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April 10 2008

Tony Head speaks out against animal cruelty. According to the information I've found online, a Costa Rican "artist" starved a dog for "art," and is now being honored.

Some of what I've found says this is a hoax, or that the dog was held for three hours, during the gallery's show, and then released, and some says the dog was actually tied for three days without food or water, and left to starve to death.

On a lighter note, Tony's also narrating the "Doctor Who Confidential" again.

That is sickening! Cheers to Tony for speaking for those who don't have voices.
Hurting animals for medical reasons is bad enough. I'm not sure even that's justified, but it's at least an issue that is definitely in a grey area and up for debate, but hurting animals for art? There's no way that can ever be justified.
You can read what has about the Starving Dog Art story here. Right now there is conflicting information. I'm sure they'll update it as more is known.

If it turns out to be true, may everyone involved burn in a Special Hell.
Amrita That's why I mentioned that I've found both sides of this story, those saying "Nope, didn't happen/didn't happen that way" and those saying "Been there, saw that."

I never cease to be amazed, appalled and saddened by what people inflict on our four-legged brothers.
Wow, that is one of the most horrifying things I've ever heard. I hope it's not true. And if it is true, I hope that piece of trash gets devoured by starving dogs in a dark alley somewhere. *goes home to snuggle her cats*
This story made the internet rounds toward the end of 2007 - and I did a lot of research on it at the time...

My final understanding was that a Costa Rican artist had in fact found a underweight and no doubt starving dog on the streets and put him in an art exhibition - one that he said was supposed to bring attention to such things, among other motives... and I believe that I read that the dog got away - but whether we actually know for sure what happened to the poor pup, I do not remember.

That there was such an exhibition is not something controversial - it did - and there are photos of it here (please be forewarned - these are upsetting photos) and it is referred to here. It caused a ruckus in Costa Rica at the time and around the world - via the internet.

However the artist came by the dog, and whether he fed him or not (and these are the only aspects that appear unsettled) I find it appalling - inexcusable - that he put the dog in the show - even if it was to highlight inhumanity, I cannot under any circumstances tolerate the artist himself being so cruel. I read a whole lot of artistic justification online at the time ("well, it got this dialogue going, didn't it" and "art must be provocative to be effective") and I wasn't buying it. If you become the inhumanity you are depicting, then that's what you are doing, no matter what your intention...

It happened and It. Is. Just. Wrong. That's pretty much non-negotiable, for me.

(ET: fix typos. Can you tell I got upset and pissed off all over again just writing this?)

[ edited by QuoterGal on 2008-04-11 00:34 ]
" If you become the inhumanity you are depicting, than that's what you are doing, no matter what your intention... "
Beautifully put, QuoterGal. Thank you so much for putting such powerful words to my inarticulate tangle of feelings.
Umm, Tony 's connection wasn't obvious on the linked page.
I'm not defending this. It's pretty disturbing. But, to play devil's advocate just for a moment...

We've heard this side of the argument before, and I'm going to repeat it. If that dog was out on the street, would anybody have fed it? What about any other dog? Cat? Heck, even human? (Scratch that-- especially human). If they're on the street, frankly, we just don't give a damn.

But we care about this one. Why? Because we got to see the results. Well, now every time we pass a starving person/animal/something else than can starve on the street, we'll think twice.

Me? I walked past a beggar today. Stopped. Remembered the dog. Turned back, and left some change. I ABSOLUTELY GUARANTEE I'm not the only one.

Was this the best way to go about getting the word out there? Absolutely not. I don't blame anybody for getting so upset over this, and you know what? I'm right there beside you. For God's sake, find another way.

But was it effective... well... yeah. It was.

Should it be done again?

No way, no how. If this could somehow (unfathomably) be justified (I don't think it is, despite the results), it's gotten its point across. Doing it again won't do a thing.
Should it be done again? .....No way, no how

I think the point is, it should never have been done in the first place, and QuoterGal expressed that, far more elegantly and succinctly than I could.

Old news or not, yay for Tony. He just climbed way up my list of truly decent human beings.
Umm, Tony 's connection wasn't obvious on the linked page.

