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Nov 15 2012

Yet another wildlife-torturer

Some of the best places in the world to see the giant Pacific octopus in its natural habitat are the coves and parks on Puget Sound (also, my natural habitat). There are lots of popular dive sites, and my idea of internet porn is watching videos taken by amateurs, like this one:

Isn’t that gorgeous?

So you can imagine local divers’ reactions when a diver was spotted rising from a West Seattle dive site holding a magnificent 80 lb. octopus and beating it to death. They were not happy. These are informally regarded as safe habitats, where everyone can view the lovely giant invertebrates, and trust that others will respect and protect the environment.

The brute, Dylan Mayer, claims that killing the octopus was an “art project” at Green River Community College, and seems to think it justifies the killing by saying he cut it up for meat…meat which he apparently gave away to other people. I think maybe his art class ought to reconsider what represents a valid contribution, if this was an official project in any way. Also, to add to Mayer’s charm, people rummaged around on his facebook page and discovered photos of him kicking animals. Another art project, perhaps?

Unfortunately, Mayer is in the clear and what he did was perfectly legal: the Washington Department of Fish and Game issues “one-day hunting licenses” — if you’re feeling a little sadistic, or “artistic”, you can apply for one of these and then visit some of the local octopus habitat and batter a cephalopod to death, no problem.

There is a petition to get Fish and Game to stop aiding and abetting the destruction of Washington’s natural resources. It would be nice of you to sign it, but don’t expect much change. I’m beginning to get the impression that many people opt for careers in wildlife biology not because they love and want to protect nature, but because they want a front-row seat for killing it.

(Wildlife biologists with integrity are welcome to disagree — I expect you’ll sign the petition first, of course.)

86 comments

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  1. 1
    Chris Clarke

    “They value the life of an octopus and they are threatening a family,” [Octomom] Denise Mayer said. “They put his life below that of an octopus. It’s gone way overboard.”

    If only.

  2. 2
    Rutee Katreya

    At what point was this dude’s life at stake? Fucking christ.

  3. 3
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    For fuck’s sake. I’ve read about enough cruelty today– I’m going to bed.

  4. 4
    Numenaster

    Apparently we have more than one Green River Killer around here. Lovely.

  5. 5
    Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

    Yet humans would be outraged if an octopus were to emerge from the water and drag a human back to the water, beating it savagely about the head until the struggling stops.

  6. 6
    iknklast

    Signed the petition. This is ridiculous. I’m a big supporter of art…but this? What makes beating up an octopus art?

  7. 7
    Who Knows?

    Ok, I signed it. I like meat, poultry, and fish as much as anyone. But killing an awesome creature like that is just wrong.

  8. 8
    viajera

    Wildlife biologist / ecologist here to report that at least some of us have integrity. And yes, I signed the petition first!

    These stories disgust me, in their own right as well as for the way they reflect on our field. I’ll admit, I have run into wildlife biologists – mostly fisheries biologists working for state and federal agencies in the PNW – who were hard-core hunters and fishermen. I worked with several techs and biologists who would spend all day studying fish populations, then as soon as they got off work (sometimes even on their lunch breaks!) would drive back to the same river and whip out their fishing poles. I never totally “got it”. But outside of low-level techs and biologists at agencies, this gets a lot less common. For example, in academia where I am now, I know virtually no one who hunts their own study organism, or any other.

  9. 9
    rwgate

    I grew up in West Seattle, and after getting my NAUI card in 1971, dove a lot in the rock strewn area south of Alki Point. This is an incredible area for observing the giant Pacific Octopus, and even Jacque Cousteau was amazed. He thought the largest octopus was in the Mediterranean and did a documentary on them. Then someone told him about Seattle.

    For years divers held an annual octopus wrestling competition, but no octopus was ever harmed. This guy is a sadist and an asshole. I never knew a diver who would have done what he did. Art? What a bunch of bullshit?

  10. 10
    Dave McCone

    There may be something that comes of this – there have been several articles in the Seattle Times on this, and lots of community outrage. As a good parallel to this, there was a similar case back in the early 1990s where some teenagers broke into a local petting zoo and ended up killing a beloved donkey [google pasedo donkey for details] and as a result, penalties for animal cruelty cases were increased significantly. While I note that the octopus was a wild animal, the affection that the local dive community has for the dive site animals is just as strong as the affections that the zoo or petting zoo regulars have for their favorites.

  11. 11
    Gvlgeologist, FCD

    This is not art. This is not hunting for food. This is not killing a dangerous animal for safety’s sake. This is not sport. This is sadism, pure and simple, and anyone who is willing to do this is likely to progress to more extreme examples. His family should be very worried for their own sakes.

    Signed.

  12. 12
    Crissa

    Yeah, this wasn’t for food, safety, or science.

    Kinda bizarre, if you ask me.

  13. 13
    katenrala

    I’m a postmodern fine artist and 2d-3d illustrator, and was a postmodern fine artist in college too. I’ve seen all sorts of things as art but never an animal or other life form killed for the purpose of expression.

    Lack of real consent; the presence of real cruelty, real pain, real beating, real torture, etc, and real death, of humans and other, is art to me so long a it is meant to communicate to us something other than the depiction or act itself; however that does not mean it should be tolerated and people who create such art should rightfully be considered criminals, terrorists, or just cruel and disgusting people who should not be allowed to interact with society.

    Sometimes I think many people who pull sick stunts for art or for “a psychology experiment” are giving only a veneer of cover for their actual purpose, to torment people and creatures. They don’t deserve the credit that they did what they did for any intellectual reason.

