The Cat Welfare Society (CWS), a volunteer group in Singapore championing cat welfare issues, posted on its Facebook page to respond to a poster (see image above) calling for the killing of stray cats, which was distributed at the recently concluded Singapore Night Festival.
"The makers of this poster apparently consider this work "art" and have represented the same to members of the public.
In the last 2 months alone, there have been 6 cases of death as a result of abuse. In each case, the cat or kitten was thrown, smashed or beaten. In each case, the unnecessary and unwarranted loss of life occurred.
Artists have a civic responsibility and should not express such messages of cruelty under the guise of art. We find it difficult to understand how the advocacy of such heinous acts can ever be termed art or on what basis this flyer was included in the programming of the Night Festival this year."
Vertical Submarine, group of artists behind the exhibition, have issued an explanation on its Facebook page for the posters given out on the Night Festival, stating that the flyer was one of a series of flyers conveying intentionally distressing and morally questionable messages, such as killing stray cats, lying to your loved ones, and committing adultery.
"As part of the Eville exhibition at the Singapore Night Festival, the flyers and other Eville exhibits explore the theme of evilness and depict several acts of evil happening in our society. Satirical didactics were used throughout the show with the intention to provoke reflection within the arch of the Eville exhibition. The flyers were one such device and this would have been clear if the exhibition had been viewed in its entirety, rather than looking at one flyer outside of its context.
The flyers were not distributed to the public for the purpose of advocacy but scattered as part of the performance. We do not advocate or condone the killing of stray cats. On the contrary, we are pleased that the issue of cat abuse is highlighted."
Upon reflecting that the poster was meant to be part of an exhibition, CWS later added that:
"This flier has, however, come out at a time when cat abuse cases have increased in frequency and it has hit a very raw nerve with the cat loving community. Many of us have witnessed cat abuse in our communities and in recent times, this number has only increased. We are grateful that so many of you have come out strongly against cat abuse.
We would like to work with the relevant organisations and groups involved in the exhibition to find ways in which we can highlight issues relating to our community cats to the wider public and to put this issue to rest."
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) also made an earlier announcement on the poster, urging all members of the public to disregard the poster.
While indicated that it has no issues with the artists behind the poster, it felt that more could have been done to better frame the issue to prevent misunderstanding.
"Not all members of our community, lamentably, are equally receptive to the originally contextually intended meaning and usage of the flyer and message - it does take a certain critical perspective and discernment to be able to appreciate the intended contextual usage of the message (and it would be a sweeping generalisation to assume, still in today's age of accelerated critical literacies of Singaporeans, that that message could be applied safely with nary a worry of possible unhealthy repercussions)."
Under the Singapore's animal & birds act, any form of cruelty to animals will render the offender liable to a jail term of up to 1 year, a monetary fine of up to S$10,000 or both.
Early this year, Law Minister K Shanmugam cited statistics from the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) and SPCA, noting that “there has been a worrying growth in the number of animal welfare and cruelty cases” over the years.
The Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM) has also called for calm and reflection over the incident, saying that it supported the exhibition.
"We would like to encourage everyone to spend a little time to reflect upon the issue, and the context, before commenting. In particular, we ask that we all refrain from personally attacking the participating artists, which is not a constructive means of voicing disapproval of the exhibition."