Saturday, April 4, 2009

Movie Review: Earthlings (2005); Shaun Monson, dir

Earthlings shows things no sane human wants to watch, things that make you wince, that make your heart shrivel, that leave you feeling drained and stupefied at the horrors perpetrated on a daily basis for nothing more than satisfying the interests and tastes of individual homo sapiens. Many may describe this as a film about animal rights, but the subject is not so much animals as it is humans, not so much about rights as it is the struggle to live compassionately.

Earthlings opens by laying out its assumptions, beginning with the premise of specieism, a variation on the human habit of assigning heightened moral value to isolated features of our own species, such as race, nationality, or sex. In asserting special rights, humans justify the treatment of animals – as they have done with women or certain ethnic groups – as creatures of less value, less worthy of respect, as in fact not creatures at all but property.

The filmmakers proceed to look at five ways in which animals serve humans: as pets, food, clothing, entertainment, and research subjects. There is a narrative of sorts, but the of images of cruelty and horror tell the real story, a story of suffering on a scale so unimaginable it is overwhelming. Even more disheartening is that much of this suffering is caused not because people are starving, or naked, or without other means of enriching their lives, but because we like the taste of flesh, we like the feel of leather, we like the thrill of the hunt. This is suffering caused for nothing more than fulfillment of sensual desire.

I have been a vegetarian for nearly two years, dating back to my first six-month visit to Nepal, a country with low sanitation and health standards. I stopped eating meat for health reasons. I was not and have not been an animal rights activist, though I do have a great fondness for and interest in animals. I came to this film with an open mind and heart; I now feel traumatized. I don't blame the filmmakers for this. They have simply shown me what is and made me aware of things I ignored. As the filmmakers point out, it's not so much that these truths are hidden. Most of us prefer not to see them.

Consider this. Earthlings officially premiered in 2005, which means it has been in circulation for at least three years. But if you if google a search string of [earthlings review] you will find most returns are from sites about vegetarianism or animal protection. No reviews from major media or major critics, despite the fact that the producers (without the help of a distributor) put the film in a number of theaters in order for it to be considered for an Academy Award nomination. At the internet's two largest movie databases, IMBD and Rotten Tomatoes, the latter has no listing at all, the former no links to external reviews.

If you are prepared for an emotional and intellectual challenge and can withstand the pain of seeing animals, while still alive, having their throats slits, being burnt, beaten, electrocuted, shot, or gassed, then you might like to view or purchase a copy of the film here. A streaming version good for one week is available for US$2.99.

Man's fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.
Ecclesiastes 3:19-21



  1. I dont know if I could sit through that whole film, the trailer was quite enough. I'll stick that one on my Sister Blog. Been Vegie for over 15 years now, toyed with the idea of eating meat, mostly because we buy it for the dog. I think there's a massive diffrence between eating animals for food and torturing them. Pulling the skin of a living creature is pathetic, but does not surprise me considering the things that humans have done to each other over the history of the world.

  2. The movie is rather unrealistic, there is a huge difference between animal cruelty and using animal products. This film over-generalized the improper mistreatment of animals with tanneries, farms, and fishing. Should obsessive animal cruelty be stopped? Yes. However, I do not find it wrong for humans to want to eat animals or fish. No more wrong then a shark eating another fish, a bear eating a seal, or an anteater eating an ant. Just can't buy into this propaganda film.

    1. There isn't anything wrong with humans eating fish or animals, etc. However, what this film shows is that the ways in which we go about it are absolutely disgusting and cruel. Slaughtering animals so that they are still alive for over thirty minutes after they have begun the slaughter process IS cruel and torturous. We have the ability to kill animals in the quickest and least painful ways but we don't. Skinning an animal alive for it's fur just so that we can charge thousands of dollars for it's fashion IS cruel. I have a feeling you have not even watched the film, immediately deeming it "propaganda."

  3. Wanting to do something and doing it are actions separated by cognition. This is the difference between a bear eating a seal, and a human eating a cow. The bear doesn't know how to do anything else; most humans don't have to eat meat or use animal products to survive. The deaths of millions of animals are unnecessary and therefore nothing short of cruel - slaughter to satisfy desire.

