Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way.

Artist Starving Dog?

Written by PETA | April 21, 2008

PetLoversTips / CC
Vargas_dog_starved_by_artist.jpg

A lot of people have been writing in about a story related to a Costa Rican artist named Guillermo Vargas who has reportedly starved a dog as part of an art installation. The reason we’ve stayed quiet about this incident (in public, at least) is that if there is any truth at all to the allegations, the less publicity this man receives, the better. The best way to prevent desperate, ethically deficient “artists” from getting what they want is to ignore the perpetrators in public and prosecute them in private.

However, just so everyone is clear on this, there’s reason to believe that this may have been a stunt, and that some parts of this story (such as the starving of the dog) were actually fabricated for the sake of publicity. As this article in The Guardian notes,

“Juanita Bermúdez, director of the Códice Gallery, insisted [the dog] escaped after just one day. She said: ‘It was untied all the time except for the three hours the exhibition lasted and it was fed regularly with dog food [Vargas] himself brought in.’”

Whatever the cruel or weird game that Vargas is playing, if it turns out that he took this animal in and allowed her to go back out on the streets to fend for herself, he still needs to be held accountable for extreme cruelty to animals—but for the time being, the information is pretty patchy.

We’re currently investigating the incident, and I’ll update this blog if we get more information. In the meantime, whether Vargas intended it or not, this whole thing does provide an insight into human nature that will be worth considering once we’re able to look at the big picture: If we can muster up this degree of outrage about one incident of animal suffering, why are we any less horrified by the billions upon billions of similar or worse cases of abuse that we can personally help to prevent?

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  • theastralzen says:

    I have no words to describe how much reading this article hurts me.

  • yu says:

    What a shame that this kind of cruel human exists in this world. What do you think you are?? Nothing superior than the dog.

  • muntedfox says:

    This dog was caught off the streets of Costa Rica, where hundreds of similar dogs die on a regular basis. That accounts for it’s emaciated state, it was not caused by the artist. It was fed regularly, and escaped after a mere 3 hours of being tied to the gallery wall. This cannot be called cruelty. Vargas’ intention is shown by the title of the artwork “You Are What You Read”- the point of this was to muster uninformed outrage over the supposed “death” of the dog among people like you all. The artwork has therefore succeeded in highlighting the narrow-minded naivety of people who will believe everything that they read, and become so flustered over the “death” of one dog in public, when so many similar dogs die in the streets of Costa Rica every day and go unnoticed. I congratulate all the people involved for helping Vargas spread his message.

  • Sarah says:

    this person is sick and obviously has some kind of mental illness

  • RAULA VIDES says:

    OUTRAGEOUS I THINK IS A SMALL WORD TO DISCRIBE THIS “BIENAL” IN HONDURAS PLEASE TELL ME AS A KILLER STARTS TORTURING ANIMALS AND THEN PEOPLE AFTER STARVING A DOG WHAT IS NEXT? STARVING A PERSON? RAPING? AND THEN CALLING IT ART????

  • Reed Case says:

    After reading Peta’s response to the artist and then also reading the comments left I must say that you guys are really looking at only one side of this. If you were to take the tie to read the artist statement andor do some research about the current problems in Nicaragua you would see that the artist was merely trying to spread awareness about the constant animal cruelty that happens day to day in that country and also in other parts of the world. I have personal connections to people from Nicaragua and they say that they come across starving street dog’s everyday and the most attention that they get is a kick in the face to get out of the way and to stop begging. The artist was just doing his job in finding a creative way to get people talking about the awful things that happen to these dog’s and I give him mad props because he has obviously done a beautiful thing considering the amount of media that he has brought to the issue.

  • Winkler says:

    This is unbelievable to say one should ignore such cruelty!! To take a dog from the street and let it starve as in a show is pervers. The story is true even the galery denied finally they had to admit. And the most shocking is that people passed by were looking curiously at this poor dog but nobody helped. To take an innocent animal and kill it openly is reprehensible and everybody who thinks it is not worth to talk about it is obviously not interested in animals and has no moral!!

