In the fall of 2013, my husband and I went to Cinema de Paris in Montreal to see a screening of The Ghosts in Our Machine .
I have always been a bit leery of watching movies about nonhuman animal rights, because the violence and cruelty sometimes shown in them is very hard for my heart. I don’t like to see anyone being hurt. I never wanted my own children to be sad, and still feel the same to this very day, even though they are grown and have lives of their own. When I watch movies, read books, listen to music and surf the net, I am often heartbroken for beings who are lost, hurt, sad, lonely and so on….
Too empathic, you say. Well, in some instances, certainly. I would often be paralyzed and depressed over things that were beyond my control to fix. This is not a productive way to live. But I did not know how to do differently. So, I said to myself, I will just stay away from the stuff that makes me sad. Easy fix-except that I was missing out on so much. I was missing out on the opportunity to learn, to grow as an individual and to manage my emotions.
I became more and more drawn to nonhuman animal activism, hoping to discover what my role could be in addressing this very important issue. I decided that, despite my fear, I would start looking into becoming informed about the plight of nonhuman animals who are enslaved, bred, abused and murdered for our personal pleasure. The first book I read is The Lucky Ones, My Passionate Fight for Farm Animals, by Jenny Brown. I followed this with a visit to The Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, which was founded and is run by Jenny and her husband, Doug Abel.
My daughter and grandchildren accompanied me on this wonderful eye opening and life affirming visit-a pilgrimage of sorts. We went on a conducted tour of the Sanctuary and learned much about the lives of farmed non human animals. My little granddaughter fell in love with Timothy the turkey who held court in the laneway and with Star, the goat. I came away with the belief that things can change for the better and actually are in the process of doing so. I decided then and there that I definitely want to be a part of this change.
My husband and I also attended a lecture given by Dr. Will Tuttle PHD about the need for compassion in advocacy for the liberation of nonhuman animals. His book, The World Peace Diet is a challenging read in some respects, but extremely informative. Dr. Tuttle illuminates the beginnings of nonhuman animal slavery for the profit as well as how deeply it is rooted in our society, in medicine, in religion and in the economy. We learn why it is wrong, what it is doing to us and the planet, and the poor creatures, both domesticated and wild, who are trapped in the cogs of this enormous and cruel industry.
Jo-Anne McArthur is the protagonist of The Ghosts in Our Machine.
IF “PHOTOGRAPHY IS TRUTH,” as Jean-Luc Godard once proclaimed, then photographer Jo-Anne McArthur’s camera is like a floodlight, illuminating what is so often hidden and dismissed in our society— the plight of animals. With her trained eye and empathetic resolve, she documents the suffering, distress, confusion and sadness of the ones who are confined; then shows us the joy and contentment of those lucky enough to be free. Jo-Anne has been putting truth on film and pixel for over ten years. She has traveled the world with her documentary project We Animals, contributing her photos to countless animal liberation campaigns. Each of her images is at once a question that lingers, a confrontation with our own conscience… and a call to action.
The Ghosts in Our Machine documents Jo-Anne’s works as a photojournalist traveling the world to document the suffering. With her photos and her words, she challenges people not to look away. Liz Marshall, the director, captures, with stunning accuracy, the stories of all the nonhuman animals who have been both captured and bred for our unnecessary consumption-for food, for clothing, for furniture, for medicine, for entertainment. These two women have managed to look into the eyes and the souls of these beings who need our protection, who are asking for their freedom. The documentary has won a number of awards and is garnering international attention. It is such an important documentary for people, vegan and non vegan alike, to see.
Annie’s Vegan View
It can open up a whole new way of looking at ourselves, our fellow beings and our planet.
Let’s stand together and save the billions of nonhumans who die needlessly worldwide each and every year for our wants, not needs.
May all beings be happy and free.
8 thoughts on “Bearing Witness and Not Turning Away”
This is such a great post, and I sure know what you mean about hurting when you see/hear about others’ suffering. I have no idea how those folks who go undercover (and sometimes not even undercover) do it without getting into trouble. I’ve never even seen anything in person as horrific as what they do and I’ve sometimes burst into tears seeing a dog tied up, things like that, and gotten into screaming matches and near fights with, for example the “drivers” of the carriages that horses are forced to drag around the city, people abusing dogs, etc.. If I were to try to go undercover, I’d never make it because I’d blow my cover from not being able to keep my emotions in check. So, I have so much admiration and appreciation for those who do it because the images they capture are necessary to change, for prosecution, etc.. And I personally can’t get photos out of my head once I see them or words out of my head once I read them (I have flashbacks to images/stories even years after seeing/reading) so I have no idea at all how the folks who do the undercover work and see it in person survive. They are a special breed, for sure.
Love your photos from Woodstock! … I’m aiming for the cookies this weekend. I’ll have some time on my hands that I want to do something “happy” to fill. And I haven’t forgotten to check with you to write something to share on your website. I just need a few guidelines so I don’t ramble all over the place. That’s one of my challenges with writing….my rambling. 🙂
Again, great post! I’m going to look at the links. Thanks for sharing.
Glad you enjoyed my post. It is actually a rewrite from a post from last year-Feb 2014. I needed to format it to fit the current style of my website and decided, with a few updates that I would republish it. I found it interesting that my views about advocacy have not changed all that much in a year, except that I have become more informed and more able and confident to answer questions and to advocate when I have the opportunity.
The question is, what more can I do? I still struggle with that. I, like you do not know if I could visit slaughterhouses and other places of torture. I am able to look at most pictures now, even though they make me so sad, so I understand how you are feeling. Knowing that beings are out there suffering to such a degree is very hard. How do we get people not to turn away? I recently invited my friends to attend a screening of The Ghosts in Our Machine at a Veg group to which I belong. Three people replied no, the rest did not reply at all-disheartening. Looking to volunteer at a shelter or a Sanctuary, but have not found one yet. This is on my agenda for next month.
