What is The Moments of Truth Project?
The Moments Of Truth Project is a documentary series that explores the human condition through the lens of our relationship to animals. Recorded on a perpetual road trip throughout the United States, the series combines film, photography and writing to present a variety of experiences and perspectives. In the process, we look into ethics, ecology, religion, industry, politics, money, health, entertainment, psychology, science and more.
It's hard to think of a subject more deeply embedded in human life than our relationship with other species. We celebrate some animals in books and art, invite others into our homes, and appropriate the vast majority for food, materials, entertainment and experimentation. In the process the suffering imposed on both people and animals is as incalcuable as the environmental damage is vast. With stakes this high, it can only help to look at the content and causes of our attitudes, and the roots of our dependence on using sentient beings. Because animal industries reach into virtually every aspect of human life, exploring this relationship also provides elightening ground for understanding societal structures and the levers of power as well as human behavior.
What are "Moments of Truth"?
The phrase "moment of truth" was first used by Ernest Hemingway in his story Death In the Afternoon. It described the moment a sword was thrust fatally into a bull during a bullfight. The phrase has since become part of general vernacular, refering to a point of no return, an epiphany, a decisive moment. And when it comes to the use of other species - as well as photography, film and writing - we are continually engaged in these moments of truth.
What is your perspective on using animals?
My view is that all life deserves equally to be free from intentional harm. By "harm" I mean physical or mental injury that can be experienced. Though plant life demonstrates complex, cooperative and intelligent behaviors, flora does not appear to express suffering for reasons that sentient beings do. This does not mean that taking the life of plants is without consequence, only that without a nervous system or brain, the consequence is probably not going to be grief, fear, or physical pain. In contrast, most animals we use do have nervous systems and brains, and do demonstrate physical and emotional suffering. So I am interested in why civil societies defend humans from harm regardless of their appearance, abilities or intelligence, yet justify causing other species harm based on those very differences.
How do you choose who to interview?
Sometimes interview opportunities arise spontaneously when we travel. For instance, once while fueling up at a gas station in South Dakota, I discovered that the gas station doubled as a trophy hunter's personal museum. It turned out the station owner was also a veterinarian, and he was open to talking about his reasons for hunting wild animals and creating this museum. I also continually reach out to people whose work supports animal-use industries, as well as animal rights advocates and general consumers open to talking about their choices.
What do you hope this project achieves?
My aim is to show why human society relies on using animals, and the impact this has on other species and humankind, and the environments we share.
What is your background?
I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, the youngest of three. I was introduced to caring for animals early, living at the edge of creeks and woods that were full of life, in a household with a rescued dog and parents who encouraged connecting to nature. My love for books and movies led to a Masters of Arts in writing and documentary film, and I have since written a memoir published by Random House, and created multimedia works for organizations including The Independent Television Service, Project Coyote, Encyclopedia Britannica, Northwestern University, Cooper Design, Scientific Learning Corporation, and The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign.
What is Henry's story?
Henry is a young and very smart mixture of shepherds, possibly including Kelpie, Australian and Heeler. He was found by animal control officers in Merced, California, under a house with his siblings when he was about five weeks old. I was contacted by Rocket Dog Rescue, and upon seeing a hastily texted picture of a tiny and terrified Henry, I knew that even though I wasn't expecting a new companion, adoption lay ahead. Today we are an inseparable pair. Henry learned fast to navigate most places untethered - trotting down sidewalks, ears flicking back for my voice and front for what's ahead. While he generally meets new people with guarded respect, he uncorks gleefully in the presence of other dogs and nature. He is watchful and interested, and clearly enjoying his own journey as we travel together.
How is this project funded?
The project is funded by my own resources, with early contributions from family and friends.