  • cheryl carey says:

    for years years this has been going on… LETS NOW PUT A STOP TO THIS CRUELTY TO ANY ANIMAL ITS OUTRAGOUS PEOPLE ARE STILL BEING ABLE TO DO THIS… STOP..STOP..STOP… IT NOW I FEEL VERY PASSIONATE ABOUT THIS… ON THESE POOR VUNERBLE DUMB HELPLESS ANIMALS… THESE PEOPLE ARE SICK WANT LOCKING UP 4 EVER.

  • Manda says:

    How can people be so mean in this world if its cattle or cats it does not matter no animal should have to suffer. I love all animals and cry when I see the things that are being done to them … I wish I could take all the pain away that they deal with . One thing I will never understand is the live skinning they do is just not right its horrible..How can I help that …How can one person help..Im so happy there is someone giving them the voice that dont have ..Peta …It would be my dream to see all animals never suffer agian ..espically the poor guys in the animal testing labs ..Oh my why oh why..IM SICK OF IT when will people realize the have feeling and feel pain and suffering and saddness just like people ..Im sure if they could talk they would say STOp …and run if they could.

  • Naoko Horikawa says:

    Does anybody know what is going on now with this case? Any updates available? I appreciate any info!

  • Bonita Peterson says:

    CALLING ALL ARTIST!! I can’t stand the thought that this could really have happened. I don’t believe in fighting against the things we hate as hate breeds hate etc.. I was wondering if some one maybe even this attention starved artist could reverse the exibit find a starving dog and nurture it to health as an art exibit maybe some include video of the prossess highlights or some thing. .

  • Olga says:

    I dont believe this was a set up because I watch alot of Animal planets shows and I see lots of dogs that havent been fed for long periods and the stomach was way to flat no food was given to this dog in the time it was tied up in the art show. I think people are out to cover it up and protect each other without taking any responsibility for what they did to poor old nativity.

  • jake says:

    the art exhibit was to see the reaction of people when they were told the dog WAS starved for art. However the dog was NOT starved at ALL.

  • mn says:

    I have reason to believe that the information I have found is true regarding this case however am respectful that PETA is taking the time to investigate. This story makes me nauseous and whenever I read it makes me go find my cat Cleo and cuddle her. She’s the first pet I’ve ever had besides the goldfish etc and I can honestly say that she’s changed my life. I had no idea how much one can love a pet I feel sick when I think of anything happening to her. It sickens me that the dog was allowed to be kept in such conditions even if it were under “fake” circumstances.

  • Jana says:

    Why so private about this? You’re certainly vocal about industry that apparantly mis treat animals but not this! Be consistant maybe then people will take you seriously! Spoken by a vegan!

  • olivia says:

    i hate you. you should be put in the poor dog’s possision. you can’t imagine how many people hate you. almost more than a million. just so you know thats not art. the dog died because of you. you should go to prison because of this. you broke peoples’ hearts. i am really upset at you i could write all day long if i have to because you just waisted a life i wish i could waiste youres!!!!!! do you wish all the animals should die? you just made my day so so so horrible. im going to tell everyone what you just did. just so you know i’m cring. i hate hate hate hate you. you should be ashamed of your self. so listen to this just because you think your all that doesn’t mean that you can kill an other animal. i have 7 animals and you are not going to touch them! that dog did nothing to you. if heshe did doesn’t mean you should kill him! please don’t touch any other animal!!!!!! you suck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! P.s i hate youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu

  • Gunes says:

    Bonnie Hayes this is not acceptable because a dog dies. this is not about the people who brings ‘things’ to america not about racism I coulndt understand what you mean by saying those words’who is with me’ and acting like a politician. what are you fight for?

