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Born Free USA Blog

Born Free USA Blog

What is not Art?

Published 05/14/08
By Sharie Lesniak, Vice President of Marketing

Q: There’s art for animals, art that features animals, and art that abuses animals (which I’m not even going to recognize with a link). The question is, “Which one is NOT art?”

Believe it or not, there are those in the art community who have the appalling idea that abusing a living creature can somehow be considered art, and therefore, their twisted logic goes, above the law. For some reason, these people have the view that, if a person hits an animal over the head with a hammer — it’s abuse. But if the person is an “artist” and hits an animal over the head with a hammer, so that he or she can film it and display the video in a gallery, that it is somehow art?!

Sandy's SealDon’t get me wrong — I love art! Even twisted, dark, and challenging art. Sure, I have my tastes and I know what I like. I even believe that a painting “depicting” a person or animal being abused can be art. Not necessarily the piece I’d buy to hang above my couch, but art nonetheless.

One can easily say that there is a lot of questionable art out there and we could have a long, deep discussion about what is or isn’t art. But there is one very, clear, and obvious line that is not questionable ... and that is that if the piece of art is specifically responsible for the suffering or death of an animal or human. If that animal or human would not have been abused or killed if it wasn’t for the creation of the piece of art — then you know what?! It is no longer art; it is abuse, pure and simple!

That would be like calling an animal circus “safe, wholesome, family fun”, a fur coat “eco-friendly”, or a monkey “a great pet”. You and I both know that this is not the case.

untitledArt can be a wonderful celebration for what is beautiful in the world. I also understand that some art can upset our sensibilities and make us feel uncomfortable. That is the amazing power of art. Indeed, there is art that by depicting the suffering of animals or pointing out inconsistencies in our beliefs actually speaks up for animals.

Furthermore, there are also artists, documentary filmmakers, and undercover investigators who devote their work to documenting the suffering and abuse of animals (like in circuses or culling in the wild) or of humans (like in sweatshops or kids in brothels) and serve as a witness to inform a greater number of people — at times, even playing a key role in ending the abuse that was depicted.

Now I can live with the fact that a “urinal has been named the most influential modern art work of all time.” But in no way, shape, or form can I accept or live with the fact that any animal or human can be abused or killed for art. The act is not art. The resulting piece is not art. And surely the person perpetrating the abuse is not an artist.

Artistically yours,


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