A few weeks ago, I was shocked to see the latest video from Farm Sanctuary detailing the alleged animal abuse at Aux Champs D'Elise, Palmex, and Elevages Perigord, three of Canada's largest foie gras producers. As an animal lover, I was sickened when I saw the footage. I thought: How is this possible? I have seen poultry farms, including a foie gras farm, and I've never seen anything like this.
The footage includes ducks being stomped, beaten, and thrown. Of course the world is shocked upon seeing these types of videos. Even I, who credit myself as being fairly educated about the techniques of foie gras farming, was confused. What's the deal? I asked myself: How could this video possibly be real?
First of all, Farm Sanctuary is not above using deceptive campaigning and illegal tactics. The organization is known for hiding its vegan agenda in order to gain small but insidious legislative victories from voters who would not support such an agenda. The organization was also convicted for 210 counts of campaign finance fraud. Obviously, one should be wary of any information one gathers from such an organization. Immediately, we should know that something's fishy about these videos.
But before completely discounting these videos as fakes (which I'm about to do) let's give Farm Sanctuary the benefit of the doubt. Let's pretend the abuse we saw in the videos was not staged in some way. Let's pretend this is really an expose... Anyone who truly cared for animals, and was not simply convinced by a zealot-ridden cause, would have thrown down their camera and saved the animals being abused. In fact, all the farmers I know would have done just that. Every farmer I know is an animal lover. They have to be. Its their job. These supposed documentarians seem to have betrayed their own ideology by watching the abuse go on and doing nothing. Of course, we know that animal rights organizations are not above sacrificing a few animals along the way.
But forget all that. I do not believe in the veracity of these highly edited videos. Clearly, the abuse was staged. Not only are there clues in the new video which lead me to believe this, but there is a long history of animal rights advocates faking these films.
First, the clues:
1. Faces of the animal abusers are blurred out. Why? Wouldn't you think Farm Sanctuary would want to expose everyone connected with these crimes? Or perhaps the abusers are also animal rights advocates, hired, along with the camera holder, under false pretenses.
2. There are actually moments in the video where the animal abusers seem to pose for the camera. I speak specifically of a moment where a duck is killed in an inapropriate way and after tearing out its organs, the worker clearly pauses and holds them directly in front of the camera. Hmmmm... How'd he know about that camera?
3. There is no sound in the video, aside from the overly emotional musical soundtrack. I can just imagine the camera holder goading and taunting the workers, "Show me how you kill a duck! Ha ha ha! Yeah!" Or, "Let's stomp 'em!" Or "Act natural! Show me the blood!" I could go on. We don't hear the sound because we are not supposed to hear the director's directions.
4. We know nothing of the film crew and nothing of the workers in the video. This video would actually be credible if the names of the film crew were released, along with the names of all those who abused the animals. The animal abuse in the video is illegal - wouldn't an animal rights advocate want those perpetrators to be prosecuted? Not if they were the ones abusing the animals. We also know very little about the times and dates these events took place. A true documentary shows facts, not propaganda. The secrecy leads me to suspect a hoax.
Second, the precedent has been set:
1. Ever been to Universal Studios or Disney World? If so, you'd probably understand how easily we can be fooled by a camera. The documentary style of the video certainly makes the images look real and not staged. Unfortunately, this type of film making is easily manipulated for political reasons. Presenting images out of context or simply faking them can be quite easy and quite lucrative.
2. The history of these animal snuff films is extensive. The following examples have resulted in legal action against the filmmakers, including some convictions.
The hoaxes date all the way back to 1964 when the International Fund for Animal Welfare paid a man to torment and skin a baby seal in front of photographers.
In 1972, The Canadian Association for Humane Trapping caught animals in the wild and released them into traps in order to film them dying.
In the mid-1980's Greenpeace Australia's film crew paid two men to mutilate live kangaroos.
In 1996, a film crew staged the brutal murder of a dolphin in Venezuela in order to raise money and generate public support for embargoes against Venezuela's two exports, oil and tuna fish.
There are countless other examples including tricks of the camera, misinformation, and outright lies.
Third, independent veterenarians have visited the foie gras farms and have reported seeing no animal abuse. One Dr. Robert P. Gordon, New Jersey delegate to the American Veterinary Medical Association, visited a New York farm and said, "Afert being on the premises, my position changed dramatically. I did not see animals I would consider distressed, and I didn't see pain and suffering."
What can we do?
We can call on Farm Sanctuary (and anyone else who releases such videos) to do the following:
1. Provide the full, uncut film footage, with sound. Anyone unwilling to do so is probably hiding something.
2. Call for the people on the video to be identified by name.
3. Require sworn statements from the filmmaker and crew in the case of footage of illegal activities, attesting to the time, place, and other circumstances relating to the illegal activities.
We should look at these films not as news, not as undercover stings, but as hoaxes, clearly perpetrated by advocates who have betrayed their own ideology. Chances are, Farm Sanctuary will remain silent, except for the continued documentation of their own cruel torture of animals.