Film: Earthlings Documentary
The Shaun Monson-produced, Joaquin Phoenix-narrated documentary Earthlings opens with several shots of the Earth seen from space.
The camera then shifts to the planet’s surface, capturing a crowd of people going about their business, a school of swimming fish, romping puppies, chirping birds and other beautiful scenes from nature.
As its narration emphasizes, all these living beings inhabit the Earth, so all qualify as earthlings.
The documentary didn’t mention aliens, but it made me consider that if an intelligent alien race discovered our planet, at first glance they might think that cows, chickens, pigs and fish were its dominant species. (There are just so many of them!)
On closer inspection, however, they’d recognize that a mere 8 billion humans enslave, torture and kill over one trillion of these other earthlings for food, clothing, experimentation and sport every year.
That’s an average ratio of 125 animals sacrificed for every one human being each year (with a much higher proportion coming from wealthy nations). Such an imbalance might lead intelligent aliens to think this misery and death is necessary for human survival!
But — if they stayed around long enough — the visitors would realize these murderous practices actually make us and our planet sicker.
The filmmakers acknowledge that we prefer to remain ignorant about what’s happening, but aren’t about to let us off the hook:
“Yet those who, by their purchases, require animals to be killed, do not deserve to be shielded from this or any other aspect of the production of the meat they buy.”
With that sentiment, they echo what Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote more than 150 years ago:
“You have dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.”
The film then pulls back the curtain and gives us a raw look at the practices most commonly used to put food on our plates, shoes on our feet and pharmaceuticals in our medicine cabinets.
Earthlings touched my heart in the same way that considering the worst crimes humanity has committed throughout history touches something deep within me. It’s the same feeling the film captures in a quote from Nobel Prize-winning novelist Isaac Bashevis Singer:
“As often as Herman had witnessed the slaughter of animals and fish, he always had the same thought: in their behavior toward creatures, all men were Nazis.”
The message is clear: At its worst, humanity is truly ugly. By exposing what’s happening all around us, Earthlings had me in tears.
As my six-year-old told me last night, he wants to tell the whole world to stop hurting animals. Even though he hasn’t seen the film, he already understands Joaquin Phoenix’s final directive:
He calls on us, “the lords of the earth bearing strange powers of terror and mercy,” to choose mercy!
Earthlings is now widely available for free viewing on YouTube. Played at twice the normal speed, it takes only 45 minutes.