In conversation: Alice Lenkiewicz
Meet Alice Lenkiewickz, an artist who seamlessly weaves the worlds of visionary painting and photography, guided by themes of intuition and mysticism. As a dedicated vegan and passionate advocate for animal rights, Lenkiewicz has harnessed her artistic talent to create powerful digital paintings that campaign against animal exploitation, specifically targeting factory farming. The artist's practice and beliefs stand in solidarity with fellow animal rights campaigners, striving for the welfare and justice of animals everywhere.
7 de agosto de 2023
Let’s begin with you introducing yourself. Who is Alice Lenkiewicz?
Alice Lenkiewicz is an artist who lives in the North West UK. She has lived in many places but has ended up in an unanticipated corner of Sefton in Liverpool. She is happy because there is a good deal of countryside and beaches surrounding the area and she can go for walks and be surrounded by nature, something she loves.
She is married and has two daughters who are grown up and a dog called Poppy. Alice spends a great deal of her time creating artwork and writing books. She is vegan and is passionate about animal rights.
Your artistic practice spans various media, including digital art, painting, film, photography, and mixed media. How do you decide which medium to use for a particular project or message?
I seem to find certain mediums suit certain subject matter. I have found digital drawing very useful for a variety of works, mainly because it is very accessible and so if I am travelling, I can create on my phone without worrying about bringing a variety of materials with me. It’s spontaneous and it’s great for animal rights because I often respond quickly to posts I see on social media. I also find drawing on my phone very therapeutic and relaxing. I tend to create my animal rights images and then I send them to be printed on fabric which is a lovely feeling to have the physical artwork sent in the post back to me.
Other mediums will take me by mood. I have been planning to work on some paintings on canvas soon. I am also passionate about hand and machine freestyle embroidery, appliqué and mixed media. It comes in waves, goes then comes back again. Photography is a different approach and so is film within my work.
Animal rights and veganism are significant themes in your work. Could you share more about how these topics inspire and influence your artistic vision?
My animal rights artwork began a few years back but I didn’t feel the painting medium was for me in terms of expressing my thoughts on this subject. More recently I have started digital drawings on my phone and then having these printed on fabric, so I think I will continue in this way for now and create banners and wall hangings.
Art is an ongoing journey and new mediums and themes can suddenly happen. I wanted to try and create a visual language that made strong statements about animal rights. Protest art is another way of getting the message across to the public. I find the animal rights poster, a way to subvert what people take for granted and consider the norm.
I am inspired by animal rights. Our planet needs serious change in current methods. People's perceptions of ‘normality regarding animals, I feel need re-educating so that we can improve life for people and animals. There seems to be a disturbance in the world right now. There is an increase in anxiety and people in general are depressed and many people who can’t channel their frustrations are taking their anger out by being violent and abusive to animals. Some of the people are of course naturally self-serving and sadistic in order to make money from being abusive.
It is horrible to see our fellow human beings so lacking in regard. Some people don't care how they behave anymore. Computers have also taken over and social skills and real communication with actual people have declined. People rarely read anymore and I feel people are less literary than they used to be. Books were not only accessible but something people admired and respected. There used to be competitive thinkers. There is more boredom and apathy today. People need art and books for creativity and to expand and debate.
I think that compassion and awareness are missing from the curriculum. Raising awareness of compassion towards animals, encouraging veganism and instead seeing them as a very important part of our world is crucial to change and our planet becoming more present and happy.
When I see people being cruel to animals I feel that they are not happy people. If you are happy you want to share that feeling and you want others to be happy also, animals included. Well-being is about connecting our inner positivity and happiness to everything and not just ourselves. It’s all connected, our bodies, the earth and how we channel our thoughts and energies with the earth towards others and animals.
Animals seem to have become lost and stagnant in people's world view. They have been placed into this very confined and limited space that consists only of being a product to eat, something for torture or entertainment. It is very sad. I think if people can find a way to connect with animals outside these very violent and self-centred contexts then we are moving forward. The problem is, many don’t know what the answer is. People can’t imagine animals roaming around just for the sake of it. People don’t know why they exist other than for meat or dairy.