  14. 14
    Old At Heart

    Anything meant to be art is art. If this person intended for it to be art, then it is so. Torture, too, is an art. As is call-in tech support. Art is meant to evoke an emotion. This one clearly was meant to invoke hatred and ire, and it accomplished its purpose in that regard.

    Data is data too. It can be false or bad data, but that is still data. A virus that steals your ID and kills your computer is just as much data as your resume is. Don’t put art on a pedestal. He did art. Strictly speaking, effective art too. And he should feel bad about doing it, and accept that others may not view killing cephalopods with fisticuffs in as positive a light as he might, and that no action exists in a vacuum and he may suffer socially for his private actions.

    I’m not about to preach life for a life, or bizarre absolutes, but if he needed a dead octopus for an art project, there are more humane ways of obtaining one, and a look of disappointment upon him for this act.

  15. 15
    consciousness razor

    It didn’t help that as Mayer surfaced in the water, he was seen punching the octopus — one of the most beloved animals in Puget Sound.

    Octopus must be hunted by hand, as state law forbids using any instrument that could pierce the animal’s skin. And Mayer said he had no choice but to punch the octopus because it had wrapped its tentacles around his mask, nose and mouth and he couldn’t breathe.

    So … what?? He committed this art in self-defense?

    He said he wanted to capture it and take it home, “to draw it for this art project, and eat it for meat.”

    He got the idea for the project after students in his art class were asked to draw something from nature. “I thought, ‘How about something underwater?’ “

    Then naturally his next thought was, “how about something I kill and eat?” So he planned on it, meaning it wasn’t in self-defense. Alright, it’s getting weirder….

    At the same time, he said, “there is no sign, and I see people fishing there. How could I know this is not morally acceptable?

    Uhhh, okay… beating the thing to death and eating it usually isn’t necessary for drawing it. At least, I’m pretty sure Renoir didn’t kill and eat most of his subjects, and probably most art students have also done just fine without doing that. But it’s not too hard to know that killing and eating things when it isn’t necessary is generally not what you should do, even if there isn’t a sign saying so.

    “If people feel this strongly about it they obviously need to voice it and a sign needs to go up and make it a park. But I don’t think all of Puget Sound should be off-limits. That is like saying you like deer so there should be no hunting, or you like cows, so there should be no meat.”

    Sure, because that’s how art students work when they’re drawing deer and cattle: they kill and eat them, or else they just don’t capture that je ne sais quoi, and because there wasn’t a sign saying he shouldn’t, and because it was in self-defense, and because… Because this guy’s a fucking shithead who’s willing to weasel out of this however he can. I hope he gets an F.

  16. 16
    katenrala

    It may or may not be a tangent, but I think sport hunters of any kind are just as cruel, as are those who hunt for food but don’t need to hunt for food to survive or supplement their diet. I think such people are the same as this artist, people who enjoy killing animals.

    (Please note that the following comment is from a USian perspective about USian hunters and is unlikely to be applicable to peoples of other countries and areas that do not overflow with food that could feed everyone in their country or area if there where better distribution methods.)

    To hunt, to dive hunt, is expensive, money that desperate people wouldn’t be spending.

    My assault rifle, which is for self-defense and target shooting at the range, is of a caliber, 6.8 SPC, that can take down a 175-200lb wild boar and people often use an assault rifle or other style of semi-automatic rifle (with small 5-10 round mags for maneuverability and to allow for follow-up shot very quickly to kill more “ethically” than letting an animal run off and be in pain until it bleeds out) for boar because they are fast and dangerous. The rifle alone cost $2,000, typically so do other models of similar caliber assault and semi-automatic rifles of quality. Ammunition for practice, and ammunition for hunting costs a lot, more over time obviously. Gear and clothing and maintenance tools for the weapon cost a lot. Travel costs a lot. Scopes for anytime and thermal and night vision sets for night hunting cost boatloads, stuff necessary for boar hunting and predator hunting (predator hunting makes me really disgusted). Having the animal harvested costs a lot too, or if you can harvest it, your personal setup will cost money.

    People can and do sport hunt with less expensive set-ups, but any hunting outside of necessary hunting for survival and important diet supplementation is cruelty regardless of the weapon or costs put into hunting, as the hunter is there to kill animals and have a good time doing it.

  17. 17
    kestrel

    OK, as far as art – the claim is, he needed to draw something “from life” and for whatever reason, chose to kill an octopus and draw that. A dead octopus. Whatever. Does not seem very alive to me, but yes, if you want to draw a dead octopus, I can see it. It does not justify the slow death the animal had to endure.

    Signed the petition. These animals are conditioned to be OK with people. It’s disgusting to hunt them – it would be like hunting pet dogs. They tolerate humans closer than normal. If people want to hunt, fine. They should hunt animals that are actually wild. A very good reason to “hunt” where this guy did is the animals are not as afraid of people and so easier to approach. Very disgusting and a betrayal of trust.

  18. 18
    consciousness razor

    Waaay off-topic:

    Anything meant to be art is art. If this person intended for it to be art, then it is so. Torture, too, is an art. As is call-in tech support.

    I think it’s simpler (and less contradictory) than that. It’s anything people make or do, whether or not it was intended to be art by someone in particular. That’s because, for example, we’d call ancient cave paintings “art” even if they didn’t intend it to be art (because they may not have had a concept of art at all, and certainly not whichever one we’d use).

  19. 19
    katenrala

    Old At Heart @14

    Don’t put art on a pedestal.

    I’m not sure what you mean by this.

    It seems like you are communicating in your post that art isn’t such a special thing so that only some art should be called art.

    I agree with that.

    —-

    I wanted to add, and this is not directed at you but a general thing, that I do think art, the thing that is art, should be put on a pedestal and held up as something important because I think art is really, really important. Art is how society critiques itself, communicates ideas in ways that language may not be effective at, reinforces and tears down cultural and socially held values, and is a way we can understand a people be they those in our society and culture, or others, or our outcasts, for good or ill.