  • Susan Scheradella says:

    THE PEOPLE WHOM HAD ANYTHING TO DO WITH THIS INCLUDING THE ONES WHO WERE THERE AND LOOKED BUT DID NOTHING SHOULD ALL BE IN HELL AS JAIL IS FAR TOO GOOD WHAT SEPERATES US FROM THE BEAST?? I WILL TELL YOU THE BEAST ONLY KILLS TO SURVIVE NOT FOR ENTERTAINMENT. THE BEAST IS PROVING TO BE FAR SUPERIOR TO HUMANS. I CONTRIBUTE TO ONLY ANIMAL CAUSES AND WOULD LIKE TO SEE MY MONEY GOING TO FIGHT THESE DEVILS! IF I HAD BEEN ANYWHERE NEAR THIS SITUATION I WOULD OF RISKED GOING TO JAIL TO SAVE THIS ANIMAL….SHAME ON THIS WANNA BE ARTIST I AM AN ARTIST AND THIS GUY WILL NEVER RECIEVE THE RESPECT OF AN ARTIST. SUSAN. LEMON WOLF BEARS.

  • Joan Capobianco says:

    Check http://www.Snopes.com. This allegedly happened in Nicaragua where there are no animal rights. I have heard Vargas stated on his Youtube site that the dog did die. He wondrered why noone stopped the exhibit. They probably thought he would take care of the dog and not let it die. Also let us show Vargas that we care about these animals by either sponsoring a dog or adopting one. The Gulf Coast Humane SocietyFlorida and I am sure many others are having tons of animals dropped off becuase if foreclsures and cost of food. Owners cannot take care of them. Many will be put down. I hava a dog with no room to adopt another but I am trying to spread the word. Urge evryone to adopt a cat or dog to save these poor animals and urge them to spayneuter the ones they have. The shelters are running out of room and we all know what that means. I am sending in donations and sponsoring a dog through ASPCA. If Peta has an adoption campaign I will do it for that too. Let us put our money where our mouths are!!! Joan and Tabithaadopted from Animal Svcs.

  • Renate says:

    Here’s a thought let’s tie up Guillermo Vargas at one of his own exhibits and starve him to death!

  • lynda downie says:

    Excellent point Maya

  • Soe Hitchon says:

    Cynthia I hope you come back to this website just to see that I am with you 100. All I can say is YOU ARE RIGHT and congratulations on being one of the few with a higher level of intelligence and compassion than most.

  • Maya, CVT says:

    Anonymous3 Hi I just wonder if the artist had chosen to chain up a five year old child and starve the child for his art display would you rush to his rescue as quickly as you did just now?

  • ellac says:

    to anonymous3 no.. I htink YOU have lost the point.. it doesn’t matter that he chose a dog. it could have been a chicken.. a turkey.. a duckbilled plodapus.. a turtle a guinea pig.. anything.. even a human being it doesn’t matter.. it was a living creature and it was suffering.. and he ‘put it ‘on display’ instead of what a NORMAL person would have done. ie. to go to its assitance and to help the creature or at least make effort to ease it’s misery and suffering.. instead he did the opposite.. he merely ‘put it on display’as a sick form of his ‘art’ Good God.. how sick in mind is that? frankly aside from the comments on the dog much of the attention has turned onto him.. calling him.. this and that.. all derogatory comments of course.. what kind of an artist would want to bring that upon himself? being reviled and castigated instead of ‘praised for his artwork’.. as I said.. it wasn’t becuase it was a ‘canny move’ to cause outrage and uproar .. it has merely proved and shown what a low low down debased character he is.. takes all sorts even wierdos to make up this humanity and planet earth.. doesn’t it?

  • Anonymous3 says:

    You just dont get it do you? This isnt about the DOG and it never was. He chose a dog as his subject because he knew the uproar from the nations of the world where dogs are pets would draw attention to this exhibit. This was a clever move on his part to choose such an emotional driver. If we make this about the dog and flay the world with our moral outrage then we dont have to admit that we have kept walking when a homeless person approached us to ask for loose change looking past them so we could pretend we just didnt see them there. Never mind that weve ignored countless other unpleasant encounters and it is likely we will continue to do so. If we make this about the dog were not bastards anymore. We cry out for justice. We care. But we dont not really. Not in a way that helps anyone but ourselves. And even then we rationalize. The Oh if I had only known you needed help I would have tossed a dollar or two your way. helps us to sleep at night. In reality this display was about that old clich ignorance is bliss. If we dont see the horror it doesnt exist right? If we consign it to the corner of our eye it wont have to be in the center of our thoughts. The artist made his pointwe see what we want to see and ignore everything else.

