The animals must come first

Why does the documentary film Farm and Red Moon need to be made? Haven’t we already learned about the horrors of the slaughterhouse (Earthlings), the trouble with factory farming (Food, Inc.), the global warming contribution of intensive animal agriculture (Conspiracy), and the heath hazards of eating animals (Forks Over Knives)?

What else is there to say?  What else needs to be done? I respect each individual’s food choices and I’m not getting involved head-on in the debate whether we should eat animals or not (at least not in this film), although I believe it’s one of the most important questions facing consumers today from an environmental sustainability, health, and animal welfare perspective.

I started out making this film as a vegan and for the time being I’m a seriously conflicted omnivore who continues to identify as a vegan. Where I end up at the end of the film remains to be seen, the story is still in progress. My focus with Farm and Red Moon, along with my co-director David Tamés, is that we want everyone, omnivores, vegetarians, vegans, etc. to learn about the missing link between pasture and plate. The issue of “decent death” has been kept out of the public conversation for way too long.

Meat-Market

Those who choose to to eat animal flesh often find comfort in the images of happy animals on pasture next to labels like “Humanely Raised,” “Certified Humane,” or “Animal Welfare Approved” in store displays and on food packaging. Many people sincerely believe that animals should lead a good life and be afforded a humane death if they are to become the food on our plates. Yet lurking behind these labels and “humane slaughter” rhetoric is a serious problem that we should not turn away from, regardless of whether you’re an omnivore, vegetarian, or vegan: All but one of the major certification/labelling systems conveniently avoids the process of slaughter.

rating-system-logos

In spite of “humane slaughter” being mandated by federal law in the United States and growing concern about where our food comes from, too many people wants to avoid dealing with what goes on behind the closed doors of the slaughterhouse. It’s outrageous when you think about that an organization will certify a product “humane” while ignoring what goes on in the slaughterhouse. We believe that everyone, regardless of their food choices, should understand how animals die to become our food.

If you’re going to eat meat I believe you should be aware of everything that’s involved in the transition from sentient animal to food. A focus on humane abuses is not enough. What happens when conscientious people committed to doing it right kill animals? Watching undercover videos of things gone wrong was not enough for me, it was not the whole story. I wanted to know and see for myself what goes everyday in industrial slaughterhouses, boutique abattoirs, and farmer’s backyards. These questions and the desire to see lead my co-director and I to begin production of Farm and Red Moon.

Precious Beau with Goat

The film will take you to the farms and slaughterhouses of different scales that I visited over a five-year period, several of them two, three, or four times. I gained unprecedented access to film legitimately so we did not have to sneak our cameras onto the kill floor.  Some of the animals I met had a horrible existence from birth, being caged or crated or chained. Others had a more comfortable fate, like at a small farm with children playing in the yard and giving names to the animals. Regardless, all of their lives will be cut dramatically short and they will be killed. That I was painfully aware of.

But what consumers don’t know is how the animals I met were killed in the best of circumstances. The well-traveled road for most consumers is lined with the deception of “humane slaughter” that is poorly understood, under-regulated, and often practiced incorrectly for a variety of reasons that we get into in the film. When I showed my footage of people trying to do it right to Temple Grandin (who serves on our advisory board and appears in the film) she said to me, “I don’t see any bad behavior in these videos, what I do see is that people don’t know what they are doing.” It’s often a murky grey area between unintended abuses and agregious abuse.

Farm and Red Moon takes you on the road less traveled. This road leads us to look at the suffering animals experience being slaughtered when no abuse is intended. This road will make all the difference to many animals. It’s not enough to turn away from animal agricultural and adopt a vegan diet. Animals continue suffer and something must be done, and for things to be done we must all take the time to see and engage in dialogue.

Constantly on my mind are:

Chickens, like the “humanely slaughtered” chickens I saw who gasped for air as they bled out.

Chicken

Goats, like the “humanely slaughtered” goat I saw who despite being stunned with a captive bolt gun, insisted on standing up and fighting for his life.

Goat

Cows, like the “humanely slaughtered” cow I saw who kept regaining consciousness as his throat was cut, and cut again, and hacked to the point of his head coming off.

Number 70

Lambs, like the “humanely slaughtered” lamb I saw die all too slowly and painfully on a kind and gentle farm by kind and gentle people who really care about their animals and want the best for them.

Shiva

Hal Herzog, acclaimed author of Some We Love, Some We Hate, and Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard To Think Straight About Animals,  says that Farm and Red Moon is an “extraordinarily intelligent and moving documentary on the human-meat relationship” that will have “wide appeal to both committed vegetarians and omnivores alike.” Because the animals can’t wait any longer for you to learn the truth about what happens to them between their FARM and their RED MOON.

The animals come first, we must see, understand, and respond on a personal level what they endure, and then we’ll be better informed when we debate our food choices and decide for ourselves what we make of the notion of “humane slaughter” and its discontents. Your comments on this post are welcome or you may contact us directly.

Audrey Kali, November 14, 2015.

Minor edits were made to this post on November 19, 2015. Image credits and acknowledgments:  Meat Department Design by I-5 Design & Manufacture, CC Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license; all other images from the film Farm and Red Moon, © 2015 by Audrey Kali and David Tamés. Trademarks referenced herein belong to their respective owners.

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