    Art, along with other humanities, especially language, is too important to scoff at as many do. It’s as important as the science as a whole, as math, as engineering, as biology, as many things considered to be practical and less esoteric, because of the way art allows us to understand people; the human contexts of events; and to contextualize art requires one to understand the past, present, and past and present of others, and force us to seek out knowledge. I also find art to be especially important in how it has allowed me, I’m autistic, and others with mental differences than is considered normal, understand the world we live in and communicate back to it.

    (This is kinda a reaction against always having to defend my degree and where the bulk of my expertise lies.)

  20. 20
    katenrala

    Sorry for the quote error everyone.

  21. 21
    chigau (違う)

    I was about to make a comment addressing Chris Clarke as the author of this post.
    But I double-checked.
    Sorry Chris.

  22. 22
    katenrala

    consciousness razor @ 18

    I think it’s simpler (and less contradictory) than that. It’s anything people make or do, whether or not it was intended to be art by someone in particular. That’s because, for example, we’d call ancient cave paintings “art” even if they didn’t intend it to be art (because they may not have had a concept of art at all, and certainly not whichever one we’d use).

    That art is anything people do or make, or, I’m not saying this is your definition: what I refer to as the Scott McCloud definition of art: anything anyone does other than necessary for base survival, a definition I find to be quite common, though are definitions I disagree with. I’m not trying to say you are wrong, or that others who hold a different definition than mine are wrong, I think what art may be is not something factual that can be wrong or right and definitions of art are more of a viewpoint than anything else. I enjoy communicating about art and what art may be, hence me communicating about definitions of art with you.

    I apologize for causing you to raise your ire, be irritated, feel put up upon or feel that I’m putting you down, or causing you to feel any negative emotion if you do feel them because of what I’ve written. I am bad for causing you harm if I do over a subject we may find mutually enjoyable.

    I hold that art is a part of communication and whether that communication is worthy of the mental resources or not worthy of the mental resources put into it or put into it to understand it is something up for a individual to decide, not whether a particular communication is or is not art. Just an idea about art that I feel that fits my outlook on it the best.

  23. 23
    pixelfish

    Um, if Dylan Mayer wanted to draw an octopus from life, he could do what I did and go to the Seattle Aquarium and draw Rain (the current octopus on display there).

    I don’t care if he created art or not. He killed and tortured an octopus, one of the most beautiful and amazing creatures in the world, and that is pretty heinous. (I am not even an eater of calamari, mind you.)

    I’m reminded of a day–also in Seattle–where my husband and I were walking down Broadway up in Capital Hill. A crowd had gathered on the sidewalk and we stopped to see what they were watching. It was a spider. A spider floating on a lengthy tether. And for some reason, it was captivating. We were all watching it in a sort of inspired awe, when out of nowhere, some young asshole comes up through the crowd, sees us watching the spider, AND FUCKING STOMPS ON IT. And cheers.

    That’s what I’m reminded of. The destruction of beauty, the destruction of something people were taking joy in. He might have said he was doing it for “art”–and as an artist myself, I generally tend towards liberal and inclusive definitions of art–but in this case, and given his past history, I rather feel like he was using art as cover. (Doesn’t mean he didn’t create any, just that I have ultimate contempt and disgust for his means.)

  24. 24
    Ing

    I think it’s simpler (and less contradictory) than that. It’s anything people make or do, whether or not it was intended to be art by someone in particular.

    Thanks, that reduces the definition down to worthlessness.

  25. 25
    Ing

    I don’t care if he created art or not

    Just because something’s art doesn’t mean it isn’t also shit.

  26. 26
    pixelfish

    Ing: If you read the whole response, that is covered. Bad art is still art but also STILL BAD.

  27. 27
    chigau (違う)

    I remember my intended comment:
    city people
    *eye roll*

  28. 28
    torbertin

    Clearly you don’t know many wildlife biologists…

  29. 29
    consciousness razor

    katenrala:

    I don’t really want to derail the thread. We might want to continue this in the thunderdome. (I doubt we’ll need to start an all-out war, but there’s not really a better place.)

    the Scott McCloud definition of art: anything anyone does other than necessary for base survival

    Definitely not mine. If something you make turns out to be necessary for survival, it’s still something you make. Being necessary (or unnecessary) for survival doesn’t really seem like it would make for a good definition of anything.

    I apologize for causing you to raise your ire, be irritated, feel put up upon or feel that I’m putting you down, or causing you to feel any negative emotion if you do feel them because of what I’ve written.

    I don’t know why you’d apologize, but please don’t. :) We just disagree about a word a little bit; and in this case, I don’t think that makes a huge difference.

    I guess it might seem like my “simple” definition makes art seem kind of unimportant or uninteresting, but I didn’t mean that at all — just the opposite, because it’s all over the place and affects our lives so much.

    I hold that art is a part of communication

    Some is, but it doesn’t all need to communicate anything.

  30. 30
    Walton

    Poor octopus. :( This is horrible.

  31. 31
    katenrala

    Critics circulated screen grabs of photos from Mayer’s personal Facebook page showing him kicking a porcupine, and other actions with animals that stoked the controversy.

    He’s so proud of abusing animals that he puts photos of himself doing so online for all to see. I think we got a bad person in the works here. I personally hope he doesn’t ever abuse an animal again, but I doubt it, so I also hope he winds up in prison when he beats another animal, or kills one without a permit.

    If he really was going to kill an octopus if it is true that piercing weapons are not allowed, not just get kicks for beating one to death with permit, couldn’t he have put it in a large, well locked cooler and then froze the animal in a large freezer? Would that be more humane?

