The Ghosts in Our Machine – thoughts after the screening

We went to see the documentary The Ghosts in Our Machine in the cinema yesterday, and it did live up to my expectations.

It was beautifully filmed, and both painful and pleasing to watch. Painful because of all the depictions of suffering animals in captivity, pleasing because of the depicted happiness and love of the animals that were rescued and brought to sanctuary (in this case Farm Sanctuary in New York). It was also an interesting behind-the-scenes story of the work Jo-Anne McArthur does, a very painful and distressing – but also very important – job.

DSC_0982#The picture is my own, taken last summer at a cattle farm here in Finland

For me as a several year vegan and animal activist the issues brought up were not new, but it was still powerful. It gave me motivation to continue doing what I do, and continuously striving to finding new ways of helping animals, even if it is painful. Somehow I also felt a little bit of peace in the middle of all the pain, because I know I do my best to not contribute to the suffering of all these animals. Even if I can’t save them all, at least I’m not putting their flesh in my mouth, their skin on my feet, or chemicals tested on them in my face. Most of the time it does not feel like that’s enough, but sometimes I still get to feel that peace, and parts of this film gave me that.

The film does not explain much what animal rights and the activism for animals is all about. Instead it depicts the suffering of animals in different life situations and the work of different animal activists. The footage is most likely eye-opening for someone who is not familiar with the suffering of animals in our world, even if it doesn’t give all the facts. The facts can always be found elsewhere.

My summary goes like this: WATCH IT, you will not regret that you did.


The Ghosts in Our Machine

The documentary The Ghosts in Our Machine is about Jo-Anne McArthur and the work she has done for animals during the years, through her amazing photographs of animals in different life situations – those being exploited as well as those living in sanctuaries. The documentary seeks to open our eyes to the way we treat animals in this world – to point out the ghosts in our machinery – that in almost every part of our life, there is an animal being exploited, whether it’s for food, clothing, research or entertainment. It also is a depiction of animal rights activism today, where it is and where it might be going.

The documentary started screening in different parts of the world already in the end of last year, and now the time has come for it to be screened also here in Helsinki. It can be seen on three different days this week, during Helsinki Documentary Film Festival:

  • Tuesday 28.1 at 9 pm in Kinopalatsi 8, Kaisaniemenkatu 2
  • Wednesday 29.1 at 2.30 pm in Kinopalatsi 8, Kaisaniemenkatu 2
  • Friday 31.1 at 5 pm in Bio Rex, Mannerheimintie 22-24

Tickets can be booked online through the film festival’s home page, where you can also check out the other documentaries that will be screened during the week.

I’m hoping to go one of these days – if I don’t get a worse cold that the one I’m having right now – because I’ve really been looking forward to this film. I love Jo-Anne McArthur’s photographs, out of which many can be viewed on the We Animals – webpage, and I am excited to hear her story.

If you want to know more about the film, please visit the Ghosts in Our Machine’s webpage. There you can find out when it will be screened in your area (or request a screening if there is none), pre-order the DVD, watch the interactive story about the documentary and find out how you can get involved – among other things!

I want a vegan world!

I re-listened to one of Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s podcasts today. Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while probably know by now that I admire Colleen greatly, she is a true inspiration for me to continue learning and writing about animals and veganism and to keep thinking compassionately.

Anyways, the podcast I listened to today is called “Turning the tables” and in the podcast she, among other things, talks about that many people believe vegans have an “agenda” to turn the whole world vegan. It reminded me of an article in the local newspaper some years ago, in 2009, in connection to a campaign by the animal activist organization Oikeutta Eläimille about ending fur farming. The article was about an own campaign the fur farming industry had started as an answer to the campaign by Oikeutta Eläimille, and it said something about that we (“the vegans” or “the activists”) start with a ban against fur and fur farming, then we want to go on to ban other types of animal farming for meat, dairy and eggs, etc.. The article was angled in a way that it seemed that this aim is something animal activists are hiding from the public, that we pretend to “only” want a ban against fur farming, but actually we want to ban all animal industry.

I was almost laughing when I read this article back then, and I still find it very ironic, because for me it has never been about any hidden agendas. I would love for the whole world to be vegan, free of animal industries, even though I don’t believe that a ban is the best way to get there. Ethical decisions like that need to come from people themselves, not from any higher authority, to be understood and have an actual point for both humans and animals. Anyway, while I was still in the local activist group we were never about hiding that we are vegans and that is what we are striving for more and more people to be. It has always been out there for people to see.