I don't know if the link has been changed since you posted this, but the link is to, so I'm pretty sure that's our connection there.
There are so many outrageous things being done to helpless animals all over the world, it is hard for me or anyone really, to get a handle on how to process them without going stark staring insane. The story about the dog is horrific. Talk about feeling helpless. For instance, I have no interest in watching the Olympics because they're being held in China, a country that allows Bear Bile farming, a country that has "amusement" parks where animals are pushed off an extremely high wall to be finished off by lions below, all to the cheering and excited crowds. I'm glad Tony Head sticks up for animals and I know there are many more like him who do.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not condoning what this guy did, but he does kind of have a point. If his intent was to prove that people will become outraged by this one animal while millions of others are ignored as they starve in the streets, he definetely succeeded. I'm thinking about it now. I wasn't a minute ago. That doesn't change how basically evil his actions were, but he does bring up a point.
The "well, at least we're talking about it" argument doesn't hold any water for me. I mean, I get the sentiment. But plenty of people devote their time, money and compassion to combat both animal and human cruelty. This isn't ground breaking or insightful, it's hypocrisy. This is dropping bombs to fight terrorism. It's murdering your sister to retain your family's honor. Not to mention that it's just f*cking horrific. I know no one is arguing otherwise, but all this stunt opens my eyes to is the staggering capacity for human indecency.
"According to him, the important thing was to show the hypocrisy of people and see how a dog becomes the focus of attention when it is in a gallery and not when they are on the streets."
To show the hypocrisy of "people" without taking responsibility for his own. Brilliant. What a hero. You know, I don't think the elderly are given enough respect in this country. Maybe I should prove that point by locking my grandpa in a cage without his meds and inviting people to watch him go into cardiac arrest and die. Boy-o, wouldn't that get people talking. This guy is a psychopath, not an artist.

[ edited by Samantha on 2008-05-08 21:40 ]
jfhlbuffy; I completely see your point but, once this dog was picked up and taken into the artist's custody, it stopped being just another stray on the streets. It took on a new category of identity and deserved to be treated as a domestic animal.

By analogy, as a child I saw an empty box lying on a parking lot, just litter. Iw anted to read soemthing on the label and picked it up. When I went to put ti back my father said that once I'd picked it up it was mine and so I neede to deposit it ina trash container, which I did with no real difficulty. The point is, things change.
Wow, that is one of the most horrifying things I've ever heard.

In one sense I genuinely hope that's true Samantha - Jesus, what i'd give for a story about a starving dog being one of the most horrifying things i'd ever heard (or even seen with my own eyes).

No offence to anyone but maybe we shouldn't start calling the artist a psychopath without knowing the actual full story ? That seems very much like playing the man and not the ball, which I thought we didn't do round these parts. Odd but, I guess, understandable that mistreatment of animals is the one area where we're apparently allowed to completely lose perspective - even the nicest folks need to vent every now and again it would seem and animal cruelty is a go-to for an emotive issue we all agree on.

That said, if the dog was starving on the street and he stuck it in an exhibit for a few days where it was fed and cared for how is that worse than it being on the street ? Is the issue that its freedom was curtailed ? Isn't that true of all pets ? What if it was taken to the pound and fed and cared for, wouldn't its freedom still be curtailed ? Plus, this has the actual, real-world effects mentioned by jfhlbuffy.

(if the animal was mis-treated then that's horrible - i'm a big dog person - and he should be punished to the extent of the law in Costa Rica, whatever that is but it has to be said, dogs and other animals are horribly mistreated every single day without most people sparing them a thought and usually with absolutely no benefit to anyone, even the arguably dubious one of raising attention and provoking thought)
You know, I don't think the elderly are given enough respect in this country. Maybe I should prove that point by locking my grandpa in a cage without his meds and inviting people to watch him go into cardiac arrest and die. Boy-o, wouldn't that get people talking. This guy is a psychopath, not an artist, and really not even passable as human being.

Well, obviously, that comparison doesn't quite go up, Samantha. Maybe it would be the same if your grandpa was on the street, without food or medication and already really likely to die of cardiac arrest.

I'm not condoning the actions of this person if he really paid children to catch a starving dog and then proceeded to lock it up and starve it to death in an exhibition. I think pretty much any sane person would agree that that would make this man someone who has completely lost perspective on what he's doing.

If, on the other hand, he found a starving dog on the street, locked it up for a few hours during the exhibition to make a point and then freed it: then I don't know if I have any big moral objections to that.

In that case we are talking about a dog that was already dying on the streets in the first place. So would it really be any different than if that same 'artist' had passed a starving dog on the street, did nothing to ease the starving (as many of us would do) and went on his merry way? In this case, he lifted the dog out of its environment, still did nothing to ease his starving (as far as we know), but displayed it to confront people with the fact that no one ever does anything (and display the hypocracy in the moral outrage people feel over the exhibition in comparison to the lack of outrage over the fact that this dog is starving on the street in the first place). If no further harm was done, I'd say it was even marginally better, morally, than just walking on. Not as good as actually feeding the dog, but then again: not many people would. I know I probably wouldn't.