    Mayer, 19, said he had no idea the popular dive site at Cove 2 in West Seattle at Alki was informally regarded as a park, or that people would be upset when he hunted a giant Pacific octopus on Wednesday

    I’m so ignorant! Don’t blame me please!

    “They value the life of an octopus and they are threatening a family,” Denise Mayer said. “They put his life below that of an octopus. It’s gone way overboard.”

    Momma thinks the threats are punny!

    (I hope each threat is treated as a real threat and not tolerated and each person who made one are tracked down and charged and wind up in prison.)

    “You are just wrestling with it,” he said of the octopus. “It wraps around you, and you try to get it to shore before you drown.”

    I attacked this animal and it attacked me back. How dare it?!

    “This one was extremely aggressive, it was not friendly,” Mayer said.

    I’m extremely aggressive and unfriendly too, so I know what I’m talking about guys!

    “It did not like people and that led me to believe it was a newer one in the area, and not one of the regulars, which I let alone,” he said.

    If the animal don’t love me, I’mma gonna kill it! If it’s an out-lander, but under the water guys, I’mma gonna kill it too!

    “I do feel sorry,” Mayer said. “If I would have known that these people were that protective over it, I wouldn’t have done it.”

    I’ve beaten animals people care about before, and now when I beat an animal I thought no-one cared about nobody gives me credit for bettering myself?!

    “there is no sign, and I see people fishing there. How could I know this is not morally acceptable?

    Can’t blame me, I’m ignorant! Take that critics!

    “If people feel this strongly about it they obviously need to voice it [they did] and a sign needs to go up and make it a park. But I don’t think all of Puget Sound should be off-limits. That is like saying you like deer so there should be no hunting, or you like cows, so there should be no meat.”

    I can does not follow my argument and a stawperson!

    —–

    consciousness razor @ 29

    I think talking about art is fine is not really a derailment in a thread from a post about both octopus killing, and art, an art project being the animal abuser’s stated motivation for killing the octopus.

    As you shared your definition I felt like sharing mine, and I hope that others share theirs. But sharing it was all I felt like doing when it comes to the definition of art at the moment.

    I didn’t mean that your definition of art was Scott McCloud’s definition. I do apologize for wasting your time by misleading you. It would be nice to edit a post to clarify but I meant that yours, and his and variations of wording which mean the same as his, are both definitions I encounter often.

    I also never said your definition was simple and wouldn’t. It’d be hypocritical of me to say so as I think what can be called a definition of art is up to someone’s viewpoint and there isn’t away to tell what is a correct encompassing yet still exclusive definition of art and what a incorrect definition as it is too abstract.

    I apologized in advance because it has been in my experience in my art classes, among other artists, and in art forums online that sharing definitions of art is sometimes hairy thing as some people would get angry, taking someone offering their definition as a statement that the previous to share are wrong, or ignorant, or something else people do not wish to be or be called. There are those who seem to be proactively angry about the definition of art and thus aggressive as they take measures beforehand to let others know exactly how little they think of others with a definition of art that varies from their own.

  32. 32
    mariel141

    Am I the only one who thinks this is being way blown out of proportion?

    I mean, unless you are a strict vegetarian/vegan type, you eat animals all the time, many of which had worse lives and worse deaths than that octopus. If I include a slice of steak in a still-life of food that I want to paint, am I as horrible as this guy is being portrayed? Or do I have to be the one who kills the cow for it to count?

    As he points out, fishing happens all the time there and no one bats an eye. And he was only allowed to use his bare hands to kill it–hell, at least that gives the animal a chance. Man vs. octopus, rather than man-and-high-powered-scoped-rifle vs. deer or man-and-$200-carbon-fiber-fishing-pole vs. fish. The only reason this got any play was because some people were actually forced to watch the brutality of death that is usually covered up and sanitized for their daily consumption.

    I don’t agree with hunting for sport, but so long as he was going to eat what he killed, really what is wrong with this? Why does an octopus get more love than a pig or a deer?

  33. 33
    Crissa

    Pigs and deer are outstripping their environment, they also compete directly with humans for food. Wolves and cougars get lots of oos and ahhs but they still get shot whenever they’re seen.

  34. 34
    Crissa

    Why the heck does state law require a blunt object vs octopuses? I guess they expect net fishing, but it’s a weird stipulation when a pointy object would be better (although I can see a reason not to allow bladed objects, as they might sever a limb without killing it.

  35. 35
    Rewarp

    Seems like the same dive site Linus Torvalds posted on Google+ on the 4th of November, where he raged against the death of a giant pacific octopus.

  36. 36
    Bill Openthalt

    A couple of things. PZ, while I fully appreciate you’re (hopefully) speaking tongue-in-cheek (you being a biologist yourself), why do you need to pigeonhole people? Obviously, there are wildlife biologists who were drawn to biology because their interest in killing animals, but that doesn’t reflect on the profession. In my opinion, there’s an unfortunate trend to practice guilt by association in these blogs.

    As far as hunting is concerned, when- and wherever the predators have disappeared, culling is necessary for the maintenance of healthy populations. I really don’t mind having people pay for a hunting license and enjoying the hunt. It certainly cheaper than paying “wildlife biologists with integrity” to do the culling. As an aside, in the rural area where I live the number of hunters is dwindling, as even the younger farmers are no longer interested. Introducing large predators (such as bears and wolves) is all but impossible because all forests are managed, plots are quite small and silvicultural plots alternate with agricultural plots. As a result, there are too many deer and boars. Full disclosure: for health reasons, I eat a vegan diet. I protect spiders but kill flies, lice, etc..

