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When the sheep says that it will feed and clothe humankind, it demonstrates the huge importance of sheep in human life (Monson, 2018). This is a concept retrieved from the documentary Earthlings, which implies that while normally sheep as a domestic animal will require humankind to care for and to protect it, the sheep will have a vital role in the man's livelihood, by the provision of mutton, wool and skin. The best either can do is treat each other with dignity and since man is in the position of power, dignified action towards the sheep or any other organism in the planet by handling it with care and insight. However, humankind has increasingly felt superior over other creatures, making them mankind servants in five different ways. ‘Earthlings’ is a documentary directed by Shaun Monson which was released in 2005 serves to advocate for better treatment of animals and does this by highlighting numerous forms of animal cruelty that goes on in the world, especially in the commercial meat and animal products industry (Monson, 2018). In watching the film, numerous feelings are drawn out with emphasis on an empathetic understanding of the importance of animals in the world and why humankind should take better efforts in the treatment of animals. This paper explores the themes driven in the film ‘Earthlings’ highlighting discussion on each of the five parts of the film to identify the initial reactions, the cognitive reaction after a reflective thought and conclusions on how the film has impacted my beliefs and behavior.
The documentary identifies ways by which humankind has shown high levels of speciesism by ending up using animals as lower ranked organisms and fail to show ethical and humane standards when dealing with animals (Monson, 2018). In the first part, when the author explains how the universal need for companionship has influenced the increased desire for pets. I could relate with this emotional need for companions which I felt was normal, but on realizing that most pet breeders do not have very humane conditions for animals and treat their animals as colonies in cages, I was quite disappointed though not very shocked. This is because animal brutality is so common that several animal activist groups condone such behavior. The film also shows the regular ‘crises’ that urban centers face when pet owners abandon their pets when their ability to care for them cripples (Monson, 2018). The manner by which the public health groups use lethal methods such as tranquilizers to capture harmless stray dogs and the later ways they are used to kill such beings made me feel that we live in such a dark world that people would do inhumane things comfortably as long as they were aware they are not being watched. It was so painful to learn that animals are killed with such painful measures such as suffocation, taking over twenty minutes to die.
Upon reflection, I realized that the people who can take action and fail to do so including the animal watchdogs, the pet lovers and empathetic people who understand that animals have emotions were liable for falling silent while pets are being overproduced and discarded as mere items for dumping. I concluded humankind is dangerously easy to fall into arrogance and a majority of humankind only care for what is close to them such as family and friends, easily ignoring other issues they disregard as secondary to their needs. Watching this part made me love stray animals even more
The second part of the documentary was the longest and the one which highlighted how the consumer nature coupled by the race for capitalization has led to humanity at large; I included to lose grip on what it means to be humane. For one, I was quite surprised that while at school we learn that in modern slaughterhouses, the animals are killed through the use of guns which makes the killing fast and less painful, it is not the case at the slaughterhouses from the film (Monson, 2018). Looking at a bull being sliced open using machetes which not only makes the death painful, and longer, it is also frustrating for people like me who despite what we have seen may not stop us from consuming meat. On realizing that the emotional impact of inhumane, unhygienic treatment of animals would not stop me from feeding on meat, I became very disappointed. I realized similar to the way I the experience refuses to change my stance, so is it hard to make the meat production industry to improve their animal ethical treatment policies.
On further reflection, I have realized probably one reason I might not quit feeding on meat even after realizing the animals go through some mean processes that are even hard to keep watching is that we as humanity support such habits by ignoring the signs. Furthermore, I think that the processes should be blamed on the government as the main regulation body when such meat and poultry production conditions do not meet the standards approved by the law. This further makes me gloomy on realizing that I am shifting blame to maintain a comfortable stance. After some time I have concluded that change can be made through consumer increased consumer awareness which can draw attention from the right bodies to intervene and correct such inhuman attitudes towards animals.
Just when I thought I had learned the epitome of the abuse of animals, I watched the third part of ‘Earthlings’ in which I learned on a deeper scale, the role of animals in the textile and apparel industry (Monson, 2018). Even before completing this part, I had already started creating a dislike for all clothes made with fur, upon seeing the suffering the furred animals undergo in the process of retrieving this fur. Even before I could make this decision permanent the documentary focused on a woman asking for the price of a jacket made of fur and it read something like $49,500 (Monson, 2018). I immediately understood why people were willing to skin thousands of seals per season to invest in the multibillion-dollar apparel industry which is at its peak during winter. However, skinning animals alive hurt me, as I looked at those animals eyes. The seemed to ask what they had done to deserve such hard treatment. It is hard to put my mind off a graphic image of a seal being hit severally on the head and the batterer simultaneously cutting up the animal, just for its fur, a commodity given by nature. The back eyes were staring through the screen to me, and it was so emotional. I contemplated taking a break off the screen, not fully comprehending why anyone would do such a thing to a poor defenseless creature.