  4. I started watching Earthlings after seeing the Conklin Farms abuse video. While I disapprove of unnecessary cruelty perpetrated upon animals in these farms, and also the widespread irresponsibility of Americans with regards to domestic animals, I think Earthlings oversimplified the animal products industry. Moreover, I sharply disagree with the premise that people would turn vegetarian if they had to kill their own food. If that were true, then the historic record would show prolific vegetarianism prior to the industrial age. Yet before animal food became industrialized, people all over the world raised their own livestock, killed it, and ate it. People the world over still do that, in fact. Having been overseas and also having been in a survival situation in the woods, I've had to do it myself. It would probably be more accurate to say that if modernized urban people had to kill their own meat, having never done it before, then yes, they probably would become vegetarian.
    Another thing I take issue with is how Earthlings oversimplifies this "specieism" theory and makes human beings out to be the only citizens of this earth that cruelly treats other "citizens". In reality, there are plenty of other "citizens" out there that will brutally kill other animals. Just watch National Geographic. Of course, human beings can and do use unnecessary brutality, but this theory that we are somehow wrong to dominate and disenfranchise other species is, at the end of the day, post-modern bullshit.
    And that, unfortunately, is what weakens Earthlings. It could be powerful enough showing the excesses and abuses that occur in the animal products industry, and the stupid irresponsibility of our country toward domesticated dogs and cats, but instead it tries to preach the "animals are people too" message.

  5. Yes, in our short history on this planet we have relied on animal protein. But not everything that we have been is worth perpetuating. In historical terms it was only yesterday that we got rid of slavery.

    "Unnecessary cruelty" is something of an oxymoron. When is cruelty necessary? Animals kill to survive. They know no other way. We have a choice. And the truth is that we can live quite well without having to kill animals. When you choose to kill (or support those who kill) simply to satisfy your desire for flesh, that is unnecessary killing. And that is cruelty.

  6. i am a grade 9 student and i had to watch this/ choose to use this documentry for my project and it was really sad, the person who said that there isnt a difference from a bear killing a seal or watever u said......well yes there definatly is, wat ppl do to these animals is cruel and i dont know how anyone could ever even have the guts to do i wont becomne a vegetarian but i am going to cut down on the meat i eat, and speak up about animal rights :)

  7. Most people said that "animals kills one another". BUT, there's a huge difference betwen us and them. They can't RUN of a Gun Fire, this isn't the Matrix. They can't SAY anything like "I have rights!". They can't even fight... because most of them don't even are predators, they ate grass for God sake...

    For me... that's something to think about. Think about what the mankind is doing in this Space. Everytime I see something wrong like that Waste Of Life because of the Capitalism... like "we must have this meal on the table at all time" so "the killing can't stop"... so, everytime I face that kind of human error, I fell that someone say to me "I saw this." and I fell really guilty.

  8. This movie is very disturbiing and disgusting. It's message is extreem in the side of animal rights. I still like eating meat. It has certain nutrients that is more difficult to get from plant sources. I think the best way of doing things is to keep unessisary suffering to a minimum. After the movie I thought of more ways to do so. Pets should be neutered to reduce overpopulation. Getting pets from shelters is better than getting them from pet stores and breeders. Confined animals can live in more humane conditions. Improvements include more space and fresh air. They should be killed in the most humane ways possible. I think having guillitines at the slaughterhouses may be a good idea. The death it inflicts would be quicker and more merciful. Animal testing can be done at a minimum. Animal entertainment seem to have the least amount of use. The desire for amusiment pales in the need for food, clothing and scientific advancement. It could be severly reduced even elamimated. We can make and watch movies involving CG animals performing. Nature documentaries may be good substitute for zoos. There is one firm change of ideas I had after watching the horror. I don't want to go to rodeos.

  9. I could barely watch the trailer and bawled throughout the whole thing. I find myself praying throughout the day for God to bless all animals and protect them from the needless atrocities that humans unfeelingly inflict on them. This horrid maltreatment of animals needs to stop. What has humanity come to? I pray that positive changes will occur and the nightmare ends.

  10. If you truly love animals, you have to watch Earthlings, in order to understand just how much YOU participate in animal abuse. Going vegan is the most important (yet easiest) step you can take toward ending animal abuse. Go to vv vv vv. vegankit. com for more info.