    “Art” can be used to challenge cultural norms. If we support this stance when it rattles religious sensibilities (like Serrano’s Piss Christ), we also have to accept artists who challenge our own beliefs and convictions. If we are so sure we are right we start to perceive those who do not share our convictions as deluded, stupid or downright evil, we are no better than “them”. This doesn’t mean I agree with what Mr Mayer did.

  37. 37
    demonhauntedworld

    As someone who was a practicing wildlife biologist, I, too, am puzzled by PZ’s sweeping assertion about the field. This is based on a sample size of, what, two?

    The usual caveat of the plural of anecdote not being data definitely applies here.

  38. 38
    maxdwolf

    I tend to agree with Mariel141. I would go even farther. The response is way, way out of proportion to the crime, to the extent that here even is one. This man and his family are receiving threats. That is not acceptable. His career is being threatened. That is not acceptable. Chris Clarke implied in his comment that perhaps the octopus’ life should be valued over people like this. That is not acceptable. It has been implied that he is a sadist and did it for those reasons. There is no real evidence of this. Yes, he beat the animal. Given that sharp objects that pierce the flesh are barred, he didn’t really have many other options. There is a claim that he posted photos of himself kicking a porcupine. I have heard other claims on the net that he posted other pics of animal cruelty. I have been unable to find said photos and suspect that even if they exist, what they portray has been misrepresented. One does not just kick a porcupine. Not if one doesn’t want to walk with a limp for some time.

  39. 39
    ChasCPeterson

    The divers in PZ’s gorgeous amateur video are clearly harrassing the animal. If it inks you, leave it the fuck alone.

    The kid’s a knucklehead, but such folks are a dime a dozen. Check for beams in your own eye before threatening his family. Yeesh.

    As for wildlife biologists, the culture varies regionally. In red states, college kids who choose to major in wildlife biology (usually taught out of the Ag school rather than by the biology department) all grew up huntin & fishin and want to make a career out of the bloodsports they love so well. Such folks go on to populate their State’s fish anf game department(s). At the academic level it’s different, but believe me there are still plenty of good ol’ boy PhDs studying optimal quail cover and stream-stocking rates and the like, research that that has nothing to do with anything but killing.

  40. 40
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Signed with this message too :

    The fouled up cruelty here is gob-smacking. Why the blazes would anyone think that was okay!? Octopi also are known to be a highly intelligent.

    What the fuck? I mean really, WHAT THE FUCK!?

  41. 41
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Sometimes, perhaps some “artists” need to have their “artistic licence” revoked.

    Just as some “comedians” (rape jokers frex) need their “comedic licence” revoked too.

    Does art justify anything?

    Could we excuse, say Pol Pot, Idi Amin or Genhis Khan on the grounds that their genocides and city flattenings were, quote, “making an artistic statement?” Unquote.

    Or is some shit just wrong?

  42. 42
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    @ Ing:Intellectual Terrorist “Starting Tonight, People will Whine”
    16 November 2012 at 12:25 am

    Just because something’s art doesn’t mean it isn’t also shit.

    Ninety percent of everything is crap.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sturgeon%27s_Law

  43. 43
    Bill Openthalt

    @41 StevoR: Of course art doesn’t justify everything. The problem is where we draw the line, or rather, how we agree where to draw the line. What is “just wrong” for a fundamentalist christian is “just right” for a women’s right activist. What is a not-so-funny cartoon to an atheist is blasphemy to the muslim.

    The best we can do it to try and understand why people can be equally sincere and still have convictions that are diametrically opposed to ours.

  44. 44
    Olav

    I am with the “don’t rush to judgment” crowd.

    That aside, PZ, are or were you also a diver? That would explain your love for cephalopods.

    Through the video embedded above I happened on this one, which shows a cute bit of interaction between human and octopus:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5DyBkYKqnM

  45. 45
    Amphiox

    The question here is not art, it is animal cruelty.
    It is not hunting, it is animal cruelty.
    It is not meat consumption, it is animal cruelty.

    It is not about the ends, it is about the means, and those means involved killing an animal in an I humane fashion. Animal cruelty.

  46. 46
    Amphiox

    Inhumane fashion. Curse you, iOS autocorrect!

  47. 47
    Matrim

    @43> I think a good place to start looking is when you start doing real, appreciable, physical harm without physical mitigating circumstances. Art is a valid excuse for violating social norms, offending people, and causing controversy. It is not a valid reason to torture an animal.

  48. 48
    Bill Openthalt

    @47: Some people honestly believe animals should be killed to please their god. I have fly fobia and kill them whenever they get in my house. Is it OK to swat a fly, but not OK to bash an octopus?

    If I want to define what is acceptable and what not, who am I to deny others that same right?

  49. 49
    harvardmba

    Horrible, as usual. Still wondering why PZ Meyers loves to run stories of redneck animal torturers but not PhD animal torturers. Like these benevolent UW-Madison “scientists”:

    ———————-
    For decades, countless cats have been imprisoned, cut into, and killed in cruel and useless “sound localization” experiments at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (UW).

    A cat was subjected to invasive surgeries on her ears, skull, and brain. In the first operation, a stainless steel post was screwed to her skull so that her head could be immobilized during experiments. In the next surgery—which is depicted in the photographs—experimenters cut into her head and skull and then applied a toxic substance to her inner ears in order to deafen her. Experimenters also implanted electrical devices deep inside both of her ears during this surgery.
    ———————-

    I guess putting screws into the skulls of cats isn’t abuse. Nor is deliberately deafening them. No, when PZ’s colleagues subject house cats to sustained, brutal treatment – it’s all good. Apparently, rednecks are animal abusers, not scientists.

