The Ghosts of Our Meat

Sue Coe

The Ghosts of Our Meat presents more than forty paintings, drawings, and prints by artist/activist Sue Coe. The works address issues of animal rights, cruelty to animals, the meatpacking industry, the ethics of meat consumption, and parallels between the wholesale slaughter of animals and genocide. The exhibition features works from the past twenty-five years including the anti-capitalist Cruel (2011), the haunting You Consume Their Terror (2011), the controversial Auschwitz Begins Whenever Someone Looks at a Slaughterhouse and Thinks “They are Only Animals,” (2009), her clever promotional prints Go Vegan and Nobody Gets Hurt (2010) and Go Vegetarian! (1999), and a series of related works on the theme of buyer’s guilt: Modern Man Followed by the Ghosts of His Meat (1990), El hombre modern seguido por los fantasmas de su carne (2013), and The Ghosts of the Skinned Want Their Coats Back (1998). 

Curated by Stephen F. Eisenman, Professor of Art History at Northwestern University, the exhibition and accompanying catalogue, also by Eisenman, analyzes Coe’s paintings as moral and political interventions into recent debates concerning animal breeding, the ethics of a meat-based diet, and the absence of empathy among slaughterhouse workers and meat consumers alike. He also examines the artist’s formation – especially her childhood experiences growing up next to a slaughterhouse in Surrey, England – and the development of her artistic style, drawing particular attention to her debt to artists of the early Modern era, especially Symbolist and German Expressionists. Eisenman’s provocative study draws on a wide range of scholarship, including works by Charles Darwin, Peter Singer, Tom Regan, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Jeremy Bentham, Theodor Adorno, Albert Camus, Daniel Goldhagen, and James Waller, as well as a range of studies from scientific journals including Nature and Proceedings from the National Academy of Science.

Sue Coe is one of the foremost political artists working today. Her work has been featured on the cover of ARTnews and in numerous museum collections and exhibitions, including a retrospective at the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, DC. A firm believer in the power of the media to change attitudes, Coe has seen her artworks published in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Blab! and many other periodicals. Coe’s books include How to Commit Suicide in South Africa (1983), [Malcolm] X (1986), Police State (1987), and Bully! Master of the Global Merry-Go-Round (2004). Her print cycle The Tragedy of War (2000) was inspired by Francisco Goya’s Disasters of War etchings (1810–20) and examines the phenomenon of human violence and the horrors of combat. The artist is best known, however, for documenting the atrocities committed by people against animals, starting with her award-winning book Dead Meat (1996). Other publications on the subject include Pit’s Letter (2000), Sheep of Fools . . . A Song Cycle for 5 Voices (2005), and Cruel (2012). A series of drawings and paintings, Elephants We Must Never Forget (2008), documents the abuse of elephants in the circus and elsewhere. 

The Ghost of Our Meat exhibition and catalogue are part of a larger celebration of Sue Coe at Dickinson College. On November 1, President Nancy Roseman will present Sue Coe with the Dickinson College Arts Award, which honors an individual or group who has made an outstanding contribution to the creative or performing arts. The award celebration will culminate a multi-day residency at the college, where the artist will share her work and ideas with the college community.


Stephen F. Eisenman, The Ghosts of Our Meat—Sue Coe (Carlisle, PA: The Trout Gallery, Dickinson College, 2013). Distributed by D.A.P.