To Whom It May Concern -
I have been accused of many things in this process of being a voice for the Tortoises at the new Aspen Art Museum Including but not limited to "being wacko", "Having no life and nothing else better to do", "opinions based on the limited knowledge", "spreading mis-information" and "anthropomorphizing this situation", "no understanding of abuse" - the list goes on.
So I am ever so thankful for the countless people who's support way out weighs any negative comments sent my way and I am thankful to know there are so many people out there who really do care.
To be clear, in the petition that I started, I never addressed how they were attached, as at the time I did not know if they were drilled or attached by an epoxy. However, the mere fact that they are attached at all is, in my opinion, an exploitation of animals for the sole purpose of human entertainment. We are responsible for and entrusted to make the right decisions for these tortoises and any other animals we hold in captivity.
Furthermore, there is no scientific outcome from this study, like there is when other devices are attached to wild animals. No overall good for the Tortoise as a species. And though the Turtle Conservancy would claim that this is teaching people to "think twice about buying a pet turtle or tortoise after seeing this installation"., what do you think the kids are learning? That is ok to attach devices to their pets? That is ok to force animals to endure unnatural experiences merely for our entertainment? If nothing else perhaps they can have signage and handouts educating about how to REALLY treat a tortoises and that this is NOT in any way how to treat any animal.
So I ask you, do 2 or more wrongs make a right? That they were rescued from a bad situation somehow makes it ok for them to carry these 2 iPads because they are now well fed, have medical care and a view? Or that they have better care/food than they would in wild. This is anthropomorphizing at its finest! Tortoises & Turtles have out lived even the dinosaurs without our help! Clearly they do just fine on their own when left to their own lives. A tortoises' needs are quite simple but their sensitivity to pain and suffering is equal to that of any other living being. And as a living, breathing being deserve to be treated humanely.
And does the fact that a female tortoise can endure the weight of a mate for a few hours once a year somehow justify and prepare them for the unbalancing effect of 2 iPads attached to their backs for several months? Least we forget that then the female tortoise has a choice about what male she lets mount her. She is not strapped down and forced to endure the event.
The point is that they were not given a choice! And even if they were, do any of us speak Tortoise enough to understand what they might choose? As a species, are we really so arrogant as to assume what another species might choose if given the chance?
Additionally, the conflicting statements from the AAM and The Turtle Conservancy about the Conservancy's actual involvement in this issue only leads me to believe that there is something corrupt in the process. For example, "It is not the Museum's practice to censor artists," spokeswoman Sara Fitzmaurice said in the statement. But exploiting and objectifying animals is within the Museum's practice? Or this from the Turtle Conservancy. "We were merely asked to give them advice on the captive care of African Spurred Tortoises. We have since reached out to the AAM and asked them to change their description of our involvement." But then 2 hours later completely support and defend the AAM. If you would like to read some of these statement, I am happy to provide them.
Some have even tried to say that this is not abuse. So I give you this definition from wikipedia - "Abuse is the improper usage or treatment of an entity, often to unfairly or improperly gain benefit. Abuse can come in many forms, such as: physical or verbal maltreatment, injury, assault, violation, rape, unjust practices; crimes, or other types of aggression." To me, what is being done to these tortoises is clearly abuse!
Decades ago we deemed that dancing bears and other animals being used for entertainment outside of their normal behavior patterns was wrong and abusive. Animal shows, circuses and places like Sea World are all feeling the extreme pressure to change their practices. Cities and states across our nation are banning animal shows.
So what is my hope with all of this? My sincerest wish is that these iPads are immediately taken off these 3 tortoises and that they be given to a sanctuary to live as normal a life as possible in captivity and that as humans, we learn that exploiting and objectifying any living creature is morally and ethically wrong.
Let it be made clear however, in no way does my concern for these tortoises have any bearing on my feelings for the new art museum building. While I can not claim to like the building, I honestly don't care. I gave up on Aspen having any architectural integrity many years ago. Sadly now, I see that the much of Aspen has lost its moral integrity as well.
Mahatma Gandhi says it best, "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated" and if this is where we are at as species, a nation, a society, a town, a group of people, then I am very sad to see how far we have to go.
Thank you for your continued support.