Artist starves dog?

Recently there’s been a big deal all over the intarwebs about an artist who allegedly starved a dog to death as part of an exhibition, and is supposedly going to re-create the spectacle at another exhibit. The artist in question is Guillermo Vargas, also known as “Habacuc”, and as one might imagine petitions abound DEMANDING!!!! that people take action to put pressure on the event to nix the new exhibit (for example, here). The artist has recently acknowledged that he has received death threats.

I do not wish to defend the attempt to re-create the exhibit, I don’t know enough about that to comment intelligently, but I can say for sure that what happened earlier with the dog has not been reported accurately. Vargas did not starve the dog, the dog was in a state of starvation when he found it. The gallery has reported that the dog was fed outside of the exhibit, which was only open 3 hours a day.

The artist has gone on record saying his intent was to show that people would ignore the animal unless something was specifically done to call their attention to him, and that in effect what they were doing was saving his life and bringing the plight of animals on the street to people in a public forum. The dog was not being starved, it was already starved and they fed it. The dog was untied except for the 3 hours the exhibit was open. Vargas said that the piece meant to test the public and that none of the exhibition’s visitors intervened to help the animal. Furthermore, it was reported that the dog escaped while the exhibit was still ongoing, so no one really knows what happened to the dog. It is apparently not the case that Vargas killed it or starved it to death, and in fact had the dog not escaped it is likely that it would have ended up in better shape than it was in when it was discovered.

The ethics of using any living creature as part of an artistic exhibit are debatable, as are the ethics of intentionally recreating the spectacle, but it is patently not true that the artist killed or starved to death an animal, and to the contrary it appears that his intent was to promote awareness of human cruelty to animals by neglecting them. Because of that, I find it doubtful that he would intentionally commit cruel acts towards another dog.

Perhaps one good thing that could come out of this is that, regardless of how the artist is publicly portrayed, people might become more aware of animal rights issues and the plight of stray and feral animals in urban areas. That would be a cause worth getting involved in.

Story from The Guardian

Musings on meat and the recent recall

Well, unless you live under a rock you’ve probably heard by now that 143 million pounds of beef coming from a particular meat factory in California have been recalled due to concerns over health and safety related to the improper health-related treatment of certain “downer” cows. A few thoughts:

1) I saw on the news today an anchor ask a question I’m sure has been on many minds: “why did it take 3 weeks from the time the videos of the cruelty were released for action to be taken and the recall to happen?” The reason is that it was because the cruelty in and of itself was what drew USDA attention to the possibility of there being unsanitary goings-on at the beef plant – but the cruelty itself was not necessarily a matter worthy of attention such as a massive recall. The concern was not that animals were being tortured, but that proper inspection procedures had not been followed and therefore it was remotely possible that somewhere in the tons and tons of beef coming out of this bovine manufactory a certain amount might have been tainted. It is NOT necessarily illegal to prod a cow or to pick it up with a forklift, unless you use that as a means to circumvent health codes (which are, as anyone who’s read the USDA meat inspectors’ manual can tell you, not terribly reassuring). As a matter of fact, the people at the cattle mill may have thought they could get away with it within the law, as it turns out there may be loopholes in the USDA policy. Doesn’t that just make you want to run out and grab a hot, juicy burger at your local Wendy’s after an exhilarating session of midnight street luging?

2. They seriously expect us to believe that just because the company has fired the two workers “responsible for the problem” and that everything is all better (or a least it will be soon). And, because we’re sheep who want to believe everything is ok and we can go on consuming thoughtlessly like we usually do, they’re probably right. The fact is that (just as I said about the problems at Walter Reed hospital) these practices are not “aberrations from the system”, they are products of the system itself – the system that makes it profitable to get every animal that can be killed and ground up to the killing floor in at least a quasi-legal fashion. The entire industrial meat production system is founded on the atrocity that claims what animals are good for is consumption and making money in the most efficient manner possible, regardless of consequences for the animal or even for consumers. The “protections” built into the law are a joke, as anyone who’s read the USDA meat inspectors’ manual can tell you. Is there an echo? I think I said that already…

3. If people are horrified by videos of people prodding cattle and picking them up with forklifts, I can only imagine the reaction of disgust if they learned that a large portion of what animals to be slaughtered are fed comes from bone, blood, guts, brains, and other parts of slaughtered animals that couldn’t be used as meat, which are turned into feed by a process known as rendering. Rendering is only supposed to be done from USDA-approved cows, but the oversight for rendering falls upon the FDA, and their inspections of rendering plants only check to make sure animal feed containing cattle parts is labeled. They do not check to make sure the animal parts being used come from cows that were approved by the USDA. Contrary to official stock sweatshop spokesmen propaganda, the prions that cause bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as “mad cow disease”, can and do jump species from cattle to humans – and these same microorganisms cause a disease in humans, Creudtzfelt-Jakob Disease (CJD), that essentially turns the brain into a spongy mess, much like Alzheimer’s. Not only that, but CJD is misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s enough times to be more than just statistically significant. And the rendering process does not kill prions. On that point and several others, you REALLY ought to read this article by Maria Tomchick from Znet. Vegetarians and vegans, don’t go thinking you’re safe just because you don’t consume meat/animal products.

4. BSE doesn’t usually show up in cows for 5-7 years. Most beef cattle are slaughtered by age 3. So there’s no telling how many carriers have already been eaten or otherwise processed. CJD can take 30 or more years to show up noticeably in a human. Doesn’t that make you feel great?

5. Even though the risk of being infected by BSE-contaminated beef or cattle products is relatively low, it’s a risk that has been completely placed off the map by the corporate PR machine, with a compliant US government bowing to its whims. And if the information linked above isn’t enough to make you angry about that, maybe the information on this site will be. As I said in a comment on my sister’s blog today,

The problem will never be solved until the system that makes it profitable for such abuses to occur is dismantled, and it will not be dismantled voluntarily by those who profit from it.

Nor will it be sufficiently challenged by the government that is inextricably entwined with the corporate industry – just check up on how many FDA and USDA officials used to be industry spokespeople or corporate officials, and vice versa. It’s not even that the corporates are masters controlling their government lackeys, the relationship is too reciprocal to be cast in those terms – but any way you look at it, the government-corporate conglomerate scheme does NOT have any of our best interests in mind. In the words of Urban Seeds, an Evansville gardening cooperative, “plant a garden – start a revolution!”

Interestingly, prions also means “let us pray”, in French. So… prions pour une révolution.