Erik Grau
metal, wire, bone, wood
Twenty billion animals are bred and raised in “factory farms” every year in the United States. Factory farming is a form of intensive agriculture where the main goal is to make the most profit by producing the greatest amount of animal product (meat, dairy, and eggs) with the lowest amount of care, space, and food for the animals. Many animals live in a designated space that is only slightly larger than their bodies for their entire life. Most animals never go outdoors, while some cannot even turn around. They are fed a low-quality and unnatural diet that is filled with growth hormones so their bodies will produce more product to sell. The diet also contains antibiotics to offset the many diseases caused by stressful, dirty, and crowded conditions.
My work strives to communicate aspects of the life, death, and consumption of animals raised in modern-day agribusiness. Each piece in my series focuses on a different state of the lives of animals raised for food. The titles of the pieces are in chronological order and explain what happens when animals are objectified and their basic needs are denied because of humans’ desire to eat their flesh. The bones in my work are a symbol for the life and death of the animals, whereas the metal I use represents the tremendous industrialization of modern agriculture. The rust and age of the metal gives my work a sense of wastefulness and impermanence, which illustrates the fact that factory farming is not sustainable. More energy goes into the production of meat, dairy, and eggs than the system yields. The livestock eat more food than they produce, and factory farming is one of the largest polluters of the environment and water supplies. My work confronts viewers with a look into where their meat comes from and challenges the misconception that all their meat comes from happy animals on small family farms.
I hope this series will make others think about their habits and the effects they have on the lives of other beings and the environment. I also hope that my work will inspire others to make simple lifestyle changes that can lessen their impact on the world. The most effective way to end the factory farming system is to adopt a vegan lifestyle. Veganism is, essentially, a boycott of products of this system. Vegans believe it is unethical to treat animals as unfeeling or insentient objects that exist solely for human use. Vegans attempt to reduce the suffering of animals by abstaining from the use of animal products, and do this by refusing to eat meat, dairy, or eggs, wear leather or fur, or buy products tested on animals. I titled my series “Decide” because I feel that it is up to everyone to make their own decisions about their participation in this system that abuses animals. Because so few people fully understand the system due to habit, misleading advertising, and common culture, many still participate in this system and do not have the information needed to make informed decisions regarding their lifestyle. I hope my work inspires others to do further research on factory farming and how animals are treated within this system. Decide.
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