Thoughts On: Blood Of The Beasts (Le Sang Des Bêtes, 1949)
A short documentary that graphically depicts animal slaughter.
With a surreal and highly affecting kind of beauty, Blood Of The Beasts is about as graphic of a depiction of animal slaughter as you could get. For this, this short film will seemingly always be a controversial one. Whilst some will see this as inhumane, disgusting and horrifying – and often as a consequence or extension of this they will be vegetarians or vegans – others will see this as a practice of human nature and of life. And whilst I can understand why this would be such a controversial film that many people would find repugnant, I, in a specific way, support this kind of graphic realism as a form of truth. Moreover, I fall into the category of people that accepts animal slaughter and can openly and consciously consume meat knowing of how it is made.
On the grounds of this film’s ‘repugnancy’, I think it is so disturbing as a consequence of people not being exposed to the graphic and violent nature of the world. There is a counter-argument, however, that suggests that the exposure itself is a form of conditioning that wrongly normalises slaughter. But, in my view, such an argument is predicated on the idea that the world is not inherently violent and that its natural foundation is peaceful – which is far from the truth. Again, there is a counter-point, and that is that humans are separate from animals, which implies that we control our own nature. In regards to animal slaughter, this then means that people should find alternatives. And thus comes into the picture veganism and vegetarianism. This is still not an impenetrable argument though. As the debate on animal slaughter exists today, it seems to be an argument of perception – for the sake of animals, but more so for people. In such, there is a strong argument against animal cruelty; why make a creature suffer more than it is required to provide a person what they need? This is a sound argument and is why slaughter houses should be regulated – not so much for the animal’s sake, however. These regulatory practices seem to be in place so that people are not allowed, or are not obligated, to practice overwhelming brutality. (For example, the depiction of a dead cattle fetus in this short is, in my view, a depiction of something that steps over moral lines). We need no excuse to breed more violence in society than is necessary, and regulations should ensure this. However, this reflects little upon, and has little to do with, the animal and its pain, but, such is an inescapable paradigm.
The debate for and against animal slaughter is one that is entirely about empathy; it is argued against by people seeing an animal to be in pain and in turn seeing this as a reflection of their own brutishness, and argued for by those whose empathetic capacities do not construct such a mirror and are then free of such perceived guilt. To gauge who is right and who is wrong in such circumstances would require a study of the degree of empathy that is required to live the best life and in the best society. It is then clear that an extreme abundance of empathy will leave someone so full of self-hate, anxiety and fear that they’d likely be suicidal. Equally, it is clear that someone with absolutely no empathy would be incapable of moralising, and so would pursue whatever little interests they have, and no matter how destructive and evil they may seem to be to any normal person. The answer to our question of the optimal level of empathy for individuals and society then lies somewhere within the grey area in between the two extremes. Specifying where, however, is a task that cannot be done generally – at least, not to my estimations. This is because most situations require a good dose of empathy that keep us civil. However, there are a plethora of other situations, say for instance, someone gets hurt, someone is in need, or you are around children, where your empathetic levels need to be boosted. Simultaneously, however, to be objective and practical, for instance, when honestly assessing a situation and problem, personal or otherwise, requires empathetic levels to drop ever so slightly – and to solve the problem of organisms that have eaten meat for millions of years being hungry, you’d have to adopt a stance of empathy that, practically, has to seem very low to, say for instance (and speaking stereotypically), a nursery, or kindergarten, teacher.
It is then very hard, as it should be, to tell other people and the world what to do. This is because we all fall into a spectral haze that is made up of generally acceptable and functional positions. Concerning the slaughter of animals, both rational sides of the argument aren’t overwhelmingly wrong or right, in fact, they seem to inform and regulate one another. So, what seems to be most practical is that both sides exist as society naturally dictates and that they remain in contact. This is then why I support a film like Blood Of The Beast. This film doesn’t seem to hide much of the truth; it adds its artistic nuances, and sometimes the V.O commentary does get a little sensationalist, but reality seems evident enough. Transparency of this sort is one of the best kind of truths as it is truth without assertion, rather, ambiguity. In other words, Blood Of The Beasts is (was in 1949) a close depiction of reality that people could assess and decide, for themselves, if it was right or wrong. And this is why Blood Of The Beasts is a challenging film that I highly recommend. After all, truth and reality are something that no one (no mature person) should shy away from.
So, with all of that said, I’ll turn to you. What are your thoughts on this film and all that we’ve covered today?
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