If you think that a cow is supposed to live twenty-five years, people wonder what those twenty-five years would consist of. Can you imagine a cow roaming fields with its calf for twenty-five years? We never see this or contemplate it but actually, this is what would happen if we left them alone. And there must be a reason for this long lifespan that they are supposed to have but we never experience it because they are killed so quickly before they fully mature. I feel we have to understand that animals do have a right to live their lives and although it may be very different to us it’s important to them and our planet.
People have become desensitised to the horrors that be. In the dairy industry, they are chucking newborn calves into the bin as a by-product of milk. How can we morally continue like this? Baby animals are being binned! Society has intervened in a very natural process of an animal's right to give birth, feed and bring up a baby.
In the farm industry, it’s all about profit and so animals are seen as products and lose out on their rightful and natural right to experience the world. This has to have a knock-on effect on our planet.
Imagine if this was done to people on a mass scale. This would have serious consequences.
We’ve yet to find out how allowing animals to live out their lives would affect things but I think if we learned new ways of living our lives with animals around and people being educated to be kind to animals, I think this would not only benefit the earth but would also help people overcome depression and anxiety. I also feel meat and dairy consist of trauma. An animal screams and panics before it dies. People are paying to consume this trauma and spiritually, I feel this is not healthy for people to be this oblivious to what they are eating.
Packaging and marketing distort the truth and portray a different world. People don’t see or even contemplate the pregnant cow. This pregnancy lasts for nine months, the same as a woman. They don’t see the birth of the calf, the need for the cow to nurture and bond with her baby. They don’t see the baby calf being torn away and killed immediately, the cow in distress, abused for her milk and then sent to slaughter, the panic and trauma of the truck rides as they peer out through the slats, trying to comprehend this world outside that they have never seen before, outside the farm where every aspect of their life and movement is controlled. Imagine what a motorway of cars must look like to animals that have been confined all their lives and then suddenly the final slaughterhouse and the terror. A calf is naturally supposed to have its mother's milk for up to ten months. This is a life force, a statement and a magical gift from somewhere. Let’s call it Mother Earth. It’s happening for a reason.
This is all hidden by factory farming but this brutality is happening every day at every hour. It plays on my mind a lot. I’m always thinking about it and find it hard to believe we are all supposed to get on with our everyday lives as if it’s not happening. Have you ever seen how sweet a baby calf is? They are the most beautiful little creatures. They are so gentle and joyful. How can anyone in their right mind harm them? It affects me. People must give up dairy and meat to save all animals.
I do think if people were exposed to the industry for a year and had to follow an animal from pregnancy to giving birth their attitudes would change. For instance, if they supported that animal’s welfare and then had to let go and see that baby calf or piglet be killed and the animal go to slaughter, including sows confined in horrible pens and lambs to slaughter and chickens deprived of their natural right to roam, I think many people would be traumatised and want to protect the animal they had supported and followed from the beginning. There would be an enormous outcry and people would be fighting to save their animals. It’s because people are distanced from it and have become disassociated from animals that much of this takes place, I feel.
I tend to be quite vocal on social media about animal rights. I just don’t understand how people can watch a video of a baby calf being abused and then go and buy milk and cheese or watch battery hens in misery and then go and eat chicken at Christmas. But it’s dissociation again. I think people put it to the back of their minds when they shop because it’s more convenient and schools don’t connect meat and dairy with their food or the cute children’s story about the little pig. In the book, the pig is cute and needs protection but in the dinner hall, the pig is eaten. It’s crazy.
It’s about developing awareness that this horror is happening right now. It’s not this fiction thing that’s taking place on TV or somewhere far away. It is surprising how near to us abattoirs are at times. We are sometimes cohabiting very close to the death of animals and we are not even aware of it. Also, look out for dogs and cats being abused. Some people keep their dogs in captivity outside for years on end. You will sometimes hear them barking endlessly and sometimes they go quiet and give up. A dog has a right to freedom also. They are not just there for status and for being a guard dog or for breeding. Believe it or not, despite the hypocrisy there is legislation on animal welfare.
