DawnWatch: Animal slaughter art exhibit closes under peaceful protest, then threats — SF Chronicle 3/30/08

April 1st, 2008 4:40 pm by Kelly Garbato

Previous IDA alerts here and here.

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From: DawnWatch – news [at] dawnwatch.com
Date: Tue, Apr 1, 2008 at 1:28 AM
Subject: DawnWatch: Animal slaughter art exhibit closes under peaceful protest, then threats — SF Chronicle 3/30/08

Last week, a San Francisco art exhibition that included animal cruelty was in the news. This Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle, March 30, included a lead article (by Ilana DeBare, pg B1) headed, “Art Institute halts exhibition showing killing of animals; Workers threatened; video unclear about why deaths filmed.”

The article opens:

“Citing threats of violence by animal rights activists, the San Francisco Art Institute said Saturday that it is canceling a controversial exhibition that included video clips of animals being bludgeoned to death, as well as a public forum it had scheduled to address the controversy.

“”We’ve gotten dozens of threatening phone calls that targeted specific staff people with death threats, threats of violence and threats of sexual assaults,’ said Art Institute President Chris Bratton. ‘We remain committed to freedom of speech as fundamental to this institution, but we have to take people’s safety very seriously.’

“The exhibit that sparked the controversy was a one-person show by Paris artist Adel Abdessemed called ‘Don’t Trust Me,’ which opened March 19.

“Along with a variety of other elements, the show included a series of video loops of animals being bludgeoned to death with a sledgehammer in front of a brick wall. The animals killed included a pig, goat, deer, ox, horse and sheep.”

While the headline and opening lines of the article suggest that the exhibition was removed only because of threats of violence, further on we read:

“Abdessemed’s show, one of about a dozen public exhibitions that the 650-student school hosts each year, had opened fairly quietly. But as word spread among animal rights groups, more than 8,000 people sent e-mails to the institute slamming the show. Institute officials temporarily closed the show Wednesday and scheduled a public forum for Monday.

“But then the tone of some of the e-mails turned violent, Bratton said, with threats against individual staff members, such as, ‘We’re going to gather up your children and bludgeon their heads.’ Officials decided to shutter the exhibition permanently, the first time in the institute’s 137-year history that a show was closed for safety reasons. They also canceled the forum.

“”Some of the people who said the most threatening things said they would be present at the forum,’ Bratton said.”

Because I am choosing to send this article out to animal advocates, headlined and opening as it is, and thereby at first seeming to suggest that the threats of violence were successful, I feel I should comment further. I am disappointed that after the efforts of 8,000 people, leading to a temporary closure and a forum, threats made by a few shut down all discussion. Yes, the immediate effect, the closing of the exhibition, was the same. But in my chapter on activism in “Thanking the Monkey” I cite studies (done on humans!) which show that people forced into a choice will choose otherwise at the first safe opportunity, while those believing they made the choice of their own free will tend to stand by that choice. That is something we intuitively understand: we have all seen it in the sexist sitcoms where the wife whispers to her friend “I got him to agree by making him think it was his idea.” And now well documented, it is an important phenomenon for us to keep in mind as we work to not only win a few battles, but to make monumental shifts in the way society treats other species.

I couldn’t help but contrast the threats made against the art gallery employees, with a quote from Captain Paul Watson made last week. If you are not familiar with the work of Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd, check out http://www.SeaShepherd.org — or a fun place to learn about them is in a thrilling article from last year’s National Geographic, which you will find on line here.

Watson and his crew risk their lives as they interfere with whalers and sealers. Watson was recently shot in the chest by a whaler, and sealers have physically attacked his crew. Yet when a hunting vessel sank in Canada last week, killing four sealers, Watson slammed the hypocritical regulations of the government that allows sealers to hunt in wooden boats, but he also publicly commented:

“We will of course rescue any sealers should they require help. The Sea Shepherd crew is motivated by both mercy and compassion and a respect for all life – including the lives of those who inflict pain, suffering and death upon the most innocent of animals – the seal pups.” (See the article here.)

The attitude reflected in that comment helps maintain the public image of the Sea Shepherd crew as heroes, avoiding the terrorist label the sealing and whaling industries would prefer. It adds to the strength of the anti sealing campaign, which looks like it will soon come to fruition as the European Union moves towards banning Canadian seal products.

I send a thank you to all of those engaged in strong yet peaceful activism — the heroes on the high seas and ice floes, or rescuing animals from horrendous conditions — and to the thousands at computers, sending notes that bring a museum to shut its doors and hold a forum. Forums change thinking. And as nothing influences thinking in the modern world as powerfully as the media, I thank all those who engage in constant peaceful communication with the media. The effect of your efforts over the last few years has been enormous.

We have an opportunity to hold that cancelled forum in San Francisco on the Chronicle’s editorial page. You can read the article cited above here.

And you can sent your thoughts on animal slaughter as art, in a letter to the editor, at letters [at] sfchronicle.com.

The Chronicle notes, “Please limit your letters to 200 or fewer words … shorter letters have a better chance of being selected for publication.”

Always include your full name, address, and daytime phone number when sending a letter to the editor. And please be sure not to use any comments or phrases from me or from any other alerts in your letters. Editors are looking for original responses from their readers.

Yours and the animals’,
Karen Dawn

(DawnWatch is an animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets. You can learn more about it, and sign up for alerts at http://www.DawnWatch.com. You may forward or reprint DawnWatch alerts if you do so unedited — leave DawnWatch in the title and include this parenthesized tag line. If somebody forwards DawnWatch alerts to you, which you enjoy, please help the list grow by signing up. It is free.)

Please go to http://www.ThankingtheMonkey.com to read advance reviews of Karen Dawn’s new book, “Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way we Treat Animals” and watch the fun celebrity studded promo video.

To discontinue DawnWatch alerts go to http://www.DawnWatch.com/nothanks.php

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