Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Humane Myth: Le Sang des Betes

This 22-minute documentary established Franju as a formidable French filmmaker, and the slaughterhouse as a horror house within contemporary society. Here, a peaceful Paris suburb also yields an endless carnage of sheep, cattle, and horses, bludgeoned to feed meat-loving humans. Franju's work is viciously graphic and surrealistic, perfectly and simultaneously attractive and repulsive.

I think it is naive for people to think that industrial slaughter has made killing more humane or cruel than it was previously; in some ways it may have become even more "humane." Niether "Old MacDonald's farm" nor "humane" killing of animals ever existed ni the past. Both are romanticised images of a past that never was and never will be--just as is the "noble savage." Each are abject misrepresentations, revisionist apologetics, a denial of our own crimes.

Anyways, I think Franju's Le sang des bêtes (1949) may be one of the first documentaries on slaughterhouses and illustrates this point. I at least cannot watch the scene with the calves and not feel the perversity of such a relationship between humans and other creatures. Slaughter can never really be a compassionate and dignified act. At its worst, it is cruel, unnecessary, and arrogant. And at its best... well such only exists ni the abstract, an abstract whereby we intend only human character and experience, not the experience of the animal other who falls victim to our whims.

[Fastforward to 3:00, 7:50, 14:00 for the "best" of the worst examples. From 14:00 on, it's difficult not to be moved to anger andd/or tears or both. I think this video highlights the wrongness in killing naimals much better than Meet your Mea and similar videos that concentrate more on the suffering/welfare (it seems that death may even be a good thing in the case of those CAFO animals). Here we do not care how well the animals are treated before, we are regardlessly disgusted by the disloyalty and arrogance inherit within slaughter]


  1. Wow. My French isn't good enough to understand that poor-quality audio.

    Unfortunately, I think people might watch this film and think we need to slaughter more humanely just the same as watching any other video. After all, we do sentence humans to death "painlessly."

    What really strikes me about this video... is how the industry obviously allowed this entire process to be filmed. I know of no 21st-century films of a slaughterhouse that aren't undercover. Are there any?

  2. Thanks for sharing! I've spoken to some French animal rights activists, and they didn't even know this film existed.