On Peaceable Kingdom, Part Deux
Last week I ventured a couple of hours north to see Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home at the Orlando Film Festival. The turnout was fantastic and the Q&A had to be cut short so the audience for the next film could be ushered in.
This version of the film is different, and lighter, than the one I saw earlier this year. But the message remains the same, and it's the only such message available in film to my knowledge (and please let me know of any others): there's simply no way to kindly, politely, "humanely" take someone's life when you don't need to.
Perhaps the best feature of the film is the various voices telling a similar story. The storytellers are (with two exceptions) people whose livelihoods came from using animals. And more important is that those storytellers include people who ran small, family operations that animal welfare advocates would not have a problem with.
The voices of Jim Vandersluis and Cheri Ezell-Vandersluis of Maple Farm Sanctuary were especially poignant, and the anguish in their faces–in their eyes–jumps off the screen as they explain how and when it hit them that the business of raising goats for milk requires surrendering the babies to be slaughtered.
All of the former animal farmers come to the same conclusion: that what they were doing wasn't right. And the sacrifices they were willing to make, and the changes they felt compelled to make in order to transition out of a life of using animals for their profit are awe-inspiring.
There's a voice and a face for everyone to connect with in Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home. My experiences are unlike that of any of the film's subjects. I grew up in suburbia and the closest I got to working on an animal farm was the inside of a car driving through rural Pennsylvania to get to Pittsburgh to visit an ex-boyfriend's daughter in 1992. But that doesn't matter because it's the betrayal that I identify with. I didn't have to do the slaughtering to know what it feels like to have participated in something for a good chunk of my life that wasn't right. I didn't slaughter animals like Harold Brown did, and I'm not saying we feel the same pain or that I am haunted in the way he appears to be, but I certainly have betrayed the animals, just like he has.
Director Jenny Stein and Producer James LaVeck weave many themes into Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home. There's betrayal, hypocrisy, speciesism, animals as commodities, animals as property, the myth of "humane" farming, the fictions our culture teaches us about animals, and of course, redemption. For all of us.