Book Shorts

Old animals remind us of old people in this book of photographs

Isa Leshko’s images plead for the better treatment of animals

Isa Leshko, Kelly (2019) © Isa Leshko

As the world’s population ages (9% is currently over 65—and rising), we are faced with serious economic and social problems. This book of photographs by the US artist Isa Leshko draws us, anthropomorphically, in the world of old animals—cows, chickens, pigs, rabbits, donkeys, horses and goats, but, interestingly, no cats (do nine lives preclude old age?). In her construction they bear many of the physical characteristics of old people—dimmed eyes, wrinkles, sagging postures, drooling and generally looking worn down (shown here, Kelly, an Irish wolfhound, exhausted by years of being forced to bear litters). Contrary to current obsessions of middle-aged and older people with looking younger and behaving like kids, these animals do not have an option (as was the case for us not all that long ago).

One should note, however, that these animals have not had easy lives: they hail from rescue homes, sanctuaries, abandonment and abattoirs (nearly all of which have their parallels in the world of elder care, of course). Each of the full-page, black and white photographs is accompanied by a mini-“biography” of the animal, some which make harrowing reading.

  • Isa Leshko, Allowed to Grow Old: Portraits of Elderly Animals from Farm Sanctuaries, University of Chicago Press, 126pp, £30, $40 (hb)