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 looks into how and why we depend on using animals for everything from food and medical research to recreation and fashion. In the process we explore ideas around ethics, psychology, ecology, religion, politics, medicine, and more. Along with short video episodes and feature length documentaries, the project produces photo essays, a monthly "micro-zine," and, peridocially, books.
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.
What is your view on using animals?
My perspective 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 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 or intelligence, yet justify causing other species harm based on personal beliefs or assumptions 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 other species and people and to new ideas and perspectives. I also hope readers and viewers come away with a better understanding of the effects that social conditioning and political systems can have on our ability to make healthy, 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 desktop computer, application fees for festivals and grants, post-production costs and travel expenses for the next cross country trip.