Written & Directed by: Shaun Monson & Narrated By Joaquin Phoenix
"EARTHLINGS is an award-winning documentary film about the suffering of animals for food, fashion, pets, entertainment and medical research. Considered the most persuasive documentary ever made, EARTHLINGS is nicknamed “the Vegan maker” for its sensitive footage shot at animal shelters, pet stores, puppy mills, factory farms, slaughterhouses, the leather and fur trades, sporting events, circuses and research labs." - Earthlings
Class Discussion Questions
The following are a set of questions that can be given to students prior to or after watching the documentary:
- Monson begins the film by equating modern day human society with Nazis because of our treatment of animals. How does modern day human behaviour towards animals reflect that of Nazis towards religious (i.e. Jews) and ethnic groups in Germany during World War II.
- Adam Harrell (2009) asks "how can we truly reduce the overall level of animal suffering incurred by our food system." Examine the effects that our food systems have on our animals. What can be done to reduce the suffering of animals? Discuss.
- Jeremy Bentham recognized that human beings have a complex relationship with animals. His argument is often seen as the cornerstone of the animal rights philosophy. However, was Bentham advocating against eating meat? Discuss his philosophy further and develop how it can be applied to this topic of animal rights.
- What is Veganism and can it resolve the issues of factory farming? Hypothetically, even if all humans became Vegan, discuss how millions of animals would still be killed via farming?
- How have animals prospered by being aligned with humans, if at all? Students should discuss the benefits of "free-range" animal farming and consequently, how this is also healthier for humans who consume free-range animals.
- How can better practices on farms be adopted by the whole industry? Give examples and discuss.
- The cosmetic industry has an attitude that "the ends justify the means". Do you agree or disagree with this attitude? Discuss.
- Do you think it is morally acceptable for scientists to use live animals in research for cosmetics? Why is using animals in this industry a fallacy? Discuss.
- Do you think it is morally acceptable for medical scientist to use live animals in research that may benefit humans? Discuss.
- Are humans animals? What, if anything, makes it morally acceptable to abuse and test animals but not humans? How does culture shape our understanding and respect for the earthlings who share this planet with us?
- Adam Harrell (2009) states that Earthlings "implies that if we want to eat meat, then animals will be treated cruelly in factory farms. That there is no other way. It’s an all or nothing approach, that while appealing to PETA members, won’t change the way most people relate to their food." Do you agree or disagree with this statement? With a small amount of internet based research, students should work in groups of four and each student come up with one possible solution/alternative to present practices. Include in your response the names of organizations, suggested solutions and obstacles preventing said solutions from being put into practice.
- According to Bob Barker (2011) “As a civilized society it’s our moral obligation to prevent needless cruelty to animals. The harsh conditions endured by calves during veal production are both abusive and totally unacceptable.” With reference to Shaun Monson’s (2005) documentary Earthlings, students are to outline how animals are being mistreated in the food industry. Include in your response the arguments for and against using animals for food. Do you think that it is morally acceptable for animals to be treated in the way that they are? Discuss.
- Students should read Clifford Geertz (1973) “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight”. Compare and contrast Geertz study on cockfights with Blood Sports, as seen in Monson's documentary. What is a blood sport? What does it involve? Name six different types of blood sports. Include in your response the relationship between the animal in question and its human counterpart.
- According to Stephen Wells (2014) "the fundamental problem for animals is that our laws consider them "things." With this definition, animals -- and the humans who care about their interests -- often don't have legal "standing" to bring lawsuits in their own defence." Explore the concept of personhood. What laws presently exist in your state/province/country regarding animals? How can being granted personhood change the status of animals in a given society? How would humans become more accountable for their actions towards animals? Discuss.
Nota Bene: All questions developed by Mario R.J. Corbin in conjunction with additional resources below.
Barker, Bob. (2011). Crated Cruelty: MFA Undercover Investigation Exposes the Hidden Price of Veal. Compassionate Living. The Mag of MFA. p.p. 8-11
Geertz, Clifford. (1973). “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight”. In The Interpretations of Cultures. Basic Books.
Harrell, Adam. (2009). Earthlings: An Animal Rights Documentary That Preaches To The Choir, But Fails To Advance The Cause [Guest Blogger]. Foodie Buddha. In Search of Culinary Nirvana.
Wells, Stephen. (2014). Legal Personhood for Apes. HuffingtonPost.com
*Students would benefit from reading the above readings in conjunction with watching the documentary.
About The Author/Producer/Director
Shaun Monson, writer, producer and director has been advocating on behalf of animal rights since 1999. It took six years of undercover work to video record the material necessary to make this film. Despite being rejected by many distribution companies, Nation Earth was established to produce these type of documentaries and Earthlings was finally released in 2005. Monson is presently completing a new documentary, UNITY, which explores the unifying force of consciousness found in nature, animals and humankind.