  • Ewa Zamiecka says:

    All of you are right but as some would say the art is not measurable you see it the way you wantto. This happening is a clear evidence of something more serious that the art as well as too many humans have reached the bottom without bottom. Art became a very good buisness and ART in many cases means selling big shit for even a bigger money. Vargas case happend to open our eyes and make us react more then before. Dont ask to stop the cruelty get up and do what you can whatever you do is better then doing nothing. And for me the worse of all is that nobody aproached to this dog in order to help this is a shame…….nobody just tried to do anything……this is something we should write about the common ignorance and egoism of humans…. Ewa

  • Rainie M says:

    Oh Gods! How can anyone be so bloody heartless? Dead or dying animals are NOT art…things like this only come from sick minds. Is the human race devolving so much that we have come down to this as entertainment? If you want Art go to a Museum . Geez this is just sick…

  • Judith, Freedom Fighter for Animals says:

    Lacee Did you not see all of the protesters from PETA at the Court House NFL training etc? It was HUGE on PETA. My goodness PETA gave this guy a compassion course. I am also a member of the groups you mentioned but use your search engine please. Annalena wonderful post! Peace to all animals!

  • Gunes says:

    This is not acceptable this is a crime. Both artist and viewer of this ”show” are killer. I cant stop by self hoping to hear about them in the same position with the dog. If they accidentaly decide to put this ”show” again I’ll be there to cut the bond. My friends try to put an explanation about the philosophic part of the ”show” the only explanation is that the artist is absolutely fascist and barbaric and probably out of education because he couldnt think that the dog is alive.

  • Jack says:

    PETA’s “lack of involvement in the Michael Vick case” Lacee? Please do research these things a bit before forming your opinion! Try Googling the terms PETA and Vick then let me know how many hits you come up with. We really do make a habit of being right on top of these things. Jack

  • jennifer harding says:

    does anyone know if this is really true?

  • Lacee says:

    I cannot believe that PETA is missing such an opportunity. While incidences of animal cruelty should not be measured as all are equally horrific PETA will participate in large protests against eating meat but when something this disgusting occurs they suddenly think that not giving him attention is better. This reminds me of your lack of involvement in the Michael Vick case one year ago. Apparently PETA can only act when the stakes are low. When something that could change the laws and views of animal welfare comes along it is not radical enough for PETA to get involved. Or perhaps PETA can’t even be compared to reputable organizations who do make a difference ASPCA WSPCA. Please do not think that I disagree with the importance of vegetarianism and boycotting fur and other cruel empires. But I do see the importance of one starving dog and an cruel. artist. Perhaps PETA’s new slogan should be PETA If you can’t boycott it then it’s not animal cruelty.

  • sara says:

    I am not saying these acts for the sake of art should be excused but I am more shocked by the sudden interest of many nonanimal activists on this! Obviously most people who read this blog ALREADY do something for animals but all others who pass on the email with a petition against this artist suffer from a very serious case of HYPOCRISY!!! “poor little dog” but then they do nothing to help all other poor little dogs and cats dying in the streets which they pass on their way to work or whatever EVERYDAY. I find this very very cynical. I am not saying this artist did something right but at least he stirred things up a little and made people more aware of cruelty as opposed to those who stand up against him but then do nothing else the whole year for the animals!

  • lisa salazar says:

    This demented monster needs the same treatment done to him! How barbaric!

