A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: animal cruelty

Butterflies: Animals or Art?

Britain Damien Hirst

By LASIS Staff

Artist Damien Hirst has never found favor amongst animal rights activists. He earned his reputation through his exhibit of a formaldehyde-soaked shark and sculpture of a severed cow’s head.

But some organizations have felt that his latest exhibit, “In and Out of Love” at the Tate Modern in London went too far.

On October 14, The Telegraph announced that the 23-week art retrospective had led to about 400 butterfly deaths per week, for a total death toll of over 9,000 butterflies, many which were squashed or stepped on when they came into contact with museum visitors.

The American organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) took issue, calling butterflies “beautiful parts of nature and should be enjoyed in the wild instead of destroyed for something predictable and unimaginative.”

A representative for Britain’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), went further, stating, “There would be national outcry if the exhibition involved any other animal, such as a dog. Just because it is butterflies, that does not mean they do not deserve to be treated with kindness.”

The museum itself has defended Mr. Hirst’s exhibit, stating, “The butterflies used in this work were all… selected from varieties known to thrive in the conditions created. The butterflies lived out the final state of their natural life cycle inside this room.”

The Daily Mail also reported that Mr. Hirst claimed he employed a butterfly expert for his exhibit at “considerable cost,” and that the living conditions created at the museum were “perfect,” resulting “in many butterflies enjoying longer life spans due to the high quality of the environment and food provided.”

We weren’t sure where we stood on this. On the one hand, butterflies are nowhere near as developed a life form as man’s best friend, so the RSPCA’s argument didn’t resonate with us. On the other hand, the survival rate for the butterflies in the exhibit as reported by The Telegraph — a couple of hours to several days  — measures poorly against the butterflies’ actual lifespan in the wild—which is several months.

So we wondered. Would butterflies be considered “animals” under animal rights laws? Could someone succeed in a lawsuit under some sort of theory of “animal cruelty”? LASIS took up the case.

(more…)

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Open Season for Peacocks

paw

By Sarah Torrens

Peacocks are among the most beautiful creatures on Earth, but on January 21, a Hawaii jury decided that looks aren’t enough to protect these majestic birds from being pests. A jury found Susan Maloney, age seventy, not guilty of animal cruelty in the second degree for killing peacock with a baseball bat.

Mrs. Maloney admitted to killing the bird after listening to a pack of peafowl cry for hours outside her condominium in Makaha Valley, located on Oahu.  She ran outside with her baseball bat intending to only scare the pack of birds away but when one refused to leave her barbeque and began to defecate in front of her she claims she “lost it.” She grabbed it by the back and killed it with single blow to the head.

Under Hawaii statute §711-1109 “a person commits the offense of cruelty to animals in the second degree if the person knowingly [or] intentionally . . . beats any animal . . . or kills without need any animal other than insects, vermin, or other pests.” The crime is punishable by up to a year in jail time and a $2,000 fine.

Covering the verdict, MSNBC quoted Kenneth Kaneshiro, the city prosecutor, saying that the city would continue to “vigorously prosecute cases of excessive cruelty or ill-treatment of animals.” The article failed to examine the effects this decision may have on future animal cruelty cases. (more…)

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