My first year of college the Vassar Animal Rights Coalition had an event in one of the larger spaces. There was a screening of Earthlings, and free vegan food from Zarona’s Middle Eastern Restaurant down the street. My friends and I went a little late, and found all that was left were a few balls of falafel and a tiny bit of baklava. We sat on the floor of the room with around 70 other college students and downed our food while Earthlings played on a huge (15 feet high or so) screen. That is the first and only time I have ever watched Earthlings, I refuse to ever watch it again.
Multiple times VARC has had events that involved watching Earthlings. When I was involved with the group I even sat at a table with a macbook playing the movie in the college center, but I positioned myself behind the computer. I just listened to Joaquin soothing, monotone voice. I was bothered by the upset looks of people walking by, people who looked upset at suddenly being assaulted by images of mutilated bodies.
One of my friends loved Earthlings, to the point of watching it on her own time. Other memebers of VARC were happy to show Earthlings as many times as possible. There were a complex set of situations that led to me leaving VARC (omnivores in the group, the intense hegemonic whiteness, the welfarism, and the lack of any activism), but the fetishization of Earthlings also contributed.
Question: Why do many vegans and AR activists watch Earthlings. To be informed. Why do many vegans and AR activists watch Earthlings more than once, twice, three, ten times? For pleasure?
Watching films like Earthlings becomes like watching pornography. Instead of sexualized, (de)human bodies the viewer watches tittilating visions of violence against nonhuman animals. How much information can be gained from watching a pig killed?
I know Earthlings is informative. Earthlings is also sensational. It attempts to create feelings of disgust/anger/sadness for the purpose of turning up your activist-libido. Do we need it, is it even good for animals?
If you’re the type that subscribes to personhood for animals, how can you watch Earthlings? I’m legitly curious. A film of humans dying isn’t something most people want to watch. So why is it different with animals? Should the disgust we feel in our bellies be a warning? The porn addict needs something more hardcore to get it up. Do we require more and more intense images of animal suffering just to reach the same level of outrage? Are we depersonifying animals by showing images of their pain and suffering for our own sado-masochistic activism?