  • Tucker says:

    THIS IS DOWN RIGHT UNCALLED FOR DIGUSTINGCRUEL AND THESE PEOPLE NEED TO BE LOCKED UP AND CHARGED BIG TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I AM CRYING SO HARD RIGHT NOW IT IS UNBELIEVABLE WHAT $IN PEOPLE DO TO ANIMALS AND THIS ALL NEEDS TO STOP NOW AND BIG TIME CHARGES AND JAIL TIME NEED TO BE STRONGER AND LONGER IN ALL STATES AND AROUND THE WORLD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SAVE THE ANIMALS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Bonnie Hayes says:

    THIS IS HORRIBLE!!!! Wht would someone want to put an inisant dog on the wall and watch it starve ???? then call it ART!!!! This should not be allowed and should be against the law!!! this is freakin retarted and insane!!!!! they are going to bring more art like thAT TO AMERICA!!! WE SHOULD BE AGAINST THAT!!! WHOZ WITH ME???

  • jennifer harding says:

    does anyone know for sure if story about the dog starved by the artist is true?

  • Sirenita Lake says:

    I was disturbed that this distorted story about the dog is so widely distributed. The internet makes it easy to replicate a misunderstanding and human nature being what it is it is easy to believe “those people” are capable of any horrible cruelty because they are not like us civilized Americans. I bothered looking this up because I am Central American and know the culture and it struck me as extremely unlikely that any educated Central American would have such a barbaric notion of art. According to the artist and the gallery the artist picked up a stray dog from the street fed him and tied him up in the gallery for a few hours to make a point about something having nothing to do with animals. This is believable. Sadly in Central America many animals are starving in the street. Besides a cultural resistance to neutering years of war and natural disasters have created many strays and ferals just like in Iraq or Louisiana. There is no safety net of animal rescue organizations to prevent displaced animals from becoming a permanent feral population where so many humans have barely survived war hurricanes earthquakes and destruction of villages and farmland. Responsible artists condemned the use of a live animal as a display in which his emaciated condition was used as a metaphor for ignorance. The real issue is is it ever ok to use an animal as a display I doubt any normal person from anywhere in the world thinks it is ok to torture an animal for art. Latinos are not monsters. Central Americans are just as sensitive to animal cruelty as North Americans which is to say most are not very sensitive but they are not sadists either. If you care about animals in Central America it would make more sense to to do outreach and offer the type of help that animals really need like feeding and neutering programs.

  • Annalena says:

    Oh good lord “Dog Eater” Where do I even begin? I love dogs. They mean very much to me.They are living beings that have all my love and respect. I would rather eat you over an innocent dog. People like you are very frightening and dangerous.You are very insensitive. I have a family of artists. This is no more art than the post mortem photographs serial murderers take of their victims if art is simply provoking a reaction of disgust. Personally I think you should go for a psychiatric evaluation. Enjoying suffering is hardly “normal”. Animals matter just as much as people do. Many people on this site care about human suffering as well. You are in no place to preach to us. Are you living in slums devoting every ounce of your being to human welfare? I doubt that very much. Yes death happens obviously. It will happen to you and everyone here. That hardly justifies the docile acceptance or even enjoyment of suffering for cheap thrills. My art is not about sadism.I care about “freakin” dogs and other animals.We do not take food away from people. Peta promotes nutrition and I doubt many starving people will be running over to KFC or chowing down on a butterball turkey. You honestly make the bile rise in my throat. I agree completely with the fact that cruelty is everywhere.We can pinpoint certain abuses in different nations but every country has blood on its hands. Whaling in Japan The seal hunt in Canada Factory farming and puppy mills in North Americathe exotic animal trade worldwideTrophy hunting in Africa dog and cat fur in Asiadog fighting in Mexico Bull fighting in Spain horse meat and fur farming in Europe etc. I have friends in Asia who adore animals and are vegetarians. I am Canadian and It would be unfair to lump me in with the seal hunt.However I do agree that there are some very deranged practices in Asia that horrify me personally dog and cat marketsendangered animal tradebear bile market etc I agree that animals would greatly benefit if people displayed this same kind of horror regarding cowspigs chickensratspigeons and the like.

  • Esther says:

    Does it matter what animal it is? no animal should ever be put through such a horrific ordeal and if he had had the power to protec that animal and bring it back to life then he should have. I hope he lives with guilt and lack of respect for the rest of his life.

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