On July 13, 2023, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) unveiled a collection of giant steel-and-aluminum sculptures on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. titled The Council of Animals (What to Do About the Humans). Created by Washington state–based artist Quill Hyde, the installation features a 7-foot-tall polar bear, a towering, 1,200-pound elephant, a 6-foot-tall rhinoceros with a chicken perched on his back, and a coyote voiced by Battlestar Galactica actor Edward James Olmos.
The exhibit seeks to answer the question: “If animals spoke in a language we could understand, what would they say about us?”
Throughout the summer, guests will be able to hear the coyote deliver a speech that challenges speciesism—the belief in human supremacy—and draws attention to the talents, languages, and cultures of various animals. It opens: “Dear friends, we are gathered here today to discuss the problem of humanity.”
The coyote continues, “Look around you. There’s the elephant, with her profound emotional intelligence; the rhinoceros, with his majestic horn; the polar bear, with his unmatched resilience; the chicken, with her superb mothering instincts; and me—the clever coyote. But our talents, interests, and autonomy are often overlooked because some humans believe other animals exist just for them.”
The exhibit is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day through September 3, 2023. Visitors can endorse a “Declaration on Consciousness”—based on the “Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness” (July 7, 2012)—that acknowledges animals’ complex inner lives and their desire for freedom from human oppression.
“Humans aren’t the only animals who communicate, but we don’t need to speak the languages of other species to understand their appeals for freedom and a just world,” PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said. “PETA asks everyone to afford animals the same understanding and respect we should give our fellow humans and stands ready to help with everything from free vegan starter kits to alternatives to animal dissection to vegan clothing guides.”
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—offers a free vegan starter kit on its website. For more information, please visit PETA.org, listen to The PETA Podcast, or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.indigenous artistsculpturesocial justice art