    NOTE to Atheists and Scientists: You have ZERO credibility when discussing issues of animal cruelty until you address your own domain. Reading some of the deplorable comments on this site regarding any number of topics illustrates that atheism is not a solid base for building movements on adjacent issues, like feminism and animal cruelty. Atheism is good for atheism, it seems – not much else.

    Until PZ addresses his colleagues treatment of animal in an HONEST manner, his disdain for these redneck animal torturers is hypocrisy at its worst.

  50. 50
    Matt Penfold

    <blockquote?Is it OK to swat a fly, but not OK to bash an octopus?

    Well one is a household pest that can spread disease. The other is a marine organism that poses no risk to humans at all.

    I will leave it to you to work out which is which.

  51. 51
    Matt Penfold

    PZ Meyers

    Who ?

  52. 52
    ChasCPeterson

    When you cut and paste, link your source.

    Are you familiar with the phrase “general anesthesia”?

  53. 53
    Matt Penfold

    harvardmba,

    You plagarised part of your post.

    Why ?

  54. 54
    Ing

    Did someone really do the “who am I to force values on someone” bullshit? Guess the guys got a greenlight from you to do whatever he wants then huh? Hope someone you know isn’t an art project soon.

    Ffs I hate that bullshit

  55. 55
    Rutee Katreya

    Thanks, that reduces the definition down to worthlessness.

    Even if that’s true, it’s better than art just being a bludgeon for the rich and educated to use. But I don’t think it’s a worthless definition either.

  56. 56
    donny5

    A few years back there was an artist here in Toronto named Jubal Brown. A man whose biggest claim to fame was barfing primary colours on famous paintings in art galleries and ruining them. Back in 2001 he helped film a cat being skinned alive and was arrested for it. Jubal Brown and Dyla

  57. 57
    donny5

    sorry, hit the wrong key!

    A few years back there was an artist here in Toronto named Jubal Brown. A man whose biggest claim to fame was barfing primary colours on famous paintings in art galleries and ruining them. Back in 2001 he helped film a cat being skinned alive and was arrested for it. Jubal Brown and Dylan Mayer are full of shit. Anyone can call themselves an artist, I’m sure Charles Manson thinks of himself as an artist but that does not mean they are good artists.

    Dylan, I would be very concerned if I were you. Almost every serial killer in north america started out by abusing animals. You’re a bad artist and a bad human.

    I’m a vegan, so I can point the finger at anyone abusing animals and say it is wrong. The entire meat industry is twisted and wrong and no, my shoes are not made of leather!

  58. 58
    ChasCPeterson

    Mayer claims that killing the octopus was an “art project” at Green River Community College

    As much of the discussion here seems to be focused on this point, it’s perhaps worth pointing out that it’s NOT TRUE. The project was to draw an animal. The kid was going to (maybe did) take it home to draw it.
    Not excusing the killing. Just pointing out the disinformation.

    [not to beat a dead hobbyhorse, but this is yet another example of Prof. Myers failing to read the shit he links]

  59. 59
    Rey Fox

    Another point that begs to be pointed out is that there is actually no such thing as a “one-day hunting license” as the term seems to be bandied about here. There is a one-day fishing/shellfishing license, which must be nice if you like to fish occasionally but aren’t inclined to pay for anything more expensive. But it does not grant the bearer the right to go on a 24-hour killing spree of the local fauna. And it does not grant the bearer the right to break any other regulations that may be in place.

    Should this species or this area be protected in some way? Perhaps, and this is the sort of issue that wildlife agencies regularly deal with. But “one-day hunting licenses” are not the right target.

    Then again, what would I know? I’m just an MS student in Wildlife Biology, so clearly I’m just an animal torturer angling for a job in one of those government-sponsored animal-torture agencies.

  60. 60
    liokae

    NOTE to Atheists and Scientists: You have ZERO credibility when discussing issues of animal cruelty until you address your own domain. Reading some of the deplorable comments on this site regarding any number of topics illustrates that atheism is not a solid base for building movements on adjacent issues, like feminism and animal cruelty. Atheism is good for atheism, it seems – not much else.

    Until PZ addresses his colleagues treatment of animal in an HONEST manner, his disdain for these redneck animal torturers is hypocrisy at its worst.

    Yes, beating things to death for fun is exactly the same thing as strictly regulated experimentation explicitly designed to limit suffering as much as possible used to develop new treatments for humans.

  61. 61
    TonyJ

    As much as I love octopuses, and would never harm one myself, I have to agree with the people who’re saying that this is being blown way out of proportion.

  62. 62
    cascadian

    Long time reader, first time commenter here. I’m also a geologist and diver from the Seattle area. I’m very familiar with Alki Beach (the dive site in question), and I’ve been following this story since it broke.

    What has the local dive community upset is the fact that this guy went into a very popular recreational dive area and killed the main attraction. If you are fortunate enough to see a giant octopus on a dive, you will probably remember it for the rest of your life. These creatures are not as common as you might think (I’ve still never seen one in the wild).

    That might sound anthrocentric, and it is, but it is what has the local divers the most upset. This guy is like a backpacker who camps in a pristine sub-alpine meadow and makes a huge mess (choppping down tree branches, starting fires, leaving trash, etc.) just to boost his own short-term experience at the cost of everyone else’s (not to mention the environment). In addition to the animal cruetly and the misapplication of the art label, it’s just very poor form.

  63. 63
    drksky

    Gotta jump on the “it’s being blown out of proportion” bandwagon here.

    Per TFA, the hunting of the octopus was not the art, but the kid had an assignment to draw an animal. It also clearly states that he does this several times a year, taking the octopus for food, legally, and sharing with family and friends. The animal would have been taken, regardless of the “art”. The law also stipulates that they must be taken by hand, hence, him taking it by hand.

