Seeing Is Important: The Ghosts In Our Machine

Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals

Empathy is difficult without awareness. And the single most important reason that humanity tolerates horrific cruelty to animals–in multiple industries, from food, to cosmetics, to furs, to entertainment, to health research–is that the true experience of animals at the hands of humans is mostly, and intentionally, hidden.

Enter photographer Jo-Anne McArthur, whose life mission is to document the lives of animals–their experiences, their conditions, their emotions, their helplessness–who are subordinated to human needs and industries. It is incredibly powerful work, partly because McArthur is tireless in her efforts to get behind the smokescreens and obstacles thrown up to hide reality, partly because she is a good photographer, and mostly because what humans do to animals in humanity’s constant pursuit of profit and self-gratification is simply unconscionable.

McArthur’s mission and work is featured in an affecting new documentary, The Ghosts In Our Machine, by director Liz Marshall. That is a perfect title, I think, and I love to idea that the film and McArthur’s photography seeks to bring the ghosts, which are so easy to ignore or miss, to life. You can’t feel good about a fox fur coat after you see McArthur’s haunting photos of foxes in pens at a fur farm.

Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals

In the documentary, the cameras follow McArthur in her work, as she sneaks into facilities to photograph animals, as she tries to pitch her photos to photo editors who worry they are too shocking and unnerving for the public (well, that’s the point!), and as she recovers and draws strength from a farm sanctuary, where animals live more natural, and meaningful lives. “I feel like a war photographer,” McArthur says, and she is. There is a war on animals, and most people are in denial about it. Which is why McArthur’s photo odyssey, and The Ghosts In Our Machine, are important creative works.

Many viewers will find the scenes in The Ghosts In Our Machine shocking, and maybe revelatory (though sometimes I wonder how anyone can NOT know what is happening to animals, how anyone can remain honestly ignorant). And for anyone who really does not know what happens at a factory farm, McArthur’s photos alone are probably sufficient to open eyes and inspire questions. Still, we are a society that likes to learn via video, and I have seen the power of documentary to reach people through the Blackfish experience.

So, while The Ghosts In Our Machine does not really have a true narrative or take viewers much beyond the fact of animal cruelty (it is more like a meditation), it is critical that we first acknowledge the cruelty. So it is very powerful to see McArthur at work, and hopefully her choices as a human, and her dedication to revealing the truth, will wake people up and help them examine more closely their own lives and how their own choices affect the lives of animals across the planet.

The Vegan Revolution?

Maybe it’s just me, but it is coming.

Here’s just one small pre-frontal gust.

Live And Let Live:

Live and Let Live is a documentary about our relationship with animals, the history of veganism and the ethical, environmental and health backgrounds that encourage people to live vegan.

Man And Nature

Destroying nature, destroying ourselves.

This looks interesting:

Here’s more:

Elemental tells the story of three individuals united by their deep connection with nature and driven to confront some of the most pressing ecological challenges of our time.

The film follows Rajendra Singh, an Indian government official gone rogue, on a 40-day pilgrimage down India’s once pristine Ganges river, now polluted and dying. Facing community opposition and personal doubts, Singh works to shut down factories, halt construction of dams, and rouse the Indian public to treat their sacred “Mother Ganga” with respect. Across the globe in northern Canada, Eriel Deranger mounts her own “David and Goliath” struggle against the world’s largest industrial development, the Tar Sands, an oil deposit larger than the state of Florida. A young mother and native Denè, Deranger struggles with family challenges while campaigning tirelessly against the Tar Sands and its proposed 2,000-mile Keystone XL Pipeline, which are destroying Indigenous communities and threatening an entire continent.

And in Australia, inventor and entrepreneur Jay Harman searches for investors willing to risk millions on his conviction that nature’s own systems hold the key to our world’s ecological problems. Harman finds his inspiration in the natural world’s profound architecture and creates a revolutionary device that he believes can slow down global warming, but will it work?

Separated by continents yet sharing an unwavering commitment to protecting nature, the characters in this story are complex, flawed, postmodern heroes for whom stemming the tide of environmental destruction fades in and out of view – part mirage, part miracle.

Revolution Comes To DC

We really need the real thing here in the nation’s capital. But for now I will settle for a viewing of Rob Stewart’s new documentary, Revolution, which will screen at the DC Environmental Film Festival (sponsored by GM??!!) this weekend.

Stewart’s Sharkwater was a revelation for audiences. I hope Revolution will be too.

And here is the synopsis:

Revolution is a film about changing the world. The true-life adventure of Rob Stewart, this follow-up to his acclaimed Sharkwater documentary continues his remarkable journey; one that will take him through 15 countries over four years, and where he’ll discover that it’s not only sharks that are in grave danger – it’s humanity itself.

In an effort to uncover the truth and find the secret to saving the ecosystems we depend on for survival, Stewart embarks on a life-threatening adventure. From the coral reefs in Papua New Guinea and deforestation in Madagascar to the largest and most destructive environmental project in history in Alberta, Canada, he reveals that all of our actions are interconnected and that environmental degradation, species loss, ocean acidification, pollution and food/water scarcity are reducing the Earth’s ability to house humans. How did this happen, and what will it take to change the course that humanity has set itself on?

Travelling the globe to meet with the dedicated individuals and organizations working on a solution, Stewart finds encouragement and hope, pointing to the revolutions of the past and how we’ve evolved and changed our course in times of necessity. If people were informed about what was really going on, they would fight for their future – and the future of other generations. From the evolution of our species to the revolution to save it, Stewart and his team take viewers on a groundbreaking mission into the greatest war ever waged.

Startling, beautiful, and provocative, Revolution inspires audiences from across the globe to start a revolution and change the world forever.

That would be nice. If you are in DC and want to join me, just message me via my Facebook page.