Bubble Gum Haze, 2016

Archival Pigment Print  26 x 41" image, 28 x 43" framed

Growing up in the 1990's, I remember repeatedly watching classic Disney movies with leading roles played by anthropomorphic characters. To name a few, The Lion King, Dumbo, 101 Dalmatians, and The Little Mermaid, were some of the films where I felt a strong connection to. However, out of all the animated VHS films I watched, the young female deer in Bambi resonated most strongly with me. The vivid memory of the deer's mother being shot and killed would create extreme emotions of sadness and confusion.

While reflecting on my adolescence, I realized children possess a unique characteristic: an ability to express their emotions without a sense of being judged. This realization caused me to think about how children have yet to be influenced by society and how this may result in their ability to show more empathy than adult human beings. Specifically, before the exposure to advertisements and other media, children intuitively understand that it is unjust to cause the suffering of other sentient beings like animals. To understand how a prejudice in our capacity to empathize with other sentient beings develops from a young age to adulthood, I began to ask how a human can intentionally and, in most cases, unintentionally grow to support the unfair treatment of non-human animals. Motivated by this question,  ideologies from around the world were analyzed to acquire insight into why animals, depending on the region, are given different consideration and treatment. Thus, I became interested in understanding how particular belief systems that have been passed on, predominantly subconsciously, become rationalized as being ordinary, necessary and habitual. 

The writing found below was delivered by 20 different people describing their earliest childhood memory about the animals that are most commonly consumed. The text was then added as the background to the pig and dog image which was exhibited as part of the BFA Photography group exhibition at California State University, Long Beach.


" This is a memory when I was nine years old. My family would play the evening news on the TV while we ate dinner. One night during dinner the news features an on the scene report of the baby arctic seals being clubbed to death for their fur in Canada. The TV showed footage of the baby seals alive and well, brilliant white and fluffy, with their innocent faces staring into the camera. Then showed the hunters beating the baby seals to death with clubs to the head. Clubs with hooks pierced the baby's skulls. Their white fur glistened with blood as they lay dead in the snow. I sobbed uncontrollably, unable to finish my dinner. I sobbed uncontrollably until I passed out in the bed hours later." - Amanda

" I heard about all these kids burning ants and you know, it's something that kids do. So I went to go do it and all of a sudden I couldn't. I remember picturing them squirming and I think that's what stopped me was picturing their pain." - Ryan

" My earliest memory as a child was with a rooster I had whose name was Napoleon. He was green, red, orange and black, and his feathers were luminescent in the sun. He had a big erect comb that stood on his head like a crown. He wand I were very close. I can remember coming home from school and him running into the house to sit next to me as I watched cartoons while my dinner was being made. Napoleon would always follow me around the house and the yard. He was very possessive and did not like the other animals getting close to me. He would let me pick him up and hold him in my arms as if to tell me he trusted me. However, one day when I came home from school, Napoleon was gone and so were the other chickens with whom he kept company. I believe my father had sold them. He never told me the truth, but now as an adult looking back, I can only assume that that is what he did. Napoleon was more than just a rooster in someone's backyard, he was my friend and companion." - Manuel

" I lived in the country, so there wasn't always kids my age around. My earliest memory of connecting food with animals was Thanksgiving. I was young, and I walked up to the sink and saw a giant plucked turkey laying there, white and cold. It had big, thick holes where its feathers were. I stared at these holes and pictured the beautiful feathers, its fan tail and long wings. My mom came in and told me it had just been killed and the farmer brought it right over. I cried for hours, and refused to eat an animal again. I didn't know anyone that didn't eat animals and it just hurt my heart that my family didn't see what I saw." - Dori

" I was getting groceries with my dad when I was probably six years old and when we picked up some meat I asked him why it was red. Up until this point, I had only seen it cooked. He told me that it was 'blood' which confused me even more. I remember thinking, 'Why would anybody want to eat blood?"' - Jaret

" I think I was seven and it was for Thanksgiving. It was the first year that I went with my dad's side of the family to Mexico so my grandma was there. I remember seeing her cooking and there was this big pot with the turkey's little feet hanging out. I think just seeing that is when it hit me. Before, when it was in the sink and its feathers were gone, I couldn't see its face and so it just became a ball. I remember that Thanksgiving I had cereal for dinner while my parents were upset that I wasn't eating. I still remember the cereal, it was Honey Bunches of Oats." - Andre

" This one is really painful. During the construction of the 105 fwy, we were forced out of our home and we had to put our elderly dog in boarding while we stayed with relatives and looked for a new place to live. Our search took a long time and we wanted to get our dog out, but the boarding wanted full payment until we could get him. My family was very poor and I remember crying at the boarding place wanting our dog (I am not crying at that terrible memory). We begged and pleaded and they would not give us our dog. They rejected partial payment and our promise to make payments was also rejected. I wish I was older at the time because I would have just taken our Tosco, a beautiful German Shepherd. Terribly painful memory of how we fail animals." - Brenda

