If animals could speak in a language humans could understand, what would they say to us? Through the groundbreaking exhibit The Council of Animals (What to Do About the Humans), created in collaboration with artist Quill Hyde, PETA is challenging everyone to reflect on this urgent question.
From July 13 through September 3, 2023, the thought-provoking multimedia exhibit—a towering steel and aluminum work featuring a polar bear, an elephant, a rhinoceros, a chicken, and a coyote—was be on display on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The exhibit was located just blocks away from the U.S. Capitol as a call to the country’s leaders and the public that we must learn to coexist peacefully with our fellow animals and not exploit them, which means acting on the realization that their lives and interests matter.
“We are one family, on one planet,” says Hyde. “The human race, the elephant race, all of the animal and insect and fish and plant races—we are all part of the same family. Humans are not special! We are just good at using our hands and equipped with powerful language-equipped minds. We can use them to do better. We can make up for our past mistakes. We have a judgment to answer to. And we can. We can make the world a wonderful place for all of our family. But we must choose to do so and engage a positive future.”
The Council of Animals boldly declares that if our fellow animals could communicate directly with humans, they would beg us to stop harming, exploiting, and slaughtering them. The exhibit grapples with the unique threat that our species poses to all other living beings on Earth and seeks to empower visitors with the knowledge that everyone has the power to combat speciesism and human supremacy. To prompt this crucial conversation on humanity’s collective responsibility toward all the other amazing animals with whom we share this planet, the sculpture has an audio component in the form of a powerful speech, delivered by the coyote, voiced by Battlestar Galactica and Academy Award–nominated actor Edward James Olmos.
In this solemn monologue, the coyote draws attention to the talents, languages, and cultures of various animals:
Dear friends, we are gathered here today to discuss the problem of humanity. … Look around you. There’s the elephant, with her profound emotional intelligence; the rhinoceros, with his majestic horn; the polar bear, with his unmatched resilience; the chicken, with her superb mothering instincts; and me—the clever coyote. But our talents, interests, and autonomy are often overlooked because some humans believe other animals exist just for them.
By challenging humans to hear our fellow animals, The Council of Animals reminds us that all sentient beings—regardless of their unique traits and differences from us—can suffer. Dogs, rabbits, rats, mice, and other animals suffer in laboratories when experimenters subject them to painful, invasive tests before killing them. Cows, pigs, and chickens suffer when farmers cram them into filthy facilities and send them off to be slaughtered. Marine mammals, elephants, bears, big cats, and other animals suffer when they’re exploited for entertainment. Speciesism—the flawed notion that all other animals are ours to exploit and that their interests, relationships, desires, and feelings don’t matter—inevitably leads to violence and exploitation, so it must be dismantled and replaced with the clear and simple principle that every animal deserves autonomy and respect.
Throughout the summer, everyone who visits the exhibit will be invited to endorse PETA’s “Declaration on Consciousness”—based on “The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness” (July 7, 2012) —a statement signed by prominent scientists, ethicists, academics, and elected officials, acknowledging animals’ complex inner lives and their desire for freedom from human oppression.
Please join us by signing our ‘Declaration on Consciousness’ below.