With a title like Your Mommy Kills Animals I was expecting Curt Johnson's debut documentary to devolve into a PETA manifesto ripe with imprisoned KFC chickens, bloody under cover pictures of a rendering facility, or piles of euthanized puppies. Borrowed from a PETA produced comic, the title is a provocative over the top reference to the film's general point of view but no way reflects the actual content of the surprisingly even handed documentary. In fact, both the national organizations of the Humane Society and PETA declined to be interviewed for the film.
And even more shocking is the disclosure that PETA actually kills most of the animals that it takes in—close to 80% of them. They may use "humane" lethal injections, but the odds are very much against any cute puppies lasting more than a few days under PETA care. (And don't expect any dignified burial in a Gates of Heaven like pet cemetery—more likely a mass disposal in an urban dumpster bin). The Humane Society doesn't fare much better, but they generally do kill far fewer homeless pets.
Smaller organizations like Best Friends (located north of the Grand Canyon) fare far better; they and individuals are shown assisting animal rescue during Katrina while larger organizations remain as absent as FEMA.
Johnson's film delineates a number of groups dedicated to animals, primarily classifying organizations as either animal welfare groups or animal activist groups. Citing familiar roots of revolutionary protest and reformation inherent with abolitionists and suffragettes, representatives British organizations like the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty eloquently plead their case against inhumane animal laboratory testing. In contrast, the PETA president withers badly when confronted with the fact that she would've been long dead without her animal tested insulin injections.
Your Mommy Kills Animals doesn't tread a one-sided path that glorifies animal activists mindlessly. A frequent target of animal welfare activists, a couple of commercial mink farmers explain their business—describing both the ecological and economical devastation whenever activists break in and free their caged stock. While their claims of an aftermath of bird kills and mink road kill are disputed readily, it's harder to dismiss their stories about threats directed at them and their children—once again demonstrating that Gandhian non-violent resistance is more effective for righteous campaigns.
What primarily propels Johnson's documentary, revolves around the issue of what makes an effective protest and just how the recent U.S. Patriot Act has been invoked to declare some animal activists as the #1 terrorist threat in the U.S. Accosting fur laden matrons on the street or making home visits to corporate CEO's with megaphones chanting "Puppy killers" is one thing, but advocating fire bombing of laboratories and constructing a website promoting radical law breaking is another. How weird is it that the federal law originally designed to go after Osama Bin Laden and Al Quaeda has settled for animal rights activists as their top target?
The film follows a few of the SHAC-seven (Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty) as they prepare for a federal indictment. Their defense doesn't come cheap, and they can't afford any high power legal team to come to their rescue during the trial phase and then effectively plea for constitutional rights of free speech protection during the sentencing. Mild mannered Josh Harper seems like a giant puppy dog himself, yet he is legally bludgeoned with a 3 year sentence and million dollar fine. And his isn't even the most extreme sentence. You can almost see George W. chuckling over the "success" of his Patriot Act.
Filmed on a miniscule budget with an official home page residing on My Space, Your Mommy Kills Animals won't be appearing at your local multi-plex nor is it likely to run very long at art house theaters when it begins its mid summer run in 2007. Keep your ears open, however, and check it out when it arrives in town. It's a tightly constructed and thoughtful film covering a wide canvas of animal welfare and rights issues that rightfully will provoke meaningful discussion—a welcome relief from the usual summer fare.