Top Movies in Animal Welfare and Animal Rights

Earthlings (2005)

‘Earthlings’ is documentary, 1 hour and 35 minutes in length, about humanity’s absolute dependence on animals (for pets, food, clothing, entertainment and scientific research) but also illustrates our complete disrespect for these so-called “non-human providers”. The film is narrated by Academy Award nominee Joaquin Phoenix and features music by the artist Moby. Shaun Monson is the writer, producer and director. The movie than took 6 years to produce, as gaining access to the footage was not an easy task, as the industries work hard on making sure that no one sees what really goes on behind the scenes. A word of warning: the movie contains some graphic imagery of the day-to-day reality for many animals. Just watch the first 20 minutes if you can’t handle the rest. The introduction begins with the 3 stages of truth: ridicule, violent opposition and acceptance. It then explains how over the years there existed racism, and sexism and to this day, perhaps more so than ever, speciesism. This is the idea of assigning different values or rights to members depending on their species, or in other words favoring one’s own species. The movie finishes off with the idea that the way we have come to treat these animals and the environment is coming back to bite us.

The Cove (2009)

‘The Cove’ follows an elite team of activists, filmmakers and free divers as they embark on a secret mission to penetrate a remote and hidden cove in Taiji, Japan, shining a light on a dark and deadly secret. They use state-of-the-art techniques, including hidden microphones and cameras in fake rocks. They manage escape the high security around the area and the risk of a year in prison. The team uncovers how this small seaside village serves as a miniature world of huge environmental crimes happening worldwide. The result is a mix of investigative journalism, eco-adventure and capturing imagery, creating an unforgettable story that has inspired audiences worldwide to action. The movie won the Academy Award for Best Documentary of 2009. ‘The Cove’ is directed by Louie Psihoyos and produced by Paula DuPré Pesmen and Fisher Stevens. The film is written by Mark Monroe. The executive producer is Jim Clark and the co-producer is Olivia Ahnemann. Flipper was smiling on the outside but crying on the inside. That’s what Richard O’Barry thinks. He’s the man who trained five dolphins for use on the ‘Flipper’ TV show, and then began to question the way dolphins were used in captivity. Richard believes one of the dolphins he trained for ‘Flipper’ literally died of depression in his arms. In the years since, he has become an activist to defend captive dolphins from being exploited in places like Sea World. The dolphins that are captured are luckier than the thousands harpooned to death. Sonar (a method using the dolphin’s way of navigation – echolocation) is used to confuse dolphins and lead them into a trap where they are killed. Dolphins’ flesh has such a high concentration of mercury that it’s dangerous to eat. But they are killed to mislabel them as whale meat. The Japanese ignore worldwide efforts and laws to protect whales from being fished to extinction. They have discovered that dolphins are easier to find. Japanese children are given mislabelled dolphin for their school lunches.

L.F. Behind the Mask: The Story Of The People Who Risk Everything To Save Animals (2008)

The Animal Liberation Front organisation, comprised of secret animal rights activists, is now labelled the number one domestic terrorist threat by the FBI. Director Shannon Keith describes the hearts and souls of men and women who unveil their individual struggles for the Animal Liberation Front. Who are these animal activists and why do they believe that breaking the law is the best way to help animals? What inspires them to challenge the status quo, fight against all odds, and endure public criticism? ‘Behind the Mask’ exposes never-before-seen footage that reveals the extent to which these individuals will go to save animals’ lives. In 112 minutes, people of all ages and backgrounds, from all over the world, tell their tales of imprisonment, sacrifice and determination. Exclusive underground footage reveals action that may leave you wondering, “Who are these people”? The documentary took three years of filming, interviewing, and editing to complete. The movie was created by animal rights lawyer Shannon Keith, who owns Uncaged Films and ARME (Animal Rescue, Media & Education). The movie won various awards, including ‘Documentary of the Year by Veg News 2006’.

The End of the Line – A World Without Fish (2009)

Scientists predict that if we continue fishing as we are now, we will see the end of most seafood by 2048. Oceans without fish? Imagine your meals without seafood. Imagine the global consequences. ‘The End of the Line’ shows how demand for cod off the coast of Newfoundland in the early 1990s led to the destruction of the most abundant cod population in the world. It shows how hi-tech fishing vessels leave no escape routes for fish populations and how farmed fish is not a solution. The film says the responsibility is on consumers who innocently buy endangered fish, politicians who ignore the advice and pleas of scientists, fishermen who break quotas and fish illegally, and the global fishing industry that is slow to react to important environmental warnings.

Acid Test: The Global Challenge of Ocean Acidification (2009)

This documentary film explores the problem of ocean acidification, which may soon have a negative impact on marine life not seen for millions of years. Like global warming, ocean acidification is caused by the increase of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere since the start of the Industrial Revolution. Leading scientific experts on the problem, many of whom appear in the film, believe that it’s possible to cut back on global warming pollution, improve the overall health and sustainability of our oceans, and prevent serious harm to our world, but only if action is taken quickly and decisively. The movie is directed by Tristan Bayer and Daniel Hinerfeld.