Also, the letter on Tony's website assumes quite a few things. Did they ask the 'artist' if he "enjoys inflicting prolonged suffering upon his innocent victims"? And isn't it going just one step to far - without, as this thread has shown - being able to know the whole story to proclaim: "He is a danger to all of society, as it is well-documented that those with the capacity to intentionally cause harm to an animal have the same capacity to harm humans"?

Really, I don't condone anyone hurting animals without just cause (like: survival - or, although it's a greyer area - medical testing), but this case feels like a simple "internet hype", where people automatically tend to draw the most horrible conclusions from unsubstantiated facts (I'm not talking about whedonesque here: I think the effort of people in this thread to look at both sides of the story is really admirable). But I don't think this person deserves all the hate he's receiving, as long as it's not proven that he did something that was, in fact, as horrible as people are assuming.

ETA: Whoops, Saje already made half of my points there...

[ edited by GVH on 2008-04-11 15:08 ]
Saje and GVH and jfhlbuffy have said everything I wanted to say... but also, I see this a lot on the internet and I'm always reminded that obviously I don't see animals in the same way as a lot of people because I still see them as just what they are - animals. They are not on par with humans, they are not 100% just as worthy of humans (burning house, save your mother or your dog?) and I really object to the sentiment that they are our "brothers" in any way, as ShadowQuest said, though I admit that it can be out of context in how SQ meant it.

I'm not into anthropomorphizing animals. I love my rabbit, I think he has emotions and thoughts, but I also know that in his little bunny core, he's nowhere as complex as a human being - there is beauty in the human body, the human brain and the thought process...I thin anthromorphizing animals tends to take away from that. Animals are not people.

I guess in that reference point, I see a story about an artist who displayed a starving dog in his gallery, but who may have or may have not fed the dog. Also, he may or may have not taken the dog off the street and starved the dog. Did he take it off the street? Or did he have a healthy dog and starved it? Also, was the dog hungry for a few hours or a few days?

The conflicting report is enough to doubt the validity of the claim itself and the outrage coming from an unconfirmed, incomplete report is irresponsible...I am against animal cruelty, as most people in the world are, but I think even Tony Head and others who have more of a voice about these things should be a bit more responsible and check their facts - it would not only benefit their arguments and efforts, but it would educte the rest of the world, since we here on whedonesque are discussing this but don't know all of the story.

So upon hearing about this, I'm wondering about the health ramifications of doing that where there are people, but then I realize that THAT was the point - we as a society hate the homeless, hate the poor, hate the diseased. Why not turn that comfort level on its end by showing the most depraved of human conditions? After all, this "love your neighbor" concept can't even be achieved for our elderly, our poor and our hungry. The dog is simply a way of showing that. As Saje said, if the dog was already starving and dying anyway - for a few hours or a night, he had a roof over its head. That can't be worse than being on the street.

[edited to fix the html]

[ edited by CaffeinatedSquint on 2008-04-11 16:04 ]
Let me say this about one of the sentiments expressed in the above post, not about the writer. I went through this already when the story about the Marine and his friends throwing a puppy off a cliff into a gorge came out a couple months ago. Because I didn't instead, at that particular moment in time decry all that Americans are doing to the innocent people in Iraq and other middle-eastern countries, because at that moment I decided to express outrage about a human hurting a helpless animal, I was vilified by someone I've known for years on the 'Net.

He didn't know I had been a member of Equality Now for many months, wrote, cared and spoke up about women's rights. He only blindly saw that at that particular moment I was not, according to him, caring about humanity more than an animal. And I'll say what I said to him, "all sentient beings deserve respect." I think within these issues it's a major sticking point. If humans really thought we were better, there would be no Animal Cops Reality TV Show, there wouldn't be agencies in every major city dedicated to ending the suffering of animals at our hands. I have seen grown men get upset on the show (you know, men who normally would strive to keep it in, suck it up) at the conditions they have found animals subjected to.

Removing the hoary saw about who we would save first for a moment, separating out who and what we should care about more, by degree or by percentage, is a huge red warning sign about why things are the way they are in this world.
Wow, that is one of the most horrifying things I've ever heard. I hope it's not true. And if it is true, I hope that piece of trash gets devoured by starving dogs in a dark alley somewhere.

