Zooicide Seeing Cruelty, Demanding Abolition

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by Sue Coe

“Coe has a message to deliver, and her visceral, graphic imagery doesn’t pull any punches. Coe’s righteous anger, not to mention her confident hand and riveting compositions, will hold your eye and haunt your mind.” —New Yorker

In Zooicide, Sue Coe employs her bold artistic style to confront the institution of zoos. They are, she says, inherently cruel and the solution is not to reform them, but to abolish them. Coe’s visual journalism investigates the mental anguish inflicted upon animals—including cases where they have killed themselves to end their torture. Zoos often pay lip service to education, enrichment, and conservation, but their depravity is systemic and ubiquitous; it is built into the idea of animals as commodities. As long as they are property, animals will continue to be treated as things, with no rights, who can be caged, bred, abused, or killed for a profit and the public’s entertainment.

As a vital complement to Coe’s images, and written specifically for them, Stephen F. Eisenman’s essay, “The Capitalist Zoo,” is a history of zoos written from the future—a future in which zoos as we know them no longer exist.