Meat and Pets: A Double Feature

by David Kordahl

Blood of the Beasts (Le sang des bêtes)

Georges Franju is perhaps best remembered for Eyes Without a Face (Les yeux sans visage, 1960), an oddly poetic entry in the body horror canon, but Franju’s most memorable film may be his first, Blood of the Beasts (Le sang des bêtes, 1949). The only documentary I’ve watched that comes close to its aestheticized brutality is Stan Brakhage’s The Act of Seeing With One’s Own Eyes (1971), which presents forty minutes of silent autopsy footage from the Pittsburgh morgue. Some have suggested that Blood of the Beasts is a comment on the human capacity for cruelty, but I think that’s missing the point. Franju did not aim to accuse. Blood of the Beasts is unique not for what it uncovers about slaughterhouses, but for its pitilessness, for its ironic acceptance of everyday horrors.

The film is only twenty minutes long but seems much longer. It begins with the castoffs of a city—fragments of furniture heaped over a sparse landscape, a nude mannequin in front of a moving train, a pair of lovers kissing—all scored by a simple, nostalgic tune.

The camera lingers for a moment on a bust of A. Emile Decroix. Though the point is not made within the film, one can look up Decroix (1821-1901) to find that he was a military veterinarian who helped to end the ban on eating horses that was in place before the Siege of Paris, when food shortages became so severe that dogs, cats, and rats were also consumed. All the narrator tells us at the beginning is that although the gates of a municipal slaughterhouse are decorated with statues of bulls, it in fact specializes in horses. The tools of the trade are then presented theatrically on a cloth background: a reed, an English axe, a captive bolt pistol.

Into the gate trots a great white horse. The horse’s muscles quiver photogenically. He towers over his handlers. What happens after this is predictable in principle, but almost unbelievable to watch. A captive bolt pistol on the horse’s forehead causes the horse to fall suddenly into a fetal position, legs turned in, head bowed—dead. As the limp horse tips over, a man dives in and slits the corpse’s lip, then plunges a knife in its throat. Read more »

On Veganism

by Tara* Kaushal Renee-Somerfield-Save-the-Earth-300

Why I think it is the only food and lifestyle philosophy that aligns with my value-systems.

So shall we get the calls of “hypocrite” out of the way?

I am not a vegan (eats and uses only plant matter). I've spent my adult life oscillating between being a lacto-ovo-vegetarian (vegetarian, plus dairy and eggs), pescetarian (lacto-ovo-vegetarian, plus seafood) and omnivore (eats both plant- and animal-origin food). (I'm calling out the way I've used these terms, as there are so many types and definitions: eg, in Indian Hindus, ‘pure veg' usually means lacto-vegetarian.)

Truth is, veganism is the only food and lifestyle philosophy that aligns to my belief systems; and food is the only aspect of my life in which I am a blatant hypocrite, where my actions don't match my words. With a personality that's “guilt-prone” (my therapist's words, not mine), it bothers me no end that I am not even a committed vegetarian; niggling guilt and disappointment tinge the pleasure of a good steak. I cannot believe my lack of will power, that my tongue and hedonism (and laziness) win in a battle against my beliefs.

So what are the beliefs that point me straight to a vegan lifestyle?

Anthropocentricism: Let's consider, first, the mediocrity principle, the opposite of anthropocentricism. What is the place of humanity in The Grander Scheme of Things? We are, for all our self-aggrandisement, no more than one species on earth, and one of millions in the universe. If we are no more or less than the animals who co-inhabit earth with us, we don't—shouldn't—have rights over them.

Let's say one believes the opposite, that humans are the most significant species on the planet, the very pinnacle of evolution, the Masters of the Earth. One could take an anthropocentric belief system to mean that we are the rightful owners of everything that lives—or see that it grants us agency, great power… and great responsibility. In a situation where we can control the fates of other species, how should we treat them? If you had a kingdom, what kind of monarch would you be?

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