Woodstock was fun. My grandchildren, who have been vegan since birth, will have the benefit of always seeing nonhuman beings as individuals with lives of their own. I am so proud of my daughter for giving this gift to them.
No worries about the post-let me know when you are ready and we can get to it. BTW, I don’t think that you ramble at all.
Hi Anne.. Volunteering somewhere would be a great idea! I volunteered with feral cats for over 4 years at a shelter here, but several circumstances piled up and that ended. It’s too far away now because we moved, but there is a place nearby that I might be able to volunteer at officially that has one goat (his 2 family members have both passed away in the last 2 months) and sheep and horses and cows. I go there every other day and spend a lot of time with Olaf (the goat) and the sheep and some with the horses…
That really is disappointing about everyone declining your invite. I’m sure it would happen to me, too. Before I became aware and awake (for lack of a better word), had someone invited me, I think I would have said yes because I would have felt too guilty to say no, but I would have been a sobbing mess by the end. The times I’ve gotten into problems like with the horse carriage drivers were because of seeing them slapping the horses in the face, punching, pushing and kicking them. That is so horrible and yet those poor horses aren’t even going through what the farmed animals do….it’s almost unfathomable. My husband has almost punched people who we see hitting or kicking their dogs. We thankfully don’t see this often even though it sounds like it. But it should NEVER happen at all!
Thanks for not thinking I ramble. 🙂 I’ll have more time soon to be able to write something. I see you have a “contact me” so I’ll do that when I know I’ll have enough time to devote to writing something ‘good’.
(Cookies will be done soon!!!) 🙂 dedicated to your mom and you.
There are wonderful people here on the West Island working with feral cats. I learned three years ago, when I was trying to find a home for a kitty who had wandered into my niece’s backyard, that cats are the most marginalized companion animals here in Quebec. I also learned that the best way to find a home for a kitty is to adopt her yourself. LOL!!!
I am sure that I will find the right place to volunteer and I look forward to this day.
We definitely need to stand up to abuse wherever we see it, whether it is a dog, a horse or a human.
Take your time with the post. Let me know how I can help.
Hope you enjoyed the cookies!
Have to admit that I find it more difficult to watch videos and movies nowadays. When I first went vegan I felt it was my duty to watch because it was the least I could do given the enormous cruelty and suffering that other animals had to bear. And in my head I still do but I also better understand activists who don’t want to, because all those images can make you feel so incredibly sad and angry and powerless, and perhaps for some, enough to lead to paralysis and burnout, which is of no benefit to anyone either.
And I sometimes wish that agencies who put out these very worthwhile videos would stop advertising them as shocking, because sadly, what they show are either standard industry practices, or acts of violence that we as vegans have seen too many times before. 🙁
I guess it’s a line that you have to draw for yourself — how much viewing will spur you into action, and how much further viewing will leave you feeling powerless to do anything — and that line will likely shift over time.
There are still some movies that I have been unable to watch-one is The Cove and another is Earthlings. I have not watched everything out there, but these are two that I avoid watching. I don’t know what the answer is and I agree with you, that our view on this can shift over time.
I always remember in the opening scenes of The Ghosts in Our Machine, the protagonist, Jo-Anne McArthur reveals that she has PTSD, not only from seeing what she sees, but also from having to leave these suffering beings behind. I admire her for her advocacy. And she has been at it for more that 15 years.
I have never visited a farm animal sanctuary and don’t even know where the nearest one is! I must find out about this. I also haven’t seen, “ghosts in the machine”. There is so much to take in and learn when you are quite new as a vegan. It is easy to become overwhelmed with it all. I hear what you and others are saying about the effects of all these films and cruelty can have on our health. I realised some time ago that I think some people are just not “cut out” to be able to deal with all these images emotionally. Sure it is hard for everyone to look at and we are told we should not look away but I think personally once I have seen these images once, then I know what goes on and do not need to keep looking and looking and torturing myself. I think you have to be quite a stable person emotionally in the first place to handle it and I know myself and many others are not. I greatly admire people like yourself, Anita, Marc Ching and Jo- Anne McCarther who bear witness in “real-time” so those of us who cannot manage it yet are able to see what goes on. As you know Anne, I suffer from P.T.S.D myself and struggle with my emotions. I think I need to find other areas in which I can help, for the moment anyway.
I have been trying to get a balance lately in how much time I spend on social media. I see some horrific images on my news feed which deeply affect me. I think I need to spend some time doing direct work with happy animals too, where I can interact with them in real life. I have a lot going on in my life at the moment but in a few months I am hoping to volunteer at a rescue for dogs called Jerry Green which isn’t too far from me. I have done lots of voluntary work at these types of places before and always enjoyed it. I used to volunteer in the catteries at the R.S.P.C.A in York but haven’t done this for a few months because of ill health. This dog rescue is only about a 10 minute drive from me so will be much easier for me to get to.
I think the key to all this is to get the right balance of what we can manage and what we can handle as an individual and this will be different for everyone. I am still trying to find out where I can best help and there are oh so many ways to do this.
Thanks for your article. It is good to know that I am not alone in the sadness and hurt that I feel.
I agree with you that balance is key, but so hard to find when there is such a sense of urgency. I do not suffer from PTSD, so can only imagine how difficult this must be for you. I, too find myself scrolling past the violently graphic images and do not know how people like Marc Ching and Jo-Anne McArthur do what they do. I do know that Jo-Anne does take some time off at Farm Sanctuary and I do think that these places are a little bit of heaven in a very cruel world for all species of animals affected directly and indirectly by our use and exploitation.
I am glad that my article resonated with you.