Animal rights comic book turned doc stands up for our furry friends

Curt Johnson (June 15, 1968), is an independent documentary maker, writer, producer and music supervisor (see Michael Moore Hates America, 2004). He has been involved with two films that won Academy Awards, one of them being Thoth (74th Academy Award Winners of Short Documentary). He is currently involved in a law suit leveled against his new and rather controversial film.

Your Mommy Kills Animals
The title of the film, Your Mommy Kills Animals, is from a shocking comic book published by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) for distribution to school children. This is just one example of the extreme language and provocative approaches that exist within the animal-rights movement, a broad category that actually includes an array of groups with differing philosophies and strategies when it comes to defending animals. As Johnson's smart, comprehensive doc reveals, the situation has grown even more volatile since the US government declared that animal rights extremists comprised America's primary domestic threat.

This documentary consists mostly of talking heads, or rather ‘expert witnesses,' along with archival video of whales being harpooned, dogs being beaten, skinned animals, laboratory animals, women in fur coats being harassed by angry young protesters with bullhorns — bellowing obscenities, corporate leaders being similarly harassed, arson, breaking and entering, vandalism and all sorts of activism by radical believers. The overall effect is, nonetheless, a fairly well rounded viewpoint of animal activists.

Johnson also gets into the gray area of moral superiority, allowing the likes of physician Jerry Vlasak to make his case for violence against doctors involved in animal research, whilst also permitting more temperate voices to ask whether becoming a terrorist organization really helps anyone or anything.

In addition, the film makes a number of attacks against the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). One incident highlighted in the film reveals how two PETA employees picked up a number of animals from an animal shelter and killed them. A PETA spokesman defended the killing of animals by saying it was the humane thing to do. The argument seemed to be that ‘death is better than life' for animals forced to live in a cage, or at times home with private owners.

Another group featured in the documentary is Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), which is bent on stopping product testing on animals by Huntingdon Life Sciences. SHAC activists are highly confrontational. They are shown demonstrating in front of Huntingdon facilities, as well as banks and other financial institutions connected with Huntingdon. When all this strategies fail, the group resorts to protesting outside the homes of these corporate executives. Their tactics seem to work. The Bank of New York dropped Huntingdon, as did the brokerage firm Charles Schwab.

Merritt Clifton, editor of the Animal People News, however, seems doubtful of SHAC's accomplishment, saying all it is doing is driving companies like Huntingdon to other countries where they could operate more easily in secret with less public or government supervision.

Seven SHAC activists, called the SHAC Seven, were convicted of multiple violations of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act and were sentenced from one to six years and fines of $1 million.

Thus, the film raises certain critical questions; for instance, if the SHAC Seven can be convicted for saying the wrong thing, then what is to stop the government from convicting anyone for saying any unpopular thing that government officials don't like? It seems as though the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act is being used not to protect the public, but certain narrowly-defined corporate interests.

Several people in the movie said these convictions would not stop the animal rights movement and argue that the cause of animal rights will continue into the future, regardless of any attempts to stop it. The animal rights movement, like gay rights, black civil rights, women's rights and the right to life movement, are all in it for the long haul.

Your Mommy Kills Animals speaks loudly as a film and is a true eye-opener. The theatrical release of this film is scheduled to premiere at the Hyland Cinema, 240 Wharncliffe Rd. S, on September 28. It rates an A!