Upon taking sometime after watching this part, I also reflected on how capitalism has piled pressure on humanity to achieve success regardless of how they affect the other earthlings and as long as no one was paying attention, they could even make worst decisions. It dawned to me that speciesism and human supremacism is inherent considering the high value of animal products and the disregard for animal life that I had seen in this section and when a stray dog is lured into rubbish collection tank to be killed by compression in the first part of the documentary.
The third discussed the use of animals as ‘lesser’ beings for entertainment. I felt that animals were treated as lesser beings considering the training elephants in one clip were subjected to. The training was mixed with derogative, demeaning and foul language which the animals seemed to understand, show gloom and respond to. It was clear that the circus elephants were responding to instructions, not because of their intelligence, but rather as fear of punishment (Monson, 2018). It was sad to listen to one person enticing others to hit the elephants as hard as they could to make them gain attention. It was hard not to empathize with the elephants, such huge creatures reduced to mockery to please people in the circus. While previously I was wary of bullfighting and how dangerous the bulls were, I was deeply saddened on learning that the bulls are usually tortured before coming out for bullfights by keeping them in the dark for some significant hours and the sport-like manner by which they are killed in the ring for the glory of the Matadors (Monson, 2018). Issues such as animal fighting, hunting for pleasure depicted how killing has been like a sport further increasing my disappointment and empathy for the animals.
After much contemplation, I felt that humanity has a dark side which influences them to seek dominance. I saw that it had a ripple effect as even those do not engage in such cruelty promote it by visiting circuses or zoo hence promoting the harsh training in unnatural conditions for animals. I would have wanted to find a positive outlook for these steps taken by humanity yet I could not, further increasing my gloom.
While I was not surprised to learn that animals are usually used in medical and scientific experiments in place of human beings, I was not even marginally aware of how tough their conditions usually are or the effects of the experiments usually are. ‘Earthlings’ provided me with a clue about how animals are treated as disposable products, placed in experiments that even seemingly traumatize the scientific instigators. While watching this part, I fully got the concept the narrator was trying to point out, we are all interconnected as earthlings as looking at a caged baboon with scientific instigated head injuries with such deep sad glare could make anyone cancel such experiments. After watching this part, especially the experiment on head injuries all I could wonder was why this was even necessary in the first place. A small deformed kitten and a monkey dying of radiation were so strange that it was hard to believe they were actually from this world. I quickly concluded that scientific experimentation on animals was wrong and very selfish, something that will stick, as the ends will never justify the means.
In conclusion, I reflected on the part on scientific studies of science and deduced that based on the experiments, most humanity might not easily show love for animals as co-earthlings but rather as unequal and lesser beings. This makes them fail to see such creatures as equal partners of resources on the earth, rather they may see them as tools to satisfy human need and curiosity which is ethically debatable.
When I started watching the first part of the documentary film, ‘Earthlings’
I was introduced to the word ‘earthling’ which means the inhibitors of the earth (Monson, 2018). The film points out that there are three types of earthlings which are humankind, nature and animals. Nature seems to represent a broader part of the existing thing on the world incorporating the plans, similar organisms such as fungi and the natural patterns such as weather, seasons and other natural events. From the definition of what an earthling is, I quickly deduced that this document sought to promote equality among different types of earthlings which was also influenced by the film’s presentation on different types of situations in which the people in powerful positions tend to misuse their positions and misuse the ones in the lower position. Giving examples of rape, child molestation, or slavery, the narrator provides a situation in which those in power would misuse their power. While I usually agree that fair treatment is essential for the harmonious relationship among earthlings, the idea of such philosophy being presented in artistic work did not entice me at all. I was almost about to dismiss the documentary as just a regular film documentary until it started explaining the concept of speciesism and how it is similar to other forms of radical extremism such as sexism or racism.
After watching the concluding part of the film, I was emotionally touched by such composition that advocated for more open advocacy for equality and more humane treatment of our environment. While I have always stood for fair co-existence between man and nature after watching the first part, I started to feel that silent and passive agreement with the content if the film was not enough. More action needs to be done to create changes in the way humankind treat the natural environment including showing more kindness to animals and promoting better environmental initiatives such as waste- management as means to improve the environment that earthlings live in.
In conclusion, I noted that I was in agreement with the principle of ‘might is right’ which made me comfortable with certain levels of harsh animal treatments that I had seen. Watching the film made me realize that this belief needed to be moderated to avoid promoting the wrong idea on the relationships between humankind and the other earthlings or avoid being influenced to act harshly towards animals due to my beliefs.
Monson, S. (Director). (2009, February 2). Earthlings Documentary [Video file]. Retrieved December 7, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JW7nJGBzesU
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