Animals are being abused all the time for our food and entertainment and it’s whether you want to eat that food knowing where it has come from and how it got to your plate. More education is needed. Please go vegan!!
How do you use your art as a means of advocacy and raising awareness for animal rights?
I’ve started creating these banners which are protest pieces and I’m hoping to have an exhibition at some point of these works. It would be good to link it up with an animal rights cause and give part of the sales towards a charity. It’s something I am thinking about.
I have only just started my campaigning with my protest art, so it’s a bit new right now. I tend to be using it on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to get my message across. I feel it’s important to make the message clear and simple but sometimes it could appear more ambiguous. For instance, I recently created an image called ‘Ban the Preventer’. I know what the preventer is. It’s a spiked gadget that farmers put on the noses of baby calves to prevent them from suckling milk from the mother cow. For me, the gadget has become a symbol of oppression. But if the viewer doesn’t know what a preventer is, the message could be very confusing so I am currently thinking about these things. However, I feel the confusion is all part of it because the invisibility of animal abuse is in many ways an invisible language so bringing these things out into the open educates and creates questions.
I mean, can you honestly believe there is a gadget called a suckling preventer? Milk is life!
We have all been educated about weaning, I hope! Calves can’t live without their mother’s milk in the natural world. Humans can have an alternative, powdered milk if they wish to but a cow and her calf have nothing else but the mother’s milk. A cow can’t buy powdered milk at the supermarket. If a woman didn’t have powdered milk, they would be dependent upon breast milk. If there was no breast milk or powdered milk there would be serious problems as a human baby can’t have solids for six months and is dependent upon milk for nutrients.
To prevent a calf from receiving its mother's milk is to commit the baby calf to death and that is before it is even killed. Don’t forget, when you do online research to ask these questions about animals, keep in mind the word ‘natural’ so for instance,’ ask when do calves NATURALLY wean and you will find that it’s 10 months on average. On the factory farming sites, they switch it around to suit their own commercial needs because the animal is seen only as a product. The facts are horrifying.
A baby calf is naturally supposed to be drinking milk on average for 10 months! But in factory farming, it aims to put it on solids after just a few days. Just as a reminder, if a human baby does not wean and goes on to solids too soon, they will suffer problems as their digestive system is not ready. A calf is similar and is naturally supposed to consume 8% of its birth weight in milk each day. They are not supposed to eat solid food until after they have weaned.
Your digital paintings campaigning for animal rights have gained attention through online platforms, particularly Twitter. How do you feel about the role of social media in promoting your message and connecting with other animal rights activists?
I don’t think I have gained too much attention, to be honest. I’m relatively new to Twitter and it’s all just beginning for me with the protest art but I hope it eventually catches on and people understand my message. I feel very at home with vegan people. We all seem to understand each other and vegans are compassionate towards animals. These are good people. If you are compassionate to animals then you are on the right track in life, I feel. If people can’t feel for an animal I think there is honestly something wrong with them.
I think social media is a great place to put forward the animal rights message as long as social media platforms allow the voice to be heard. I feel sometimes my animal rights posts are somehow more invisible and less seen than other posts I create. I do feel there is some kind of conspiracy going on with the marketing aspects of meat and dairy, where mainstream marketing of animal products does not want interference. However, if an animal is abused, it seems to get more exposure. So my message to social media is to take down your animal torture posts and end these animal exploitation posts. Stop encouraging people to abuse animals and stand up for animals instead. We don't want adults and especially our children seeing this kind of thing.
Encouraging people to abuse animals is going to create more mental health problems and more anxiety as well as contribute towards the misery of animals. It's all traumatic stuff, consisting of violence, blood and fear. It’s not good. Social media needs to become a role model for good behaviour and respect for the animals of our earth and encourage people to present good behaviour and respect towards animals. All animal abuse and torture videos need to be banned. It’s beyond belief that they are allowed. These social media platforms need to demonstrate a sense of responsibility!!
Your participation in the Zero Hour online charity auction highlights your commitment to promoting and campaigning for the environment. Could you share more about your involvement in this initiative and how your artwork contributes to the larger cause?
