(director: Curt Johnson; cinematographer: Anthony Rodriguez; editor: Greg Browning; Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Curt Johnson; Vagrant Films; 2007)

“This film shines a clear light on the dark controversy surrounding our treatment of animals.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Documentary filmmaker Curt Johnson presents both sides of the rift caused over the ‘be kinder to animal issue’ in an evenhanded manner. He covers the touchy subject in his in-depth lively look at the rift between the opposing groups fighting the same struggle: animal rights activists (pushing a radical agenda of eliminating all violations of animals) and animal welfare advocates (who mostly want better treatment for the animals). Both advocate groups for the furry creatures take different tactics in their fight, and the filmmaker spends time clearing up their point of views by having their spokesmen tell what each wants.

The outlandish title is derived from a graphic PETA comic book filled with animal atrocities. Of all the parties involved in the conflict, the group that comes out in most disfavor is PETA. We learn that PETA has no problem murdering animals and dumping them in shopping center dumpsters to get publicity for their cause, and being hypocritical about their actions.

The political message of the film is derived from the FBI’s ranking of animal-rights activists in its 2005 report as the nation’s No. 1 domestic terrorism threat. This astonishing fact is analyzed during the course of the film, as all self-righteous groups with uncompromising beliefs in their cause are lumped together as dangerous to society. It doesn’t seem to matter if these groups are the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), Animal Liberation Front (ALF) or Al-Qaeda. With the implication being that Bush couldn’t catch Osama, so to get the heat off his back he goes after the easier animal rights target.

One physician, Jerry Vlasak, makes a case for using violence against doctors involved in animal research. The gentleman, speaking in a soft tone, proposes that if these doctors don’t understand they are doing violence then the only way to show them their errors is through violence. His extreme views are met with a host of other activists with considerably more temperate views and more crafty political strategies in dealing with the issue.

The filmmaker doesn’t seem to accept any group’s point of view carte blanche, but instead provides some vital info for the viewer to be more informed. An intelligent viewer might wonder if medical advances made through animal testing and animal products is worth killing animals for, and that no definitive answer can be given tells you how complex and ethically trying are the issues raised.

Johnson presents a bunch of explosive questions about the issues in a straightforward way, and makes no pretenses that he knows all the answers. But such a rational approach is a good way of cutting through all the emotional clouds that only make things more difficult to deal with. This film shines a clear light on the dark controversy surrounding our treatment of animals, and is a must-see for those who are even just casually interested in the subject-matter.