again, in their own life's blood.
The Rattlesnake Roundup Festival
Sweetwater sounds as if it might be the sort of place you would love to visit, if only for the name. But there is very little here that anyone with even half a brain would dare to call sweet. In just under six decades over a quarter of a million rattlesnakes have been rounded up here and killed. Part of the festival's annual activities include live handling, participatory beheading, skinning, and shallow frying. The organisers try to defend their actions by claiming that their intentions are just to raise public awareness of the inherent dangers that snakes present to we humans. Rattlesnakes brains don't work the same way as yours or mine. It can sometimes take them hours before their bodies stop writhing, their hearts stop beating, and their eyes close. During that time, they may well have been decapitated, skinned alive, thrown into burning barrels, or smothered in oil and fried. The only time the pain receptors in a snake's brain shut down is long after it has died. A trip to Sweet- water doesn't sound so good after all now, does it? God Almighty! Snakes alive! - But not in these here parts.
The Dogs of Yulin
Look, just look, and then, once you have looked, stop, for a little while, go back, and look some more. Just look at what it is that is laid out on the wooden table before your very eyes. Then, try to recognize what, in the past, it might have been.These are the remains of what could have been a family pet or, perhaps, a stray, or, maybe even one of the unfortunates who were actually born and bred to be this way. Bred to be a part of the festival where, in the space of under a week, over ten thousand animals are boiled, skinned alive, and butchered to cater for the many humans who attend. Look, just look, and then, once you have looked for a little while, stop, go back, and look some more.