Cartoons were another visual tool employed by those advocating on behalf of animals. While they may not have fit strictly within Humane Education curricula, there was a strong educational component embedded in many of these images in that they used the power of the visual to ask people to critically reflect on their treatment of animals.
To that end, Our Dumb Animals, the publication of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) and the American Humane Education Society (AHES) held cartoon contests in the early decades of the 20th century. Cash prizes were offered for the best cartoons on the theme of kindness to animals, and those interested in participating could submit their cartoon to any periodical of their choosing. In order to have it considered for the Our Dumb Animals competition a clipping of the published cartoon had to be submitted by the contest deadline. Cartoonists were asked to have their work published during Be Kind to Animals Week® whenever possible.
While cartoons may appear on the surface to be “less serious” than other forms of visual advocacy they were, in fact, used in very sophisticated ways. Further, there were a range of tactics that cartoonists employed to spread the message of compassion for all species.
In some instances cartoons relied on humor to ridicule and poke fun at the behavior they were trying to correct. For example, a number of cartoons appeared in publications like Punch, the British-based satire magazine, in which women who wore fashions made with feathers were portrayed as ridiculous instead of fashionable. In other cases, however, the cartoons had very little humorous content, the artists instead choosing to use the stark black and white graphic design to convey some very difficult content.
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