Changing the Name of the Film to Farm and Red Moon

Abattoir Rising, although an appropriate title in the beginning of making this documentary, became less and less adequate in regard to capturing the direction of the film. When we started production, we centered on New England farmers and the challenges they were facing having their animals processed humanely, but the more we researched about the topic of humane slaughter, the more we realized that this is not an issue endemic to one particular region.  Meat production, and along with it, animal welfare, are global concerns of increasingly vast proportions, especially since contemporary consumers know so little about it.

Farm and Red Sun ChagallIn December of 2012, we decided that the film was not so much focused on the infrastructure of slaughter in New England, but about engaging consumer audiences in the complexities and challenges of humane slaughter, an issue that goes beyond the slaughterhouses themselves. Around this time we also realized that the story of the film needed to be told from Audrey’s perspective and what she had encountered over the past four years as she investigated the issues of humane slaughter and spoke with farmers and slaughterhouse workers.

On the wall of Audrey’s home study hangs a print of Chagall’s 1945 painting, Farm and Red Sun. Often, while working on the film, she’s looked up at the painting and thought the blue goat reminds her of the goats she has seen slaughtered, at times with great suffering. The inordinately large chicken on the roof of the wooden house, peering onto the farm with suspicion, makes her think about the chickens she has watched being killed, many remaining conscious and trying to breathe for minutes as they bleed out in the silver cones. A mother, with an open mouth aghast, holds a naked child to her bosom, and seems to look out of the painting for help. Looming over the scene is a huge red sun, bleeding out into the sky.  To Audrey, it is a moon with a dark side that cannot be seen, although she knows it must. These reflections led to the new name of the film, Farm and Red Moon. Just as the moon reflects the light of the sun in order to illuminate an otherwise dark night, the film illuminates a topic that for most people remains shrouded in darkness and mystery.

Image credit: Marc Chagall, Farm and Red Sun, 1945, © Christie’s Images Ltd – ARTOTHEK

Janet Riley and the American Meat Institute

Janet Riley, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs and Member Services, speaks to us about transparency and animal welfare in the meat industry.

On August 23rd of 2012, the American Meat Institute released a video on YouTube that features Temple Grandin explaining the humane slaughter of cattle at a typical beef plant. The AMI initiative is called The Glass Walls Project. Here are links for both the American Meat Institute website and the Glass Walls Project video:

We travelled to Washington, DC on November 30th to speak with Janet Riley about the new meat industry focus on transparency. She is also the Animal Welfare Liaison for the AMI and has worked extensively with Temple Grandin over the past two decades. As she explained to us, one of the reasons for transparency is that many animal activist undercover videos of slaughterhouses show the animals’ hind legs kicking and claim that these are live and sentient animals. However, these movements are autonomic reflexes that occur after an animal has been rendered insensible to pain and is unconscious. What is important is to look at the head to see that the eyes are open in a wide blank stare, that the tongue is distended, and that the head is floppy.

I asked Janet to explain how the transparency video project was initiated. She said, “For so long we’ve heard Paul McCartney make his claims that if slaughterhouses had glass walls [everyone would be a vegetarian], but I started to say, why don’t we test that?”  She told us that the response to the video has been very positive and that there are now over 25,000 views.  The AMI also sends free DVDs to educators who want to use the video in their classrooms.

Janet also took the time to show us the AMI insensibility grid that she personally developed: Signs of a Properly Stunned Animal by Stunning Method. The grid looks at all of the signs of insensibility based on species and stunning systems. Species included are cattle, pigs and sheep. Stunning methods included are captive bolt, electric, and CO2.

“There are really good reasons to ensure humane treatment,” Janet explained. “Everybody feels better in a plant where animals are respected. And typically, if you respect animals, you respect people.”