This paper argues that debates over art exhibitions that make use of live animals, such as the Guggenheim Museum's 2017 Art and China After 1989: Theater of the World, are reflective of a schism between two general approaches to the ethico-political criticism of art. One of these approaches, the interpretation-oriented approach, is dominant in the art world and its adjacent institutions. The other, the production-oriented approach, is tacitly adopted by art-interested non-specialists. This rift explains why the use of animals in contemporary art—a practice that many art-interested people outside of the art world find bizarre and prima facie unethical—is so rarely discussed critically within art world institutions such as museums and journals. In an attempt to redress this oversight, the paper argues that the production-oriented approach is not only conceptually sound, but rationally preferable to the interpretation-oriented approach in many such cases.