Is Aspen's 'iPad Tortoise' Art Exhibit Animal Abuse? - Legal Grounds
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Is Aspen's 'iPad Tortoise' Art Exhibit Animal Abuse?

What is art?

An exhibit by Chinese artist Cal Guo-Qiang planned for this weekend's opening of the new Aspen Art Museum that features tortoises with iPads mounted to the animals' shells is being called animal abuse by some. More than 2,000 people having already signed an online petition objecting to the exhibit, reports the The Denver Post.

Is the exhibit art, or is it animal abuse?

iPads Mounted to Tortoises' Shells Using Removable Epoxy

The museum is countering criticism of the exhibit by noting that it has been working with a local veterinarian to ensure that the animals, which were rescued from a breeder, are not harmed by their roles in the exhibit.

As shown in the video above, the tortoises each have two iPads mounted to their shells. The iPads will stream video of local ghost towns while the tortoises roam about the museum during the opening. The iPads are mounted to the animals using the same epoxy used by researchers to attach tracking devices to wild animals.

"In my opinion, the tortoises have adapted well to their new habitat, and the iPads have not interfered in any way with their natural behavior," the museum's veterinarian Dr. Elizabeth Kremzier said in a statement released by the museum.

Is It Animal Abuse?

Animal abuse and animal cruelty laws vary widely by state. Under Colorado law, a person commits cruelty to animals if he or she knowingly or with criminal negligence "overdrives, overloads, overworks, tortures, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance, unnecessarily or cruelly beats, needlessly mutilates, needlessly kills, carries or confines in or upon any vehicles in a cruel or reckless manner, or otherwise mistreats or neglects any animal."

Although the artist's use of the tortoises in the art exhibit would certainly qualify as "knowingly," the supervision of a trained veterinarian would make it difficult to prove that the animals were being mistreated in the exhibit. Typically animal abuse charges are reserved for more egregious mistreatment of animals, such as a Colorado woman who bound her boyfriend's dog with duct tape and hung it upside down on the couple's refrigerator.

The museum told The Denver Post that following their roles in the exhibit, the tortoises will be sent to permanent homes in educational and conservation facilities.

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