About ten years ago, people in The Netherlands were startled by gruesome images seen on television of many thousands of animal corpses, thrown in huge lorries to be abducted for destruction.
The – often healthy – animals were killed precautionary during the outbreak of animal diseases like swine flu, mad cow disease, foot-and-mouth disease and bird flu. I was shocked by these images and what struck me most were the sheer numbers of animals coming out of the stables. Apparently we had 16 million pigs in Holland at the time, just as many as people. No less than 100 million chickens were living in our small country. But how is it possible that we rarely see a pig or a chicken outside in the meadows?
It made me think about the relationship between man and animal in the Netherlands. What is daily life like for these nameless production-animals? Why do we hide them in dark sheds?
At the same time we pamper and humanise our own pets. They are given names, dental care or are taken to a groomer. We fatten them and after they die, we bury or cremate them. In 2010, the first cancer centre for dogs was opened.
A bigger contrast in the treatment of animals is hardly imaginable. Do I compare apples to pears in my film? I don’t think so. Pigs are more intelligent than dogs. They are very social and cleaner than most people think. So, why would the life of a dog be more valuable than that of a pig?
The film takes the perspective of the animal, but actually is about man who in his inscrutable wisdom labels one animal as cheap piece of meat, and the other as interesting research object, beauty ideal, pest, pathetic creature or partner/mate/child.
In Facing Animals I give the hidden animals in the industrial farms a face. I invite the viewer to think about the value of an animal. The film isn’t a pamphlet against intensive farming, but a visual essay about the complex, intriguing and sometimes confusing relationship between man and animal.