In Design Competitions this quarter, each student was asked to respond to briefs for the One Show Young Ones and D&AD Student Awards. For the unfamiliar, these are huge worldwide competitions that celebrate the very best work in advertising and design. The One Club was founded in New York City and D&AD (Design & Art Direction) in London.
One of the One Show briefs challenged us to promote the horrors of the thoroughbred horse racing industry for Peta. To be honest, I didn’t know much about horse racing before working on this and I felt like it might be hard to dive in and get excited about this project. I’m not really a huge fan of horses; I think they are beautiful and I like looking at them, but having being thrown from one as a little girl, I’m kind of scared of their power. But this brief was a game changer for me. It ignited my interest in learning about mass meat production, research that has since dissolved any personal desire to eat meat ever again.
Peta expertly describes the horse racing industry in the brief:
Behind the romanticized façade of thoroughbred horse racing is a world of injuries, drug abuse, gruesome breakdowns and slaughter. Racehorses weigh more than 1,000 pounds and are supported by ankles the size of a human’s. They are whipped and forced to run on tracks that are often made of hard packed dirt at speeds of more than 30 miles per hour while carrying people on their backs. They are pumped full of drugs intended to mask pain, so that they keep running long after their stressed or injured bodies would tell them to stop. When they stop winning races or become injured, usually when they’re still very young—often not even physically mature yet—few racehorses are retired to pastures, because owners don’t want to pay for a horse that doesn’t bring in any money. Since the last horse slaughterhouse in the U.S. closed several years ago, tens of thousands of horses are now shipped to slaughterhouses in Canada, Mexico, or Japan, where they are turned into dog food and glue. Their flesh is then exported to countries such as France and Japan, where it is considered a delicacy.
Another image I remember is that of a racehorse being shot between the eyes with a bolt gun. It often takes several shots through the brain to kill the animal. This is a disgusting way to end a life.
Haley Gardner (you’re familiar by now?) and I worked on an ambient advertising campaign to publicize such horrors. Horse racing uses horses for entertainment, making the animals a spectacle for excited onlookers. Art has historically done the same thing, showcasing the strength of these animals through painting and sculpture. The streets of the world are dotted with sculptures of strong animals, usually with their heroic human counterpart, and paintings of horses are hung in private and public galleries alike. This kind of art is so prevalent that it is no longer surprising or unusual.
We wanted to leverage art as a medium in which to show the duplicity of the horse racing industry. In Haley’s words, “these ambient art installations mirror the way horse racing operates; from afar, it’s an enjoyable and pleasant scene, much like sculptures and paintings. But upon further inspection, what is thought to be a beautiful display is actually a disturbing example of the brutality the horse racing industry works hard to hide.”
Life-sized sculptures will be placed in public areas where passersby will be able to see exactly how two-faced the horse racing industry is. On one side, a beautiful, strong and healthy horse. On the other, its raw flesh and battered body exposes the brutal nature of a racehorse’s career.
Painted portraits of mutilated horses will be placed at bus stops and subway areas around cities. The injuries, like this gash in an otherwise healthy horse, are aimed to grab attention and provoke the viewer to learn more about the cruelty of the racing industry.
I illustrated the horse using colored pencils and scanned a hunk of ribeye for the meat. And the blood is real! (No it’s not. But that would’ve been cool.)
Haley smartly connected our campaign to Oscar Wilde’s comment that “life imitates art far more than art imitating life.” In this case, the opposite is true.