Damien Hirst art show killed 9,000 butterflies

The artist Damien Hirst is known to stir up controversy. He's submerged a shark in a tank of formaldehyde, ditto a bisected cow and calf, and in an installation called "In and Out of Love," at the Tate Modern, filled two windowless rooms with live butterflies. The show's over, but the criticism has just begun.

Art critics loved it. But animal-rights activists loathed it. The Telegraph reported that the art exhibit turned out to be a butterfly massacre, with a total of 9,000 butterflies dying by the end of the 23-week run. About 400 butterflies had to be replaced each week as they were stepped on, injured or simply couldn't handle the artificial environment.

According to the newspaper, Hirst used tropical butterflies, which normally live for up to nine months in the wild. A statement from PETA said, "Butterflies are beautiful parts of nature and should be enjoyed in the wild instead of destroyed for something predictable and unimaginative."

The museum defended the show, saying the butterflies were "selected from varieties known to thrive in the conditions created." The exhibit of the influential artist is his first retrospective, and was the most popular show in the museum's history, with about 3,000 visitors a day.

The butterfly project was one of Hirst's first as a student, and re-created for the museum: Pupae were glued to a board attached to the wall. Emerging butterflies would then hatch, fly around, feed on fruit and sugar water, and then die, to be replaced by fully hatched butterflies each week.

The Guardian called the show "a little distressing and weirdly uplifting."