What horrifies me most about the internet is the routine insight I get about how casually people wish violent injury and death on other people.
I could not agree more, Tonya J. Any "it's a dog, not a human" or "he was going to die on the street anyway" arguments are completely illogical to me. An animal is a living creature that knows pain and fear, just like a human. And in the company of a human, who has the advantage of the power of reason, an animal is essentially helpless. That means that we have the responsibility to protect them. I know that I value animals more than most people, but surely most people can still agree that they're not disposable.

Now, I'd like to believe that there's something I don't know, like that the dog was actually cared for while in captivity, and then set free. But since the information I've seen makes that sound unlikely, the scenario in front of me is a man making a choice to torture another being. I don't care why he did it, or what arbitrary path the dog would have taken otherwise. I'm sticking with "psychopath."

And yes Sunfire, I would normally agree with you. But frankly, I see a human with a God complex, inflicting violent injury and death on an innocent animal, and I want him to suffer.
Ok, few things here:

I highly doubt Anthony Head, who is involved in many animal, as well as human, charities, would have had this letter featured on his News page if he didn't have all his facts. I've met the man - he doesn't go off half-cocked.

As for "brothers" I don't mean as in they are adoptable into families, able to inherit money from a will and such. (And, yes, I do realize some folks go to that extreme.) I mean that they share this planet with us - pandas, mice, dogs, cheetahs. Is it all right to mistreat a wild creature, but not a domesticated breed, even if the domestic is living on the streets? No. Absolutely not. "And harm ye none, do what ye will."

I posted this here because I wanted to bring it to the attention of as many other people as possible. Whether this particular incident is actual or not, this sort of thing does go on, world-wide, and it needs to stop. There was recently a major rescue in the UK of several dozen horses and donkeys that were kept on a farm, to be sold as meat. They were left to starve, left to stand in their own excrement and on top of "fellow" equine bodies, just so the guy could make a few bucks (pounds, whatever) by selling them. has more information.

And from what I read about this case, the man paid children to capture the dog, then he tied it in a corner (There was a line strung between two outlets and a rope tied to that line) of the gallery, and he told people NOT to feed or water the dog. The showing was for three days. So not only was the dog denied food and water (Which it might, depending where it was living, be able to get on the street; scraps, carcasses, rainwater, etc) but it also was confined to a small area and left in its own excrement. Unless the "artist" cleaned out the corner frequently, of which I'm doubtful.

As for pets becoming part of the family - We had a Golden retriever for 16 years. I literally grew up with him. He slept by the side of my bed ever since he was a pup, even when I was living away from home. He hunted with my father, and went for walks with my mother. Don't tell me or my parents he wasn't part of our family. In the end, Mom tried to make him comfortable the same way she was trying to make her father, dying from cancer, comfortable. We lost Jake that October, and my grandfather the following June, just after my grandparents' anniversary.
Don't tell me or my parents he wasn't part of our family.

No one can or is. What they are telling you is that not everyone has the exact same reaction or level of feeling about this issue as you clearly do. In general, discussion with some dissenting viewpoints is something you should expect when you post something you have strong feelings about to a site anywhere on the internet, but most especially to a site such as this, which is organized around fandom more so than advocacy. I respect your desire to spread the word, but you shouldn't expect everyone here to agree with you on this. People here don't agree on anything, not even the awesomeness of the site's namesake and joy-dancing patron saint. No one here can tell you what you should think or define how you feel, but you likewise need to accept that people are going to disagree with you. Civilly, yet so.

I am truly glad that celebrities use their status to bring attention to worthwhile causes that would otherwise not receive attention. At the same time, I don't assume they actually have all of the facts when they're taking a position on something that provokes outrage and that happened somewhere distant. It has nothing to do with them not being good people and everything to do with them not having been there when stuff went down and their being first and foremost in the entertainment business, with advocacy work generally being side projects that they work on through people more directly involved.
I had a yellow lab growing up, beautiful dog, not many days go by I don't think of and miss her. We all loved our pets, I don't think this discussion is about evil dog haters vs the forces of light, it's more about not just deciding someone's a psychopath and wishing he was torn apart on the basis of some very sketchy information.

I highly doubt Anthony Head, who is involved in many animal, as well as human, charities, would have had this letter featured on his News page if he didn't have all his facts. I've met the man - he doesn't go off half-cocked.

Uh huh. Because well meaning but busy people have never been taken in by an internet hoax/petition or exaggerated story before ShadowQuest ;). Does ASH make mistakes or has he never been wrong, especially when impassioned, as he clearly is by this case (that is, assuming he even endorses this letter - do we actually know that for a fact BTW) ?

... but it also was confined to a small area and left in its own excrement. Unless the "artist" cleaned out the corner frequently, of which I'm doubtful.

