Tuesday, May 20, 2008
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras--Costa Rican shock artist Guillermo "Habacuc" Vargas may become a real-life Central American counterpart of the Ancient Mariner, whose fictional excess and punishment helped an entire society to consider how to respond to cruelty toward animals.
More than two million people have signed Internet petitions denouncing Vargas. Thousands have pledged to ensure that he will not escape his past.
"As part of an exposition in Managua, Nicaragua, in August," summarized Rod Hughes of Costa Rica News on October 4, 2007, "Vargas allegedly found a dog tied up on a street corner in a poor Nicaragua barrio and brought the dog to the showing. He tied the dog, according to furious animal lovers, in a corner of the salon, where the dog died after a day. The exhibition included a legend spelled out in dog food reading 'You are what you read,' photos, and an incense burner that burned an ounce of marijauna and 175 'rocks' of crack cocaine. In the background, according to reports, the Sandista national anthem was played backward.
"According to the artist," Hughes continued, "his 'art' was a tribute to Natividad Canda, a Nicaraguan burglar killed in Costa Rica by two Rottweilers guarding property he had entered at night."
Hughes' account was largely translated from the newspaper La Nacion, of San Jose, Costa Rica, which added, "The dog died the day after the exhibition, as was confirmed to La Nación by Marta Leonor Gonzalez, editor of the cultural supplement of La Prensa in Nicaragua."
The severely emaciated condition of the dog has been documented in numerous published photographs of the exhibit, many of them close-ups of the dog, others showing the dog in the background while focusing on other parts of the gallery.
"We heard about this three days after it happened, and the poor dog had already died," McKee Project administrator Carla Ferraro told ANIMAL PEOPLE.
The McKee Project, the leading dog-and-cat sterilization program in Costa Rica, was only one of many Costa Rican pro-animal organizations to respond--but Vargas was beyond prosecution. The dog was tied and starved outside of Costa Rican jurisdiction, while Nicaragua has no humane law.
"Vargas, 32, said he wanted to test the public's reaction, and insisted that none of the exhibition visitors intervened to stop the animal's suffering," reported Gerard Couzens, Madrid correspondent for the London Observer, after the furor followed Vargas to an appearance in Spain. "He refused to say whether the animal had survived the show," Couzens added.
"Juanita Bermúdez, director of the Códice Gallery," where the Nicaraguan exhibition was held, "insisted Natividad escaped after just one day," Couzens continued.
Claimed Bermudez, "Natividad was untied all the time except for the three hours the exhibition lasted, and was fed regularly with dog food that Habacuc himself brought in."
"Our attempts to discuss the matter with Vargas' representative were met with silence," posted the World Society for the Protection of Animals. "When Vargas was invited to enter the VI Central American Visual Arts Biennale, to be held in Honduras this year, WSPA met with Empresarios por el Arte, one of the sponsors of the Honduras Biennale."
The outcome, WSPA announced, was that "the Biennial organizers have agreed not only to make the Honduras Association for the Protection of Animals and their Environment official observers but also to include new competition rules that prohibit abuse of animals."
In addition, WSPA said, it and a Nicaraguan member society "are supporting a campaign, led by the Commission for Natural Resources and Environment of the Nicaraguan Assembly, calling for legislation to protect animals in Nicaragua."
If Nicaragua adopts a humane law, the Vargas case will parallel the influence of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner in a way largely overlooked by literary critics.
Samuel Coleridge published the first edition of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner in 1798, 22 years before Britain had a humane law--but Coleridge was aware of the need for one, and moved in the same circles as some of Britain's most prominent early animal advocates. As The Rime of the Ancient Mariner gained popularity, parallel to the efforts of William Wilburforce and "Humanity Dick" Martin to push a humane law through Parliament, Coleridge produced updated and expanded editions in 1800 and 1817.
The central character of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is a sailor on a ship that is led out of treacherous Antarctic waters to safety by an albatross. The Ancient Mariner shoots the albatross. Catastrophe follows. All of the crew die except the Ancient Mariner, but not before he is punished by being forced to wear the remains of the albatross around his neck, to remind himself and the world of his deed.
One of Samuel Coleridge's descendants, Stephen Coleridge (1854-1936) acknowledged The Rime of the Ancient Mariner as his inspiration throughout a long tenure as president of the British National Anti-Vivisection Society.
Stephen Coleridge's 9-point "Animals' Charter" is believed to be the earliest incarnation of the document now called the Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare, promoted by WSPA in hopes of getting the United Nations to adopt it as an international convention.
Costa Rican president Oscar Arias Sanchez on March 5, 2008 became the one millioneth person to sign a petition seeking passage of the Universal Declaration. Costa Rican vice president Laura Chinchilla, environment minister Roberto Dobles, and education minister Leonardo Garnier signed the petition at the same ceremony, and then passed the petition among the audience to collect further signatures, said a WSPA press release.
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Monday, May 19, 2008
The HSUS understands that quality dog breeders have put a great deal of expense and effort into testing their breeding dogs for genetic soundness and working to improve the overall health and welfare of their breeds. Responsible breeders are justifiably frustrated when poor quality, high-volume breeders (puppy mills) appear to get a stamp of approval when in reality these unscrupulous breeders have not worked to improve the soundness of their breeds or care for these animals humanely.
Because The HSUS has been at the forefront of the fight against puppy mills for over four decades, we understood and shared your concern over this partnership. The HSUS joined with breeders nationwide in contacting AKC and voicing our concern.
If the mission of AKC is to “…promote the sport of purebred dogs…”, the mission of the HSUS puppy mill campaign could easily be stated as “Promoting the Salvation of the Purebred Dog” since purebred dogs suffer at a far higher rate in puppy mills than do mixed breed dogs. As individuals who focus on specific breeds of dogs, this letter should serve as a personal invitation to each of you to join with The HSUS in our fight to stop puppy mills.
