Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.” Therein lies the premise of the harrowing tale told in the 2005 movie Earthlings. An earthling, the film reminds us, is simply an inhabitant of earth, with no right above that of any other earthling.
Narrated by Joaquin Phoenix and with a soundtrack scored by platinum-selling recording artist Moby, Earthlings describes in gripping documentary form the lopsided relationship human beings have with animals. Though we may not personally slice the cow’s throat, we sure love our quarter-pounder with cheese.
Earthlings shows in vivid detail our dependence on animals for food, entertainment, companionship, and vivisection. It then reminds the viewer the power and control humans have over animals; no matter how obstinate an animal may be, they ultimately must succumb to the will of humankind. The film suggests that with our control over every living thing comes choice, and perhaps responsibility, to become better stewards than we have been thus far to other Earthlings.
“This is the single most powerful and informative movie about society’s treatment of animals,” said Woody Harrelson of Cheers fame. Harrelson, Phoenix, and Moby are all devout vegans (A vegan is a person who does not eat or use animal products of any kind.)
A lot of movies cross our paths each year and most are filled to the brim with gimmicks to keep us enrapt and entertained. Earthlings does so in eerie, stomach-churning fashion. The images in the film, which in its first frames reminds the viewer are, “industry standard for animals bred as pets, food, clothing, and for entertainment and research” are shocking and repulsive. The myth of ethical animal treatment in slaughterhouses is thoroughly debunked by an overwhelming barrage of grotesque secret footage. Our eating lifestyle is brought into grisly perspective as it peers in to view the atrocities committed in behalf of a meat- obsessed world that kills 10,000 “food animals” per minute. Viewers must alternately squirm and wince when faced with the stupefying reality they are brought to behold, hardly able to face it, and just as powerless to look away.
Viewers beware: the film has been dubbed by animal rights activists as the “vegan-maker” as it so bluntly and effectively tells of humankind’s cruel treatment of animals on every imaginable level. It demands that we introspect about our unconscionable ignorance towards our role in the pandemic slaughter of our fellow Earthlings.
I know, I know, you’re rushing to a computer to reserve your copy on Netflix right? This film is going to headline the BBQ get together you’re hosting this weekend right? Probably not, Earthlings is not easy, palatable viewing.
Watching this film though is not about viewing pleasure, it’s about understanding who you are and the role that is yours on Earth. This movie could be the downer of the century for you, but more likely it will be a gigantic step towards feeling better than you’ve felt in your life. I highly recommend keeping your eyes and ears bravely open for this one. It’s better to face the music than be the ostrich that sticks its head in the sand.
Earthlings came out in 2005, so why review it now? As part of SLCC’s weeklong celebration of Earth Day the movie will be shown at noon on Wednesday, April 20th, 2011 at an event hosted by SLCC’s Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. The screening will occur in the Oak Room at the Student Event Center on Taylorsville Campus. Vegan refreshments will be served and an open discussion will follow the screening. You can also stream the movie for free anytime from the film’s website, www.earthlings.com.