I think a vegan world would be great in so many ways, not only for the animals but also for the people and the environment. If we would show more compassion towards animals – all of the animals and not only pets, getting a more one-sided view of animals instead of the very confusing view we have now where some animals are friends and others food or products to be used – I believe it would come as a consequence that we would also be more compassionate towards one another. Veganism is not a perfect way of living or an end of something, it is one step on the way towards living as compassionately as possible, towards doing as little harm as possible.

Showing compassion over the boundaries of opinion

At one point in time the animal activist group that I was in did demonstrations at individual fur farms. We had a banner and we sang songs and shouted rhymes about how horrible fur farming is and how cruel fur farmers are. I joined a couple of times, but it never felt right to me and I decided to not join these kind of demonstrations anymore. After this decision I had a conversation with one of the other group members (who, for the record, is an amazing person that has inspired me in many ways) about the issue. She said that she understands that it is uncomfortable/hard for me, but that I need to think of it as a way of ending fur farming, and that I should try to distance myself from the owners of the farms, because in fact they are animal abusers and not good people.

Now I do think fur farming is a form of animal abuse, I think it’s wrong and unneccessary and I hope to see an end to it while I’m still alive. However, I don’t feel comfortable with standing outside the farmers’ homes calling them names and telling them they are horrible people without compassion. Because they’re not. I don’t think what they do for a living is okay, and I will never give my blessing for it, but they themselves are not horrible, cruel people. They are human beings, just like us, and like so many of us they have been desensitized to the suffering of non-human animals. Just as I don’t want to be called names or have anyone stand outside my home telling me what they think I do wrong in my life, I don’t want to do that to others.

I don’t either believe these kind of demonstrations do much for the sake of animals. Yes, after much effort and verbal harassment, that one farmer might close his farm and turn to other means of making money, possibly saving the lives of some animals. However, the hatred against animal activists would grow larger, and the indifference between the activists and the farmers would continue to be there. This kind of animal activism will not change the minds of anyone believing the use of animals for our own purposes to be okay, it might just make their belief stronger.

I don’t mean that we should stop fighting for an end to fur farming (or other types of animal abuse), but I don’t believe in this particular way of doing it. Hatred doesn’t grow anything other than more hatred, and I believe animal activism should be about changing people’s attitudes towards non-human animals and the vegan lifestyle, not shouting in their face that what they do is wrong. Because it doesn’t work. If we don’t show compassion towards other people, if we don’t change our attitude towards them, how can we expect them to change their attitudes towards non-human animals?

Discussing the future of fur farming

The citizen’s initiative for ending fur farming, which I’ve been writing about earlier, has now been handed over to the Finnish parliament as the first ever citizen’s initiative in Finland.

I don’t have big hopes for there to actually be a law change that would make fur farming illegal at this point, since a lot of the current politicians are negative towards the initiative. However, this means that they have to hold a serious discussion about the subject and that is already a good thing.

As a step towards the right direction, the organizations behind the citizen’s initiative are asking for at least changes in the rules around fur farming, to make the wellbeing of the animals in this industry better. I don’t believe this to be a solution to the problem, because I don’t see how the animals could ever have wellbeing when they are seen as products and kept in environments that are far from natural to them, but it would at least be better than nothing. In the end, constant new rules about how the animals should be kept and treated will lead towards the same direction as a total ban, and less and less people will probably pursue with fur farming.

I’m going to follow the news around the discussion to see how it progresses. Hopefully at least some of the politicians will speak up for the animals, because the animals have no voice of their own.

60 000 signatures for an end to fur farming

Yesterday I got some great news in the mail.

In may this year, a citizen’s initiative for ending fur farming in Finland was started by several Finnish organisations that are working for the animals or the environment. For an initiative to be taken up in the parliament at least 50 000 signatures from Finnish citizens are needed. When the collection of signatures ended in last week, more than 60 000 signatures had been collected.

This doesn’t mean that there will definitely be an end to the fur farming now, it just means that the issue has to be brought up in the parliament, and not all politicians are so pleased about it. But at least this result shows that there are quite a lot of people out there that think fur farming should be ended, and I believe that more people would have signed if they would just have known such an initiative existed.

So even if no big change happens now, we have still moved a big step forward.

A huge thanks to everyone who signed!

Picture from the citizen initiative’s website