inside moments of truth
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 with animals. Filmed on locations throughout the United States, the series questions the general acceptance of harming animals and their habitats to create food, recreation, materials and profit. In the process, systems and beliefs come into focus about ethics, ecology, religion, business, politics, economics, health, 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 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 incalcuable, and the environmental damage 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 appropriating other species to serve human desires. Because animal industries reach into virtually every aspect of human life, exploring this relationship also provides enlightening ground for understanding social structures, human rights, the psychology of beliefs and the levers of political power.
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. When it comes to other species, humans are continually engaged in these moments of truth.
Does the project have a perspective?
As the project's creator, interviewer and documenter, I come with a view that all life deserves equally to be free from intentional harm, and an intention to understand other perspecives. 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, the animals used by humans 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. 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. But most often, I reach out to people. I look for a balance between individuals who support animal industries, and people who defend animals from use. I also reach out to general consumers who are 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 Media Studies, and I have written a memoir published by Random House. I've also created multimedia works for nonprofit organizations and companies.
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 a rescue organization, 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. While he generally meets new people with guarded respect, he uncorks gleefully in the presence of other dogs, grass, and sand. He is watchful and interested, and on his own journey as we experience the world together.
How is this project funded?
So far the project has been funded by individual donations and personal investment. Even the smallest contributions have made a big difference, from film equipment to travel expenses. Upcoming expenses include hard drives, a desktop computer, application fees for festivals and grants, post-production costs and travel expenses for the next cross country trip.