In today’s food production world, it’s not uncommon for tens of thousands of animals to be crammed inside massive windowless sheds. This is considered “modern” factory farming. But what really happens behind these closed doors, and how can any human justify the cruelties involved in animal agriculture? In Speciesism: The Movie, Director Mark Devries takes viewers inside this hidden world while also exploring the human psyche to understand why our species chooses not to extend basic rights to all species. Mark took time recently to talk with us about the film (trailer embedded below) and the broader issue of speciesism.
Q: Could you explain to our readers what the term “speciesism” refers to?
A: Like racism and sexism, the term speciesism refers to a prejudice or bias against taking the interests of nonhuman animals seriously. A growing number of scientists, lawyers and scholars have been arguing that the most basic ethical principles we apply among humans—such as that, all things being equal, hurting someone is a bad thing—apply to members of other species, precisely because they are fully capable of suffering, just as we are.
Q: What inspired you to create this film?
A: I came across demonstrations by the organization PETA, which caught my attention. I wanted to look into the issue, so I met with Erica Meier from Compassion Over Killing, and then decided to visit the factory farms myself, and speak with the factory farm owners. I soon discovered that it goes much deeper: if the arguments about speciesism are correct, this is one of the most important issues of our time.
Q: What was the most interesting experience you had while making the film?
A: Since I traveled across the country, snuck onto factory farms, ambush-interviewed factory farm owners, and met people like Peter Singer and Richard Dawkins, there are a lot of contenders!
Here’s one: I commissioned airplanes to fly over factory pig farms, which consist of huge buildings with thousands of pigs in each. The manure is stored in giant, open air “lagoons,” the size of football fields. Machines then spray it high into the air, so that it turns into mist and is carried away… with devastating effects on the people living nearby (whom I also visited and spoke with). This has to be seen to be believed.
Q: Was there anything that really surprised you while making the film?
A: Yes! Quite a lot. Obviously, what I described above is a one of them. I also found my way inside organic, “free-range” farms, which were anything but. Perhaps even more surprising, though, was watching people’s thought processes in action. For example, I spoke with a biologist who told me all about the similarities between ourselves and other species, but when I asked him how we can justify using animals in ways that cause them great suffering, he had never thought of it before. Confronting people head-on, no holds barred, and watching how their thinking changes (and recording it), was amazing.
Q: What message would you like to see the film’s audience take from the film?
A: What I want most to get across is this: sometimes we have to rethink what we’ve always believed.
Q: How can people watch Speciesism: The Movie? — Updated 11/19