The Ties That Bind by Philip McCulloch-Downs

Acrylic on canvas

My usual approach to my activist art is to focus on the more graphic images of factory farming and its effects on individual animals. This piece was a departure from that. I have been trying to find more oblique and yet effective ways of encapsulating the underlying problems with our animal agriculture industry by using simple, poetic, intriguing images. In this picture, the generic human figure is holding both ends of the rope. He could let go and release himself at any time if he chose to, but his eyes are closed to this fact and he remains in an uncomfortable, unnatural position, bound by his own ‘dominant dependency’ on the dairy/beef cow beneath him. I was inspired to attempt to recreate the style of Victorian paintings and engravings of prize cattle and pigs. Animals that would be seen hanging on drawing room walls, far away from the mud and filth of the stables and farms of the high-class people who ordered these creatures to be bred for sale at market.

My more visceral work has provoked some negative and even abusive comments (always misinformed or simply illogical) which I fully expect. But I was surprised when I shared this image on a conventional non-vegan ‘acrylic painting’ site on social media and received the comment that it was ‘BULL’. This from an angry American gentleman, who then proceeded to spam my hotmail account by signing me up to numerous meat industry journals. It was a real sign of that this strange image had hit home.

As with almost all my work, this one has an accompanying video and short piece of poetry:

Philip McCulloch-Downs earned a degree in illustration from Leicester Polytechnic in 1992. Since then, he has produced theatre backdrops, poetry, t-shirt designs, model-making, videos, novels and portraiture. In 2014 he made a decision to combine his time, skills and vegan ideals to become an ‘artivist’ and to make the hidden world of factory farming visible via the medium of fine art.

This change coincided with the formation of a unique, worldwide collective of vegan artists: ‘The Art of Compassion Project’ ( Being one of the original members of this quickly growing group has resulted in his animal rights artwork being exhibited and sold all over the world.

See more of Philip’s work at:
MISTER CRONCH – Art, Life, Veganism and Other Oddities