Well, the photos are there for all to see as linked by the estimable (if Viking ;) QuoterGal. I see the dog and the poor wee thing does indeed look very thin. I don't see any excrement though (and frankly the idea that a gallery visited by the public would have dog shit lying around its floor, along with the accompanying stench, for three days strikes me as implausible in the extreme). Still, that sort of reasoning doesn't fit with the picture we're determined to paint of satanic evil doers out to cruelly kill an innocent dog, best ignore it.

Samantha: But since the information I've seen makes that sound unlikely...

Well, apart from the statement by the gallery owner director in the Costa Rican Nicaraguan press saying the dog was cared for (ETA: two mistakes in one sentence, impressive, no ? ;).

This much I know: we don't know. In those circumstances I usually try not to unleash the ravening hounds as my first move ;).

[ edited by Saje on 2008-04-11 22:03 ]
In the article in La Prensa the director of the art gallery said the dog was fed "in seclusion" and did not die. Where are we getting that the dog was not fed and died?
It's mentioned on the internet petition email that includes in their article and it's then repeated on the letter linked to above MysticSlug.

But your point is perfectly valid, which is to say, we don't know where the petition came from and we don't know who wrote the letter on ASH's official site or where they got their information from or how or if they checked it (or if ASH even endorses it and if so, what steps he's taken to check the facts).

Anyone can make any number of claims in an email (previous classics including sign a petition to save the Amazon rain forest or to save "closed captioning" on American TV) which good hearted but perhaps insufficiently sceptical people will often believe and pass on to others. Doesn't make them true (nor does any amount of moral outrage).
Ah yes, the intricacies of the internet and integrity. That having been said, the artist could have achieved the same affect with pictures. Reminds of the exhibition some years ago where the artist sectioned animals with plexiglass so it was possible to see the insides. It was disgusting. There was also the same discussion. Same outrage. Guess it just shows we feel and that's a good thing.
But frankly, I see a human with a God complex, inflicting violent injury and death on an innocent animal, and I want him to suffer.

Well, I would say that that's an unhealthy reaction, Samantha. To transform what QuoterGal said above into something applicable to this situation: "If you become the inhumanity you despise, then that's what you are, no matter the reason...".

But this right here, is what scares me about some of the more "enthusiastic" animal rights people (just for clarity: I'm not talking about anyone on this thread in particular right now): the willingness to inflict harm on human beings to defend animal rights. I don't care how you view animals - as "lower", "equal" or just "different" life-forms (I'm in the latter category, by the way) - but if the reaction at seeing pain and suffering is to want to cause pain and suffering, that is a truly disturbing thing.

I say this, because a close friend of mine has a mother who works as a leading scientist in a local medical testing facility, where they use animals for testing. This is a place that does research on potentially life-saving medicines (no excessive "cold cures" or - worse - cometics) and has very, very strict ethical rules, but the animal rights activists paint a very different picture to what's actually happening inside - which is why I'm much more sceptical about the kinds of claims that are being made in the linked letter. But what's even more scary, is that they regularly come to this woman's house, destroy her things (windows, car, etcetera) and threathen her children with bodily harm, up to the point that they need police protection. That's just something I can't wrap my head around - I'm against all types of cruelty - be they against humans or animals. And one should never lead to the other.
Yeah, GVH, though I can get pissy at times and defeat my own best intentions, I'm firmly in the camp that says spreading hate is spreading hate, no matter what it's in the name of... and as Sunfire mentioned, the promulgation of hate-and-death wishing on the internet is fairly horrifying in itself.

But then, I'm against the death penalty for similar reasons... and also firmly believe that the message you send by killing the killers does not convey "killing is bad" - and that ill-wishing and ill-doing does the doer great harm...

*does not intend to start or participate in a completely OT capital punishment discussion - it was just analogous for the moment...*

[ edited by dreamlogic on 2008-04-12 07:31 ]
So, capital punishment *rolls up sleeves, spits on hands* ...

*sound of Saje's can opener, worms everywhere*

Too many slippery slopes in that discussion.
Yeah, totally, I was just bein' hi-larious (cos if you can't laugh at capital punishment, what can you laugh at, eh ? ;).
Lima beans? :)
No, lima beans are serious business, MysticSlug. There's some things even whedonesquers shouldn't poke fun at. And lima beans is where I draw the line, m'kay?

I agree that this should be condemned for his actions, however i think that tony might putting all of costa rican people in a bag, we should write to the government of costa rica and stuff but i'm sure there are people there that didn't even know about the exhibition...

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