Tuesday, 8 April 2008


“Cruelty, like every other vice, requires no motive outside of itself; it only requires opportunity.” - George Eliot

The human being is considered to be the peak of evolutionary progress, the paragon of intelligence, the richest in emotional responses, the very centrepiece of creation. Human beings are gifted with reason, with compassion, with altruism, with a rich inner world that allows them to live life to the full, protecting the weak and innocent, to take care of their world, think of the future. Humans have music, have art, have culture. They live to write poetry and paint canvases, sing songs and dance ballets. What a wonderful world we humans live in, enjoying it as we do when each of us is endowed with such wondrous and marvellous gifts…

Aren’t idyllic dreams of a perfect world wonderful? The most despicable, the most horrendous, most terrible, most barbaric acts are those carried out by humans beings. Whatever can be imagined in the most warped mind can be realized by humans. Whatever can be dreamed in the most terrible nightmare can be made grim reality by humans. Whatever can be thought of in order to degrade, torture, despise, denigrate, terrify, terrorise other humans, we see reported in the news daily. And it does not stop there. We humans can even become more monstrous, more mindlessly destructive and repulsive. We can extend our activities to torture animals, not for the perhaps defensible purpose of food provision, but for the sake of… art!

Animal lovers and welfare activists beware, what follows is highly distressing and thoroughly sickening.

Guillermo Vargas a.k.a. ‘Habacuc’ (born 1975) is a Costa Rican “artist” who used a starving, sick street dog as part of an exposition in Managua, Nicaragua. He allegedly found the dog tied up on a street corner in a poor Nicaragua barrio and brought it to the showing. He tied the dog, according to furious animal lovers, in a corner of the exhibition salon where it died in his “art installation”. His point was, that there are thousands of dogs around Costa Rica dying every day and nobody cares. Using his “artistic sensibilities” he heightened public awareness of their plight… This is the link to a YouTube video on the exhibition (in Spanish and not for the faint-hearted!)

It is reported that the dog was left to die with no food and no water as patrons passed by in the gallery. The director of the Códice Gallery has stated that the animal was only tied up for 3 hours on one day and was fed and that finally the dog escaped. Guillermo Vargas has been selected to represent Costa Rica at the Bienal Centroamericana Honduras 2008 and an online petition has been made with over 1.8 million signatures against this selection (see here).

The controversy rages whether in fact the dog died of starvation in the gallery or whether it was released (see here). To have to consider that the dog was used in this way at all, for the sake of “art” is disgusting. There are millions of people worldwide who do really good work in animal shelters, stray animal hospitals, volunteer organisations, the RSPCA. Doing what Mr Vargas did to the dog to draw attention to its plight is like torturing a human on Oprah to draw attention to the fact there are millions of people being tortured worldwide. Or raping someone in the midst of a public gathering to draw attention to the plight of rape victims. Or putting a child in a cage on display and not feeding it to draw attention to the millions starving worldwide.

That not one of the refined “art lovers” went to liberate that tied dog I find even more repulsive than the cruel act of tying up the dog. “One of the ill effects of cruelty is that it makes the bystanders cruel.” Said Thomas Fowell Buxton, and though we find cruelty inherent in our human nature, at least we should make every effort to quash it, because it should seem unnatural to us. We have reason and intellect, we have emotion and sensitivity enough to be able to renounce the baser instincts of our humanity and rise above that in order to ennoble ourselves. Or is the world going completely mad?


  1. Oh Nick, that picture of that skeletal dog, and his sweet face, with all of those people standing around, is going to haunt me for a long time. Before I read your blog, I looked at the picture, and was literally unable to grasp what the scene was, because the pieces didn't make sense.

    This story enraged me and moved me to tears. What kind of barbarian would do such a heartless, horrible thing to an innocent, defenseless creature? And those people just standing around doing nothing ... I don't even have words for how much this upset me.

    That poor, poor little dog. I don't know if I really believe in Karma, but maybe it gives me some feeling that there is ultimate justice for those who commit atrocities in this world. This was a great blog, and I'm glad you posted it. The extent of the cruelty of so many of the human race never ceases to stun and sicken me. How could they?

  2. Hi PT. The story gets worse and worse the more I investigate it. I can forgive perhaps the murder of humans by other humans, motivated by human passions, misplaced idealism, religious fervour, but this senseless and horrible cruelty against a defenceless creature that has no means of protecting itself is just despicable.
    I hope that perpetrators of such deeds get to suffer as much as their victims.