An educator branching into filmmaking, Audrey Kali hopes her second documentary promotes debate over the need for more slaughterhouses across Massachusetts to help farmers sell their meat in local markets.
An associate professor of communication arts at Framingham State University, the Medway resident wants her film "Abattoir Rising" to get "all ideological factions" talking about the complex, controversial issue of producing meat from cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys and other animals.
"The focus of the film is the humane treatment of animals," said Kali, a former vegan who now eats meat in moderation. "But the shortage of slaughterhouses in New England is making it difficult for animals to be slaughtered humanely."
As demand for locally-produced meat increases, Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation officials appeared Thursday before the joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture in the state House of Representatives to support a bill filed by Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington, calling for changes to the oversight of slaughtering that would help local farmers.
Brad Mitchell, director of government affairs for the Marlborough-based bureau, said growing demands for meat produced locally can barely be met because the state's only certified slaughterhouses are in Groton and Athol.
"In the last decade there's been renewed interest in locally-grown fruits and vegetables. There's been the same interest in meat produced on farms in Massachusetts. We're looking for new and innovative ways to slaughter animals on small farms," he said.
The owner of a sleek, inquisitive greyhound, Kali said she "has always loved animals." She sees no contradiction between caring for animals' welfare and killing them as painlessly as possible for meat.
"The basic consumer knows very little about where the meat they eat comes from. Every time people take a bite of a hamburger or chicken nuggets, I want them to understand that was a living animal," she said.
Federal and state laws regulating the killing of animals can be complicated.
If a farmer is selling meat to a store for people to buy, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration must certify the slaughterhouse to ensure the animal is stunned insensate before it is bled and butchered.
Some exemptions to the stunning requirement are given when animals are killed according to traditional Jewish and Islamic religious practices. People killing animals for their own consumption don't need to be certified but must slaughter the animal humanely.
Kali recently received a $5,000 grant from LEF Moving Image Fund which supports independent film and video artists. She expects the film, which she hopes to release in 2012, will cost $200,000. Kali will be working with her producer, David Tames, Media Arts studio manager at MassArt in Boston, on a fundraising campaign expected to start this fall.
Working with cinematographer Ed Slattery, she has shot 14 hours of footage including interviews with farmers who complain that costly delays getting their animals slaughtered locally can force them to send them out-of-state.
She also interviewed and filmed Temple Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University who has used her autism to intuit animals' pain and fear.
If animals are killed according to FDA standards, Grandin said they don't experience fear or pain. But, she said cows have good memories, "remember good and bad people" and become agitated in unfamiliar environments.
The subject of an Emmy-nominated HBO film herself, Grandin said, "If the slaughtering is done right, the animal walks and - bang - that's it. Fear is primitive emotion. People should realize animals can get scared. Do cattle know they're going to be slaughtered? They behave the same way in the slaughterhouse as in the veterinary chute. The main thing is the equipment (used to kill animals) should be properly maintained and used correctly."
Kali has visited several slaughterhouses and seen about 20 large animals and 100 chickens killed. In one segment, a cow, largely concealed in a chute, is stunned with a device known as a "captive bolt" pistol which fires a retractable steel bolt into its head.
Efficiently stunning the animal is necessary so it doesn't feel pain when it's bled while alive to prevent spoilage of its meat.
In some cases, animals are stunned by shooting them with a small-caliber gun. And poultry can have their heads cut off with an electric knife which is supposed to stun them.
In a society which regularly consumes meat, Kali stressed that people with opposing positions shouldn't demonize one another but work together in ways that benefit animals.
She said the farmers she has met cared deeply about the welfare of animals they send off to slaughter. Often large slaughterhouses have the means to kill animals more humanely than local farms.
Kali said she hopes "Abattoir Rising" makes all levels of the slaughtering industry "transparent."
"My goal is to educate, not sensationalize. It's not as simple as 'industrial' farming is bad and 'local' farming is good," said Kali. "I hope my film helps people understand it's not a black-and-white issue. I want to bring people together because they need to understand a very complex issue."
To learn about Kali's documentary, visit abattoirrising.com.
Copyright 2011 The MetroWest Daily News. Some rights reserved
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Source: newsroom - meattradenewsdaily.co.uk
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