May 15, 2008
Update, San José: WSPA believes there is no justification for the mistreatment of animals. The use of an emaciated dog by Guillermo Vargas (Habacuc) during an art exhibition in Nicaragua in 2007 was cruel and contrary to the Five Freedoms that form the basis of animal welfare.
For these reasons, WSPA is opposed to Vargas’ participation in the VIth Central American Visual Arts Biennial – and any future exhibitions – and has urged the organizers to withdraw the artist’s right to exhibit.
Representatives from Empresarios por el Arte in Costa Rica acknowledged that the organization is opposed to animal cruelty for artistic purposes but also said that they cannot prevent Vargas from participating in the Honduran biennial. In a letter sent to WSPA on April 30 2008, Mr. Ronald Zürcher – president of the association – confirmed that artists will not use animals during this show.
WSPA is awaiting a response from Mujeres en las Artes to the petition calling for Vargas to be prevented from participating in the exhibition. Neither the Asociación Hondureña Protectora de los Animales y su Hábitat (AHPRA) or any representative of WSPA will act as observer in the biennale.
Furthermore, WSPA is supporting and allocating resources to a project led by a special commission within the Nicaraguan Congress aiming to update and reform the nation’s animal protection laws. This will make prosecution and punishment for the mistreatment to animals possible in the future.
In 2007, artist Guillermo Vargas showed an emaciated live dog in a Nicaraguan gallery. Despite public outcry, the country’s lack of animal welfare laws meant he faced no consequences. This year, when Vargas was invited to compete in an art show in Honduras, WSPA and member society the Honduras Association for the Protection of Animals and their Environment (AHPRA) acted to ensure this cruelty could not be repeated by any artist.
Elly Hiby, WSPA’s Head of Companion Animals, commented: “Information regarding the treatment and fate of the dog used in the 2007 exhibition is inconsistent, but for WSPA – irrespective of the exact outcome – chaining a dog without food or water for public entertainment is a reprehensible abuse”. Our attempts to discuss the matter with Vargas’ representative were met with silence.
But images from the Nicaraguan gallery were not forgotten. When Vargas was invited to enter the VI Central American Visual Arts Biennale (to be held in Honduras this year), an independent internet petition against the artist and his work attracted over two million signatures. WSPA sought a meeting with Business Owners for Art (Empresarios por el Arte), one of the sponsors of the Honduras Biennale.
In the meeting, WSPA’s representative gave sound welfare arguments against the work shown in Nicaragua and formally requested that the Honduras AHPRA be invited to observe the Biennale exhibition.
After pressure from WSPA, the Honduras AHPRA and the public, the Biennial organizers have agreed not only to make AHPRA official observers but also to include new competition rules that prohibit the abuse of animals.
While we are satisfied that no-one will be able to abuse animals in the name of art during this forthcoming exhibition, stronger laws need to be in place that prohibit animal cruelty full stop. WSPA and member society UCC are currently supporting a campaign, led by the Commission for Natural Resources and Environment of the Nicaraguan Assembly, calling for legislation to protect animals in Nicaragua.
You too cansupport the protection of animals worldwide by signing the Animals Matter to Me petition. This calls for a Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare, an internationally accepted set of principles about the treatment of animals that would encourage countries to improve their legislation.
More about the Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare >>