Anybody who reads the newspaper comics pages is familiar with Bizarro
-- the surrealistic panel 'toon with a die-hard following of fans of
all that is warped.
Dan Piraro, the 48-year-old cartoonist behind Bizarro, was in town
last month to speak at the Blue Metropolis Montreal International
Literary Festival and says he's thrilled to have such a loyal fan
Environmentalism and animal rights play a central role in his life,
and the two issues are often reflected in his work. He became more
ardent after meeting his second wife, Ashley Smith, a long-time
animal-rights activist. Like Smith, Piraro turned to veganism when he
learned more about how farm and agricultural animals are treated.
"There are so many people out there that just have no idea of the
impact that their day-to-day lifestyle choices have, and that was me
six years ago, so you know, I'm not being judgmental."
Piraro often beats the animal rights drum in his cartoons, sometimes
so subtly that some people might not notice -- but it's there.
"A lot of my cartoons are born out of anger. And a lot of it is just
the anger of ignorance," says Piraro.
"Environmental and animal rights issues are so interwoven, there's no
way to separate those two issues. Vegetarianism is environmentalism.
It's all the same issue."
His anger is aimed at a media that he says doesn't give the issue
enough coverage, at politicians who turn a blind eye, and at the
average citizen who doesn't bother to get informed.
"There's is an inordinate amount of suffering caused by a person's
99-cent hamburger... [Most people have] no idea what tremendous amount
of suffering and environmental damage is being done -- and political
damage with all the subsidies. It just drives you crazy once you
Piraro hits the issue so persistently that he was honoured for his
efforts in 2002 by the Humane Society.