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From  Issue
21 July 2002
Videography for Animal Causes

By Greg Lawson - ParkStRanger@aol.com
(This article was derived from a workshop Greg did at Animal Rights 2002)

As an audio/visual technician for the National Park Service, my duties include shooting and editing digital video. I have learned that video can be an important vehicle for communicating AR and AW concerns.

While many of us became vegetarians and AR activists from reading books, magazines and other print material, television and videos have had a profound impact as well, and have the potential of reaching vastly more people in our post literate age.

A video of the inside of a slaughterhouse has an instantaneous and deeply emotional effect, and can be more effective than reading a book such as Slaughterhouse by Gail Eisnitz. While Gail's book can go into much more detail and give more information, it is only read by those who want to read it. A video can be sprung on the unsuspecting, and is short enough to appeal to our attention deficiencies.

If you have seen the wonderful video, The Witness, you know how Eddie Lama
( http://www.oasissanctuary.org/) travels around with video playback equipment mounted in his van, showing graphic slaughter video in the valid hope that a few moments of visuals will change peoples lives. You might be aware of the work of Steve Hindi of SHARK, Showing Animals Respect and Kindness ( http://www.sharkonline.org/). Steve's Tiger Truck sports 4 large screens and video projectors. He travels around the country showing footage of bullfights, rodeos and other forms of animal abuse.

At the recent Animal Rights 2002 conference I had the privilege of meeting and talking with Steve about video. I learned a lot. Unfortunately, I don't have the six figures to equip a truck like his, but as he explained, many of the national organizations do have the funds to set up a fleet of trucks. In my opinion, they should consider this idea.

I stood with several ARAs in the parking lot, watching Steve's demonstration of his Tiger Truck and we said to each other "Why are we wasting our time standing on street corners passing out leaflets? This is the future of the movement."

Steve had some footage of the annual slaughter of dolphins in Japan and one night he drove his truck to the Japanese embassy in D.C. and showed that footage from the street outside the building. The Japanese weren't happy to see those images.

In the exhibit area of AR2002, Steve had a monitor and video playback machine showing rodeo and bullfight video. I tried not to look as I passed, but one day I stopped by his table and watched. Tears were flowing from my eyes within minutes.

Many AR groups and vegetarian societies show videos from PETA and other organizations at their meetings. These showings have converted many people. Vegetarian societies can use digital video to produce their own vegan cooking shows for their groups and for cable access TV. I plan to do this next year for the Vegetarian Society of El Paso after I purchase some equipment of my own.

It used to be that shooting and editing professional videos cost tens of thousands of dollars and up. The cost has dropped so far in recent years that well off individual activists and local AR groups can afford to produce their own videos. National organizations really should have video workstations. A broadcast quality digital camera now costs only two thousand dollars, and a digital editing computer setup costs only a few thousand more.

A year ago, my park set up a video editing studio with a top of the consumer line Canon XL-1 digital video camcorder, an Apple G4, two digital video recorders and some other peripheral equipment for under 15 thousand. That same equipment can be purchased today for under ten thousand as the cost of consumer electronics keeps going down. Entry level professional digital video, a digital camcorder and a computer for editing, can be purchased for about 5 thousand. You can buy a digital camcorder for under 2 thousand. This is quite a difference from the ten thousand dollars a minute that used to be paid to professional companies for video production.

For professional applications a 3ccd camera gives the best resolution. Most digital cameras under 2 thousand dollars have only one ccd. Sony makes a couple of 3ccd models and Canon makes the GL1 for a bit over 2 grand and the XL1 for around 4 grand.

Digital video can be system intensive, 5 minutes of footage takes up a gig of hard drive space, so I recommend an Apple G4 with at least a hundred gig hard drive. Apples come with a program called IMovie which is easy to use and allows you to manipulate scenes, add titles and special effects. Video footage can be exported back to videotape or turned into files and used on websites.

A more professional video editing program for the Mac is called Final Cut Pro and can be purchased for under a thousand dollars.

So why video for animal rights activities...?
*To document the abuses
*To protect yourself during protests
*To communicate with others in the movement
*To make the abusers hesitant to continue their activities.

You may be aware of the annual slaughter of the bison of Yellowstone National Park. In 1997 the state of Montana killed 1083 bison, one-third of the herd, because cattle ranchers see the bison as pests and competition for the grazing lands just outside Yellowstone.

Mike Mease, a video activist who had produced documentaries for Indian tribes and environmental activists, was so angered by the slaughter that he and Rosalie Little Thunder, an elder of the Lakota Sioux, formed the video activist group Buffalo Nations to try to stop it. The group was renamed Buffalo Field Campaign in 1999. ( http://www.wildrockies.org/buffalo ).

In 1998, Mease and his volunteers started filming every step of the bison slaughter. Here is a quote from Mease..."I learned a quick lesson: I could be out there with a video camera and they would not kill the herd. They didn't want it documented." In the first year of Mike's operations only 11 bison were killed.

I am sure that Mike and the volunteers of Buffalo Field Campaign have had a tremendous impact on the bison situation, slowing down the annual slaughter. Video shot by the Campaign has been used by all the major networks, CNN and other outlets.

In 1999, Mike Mease, Dan Brister and two other activists were arrested when they tried to keep Montana Department of Livestock agents from capturing two buffalo. Brister was charged with negligent endangerment for "trying to cause death or serious injury to a state official by hazing a buffalo at him." The group's video footage absolved him of the charge, which was dropped.

Many of us are unable to afford several thousand dollars for a good camera and a digital editing workstation, but a decent video camera is affordable and is an important asset to the modern activist.

Please support Buffalo Field Campaign
in their efforts to save the Yellowstone buffalo
Buffalo Field Campaign http://www.wildrockies.org/buffalo 

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