" As a child growing up, I was always a sensitive kid. The kid who was always a little bit too afraid of everything. Things like spiders, mean kids on the playground, scary movies, falling off my bike, blood, and even dogs. Whenever there was a dog around, I would cry in fear that they might jump on me or bit me. My uncle Jack had a dog, and this dog was a 100 pound Rottweiler named Petrie. The first day I was there, my legs shook as I stared at Petrie through the white fence. My uncle Jack told me to let him come up to me and smell me through the fence. He promised nothing would happen. With tears running down my face, I trusted him, and let Petrie smell my hands through the fence. Petrie licked my fingers with his floppy wet tongue and my tears of fear turned into tears of laughter. I pulled my hand back, looked up at my uncle Jack and said, 'He kissed me!' Learning that all animals have a life full of personality, loyalty, and love, changed my life forever." - Ruby

" When I was younger, my parents would take me to an annual Greek festival to celebrate and learn more about our heritage. Every year, there would be a sheered lamb on a huge skewer over a fire. Being a kid, I didn't really understand why it was there because I didn't want to look at it, but people would crowd around and watch it and wait for it to be cut up. I couldn't understand why people were not upset by it." - Haley

" I was raised at a dairy farm until the age of about five or six. I had lots of encounters with all the cows during that time. At the time all my surroundings seemed like the norm. As I grew so did my curiosity, I started being more perceptive. I'd witness calf's being born and taken from their mother's and could only think, 'I'm sure that baby just wants to be with his mom just like I want to be'. But my cognitive skills would take over and defend the act with thoughts like, 'Since it's being done, it must be okay since they're cows and not people, they must not think or feel the same.' I even remember my dad bringing home cow heads, skinned, in the kitchen sink which I'd find after school on some days. I'd poke the eye balls and study the teeth and any biology - always concluding, we have so many similarities." - Robert

" When I was four years old my older brother angered me somehow, so in response I went to the kitchen, got my mother's big orange scissors right behind her back, went into the garage, reached into my brother's reptile tank, grabbed his pet lizard and cut him or her in half. I dispassionately watched him or her writhe and squirm and then I went back into the living room and held out my hand for my older brother to see. Proof that anyone can change." - Chase

" My earliest memory was when I was five years old when I used to walk to school with my mom. We encountered this stray female cat and I helped her give birth to her kittens.This cat was very kind to me and she let me be there for her and her and her six kittens. The experience made me feel that this momma cat needed help and she was asking me to be there for her. She was scared and she needed someone to be there for her just like how I was scared in school because I would have to fight to defend myself." - Crystal

" My grandpa hunted deer and I loved eating the jerky that my grandmother would make out of the animals he would kill. One day my father told me I was eating Bambi. When he told me that I cried uncontrollably. He convinced me that I had to eat animals. I continued eating with tears still in my eyes." - Nicole

" I must have been five or six years old. I can't remember the entire conversation or what prompted it, but my mom said something that engraved itself in my mind. It doesn't have to the same feel translated into English, but has haunted me over the years. 'One day humanity will pay for what we do to animals. We stand over their souls like executioners, salivating for their body as they fight till their last breath. This is just wrong. Where are you looking, God?"' - Lola

" When I was three years old my father gave me fish from McDonald's and I asked what it was and he said 'fish'. Knowing what fish was I aid I did not want to eat it. My mother told my dad if I did not want to eat meat I did not have to. I think every child has this moment in their life, but their parents force the compassion out of them and force them to finish the food on their plate." - Phil America

" I remember when I was in Mexico, there was a tub, with a dead pig immersed in blood, and I remember being afraid of it. I thought was so scary and didn't even want to walk by it. I would say I was five years old." - Natalie

" Throughout my childhood, my dad would periodically tell me about how he lived on a farm and loved a cow a lot .He told me after loving this cow for so long he still ate it and wasn't bothered by it at all. After slaughtering all of the chickens on his farm and everything he became so desensitized and I was always very disturbed by that." - Emilie

" I remember when I war around eight, I was in Mexico in my hometown and they used to sell so many baby chicks that were colored in spray paint for about a peso. I remember buying two of them and one dying right away. But the little blue chick that survived, I remember going to sleep with him/her and I accidentally slept on him... I was so fucking sad." - Abraham

" Every year as a kid my parents would have a trip to Guadalajara, Mexico. We would stay at a local ranch and watched the cows run free and enjoy themselves. I thought they were so cute and like I was watching a scene from a movie. The next day we ate beef soup. My parents never told me the beef came from those cows. At the age of six I found out where my food came from and felt weird about eating animals." - Angelica

" My earliest memory is probably when I went to the circus as a kid and watched an elephant perform with tears in her eyes." - Abhijit