Farm and Red Moon

Farm and Red Moon is a feature-length documentary currently in production that I’m co-directing with Audrey Kali. Visit the film web site at farmandredmoon.com where you’ll find a link to our trailer and a series of production updates.

How do we reconcile the need for sustenance with our compassion for the animals that provide our food? Developing compassionate rearing practices has been a relatively straightforward accomplishment of the contemporary food movement. Implementing humane slaughter has proven a greater challenge, and continues to be confounded by our proclivity to ignore the very act of killing, while alternately sensationalizing the worst of meat production practices. The film features characters at the forefront of a new model of humane slaughter:

Audrey Kali, a university professor, once embraced a vegan lifestyle in support of her concern for animal welfare. But visits with farmers – in whose farming practices and philosophies she found much to respect – prompted a re-examination. Her desire to understand her subjects and their viewpoints led to participation in the process of slaughter and meat consumption. The film explores her journey, moving from denial to head-on confrontation of the inevitable violence of meat production, and to a newly complex perspective and ambivalence about meat eating.

Eric Shelley is a farmer who operates a mobile slaughter business and teaches meat processing at SUNY Cobleskill. With few boundaries between home and farm, Eric’s life offers a model for compassionate animal rearing and slaughter, integrated with raising a family. He wonders how others will respond to his young son’s exposure to and acceptance of animal slaughter.

Terri Lawton is a farmer who raises cows primarily for milk and cheese production. This entails the slaughter of young males for veal. Terri’s system for grass-fed dairy underscores the difficulty of delinking meat and milk production.

Will Harris is a cattle rancher who operates the largest organic farm in Georgia – the only US farm with on-site abattoirs for poultry and beef. His farm offers a unique model of sustainability and animal welfare.

We are in a historic moment, reconsidering food production practices and sustainability, yet slaughter is often a missing part of the dialogue. Extreme views prevail. Activists reject meat-eating and the promotion of animal welfare. Agribusinesses resent changing industry standards. Small-scale farmers can’t get appointments with over-booked processors. Kosher and Halal methods are either scorned as painful or praised as humane. And then there are consumers, who according to recent polls, want more humane standards. We’ve come a long way in bringing farm animals out of cages. Now it is time to address humane slaughter. The film, web site, and outreach campaign will serve as a catalyst for dialogue engaging a diverse audience ranging from raw food vegans to fast-food junkies. We may not be able to answer if it’s ethical to eat meat, but we do know we don’t want animals to have a painful death.