BFA student uses art to push back against animal mistreatment

Kate Malenfant-McNeice refuses to be silenced as an advocate for domestic pets

Kate Malenfant-McNeice.

Kate Malenfant-McNeice uses her artwork to force viewers to re-consider their rights as pet owners.

Fourth-year BFA student Malenfant-McNeice's focus on animal rights and the fair treatment of domestic pets has brought her a lot of criticism. However, she’s met this challenge head-on and is determined to continue—even if it isn’t pleasant for viewers.

Malenfant-McNeice's artwork focuses on animal welfare and the unjust treatment of domesticated pets. Though an issue she feels passionately about, Malenfant-McNeice has found that others don’t care as much, and often aren’t willing to talk about it.

Her love and compassion for animals is what drives her work. Animal welfare has been her focus for two years now, and though it’s close to her heart, she’s had a tough time sorting out how best to incorporate it into her art.  

“It’s been really hard for me to put it into words because there’s a lot of deniability in this concept,” she said in an interview with The Journal.

She says she’s had to deal with a lot of pushback from people when she tries to explain her concept. She’s faced doubt and denial from family members, friends, and peers who don’t believe the issue is a serious one, but it’s only made her conviction stronger.

“Now I’m exhausted by it,” she said. “I find it’s quite successful, though, for my artwork. It’s given me something to do. It’s not just that I’m passionate about art, I’m passionate about my subject matter.”

Combining her art and her fixation on animal welfare has given her a productive way to channel her frustrations while sending a message to those who have doubted her cause.

“A lot of people will try to speak over me because I’m smaller, because I’m a woman, I don’t know why people try to speak over me but [they do],” Malenfant-McNeice said. “It might be because of my age. It might be because these topics aren’t well-researched and aren’t important to most people.”

The artist is speaking up against those who have tried to dismiss her, and she doesn’t care if her work is easy to look at.

Right now she’s focusing her work on indoor cats and why owners think it’s okay to release them back into the wild. When people see her work, she hopes they reconsider whether they should get pets themselves. Malenfant-McNeice wants people to question their beliefs and ask themselves, “What gives me the right to have this animal?”

One of her pieces shows cat claws and a dead bird. It’s meant to show what happens when domesticated animals are released into the wild. She also intends for this to touch on the injustice of de-clawing cats—though it’s now illegal in seven out of ten provinces in Canada as of July 2019.

“It’s about pushing and asking questions and putting those questions into people’s minds.”

Throughout her time at Queen’s in the Bachelor of Fine Art program, Malenfant-McNeice says she’s really come into her own. Her work has changed and matured, and she hopes it continues to do so.

“My art’s very different from what it was in first year. My work’s not about ‘beautiful,’ it’s not just to be put on someone’s wall,” she said. “This isn’t a conversation I can be shut down in. People can’t shut down my creation. They can not like my work, but they can’t stop me from doing this.”

Malenfant-McNeice is now at a point in her artistic career where she knows what her aim is as an artist. Her vision is clear.


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