Monday, December 3, 2007

NFB of Canada - Animals

This past Sunday, I watched a DVD I had purchased from the National Film Board of Canada, called Animals. The film follows a married couple who have purchased an abandoned farm and decide to raise their own animals as well as establish an equestrian centre.

Jason Young starts out by describing himself as an animal lover but also a meat eater. Naively, he thinks that if he wants to eat the meat, he should also be able to raise the animal. He begins with a couple of pigs but quickly adds chickens, rabbits, sheep and a couple of steer. The animals are named; I immediately thought 'oh, that's a mistake'.

Throughout the four seasons that this film moves through, we see the animals thriving. But we are also treated to their demise, one by one. Jason,a rather delicate, hippy looking young man, did not appear to look like the type who would be able to go through with this (my judgment - what would someone look like who could?). I was mistaken. With the mentoring of his relatives who are also in the farming business, he learns how to kill, skin, butcher and hang the animals. Only at the very end when faced with killing his favourite animal, a young steer, does Jason completely back out.

This was by far the most disturbing image for me (and there were a few - some I could not watch and left the room). As Jason says, he got himself off the hook, but not his animal as no one has a full-grown pet steer (why not, I thought, hoping against hope that the animal would be spared). He takes the young steer to another farm, where the cow is stunned, his artery pierced and he is left, thrashing about on the cement, while his life force slowly ebbs away into a drain.

I have been with both my parents when they took their last breathes. Death came upon them peacefully, especially for my mother. I was saddened to see a different view of death in this movie.

The film ended with this image, followed by the faces of the husband and his wife, who continue to eat meat. As Jason says early in the film, farming is all about control. He continues to eat meat albeit all the more wiser for his experiences.

I cannot pass judgment on this couple; in fact I think it was rather brave of them to even attempt this experiment. They raised the animals and grew attached to them and the animals trusted them in turn. Jason was unflinching in facing whatever emotions arose when it came time to dispatch the animal.

Nevertheless, I was completely disheartened by the taking of life, if not in a detached manner, then certainly in a business like way. And why? All to simply satisfy our palates.

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