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Title: Animals: Friend or Food?
Writer/Director: Jason Young

Additional Authors: Kent Martin, Jason Young
Editor: Lawrence Jackman

Media: VHS, 74 min. 2 sec.
Produced by: National Film Board of Canada, 2003

In this National Film Board of Canada production Jason Young buys a farm to prove to himself that he can kill the meat he eats. Footage of animals being treated harshly should upset some viewers. Ethical issues are explored, particularly the Biblical view of animals and humanity’s evolutionary place at the top of the food chain.

Young overcomes his initial resistance as he makes his first few kills. He doesn’t practice any organized religion but likes the idea of ritual. From this he creates an outdoor killing space called the “sanctuary,” premised on the belief that animals will be happier in nature just prior to their death. The idea backfires, however, when one pig is forcibly dragged out squealing to the sanctuary. This is sad footage. And why didn’t Young just kill the poor animal right away instead of prolonging its suffering with a prefabricated philosophy of kindness?

On the whole, however, the cinematic treatment of the slain animals is respectful. But it is difficult. The paradox of not wanting to harm innocent creatures while meat-eating doesn’t really disappear, despite Young’s running philosophical commentary. And Young doesn’t want it to. To his credit he discusses his own misgivings and pangs of guilt.

This documentary is not for the faint of heart. But it wouldn’t be fair to confuse the film’s harsh content with its educational value. It is extraordinary, if upsetting.

—MC