Saturday, 17 August 2013

Blood of the Beasts (1949)

Director: Georges Franju
Writer: Georges Franju

Blood of the Beasts is an extremely confronting documentary that simply shows us the methods that French slaughterhouses used to kill animals in the late 1940s. Georges Franju shows us the implements they used to kill the animals, including an axe, a large knife, a gun, and a long reed. We then see exactly how they used them... It is these images that have the power to drastically change a persons outlook on the meat industry and animal cruelty.

An important thing to remember is that this was filmed only four years after WWII ended. There was widespread hardship, poverty, and unemployment across many nations. The meat that was produced back then went a long way in feeding the hungry and raising revenue. The real question is, at what cost?

Our stomachs are instantly tested when we're shown a horse being slaughtered via a bullet through the skull. I have no way of knowing whether the horse was still alive, or whether it felt the agonising pain for a long period of time. It's almost as if the slaughterers at the abattoir didn't even worry about whether it was dead or not, because they cut its throat straight afterwards. The steaming blood pulses rapidly out of the horses neck, leaving me paralysed and cringing, hoping for it to be over.

The worst was yet to come, for the way they slaughtered the calves was excruciatingly saddening. In 1949, the method used in France was to decapitate a calf while it was still alive. Apparently it makes the meat more tender or something. I'd have thought it would make the calf go tense, but then what do I know? They filmed a close-up of the calf's face just before it was slaughtered, which is an image I'll never forget. It is scenes like this that make me really want to become a vegetarian. I never eat veal anyway, but the principle is still there. I just wish meat wasn't so enticing once it's cooked and placed in front of me.

A world that is not so old, yet so odd to us.
There were other cringe-inducing moments, particularly when they slaughtered several lambs in front of each other. Seeing decapitated animals squirm and resist would have to be the most horrific thing I've ever seen. I've seen a few documentaries on animal cruelty and the meat industry. While some are more confronting than others, Blood of the Beasts stands up there as one of the most visual and effective documentaries. I choose not to rate this documentary, because I feel it was nothing more than an inside look at the methods used in the French abattoir's of 1949. I think it's masterful in all its simplicity, and a film I'll never forget.


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