Earthlings chronicles the day-to-day practices of the largest industries in the world, all of which rely entirely on animals for profit. The documentary is not an easy one to watch especially it footage of animal cruelty. Never once shying away from showing graphic footage which can speak for itself even when taken out of context. Scenes showing factory farms, slaughterhouses, hunting, bullfights, puppy mills, and primates being used in head injury experiments will shock those who value all forms of life equally. These scenes aren’t easy to watch and powerful enough get it point across towards viewers without ever needing to complete the film. By letting the sometime graphic footage play out in its entirety it will challenge what the viewer is capable of stomaching. The footage shown in its “Food” segment can make anyone unaware of what goes on inside a slaughterhouse think differently about what they eat. Its most haunting scene is at a fur farm. A skinned animal, perhaps a fox, lies glistening with blood and white fat and muscle. The creature is still alive, lifting her skinless head and blinking at the camera. Those few seconds gets across the horrific emotion that this skinned fox is feeling, and connect a thought to the viewer of seeing its own species brutally murdered for our very own livelihood without ever telling us.
How Earthlings sets up it proposition is by it’s opening. By elaborating how over the years there existed racism, sexism, and speciesism. This is the idea of assigning different values or rights to members depending on their species, or in other words favoring one’s own species. It acknowledges its purpose, in that it is demonstrating how animals have come to serve humankind. Never does it compare these crimes in being directly connected to one another as much it attempts to draw parallels that drive those action. Instead of making a direct comparison to the Holocaust it decides to make correlations; the most significant relation being both are caused by humans with power abusing those without power. What nonsense right? There’s no way the Holocaust is similar to…well now that I think about it there’s truth to that. The target isn’t a single race or religion beliefs in this case, but instead an entire species which is being murdered for another specific purpose. Tackling different aspects of the subject in five segments; pets, food, clothes, entertainment, and scientific research. Each receive different amount of screen time and each use a similar tactic to get their point across. Drawing parallel to a crime alongside footage of that goes along with said segments.
As much Earthlings is consider the definitive animal rights film by animal rights organizations, much like PETA efforts, their delivery can be heavy handed and some aspects flimsy. One of the major flimsy aspects are it statistics on how many animals are killed by humans. Being blown over proportion to the point that makes you questioned how in the world a particular specie shown in the film hasn’t become instinct. These statistics go into the billions which holds true for fish, but with other animals just accepting the facts becomes a mind game of what’s true and fabricated. There is truth to be found in what’s it saying, but exaggerating on the facts partially fail to inform the audience and instead make them question more if the information given to them is true inspite of the footage being played. Another issue is the film becomes very heavy handed in it delivery towards the end. The film last ten minutes beats the “animals suffered for our livelihood, man is bad” point over the head that is gives off an anti-human vibe. Despite claiming that all lifeforms consider Earthlings and should not contain the mindset of speciesism. The music by Moby sets a somber tone without being intrusive, and the narration by Joaquin Phoenix is very matter of fact. Though the script at times seems a bit heavy-handed, even quoting Shakespeare’s King Lear at one point, Phoenix’s delivery is calm and measured, in contrast with the visual horrors unfolding on-screen.
Earthlings graphic footage of animal cruelty and the degree it shows it too warrant the content in this film is not for everyone. For that it message delivery becomes cloudy, but never is it point ever loss. It certainly heavy handed towards the final minutes, but even before reaching the end it’s capable of persuading.