As any good breeder or animal welfare advocate knows, the bulk of pet store puppies come from puppy mills. Puppy mill breeding dogs suffer immeasurably as their needs are routinely ignored and compromised. A lifetime in a cage for an animal as highly social as a dog is psychological torture. Puppy mill breeding dogs are routinely forced into a life of poor quality housing (wire or concrete cages), poor quality food, poor quality water that is often dirty and algae-covered and poor quality (if any) veterinary care. Puppy mills breed indiscriminately, perpetuating congenital and hereditary disorders that are damaging to many future generations of dogs. This industry that accepts mistreatment and poor husbandry as routine is boosted every single time someone purchases one of the puppies at a pet store.
Additionally, the purchase of a puppy through a pet store removes any chance of a puppy buyer (and usually the pet store staff as well) knowing the conditions the puppies were born into, the level of care (or lack there of) the puppies received, the conditions the puppies’ parents continue to suffer under, and the genetic and other health problems the puppies are carrying due to the lack of appropriate health testing and veterinary care.
Some breed enthusiasts suffer from the misconception that The HSUS is working to stop all dog breeding. This is not the case. Our focus remains to stop the factory-style production of puppies, where breeding dogs are treated like little machines whose only purpose is to crank out puppies for profit. Our focus is on the hundreds of thousands of breeding dogs sitting in cages without hope of ever escaping to live a life as part of a family, and the millions of puppies those dogs are forced to produce to be sold at a high profit but who have a greater chance of suffering from their own host of health problems due to their poor start in life. We will absolutely work tirelessly to stop this entrenched and blatant mistreatment of dogs.
If you are opposed to cruel treatment of dogs, and if you feel that those who profess to be involved in the breeding of purebred dogs out of love for the breed should be actively fighting to protect those animals from abusive breeding practices, we again invite you to join with The HSUS in our fight to end puppy mills.
Please visit our website www.StopPuppyMills.org to learn more about our efforts and how you can join with us.
Director of Outreach Companion Animals
The Humane Society of the United States
2100 L St., NW
Washington, DC 20037 301-258-3121
Sunday, May 18, 2008
The bill aims to limit the number of dogs held in abusive puppy mills – mills that churn out thousands of dogs for sale in pet stores and over the internet.
The Humane Society of the United States testified in support of the legislation. The organization says many puppy mill operators deceive consumers into believing the dogs came from reputable breeders.
"Limiting the number of animals at a puppy mill is an important first step to ensure that dogs used for breeding are treated humanely, and also addresses one source of pet overpopulation," said Julia Breaux , HSUS' Louisiana state director.
According to the HSUS, 76,000 dogs are handled by Louisiana's shelters each year and 50,000 of those dogs are eventually euthanized. Sheltering the unwanted dogs costs Louisiana citizens more than $10 million a year, the organization adds.
The HSUS is also working to try and ban internet sales that escape regulation through a loophole in current law, as well as banning the imports of young dogs from foreign puppy mills.
Friday, May 02, 2008
Council Member Rosendahl asked me to comment on the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act. I prefaced my comments with this Cesar Chavez quote:
"'We need, in a special way, to work twice as hard to help people understand that animals are fellow creatures. We must protect them and love them as we love ourselves. We know we cannot be kind to animals until we stop exploiting them - exploiting animals in the name of science, exploiting animals in the name of sport, exploiting animals in the name of fashion, and yes, exploiting animals in the name of food.'
"Surely, if Cesar Chavez were here today, he would urge the City Council to support this initiative.
I want to thank council members Rosendahl and Alarcon for introducing this important motion to the City Council. I want to urge the Council to join the City of San Francisco and other California communities in supporting this modest ballot measure.
The hundreds of LA residents who volunteered their time to collect thousands of signatures, as well as the over 800,000 individuals who signed the Californians for Humane Farms petition agree with Council members Rosendahl and Alarcon that this initiative reinforces LA’s long standing commitment to protecting the health and welfare of all animals by preventing the inhumane treatment of animals.
This initiative is sponsored by The Humane Society of the United States, Farm Sanctuary and many other California and national animal welfare groups, CA family farmers, CA veterinarians, and public health and food safety professionals, and the LA Animal Services Commission recently voted to support a very similar motion.
The Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act asks for only the most basic needs for farm animals: merely the ability to turn around and extend their limbs. It is hard to imagine a more moderate initiative.
The measure will prevent three methods of the most cruel and inhumane forms of extreme confinement in the world of animal agribusiness: veal crates, battery cages, and gestation crates. All three of these practices have already been outlawed in the European Union.
The Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act will reduce the suffering of nearly 20 million animals confined in California factory farms each year. Florida, Arizona, and Oregon have already banned gestation crates, and Arizona has banned veal crates. Some major California food retailers are already voluntarily moving away from the cruel use of battery cages and veal and gestation crates.
As a City we would never permit animals in our shelters to endure confinement so restrictive that they couldn't extend their limbs for months on end, and as Californians we shouldn't support such cruelty to farm animals. All animals, including those raised for food, deserve humane treatment.
During these difficult fiscal times, it is important to know that California’s Legislative Analyst has determined that the fiscal impact of this initiative is limited to minor costs that will be offset by revenue from fines. This ballot measure also gives farmers until the year 2015 to phase in more humane production practices. Again, I ask the council for a yes vote."
Thanks to the hard work of many, and those who spoke in support of this motion today, the City Council unanimously voted to support this motion.
Earlier, the Council poetically voted to support an effort to create a national Cesar Chavez holiday.