Wherever we are, we are usually not far from another life in motion.
Considering a Pig
This small working ranch in Chileno Valley, California, opens for tours during the summer and fall. I volunteered there for a few seasons and got to know and become close to the ranchers and animals there. During tours, most children were either afraid of the resident animals, or eager to pet and hold them. It was the rare young person who had a quiet or reflective response.
Where Humans & Animals Meet
This is a still from my interview with Peter Singer. We filmed at the building where he teaches at Princeton University, in New Jersey. He is a bioethicist and the author many books, including the groundbreaking work Animal Liberation, which has introduced generations of readers to the ways animals are used by humans. Philosophy can seem far removed from places like slaughterhouses, rodeos, or animal research laboratories, but it can be helpful to bring rational thought to those fraught environments, to look at the root of this human-animal dynamic using what we know to be true about animals and humans, and to set aside for a moment our personal interests and emotions in order to clearly consider the interests and emotions of others, whether they are a different species, or other people.
This encounter in Mariposa, California took place during a county fair where horses and riders competed in a western event called sorting. The timed event involves moving numbered cows quickly, in sequence, from a pen through a gate. While this young girl was not old enough to participate, before and after the event she looked after her mother's horse with the authority of a seasoned veteran. I have had some very enlightening experiences in my short-lived time riding horses, and for me, this image conveys the formative aspect of relating to animals. She was adept and smart -- and born into perspectives about horses that implies acceptance of all that goes into training a horse to submit to a girth, saddle and bit and follow commands with someone on their back.
At the Mariposa county fair, this cow is about to be the object of high speed chase.
Sorrely is a gelding who lives and works on a cattle ranch in Petaluma, California, gathering cows. He is usually surrounded by rolling hills and cow hands, but here, isolated against a bright, blown out sky, he is only himself, independent of context, use and environment. It's easy to project on beings who do not tell us their thoughts. When I see this image, I wonder how his senses process the world, and what people signify to him.
Signs and Meaning
This sign off a two lane highway in Minnesota shares a clear perspective that hunting, trapping and fishing is right. If Henry could read, what would he think?
While driving through Burns, Oregon, I saw a sign that said Sewell's Taxidermy, and when I pulled in I was greeted by Heath Sewell, who with his wife LaurelLynne took time to discuss their experiences hunting and creating taxidermy works. Their Moments Of truth Interview is here.
A Gas Station Owning Veterinarian Trophy Hunter
In South Dakota, after fueling up, I entered the gas station and found an extensive menagerie of stuffed and mounted wildlife. I learned that the station owner was a veterinarian and a trophy hunter, and that by chance he was there that day. I grabbed my camera, and though this participant does not want to be identified, he was very open in our conversation and agreeable to having this video recording included in the project.
I spent a day photographing at the International Primate Protection League in Summerville, South Carolina. The monkeys at IPPL are mostly retired from being subjects of experiments in laboratories or rescued from the exotic pet trade. The founder of IPPL Shirley McGreal discusses some of the realities and issues around primate use in her Moments Of Truthinterview.
Subjects of Experimentation
In his September 2016 New York Times Op Ed, bioethicist and former animal researcher John Gluck wrote: "There is no research more valuable than our own integrity and ethical coherence, and our treatment of animals is a direct reflection of our values toward life and one another." After I reached out to Dr. Gluck for an interview, he invited me to his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and we explored the terrain of animal experimentation. That Moments Of Truth interview is here.
A First View
This mother and her piglets lived on a small working farm in Chileno Valley, California. Pigs have a wide, panoramic field of vision, but they don't see much detail. They mostly sense and navigate their environments using their noses and ears.
Cedar Creek, Texas. This cat lived at Sebastien Bonneu's Countryside Farm. I met Sebastien at the Austin, Texas farmer's market where he sells a variety of meats. Sebastien raises and personally slaughters the rabbits, geese, ducks, guinea fowl and pigs on his farm. Sebastien is in the project's first short film, and his interview with Moments of Truth is here.
Who We Eat
In his book The Modern Savage: Our Unthinking Decision to Eat Animals, author and historian James McWilliams writes, “We have to make reasonable inferences, assume similarity over difference, and learn to accept some ambiguity while conceding the strong likelihood that the animals we kill and eat are emotional beings that suffer when we kill and eat them.” His Moments Of Truth interview is available here.
Sustainability, Religion & Animal Agriculture
Third generation farmer Joel Salatin runs Polyface Farm in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Polyface Farm was championed in Michael Pollan's Omnivore"s Dilemma and featured in the documentary Food Inc. Joel's perspectives on animal agriculture are grounded in practices he describes as both sustainable and respectful of animals, and fundamentalist Christianity. Among the many views he expresses in his interviewis the idea that animals are here for humans to use.
How often we see images of the animals we slaughter and eat made up to like women on signs and billboards. This is a "tri-tip" food truck in Larkspur, California. The idea expressed in this image is that a cow named Trixie would happily serve dead cows to people.
Carol Adams is an author and activist with a Masters in Divinity from Yale Divinity School. Her work focuses on social justice, and the powerful ways that attitudes about animals and women are connected by references and images. The Moments Of Truth interview with Carol Adams is available here.
Durant, Oklahoma. I met Tommy Rowlands at his family-run slaughterhouse, in the front store where he sells cuts of meat from cows and pigs. When I asked about his experience running a slaughterhouse, he offered me a tour and invited me to film. While this facility is much smaller than industrial scale slaughterhouses, they share the principle that animals are commodities. Tommy shared some of his perspectives about why this is so in his Moments Of Truth interview.
Cattle vs Wild Horses
In large part to support cattle ranching interests, the U.S Bureau of Land Management rounds up wild horses who are permanently removed from the range and transported to holding facilities where most live out the remainder of their lives. The chief reason for these removals is competition for space and resources with cattle operations that lease the land from the government. More than 50,000 wild horses are being held in these facilities across the U.S., at taxpayer expense. See the project's interview and short films about these roundups.
The Psychology of Milk
The calf in this picture was born the day before. On dairies, female calves are removed from their mothers after one to two days, after receiving colostrum, and placed in weaning huts where they will receive a powder formula while their mothers' milk is delivered to humans. Male calves cannot be part of dairy operations, so after they are removed from their mothers they are slaughtered and then used for products like calfskin gloves and meat. It's interesting that most humans are repulsed by the idea of drinking the breast milk of their own species into adulthood, but enthusiastic about drinking bovine milk.
This is a Wisconsin dairy photographed from the highway. The white boxes in front are the weaning huts for 1-2 day old calves permanently separated from their mothers. Mothers are inseminated every 11 months so that they will bear another calf, who will again be removed, and continue producing milk for human products.
This is a view inside a hut where this female calf will receive formula until she is old enough to join a herd. Male calves cannot stay on a dairy, so they are trucked away for slaughter.
This is a typical U.S dairy in Western Colorado, where cows live in confinement facilities without access to pasture and attached to milking machines usually 3 times per day. According to Penn State's Agricultural College, "During the last 10 years, the number of dairy farms has decreased by 40%, herd size has increased by 60%, and milk production per cow has increased by 20%." From the perspective of a typical dairy cow, this means less space, no grass and more physical toll with ever-higher milk production.
Seeing Each Other
Chileno Valley, California. On an early morning visit to a working ranch, I felt a presence, and turned to see this face.