In high school, my hardcore Republican friend suddenly stopped eating meat after he watched a movie called Earthlings. I may or may not have scoffed and/or rolled my eyes. This year, however, I finally got around to watching it. It was horrifying, the most powerful film I have ever seen in my life.
Earthlings investigates speciesism. Just as racism means discriminating based on race, or sexism means discriminating based on sex, speciesism means discriminating based on species. Asymmetric power relationships include not only common examples such as Nazi persecution of Jews or KKK persecution of blacks, but also the everyday abuse of animals at the hands of humans. Early on, the film establishes that whether human or nonhuman, all animals are earthlings with the same basic needs and desires. These include: food, water, companionship, freedom of movement, and avoidance of pain.
The majority of the film shows footage, often shot by undercover camera, of human mistreatment of animals for pets, food, clothing, entertainment, and experimentation. The camera forces us to see what goes on behind the scenes at factory farms, slaughterhouses, puppy mills, labs, and circuses. Many scenes are painful to watch. See birds get de-beaked. See bulls get castrated, branded, and de-horned. See prohibited practices being carried out at a supposedly kosher slaughterhouse. See live foxes get anally electrocuted. Hear an elephant trainer instruct a new circus employee how to dig a hook into the elephant’s flesh to cause the maximum amount of pain. Hear the animals cry out in agony, and watch them writhe helplessly.
I could only watch this movie in segments. I don’t think I could handle all 95 minutes in one stretch. It’s a bit overwhelming.
I guarantee this film will elicit some emotional response. It will really make you think. It will challenge you to rethink your understanding of animals. This movie made me feel deeply ashamed of my species.
Just think about it. Only a few hundred years ago in this country, it was considered mainstream and normal for white plantation owners to own and use slaves from Africa. Ownership of black people as property was accepted by society! In fact, slavery was an important part of the economy. It was not regarded as immoral. It required a certain amount of social courage to speak out against such injustice. Similarly, in this day and age, the exploitation, abuse, and murder of animals for food, entertainment, clothing, experimentation, and pets are standard practice. People are dependent on animals in so many different ways. How progressive are we as a society? Will speciesism and suffering gradually decline, just has sexism and racism have reduced over the years?
It’s no exaggeration to say that this movie might change your life. Ignorance may be bliss, but the truth will open your eyes. Educate yourself. Watch Earthlings. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. Then go proselytize someone else!
(In order to increase awareness about the plight of animals around the world, the makers of Earthlings have made the movie available for free. You can watch it streaming on Google Video or here: http://www.earthlings.com/earthlings/video-full.php . Now you have no reason not to watch it.)