By Greg Lawson -
(This article was derived from a workshop Greg did at Animal Rights
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
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
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
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. (
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
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