Animal Writes
From 28 September 2003 Issue

Peaceable Kingdom
By Greg Lawson - [email protected]

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Video is composed of 30 pictures per second. That makes an hour and a half video equal to 162 million words. "Peaceable Kingdom," the new documentary by Tribe of Heart, has that much impact.

On Thursday night, ten members of the Vegetarian Society of El Paso were treated to an advance showing by the producer, James Laveck, who was the speaker at our society's bimonthly dinner on Saturday night. The founders of Tribe of Heart, James and his partner Jenny Stein, are the filmmakers responsible for the award winning documentary "The Witness." That production told the story of Eddie Lama, a New York construction worker who became an animal rights activist because of his relationship with a cat.

In my opinion, "Peaceable Kingdom" is an even more powerful film. It tells the story of Gene and Lori Bauston and their rescue work at Farm Sanctuary. We are introduced to many of the sanctuary's animals and told their stories.

The documentary also focuses on several former farmers who gave up animal agriculture. Howard Lyman tells how he went from being a fourth generation cattle rancher to a vegan advocate. Interspersed with Howard's interview is footage of downer cows and we make the connection between those animals and Howard, who was paralyzed from the waist down by a tumor on his spinal cord. A one in a million operation cured Howard and forced him to reevaluate his life. To see him interacting with the animals of Farm Sanctuary is truly a moving thing; he and them had been given a second chance at life.

"Peaceable Kingdom" also contains scenes of slaughterhouses and factory farms. We are shown dumpsters filled with live chicks, a stun bolt gun being used on a cow, chickens having their throats slit and hung on hooks. The footage is not as gruesome as other video I have seen but the general public will be stunned by the atrocities.

In our discussion after the viewing, James pointed out that the film would likely have a very different effect on people who are not aware of the facts. The ten of us vegans who viewed it Thursday had heard the information before and we know Howard and his story. Still, we were all very affected by "Peaceable Kingdom." James Laveck told us that he is still working on the final edit, making a few technical adjustments, and that he hopes to release the film in the near future.

Saturday night, 100 members of our vegetarian society watched 20 selected minutes from "Peaceable Kingdom." Thursday afternoon, James showed "The Witness" to Dr. Steve Best's philosophy class. With 450 students viewing the film, it was the second largest viewing of the documentary ever.

On Friday, Steve took James across the river to Juarez, Mexico. An animal advocate there had set up two showings of the Spanish language version of "The Witness." The first was at a public college and thirty-five people attended. The second showing was for a group of one hundred veterinary medicine students. James told me that the audiences were very receptive and many left their phone numbers on the surveys that were handed out. He said many wanted to know how they could help to improve conditions for the animals. One student told James that she had been thinking about leaving vet school but that the film had inspired her to stay.

Most of us who have been vegans and vegetarians for many years made that change because of the printed word. Books by Peter Singer, John Robbins and others caused us to change our lives. For this generation and the ones to follow, it will be video that will effect the greatest amount of change.

If you haven't seen it already, be sure to get a copy of "The Witness," and be watching for the release of "Peaceable Kingdom."
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