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. The project looks at the ways human society depends on using other species, and it asks how activities that harm other species, as well as other humans and the planet, have become accepted and institutionalized norms. Filmed on locations throughout the United States, the series hears from people participating in food production, medical research, entertainment and recreation, and it brings to light consumer attitudes. In the process ideas are explored around ethics, psychology, ecology, religion, politics, medicine, and more. Along with short films and feature length documentaries, the project produces photo essays, a monthly multimedia "micro-zine," and books. The series was created in 2015 by Caroline Kraus and is solely filmed, written, edited and produced by Kraus, who travels throughout the U.S with her dog Henry gathering the raw material that becomes the project's images, films and publications.
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. Because animal industries reach into virtually every aspect of human life, exploring this relationship provides enlightening ground for understanding human nature, social structures, the psychology of beliefs, and the levers of 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 the choices we make that impact other species, each other and our shared environments, we are continually engaged in these moments of truth.
Does the project take a stance on using animals?
In each interview, image, piece of writing and filmed encounter, the project proposes the idea that all life deserves equally to be free from intentional harm. By engaging with people who work in animal industries, as well as consumers and people who defend animals from use, this idea is tested and held to the light. Here the word "harm" means 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 the reasons that humans and other animals do. This does not mean that taking the life of plants is without consequence, only that without a nervous system or brain, the consequence for the plant is probably not going to be grief, fear, or physical pain in the way we understand those states. In contrast, animals do have nervous systems and brains, and do demonstrate physical and emotional suffering. So I am interested in why civil societies strive to defend humans from harm regardless of their appearance, abilities, religious status or intelligence, yet justify causing other species harm based on assumptions and beliefs about those very qualities.
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?
I hope the project's films, photography and writing provide an engaging and entertaining experience while expanding and deepening our exposure to the lives and concerns of other species and other people. I aim to show how people of different viewpoints feel, and how they acquire their beliefs, presenting them in their own words in a fair and accurate context. I also hope readers and viewers will feel inspired to think about the ways social, political and economic systems influence a citizen's ability to make healthy, sustainable, compassionate and informed choices.
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 needs include hard drives, a new computer, application fees for festivals and grants, camera equipment, music licensing and post-production costs and travel expenses for the next cross country trip.