    Now, there are some questionable things here concerning whether the area should be protected and whether he knew it was an “informal” park. But that’s beside the point. As someone else pointed out, it’s causing an outrage because the act was seen in a public place.

    Sign the petition, voice your opinion, but the fact that the guy and his family are getting threats of physical violence over this is fucking ludicrous.

  64. 64
    AlexanderZ

    @mariel141

    Unless you live on mars you’re also responsible in some way or fashion for some killing of people (by your government, your police, your prisons, whatever) somewhere. Also, unless you’re a complete pacifist you’re usually OK with that. This doesn’t mean you can go out and start punching people to death whenever you desire.
    Same here: You could eat meat and be opposed to this kind of cruelty. There is no contradiction.

  65. 65
    mariel141

    Cascadian: “What has the local dive community upset is the fact that this guy went into a very popular recreational dive area and killed the main attraction. If you are fortunate enough to see a giant octopus on a dive, you will probably remember it for the rest of your life. These creatures are not as common as you might think (I’ve still never seen one in the wild).”

    Yeah, I checked on a couple blogs and noticed that seemed to be the main reason people were upset too. It’s a crappy reason. An ‘informal’ park is not a protected place, and these guys are basically upset that he’s using an animal (food, art) in a different way than they wanted to use it (sight-seeing). Among the actual divers there seems to be less concern for the welfare of the octopus and more of a ‘hey, I was looking at that!’ attitude.

    @Alexanderz – You’re completely right about killing people, and no, I’m not okay with that. There’s not a whole lot I can do about it, but I do recognize that some of my money is used to kill people and I would change it if I could. I do what I can to minimize it but as a member of any other country on earth it would be the same.

    What is ultimately more cruel–punching an animal to death, or raising an animal from birth in a cramped box where it never sees the sun and is pumped full of chemicals to keep it alive while the fecal matter of the creatures above it leaks down onto it, so that you can cut off its head and put its body on a spit at your local grocery? Our meat production is far more inhumane than simply bludgeoning things to death. To act morally outraged about the one and not the other betrays either ignorance or hypocrisy.

  66. 66
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Gotta jump on the “it’s being blown out of proportion” bandwagon here. [...]

    Sign the petition, voice your opinion, but the fact that the guy and his family are getting threats of physical violence over this is fucking ludicrous.

    I don’t think anyone here is making threats of violence, so your first sentence is sort of irrelevant to the discussion, uh, here.

    Also iirc PZ is a vegetarian, so I think he’s allowed to object to punching animals to death.

  67. 67
    Tethys

    I am not a vegetarian, but I object to killing animals in cruel and inhumane ways.

    Art? So if several people go beat this asshole about the head the shoulders and photograph the incident can we call that art too?

  68. 68
    cascadian

    mariel141:
    Respectfully, I submit that it is not a ‘crappy reason’ to be upset. Although the octocide was perfectly legal (for now, I suspect that the status of this area is under review), killing an octopus that people have been coming to see for years was at a minimum, selfish. It’s not so much “Hey, I was looking at that” as “Hey, everyone around here likes to come and look at that”.

    I’m not arguing that it was illegal. I’m also not intending to gloss over the animal cruelty issue, I just wanted to throw a little focus on what appears to be the main issue of concern locally, which is that there are certain informal or unwritten codes of conduct. When these customs are ignored, we all lose. Imagine graffiti in some beautful but unprotected spot. There are lots of other examples of this. I’m sure you can come up with some too!

  69. 69
    Amphiox

    harvardmba;

    Two words.

    General anesthesia.

    Three words.

    Research ethics board.

    Four words.

    Animal use experimental protocol.

    Five words.

    Animal use experimental protocol review.

    Six words.

    Annual animal use experimental protocol renewal.

    Learn these words. Understand them. Learn to count to six.

    That way the next time you feel the urge to blither about ignorant irrelevancies concerning the experimental use of animals on serious threads about real animal cruelty, you might avoid making such a spectacular fool of yourself.

  70. 70
    Bill Openthalt

    @50: It’s fairly easy when considering flies and octopuses (but does the fact that flies are annoying make them less deserving of life?). It’s not so easy when you’re discussing boars with farmers and animal-rightists. There’s no absolute morality, unless one carries the biggest stick.

    @54: I only said that if I want to define what is acceptable and what not, I have to grant others the same privilege. The alternative is that we get together and define, as a society, what we deem acceptable and unacceptable. To do that, you cannot consider people who do not share your opinions as stupid, deluded or evil. The best way I know is to start from the assumption that we all are trying to meet needs, that as humans most if not all our needs are common, and that we differ on the strategies. That doesn’t do away with the differences and antagonisms, but at least we’re able to establish an understanding.

    @67: I eat a vegan diet, but I am not a vegan. Death is part of life, and so is wanton cruelty (think cats). What makes us human is indeed that we do not condone cruelty to animals, and that we don’t agree on what cruelty to animals is :).

    As far as killing rather disgusting humans is concerned, most of us seem to agree that we should keep even the most despicable humans alive.

  71. 71
    Tethys

    Bill Openthalt

    Just out of curiosity, how does one eat a vegan diet without being vegan?

    My diet is mostly vegan, but I am allergic to soy and dairy and do not get enough protein and iron from vegetable sources.

  72. 72
    AlexanderZ

    @mariel141

    There is a difference between mundane cruelty and outstanding cruelty. Yes, the meat industry is monstrous. Yes, we need to reduce our meat consumption and make the industry better. However, no one in the industry does what they do out of sadistic fun or in the name of psychotic “art”. They do what they because they have a planet to feed and at present there aren’t any real alternatives:
    Most people can’t live without meat at all and free-range husbandry is completely unsustainable when you have billions to feed. Not to mention the tremendous shocks to the global economy which will follow any sudden change on such a scale. This cruelty prevents another cruelty. I understand that this is an anthropocentric view point, but that’s the only one we have.