This was an opportunity presented to me by Degree Art, an art platform I am on.
This was a Buy it Now Charity Auction.
26 TO ZERO presented the artwork of twenty-six contemporary artists who each responded to the call to support the work of The Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill. The online charity auction started on 4 – 21 November 2021. The idea was for people to bid or buy the art from the platform and the proceeds would go towards the cause.
I created two paintings about the environment for this project. I also made a video stating my views at the time. One painting was called ‘Free the Animals’ and the other one was called ‘Beautiful Nature’. I sold one of the paintings, ‘Free the Animals’ so it all went to a good cause. Further information on this project can be found on this link.
Your artwork and activism intertwine with personal values, such as being a vegan and encouraging others to adopt a meat-free lifestyle. How do you incorporate these personal convictions into your artistic expression?
People can change. I was brought up on your typical English pint of milk and a pot of tea and we ate meat and fish when we were children. My grandfather had a farm with cows. Obviously, as kids, we didn’t think anything of it. It’s strange now to look back and think we used to hang out on the farm and looking back it fills me with horror to think that my grandad who we loved and admired was associated with this terrible industry of animal abuse but they didn’t see it like that. For them, it was just a job and the cows and calves were probably just seen as these useless things and livestock to make some money. I always think livestock is a bad word. More truthfully, it should be deadstock! This animal-product attitude is the mentality we need to get away from. It’s old school and it is not forward-thinking. It’s going to harm our planet, the animals and us. I've not eaten meat since I was in my early twenties and I am 59 now. Veganism wasn’t heard of when I was younger although I had come across it. Being vegetarian was seen as quite radical in the early eighties.
I don’t know how I originally got involved with animal rights but I first became more aware when I was living in Lewes, East Sussex, many years ago. It was an innovative, conscious proactive, historical town with lots of CND posters in the windows, healthy living, a lot of health shops and somehow I became aware that there was this non-dairy thing going on also, although it was a bit more vague back then. It was just coming in really.
One day all those years ago, I proudly ordered an Animal Aid pack. I remember it arriving through the post and I was horrified at what I read. There was a big write-up about the dairy industry and what happened to animals and not only cows and calves but to pigs and cows and lambs. It was my first real moment of consciousness of the reality of what was happening. And there was a news article about Jill Phipps and she had been tragically killed by a cattle truck while trying to stop animals from going to slaughter. I remember thinking what an incredible person. I was moved by her empathy and I kept thinking about this lovely young woman who cared about animals. She died for those animals. I realised after that incident, that it was so important to stand up for farm animals and for good people like Jill.
I noticed people did things a bit differently in Lewes in the early eighties. They made herbal teas which were a new thing at the time. Those packets you see of peppermint tea etc were suddenly all the rage. People made their organic veg juice and stuff like that. Some people in the early eighties were drinking soy milk. There were a few girls who didn’t eat dairy. I was observing it all. I was proud I was vegetarian but I hadn’t yet made that leap to vegan.
It can be a bit of a journey to become vegan because you may be making changes here and there which are big to you but you can’t announce you are a vegan until you completely give up dairy. So even if you have given up everything dairy except for instance eggs, you can’t announce you are a vegan because it’s a learning process and people who eat meat are very quick to point the finger at you. Even if you eat some bread that has milk inside it, they will try and make you feel so guilty but they are very quick to go to eat their steak after they have accused you and they really should be working on themselves instead of accusing vegans because vegans in progress are doing their best to make that journey and are already saving animals as they do it. You have to remember we have all been brainwashed from childhood to eat meat and dairy and so it’s not always a quick changeover for everyone and requires education, knowledge, perseverance and understanding. Basically, the entire food chain is infiltrated with dairy and meat and so finding things at first that don’t violate your beliefs is a huge life change and a challenge. However, we have reached a stage now where it’s very good and you can easily live a healthy vegan lifestyle today and buy alternative foods without a problem.
