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The Use of Animal Subjects in Art: Statement of Principles and Suggested Considerations

Adopted by the CAA Board of Directors on October 23, 2011.

Many areas of the visual arts use animal subjects—from photographs taken of the environment, to the use of materials in art derived from animal byproducts, to the use of live animals in a performance. In the use of animal subjects in art, the College Art Association endorses the following principles:

Artists and other professionals in the visual arts must be allowed the full range of expressive possibilities in order for art to maintain a vital role in human society. With that expression, however, comes responsibility when artists and others use animal subjects in art. CAA does not endorse any work of art that results in cruelty toward animal subjects. Further, given that animals do not have the right of refusal, CAA calls on artists and other professionals in the visual arts to examine with the greatest of care any practices that require the use of animals in art.

To perpetuate this ethical standard, professionals in the visual arts should consider the following issues and questions before engaging in any practice using live animals:

  • No work of art should, in the course of its creation, cause physical or psychological pain, suffering, or distress to an animal
  • CAA recommends that any user of animals in art pose these three questions before beginning the work of art: Can you make the same point by replacing the animal? By reducing the number of animals? By refining the use of animals?
  • Have you explored the institutional standards and guidelines at your home institution, if any, that apply to the use of animal subjects for research?
  • Are you aware of the national standards and guidelines for the use of animals in research, such as those produced by the National Science Foundation or by other professional organizations to which you belong?
  • Have you discussed any practices that may result in pain or discomfort for the animal subject? Have you considered alternatives?
  • Have you done research on the biology of your animal subject to understand aspects of its physiognomy and experience?

Authors and Contributors

Task Force on the Use of Human and Animal Subjects in Art (2010–11): Paul Jaskot, Chair, DePaul University; Wayne Enstice, University of Cincinnati; Michael Golec, School of the Art Institute of Chicago; Ellen Levy, Independent Artist; Marlena Novak, Independent Artist; Bernard Rollin, University of Colorado; and Kristine Stiles, Duke University.

 

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