    Mayer’s cruelty was outstanding. It didn’t satisfy anything other than his personal sadism (pictures of his cruelty to other animals on Facebook give a much better context to his actions than his talk about “art”, “hunting” and “self-defense”). Nobody needed him to that, what he did was not an acceptable treatment of an animal (even though acceptable treatment can be quite bad) and it was precisely because it was unacceptable (otherwise there’s no “art” in this). This has “deranged lunacy” written all over it and people are rightly shocked by deranged lunatics.

    donny5 noted correctly that all serial killers (anthropocentrism again, sorry) start from animal cruelty – not from poultry farms.

  73. 73
    strange gods before me ॐ

    There’s no absolute morality, unless one carries the biggest stick.

    This isn’t an interesting observation, since it’s trivial to use it to say “some people enjoy beating children to cure boredom, and they just won’t be talked out of it. Hard to discuss!”

    I only said that if I want to define what is acceptable and what not, I have to grant others the same privilege.

    Nobody is suggesting the criminalization of disagreement, so it’s a moot point. Everybody gets to define for themselves what they consider acceptable. Besides that, there exist things called law and jurisprudence.

    The alternative is that we get together and define, as a society, what we deem acceptable and unacceptable. To do that, you cannot consider people who do not share your opinions as stupid, deluded or evil.

    Sure you can. Modern societies have largely deemed racism unacceptable, even while considering a lot of people with exceptionally racist ideas to be stupid and evil. It’s actually pretty easy to do. Your comment is kind of silly.

    The best way I know is to start from the assumption that we all are trying to meet needs, that as humans most if not all our needs are common, and that we differ on the strategies.

    That’s very interesting. Consider this thread a suggestion that octopus punching is not a good strategy.

    What makes us human is indeed that we do not condone cruelty to animals

    A lot of people do. You’re being stupid.

    As far as killing rather disgusting humans is concerned,

    Fucking non sequitur.

  74. 74
    John Morales

    Bill Openthalt:

    Death is part of life, and so is wanton cruelty (think cats).

    You imagine cats possess theory of mind?

    (If not, then they can’t be cruel)

  75. 75
    strange gods before me ॐ

    or in the name of psychotic “art”

    That word doesn’t mean what you’re using it for.

  76. 76
    osmosis

    Couldn’t he have simply googled it and drawn from a picture?

  77. 77
    AlexanderZ

    @strange gods before me ॐ
    point taken

  78. 78
    pixelfish

    Context matters. It’s okay to hunt and kill ducks, for example. Is it okay to go to Central Park and start skeet shooting at the ducks in the duck pond? I suspect it is not. People go to this area to enjoy seeing the octopus in the wild. It is kind of a special thing.

    The park area is legally a hunting ground for the moment, but I suspect that will not be the case for long.

    And….I’m still not okay with hunting in general. I think it’s unnecessary given our commercial food chain. Preserves where populations are controlled could be allowable, if done humanely, but I generally think that invading uncontrolled habitats and killing animals off, license or no license is a bit sucky. I don’t really see this as a humane killing. :(

  79. 79
    John Morales

    [OT but not unrelated]

    We give them names – that’s the difference*.

    (This topic is but one strand of a knotty rope)

    * Australian slant.

  80. 80
    ianken

    It is horrible.

    Would it be less horrible if it were for science?

    That’s the double standard around here. Horrible torture of animals, bad for art. Just peachy for science.

  81. 81
    ChasCPeterson

    That’s the double standard around here. Horrible torture of animals, bad for art. Just peachy for science.

    oh my fucking god you are stupid.

  82. 82
    Bill Openthalt

    @71: I realise it’s rather badly worded. I am a strict vegetarian, because I happen to like eating that way, not because I think it’s morally wrong to eat meat. I just don’t like it, and even though I like cheese and adore whipped cream, I am allergic to eggs and milk products.

    @74: Does the mouse care whether its torturer has theory of mind?

  83. 83
    Amphiox

    That’s the double standard around here. Horrible torture of animals, bad for art. Just peachy for science.

    Two words.

    General anesthesia.

    Three words.

    Research ethics board.

    Four words.

    Animal use experimental protocol.

    Five words.

    Animal use experimental protocol review.

    Six words.

    Annual animal use experimental protocol renewal.

    For your sake, ianken, please learn to count to six before thinking about posting on this subject again.

    It will help prevent you from making a spectacular fool of yourself again.

  84. 84
    John Morales

    Bill @82, I suspect the mouse cares about as much about the cat’s motivations as the cat cares about the mouse’s suffering.

    (Your anthropomorphism is showing)

  85. 85
    ChasCPeterson

    I’m pretty certain that no animal has ever been brutally beaten to death “for science”. So there’s that.

  86. 86
    Bill Openthalt

    @84: The painful experiences of the mouse are independent of the motivation or mental abilities of its torturer. Humans do not blame cats for being cats (which includes torturing mice), because it is the cat’s nature to behave as it behaves. Hence your idea that what the cat does is not cruelty, even if the cat is not killing for food, but for fun (or what we would consider fun if we were to do it).

    A human doing exactly the same is considered cruel. The pain experienced by the mouse is the same, so the reason why we deem it unacceptable has nothing to do with the mouse, but everything with our appreciation of the human mouse torturer. We consider humans who do not follow our standards as dangerous, or once the perceived difference is large enough, as not fully human.

    We have to be careful when we consider others as less moral than ourselves, because there is not such thing as a super-human rule giver.

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