When people say they don’t want animal rights activists intervening in things they may as well be saying they want animals to remain invisible. But animals don’t have a voice. They can’t speak English. They can’t shout out to the world “Listen I’m not happy, get me out of here!” They do try but their sounds and voices are different. So animal rights activists ARE the voices of animals and it’s here to stay. We aren’t going anywhere because we all know that we have to fight for the animals, otherwise, the animals are alone, isolated and abused. Imagine if people were the ones in that situation and no one fought for them. Now, take it a step further and imagine people didn’t have actual voices either. People forget they can use their voices to protest. Animals can’t.
This is why we have to be activists for animals because they are invisible enough as it is. So we have to get rid of this invisibility so that people can see the truth
I would like to add that if anyone wishes to set up vegan dairy ice cream vans on the beach, it would be very welcome!!’ I am sure they would be popular.
Do you know "The U.N. says that raising animals for food is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.” The most powerful step that we can take as individuals to halt the climate crisis is to stop eating meat, eggs, and dairy “products”. Order PETA’s free vegan starter kit and do your part to save the planet and animals today!"
We need to find a new context for animals. I think we should have more animals and countryside and more sanctuaries and places of well-being. I think animals are the answer to well-being and people connecting again with peace and nature and making sure animals are cared for. I think animals can help people heal as well as help the environment.
My first artworks on animal rights were to do with elephants, bullfighting and fox hunting. I started to become aware of what was happening to elephants in circuses and for tourism. The horrors of bear dancing. I was always exposed to someone who had knowledge and was campaigning against a certain animal issue. Later, I became very saddened by the captivity of dolphins and whales and much of my awareness was spurred on by the captivity and misery of animals in zoos. The animals looked so fed up and I hated to see them sitting there and caged, surrounded by electric fences, no independence, their freedom stolen from them. Zoos are cruel and animal experimentation and horse racing.
I’ve been on a few protests but I now prefer to use my art as a voice. I’ve always admired people who put themselves out there for this cause. Some people are incredibly passionate and out there. We have to be extremely thankful towards these people for doing this for animals. Some have lost their lives in the process.
From your perspective, how do you believe art has the power to inspire change and foster meaningful dialogue?
I think art can be very powerful as a way of sending out a message. I think many artists find their own style and statement pieces. I’m still experimenting. I think my work will be a combination of abstract, video art and subversion of vintage marketing. If you think of all those pretty, domestic images that have been brainwashing us for years. I wish to subvert these. I will be focusing on dystopian as well as utopian themes. The main thing for me is to bring visibility to animals and the despairing lives they lead as well as the positives about going vegan and how it can help us and the environment.
Looking ahead, what are some of the upcoming projects or initiatives you are excited about?
June has been a great month for me in terms of opportunities. I had a solo exhibition recently, my photography was published and now I finally have a chance to express my views on animal rights with you, so It’s been a great time for me. I think for the future I would like to get my animal rights work out there and link up with a charity or a project and support the cause by creating animal rights artworks. I would also like to pull together a body of work that I feel represents my style and voice and get my work exhibited and seen. I like live exhibitions. So much is online these days so I like the idea of work being in a physical space and people seeing it in person. I’ve also got a few books that need to be published, memoirs and poetry and a diary being published.
Lastly, are there any platforms, podcasts, or books you would like to recommend?
Please check out these causes and their websites. There are plenty out there.
Til the cows come home
Collins Rescue Dog Shelter
Elephant sanctuary, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Animals Asia (bears included)
Retreat animal rescue, Kent
Scrap Factory Farming
Compassion in World Farming
Humane League etc
The donkey sanctuary
Susan Taylor on bullfighting
League Against Cruel Sports
Life with Pigs
Friends of the Earth
Woodlands Animal Sanctuary
Know more about the artist here
All images courtesy of Alice Lenkiewicz.
I am primarily a visionary painter as well as a photographer. My themes tend to be intuitive and mystical. I am a vegan and very passionate about animal rights. Over the years I have started creating digital paintings that campaign for the rights of animals, particularly to end factory farming and animal exploitation. Most of these works I tweet online in correspondence to animal rights campaigners and their posts and it's a way for me to convey my feelings and get my message across as well as support others fighting for the rights, welfare and justice for animals.