Sea The Truth (2010)

‘Sea the Truth’ is based on various scientific publications that examine the problems of seas and oceans. The film discusses whale deaths caused by overfishing. It mentions fishing policy and quota, effects of fishing on marine ecosystems, fish suffering and toxins in fish which are dangerous to humans if we eat those specific fish. Bycatch is also discussed. The term ‘bycatch’ refers to fish caught unintentionally when fishermen look for commercial fish. These kinds of fish are not interesting to sell and as a result they are thrown back into the ocean either dead or wounded. The average bycatch worldwide is about 40.4% of the total amount of fish being caught. This means that 3 kilos of consumed fish brings about 2 kilos of bycatch. In total, 37 billion kilos of fish per year is wasted bycatch. The film talks about the ‘plastic soup’. Between Hawaii and San Francisco floats an enormous amount of rubbish that looks like a plastic soup with a surface area of 8.6 million square kilometres. To compare, this is 33 times greater than the surface area of the Netherlands (41,528 km2). This plastic soup was ‘discovered’ by Charles Moore when he sailed through this area with his boat and found himself surrounded every day by plastic waste. He later returned with scientific equipment to determine the soup’s total size. The plastic soup is a huge threat to the survival of a number of marine animals and mammals.

The Witness (2000)

This documentary film, made in the year 2000, is 43 minutes long. The director is Jenny Stein, the producer is James LaVeck and the photographer is Jason Longo. The sound is done by Jane Greenberg. How does a construction contractor from a tough Brooklyn neighborhood become a passionate animal advocate? Eddie Lama explains how he feared and avoided animals for most of his life, until the love of a kitten opened his heart, inspiring him to rescue abandoned animals and bring his message of compassion to the streets of New York. Working hard to overcome the many challenges of growing up in a poor and violent Brooklyn neighborhood, Eddie Lama developed a deep sense of identification with the vulnerable and voiceless beings of our world. In one of the most moving sections of ‘The Witness’, he describes the harrowing experience of being beaten and left for dead, crying out for help and no one responding. Eddie then shares how this trauma helped him understand the suffering of animals, who so often endure violence with no one to even witness their tragic fate, much less speak on their behalf. ‘The Witness’ has received 8 awards for Best Documentary and two for Best of Festival. It has been broadcast on the independent film showcases of several of America’s Public Broadcasting Service stations, as well as LinkTV, FreeSpeech TV, and United Kingdom’s Community Channel. So far, the film has been translated into 11 languages, including Russian and Chinese.

Speciesism: The Movie (2013)

In 90 minutes, the movie ‘Speciesism’ describes the assumption that humans are superior over other species and states that it is wrong. Director Mark Devries explores how that worldview plays out in factory farms, where conditions are cruel. Most of the animals used for food in the United States are raised in giant factories, hidden deep in remote areas of the countryside. Mark secretly documents the conditions in which these animals live: filthy and crowded with no light. Then he discusses speciesism further in the context of ‘superior’ human species. Nazis, for example, assert their will over other, ‘lesser’ ones.  The documentary takes viewers crawling through the bushes that hide these factories, flying in airplanes above their toxic ‘manure lagoons’, and facing their owners. But this is just the beginning. In 1975, a young writer published a book arguing that no reasonable excuses exist for thinking humans more important than members of other species. It slowly began to gain attention. The movie shows viewers the leaders of this developing movement, and, for the first time ever on film, fully looks at the purpose of what they are setting out to do.

The Ghosts in Our Machine (2013)

Photojournalist and animal rights activist Jo-Anne McArthur considers herself a war photographer. Like images of war, the images she presents in ‘The Ghosts in Our Machine’ are hard to look at. In this documentary, Jo-Anne doesn’t limit herself to a single battle, like factory farms, but instead reports about many aspects of the war against animals, from the fur industry to medical testing. Perhaps the most heart-breaking part of her film is the fact that she finds faces for these battles, like Maggie the beagle, who was bred for laboratory testing, and Fanny and Sonny, cows used and shoved aside by dairy farmers. These are the ‘ghosts’ trapped in the machine of human industry. Award-winning filmmaker Marshall directs the 92-minute movie, which is set in parts of the U.S., Canada and Europe.

The Animals Film (1981)

This world renowned documentary first shocked British cinema and television audiences in 1982. Controversial and confrontational, it questions how and why modern societies exploit animals for food, fur, sport, entertainment and science. In 136 minutes it showed scenes that had never been filmed before and footage uncovered through dedicated research. It caused uproar when it was broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK during its first week on air in November 1982. After that it was shown in cinemas and on TV around the world. The film was written and directed by Victor Schonfeld and Myriam Alaux.

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