Student - November 2, 2011

Three tales of animal suffering

It’s an original take on death in the Oostvaardersplassen. Students Christoph Janzing and Stefan Zand have produced a discomforting and thought-provoking film. But no real solutions.

The cow is pushed in the right direction. A loud bang resounds through the Movie W film club. An iron pin shoots right through the creature's head. Instantly, the cow is hung up and the blood is allowed to flow away. The animal is still breathing, 'puf, puf, puf'. 'I hardly dared look', says a member of the audience afterwards. The farmer, Wichert Koopman, said earlier in the film that he found this hard to take. 'She was with us for seven years and was always good for me. It's thanks to my animals that I was able to build this shed. But he does not see any other solution. The animal cannot calve anymore, so her milk supply dries up. And his organic milk farm must go on. 'By choosing a small abattoir I try to keep the stress down as low as possible.'

Incomplete?
In the same vein the filmgoers see how a Konik horse in the Oostvaardersplassen reserve is shot dead by forester Jan Griekspoor. The horse would have died of starvation otherwise. And on the Veluwe, gamekeeper Cees de Jong shoots a wild swan in the lungs. 'Better this than end up under a car', he whispers. But the squealing goes right through you, despite De Jong's assurance that the animal did not notice a thing. Every time the images are disturbing but every time the protagonists are given space for their points of view. 'Why are there no animal rights campaigners in the film, or a minister?' asks a critical filmgoer afterwards. Ecologist Frans Vera can relate to the story. 'But why does death have to be emphasized all the time? In the Oostvaardersplassen at least a horse can always be a horse, but the film always zooms in on the last weeks of suffering.'

Dilemma
Some outspoken opinions are voiced too: 'As a person you cannot see whether an animal is suffering or not'; 'Why should an animal be put out of its misery while euthanasia for people who are suffering is controversial?' Or: 'In nature, animals kill each other in the most vicious ways; why shouldn't we be allowed to do so?' Researcher Bert Lambooi especially felt the lack of a clear solution. 'I think that as human beings we have a moral obligation to prevent suffering, but how? With this film I don't get an answer.' And perhaps that was exactly the intention. Death remains a dilemma. ® SvG

 From January, the film will be out on DVD. Anyone interested in using the film in lectures and/or discussion can email christoph.janzing@wur.nl  

Re:act