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Behind the Mask (2006)

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Title: Behind the Mask (2006)

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The story of the people who risk everything to save animals

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10 June 2006 (USA)  »

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$75,000 (estimated)
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An Education & Call To Action
27 August 2011 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

"Behind The Mask" is an excellent Animal Rights documentary and a valuable introduction to "America's #1 Homegrown Terrorist Threat" (pffft) , the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) - told through the Activist lens.

The film is directed and narrated by Shannon Keith, a lawyer who herself came under investigation by the FBI for representing members of the ALF and other Anarchist Animal Liberation groups after they had been arrested for carrying out Direct Action campaigns against animal abusers, or found themselves being harassed by the State for being vocal proponents of the Animal Rights/Liberation Movement.

Keith provides us with background information on the ALF's philosophy; their tactics; the inspirational players who have risked their freedom and given their lives for the lives of others; what they are responding to and why they are doing it; and a look at the ludicrously disproportionate responses taken by the State to target and demonize members of the movement and their supporters.

Those of us not already privy to the cause are introduced to the guidelines of the ALF, which, despite what the State says, is a Peaceful and Compassionate Movement undertaken by people that are driven by love and empathy- NOT a terrorist movement. That is, unless you define terrorism as a non-violent challenge to barbaric practices and the status quo, in which case, it is a proudly terrorist movement.

These guidelines include: 1) to Liberate animals from places of abuse. 2) to Inflict economic damage on those who profit from the exploitation of animals. 3) to Reveal atrocities committed against animals. 4) to take all precautions against harming any animal, human or non-human.

Subsequently, we are shown and told of the reasons why this movement is not only necessary, but benevolent. Here Keith mainly focuses on the horrificly barbaric and torturous act of Vivisection, which is the "cutting of or operation on a living animal usually for physiological investigation; broadly: animal experimentation designed to distress the subject." But we are also shown images of the violent and vicious methods utilized by the Factory Farming and Meat Processing industry; the Sport Hunting industry; and various Animal Experimentation laboratories that subject animals to various poisons to see how they react.

In the case of vivisection and animal testing, we are told by a number of interviewees- Medical Doctors and people who have joined the movement after having worked in these environments- how absolutely useless doing medical testing on animals is, as their physiological make-up is much different than that of humans, and as such, none of the "findings" are ever directly applicable to humans. Rather, the experiments are carried out to provide a legal excuse for these corporations, research institutes and universities if something were ever to go wrong when their product is applied to human use. So that they can fall back on the legal argument, "but we did animal testing and it showed...". This is just as barbaric and obsolete as when mad Nazi and Japanese scientists were doing torturous experiments on human subjects- exposing them to the most extreme and abhorrent conditions imaginable. It is plain and simply, unjustifiable.

Next we are introduced to some of the inspiring activists at the heart of the movement that have given their lives and risked their freedom to protect and liberate suffering animals. Activists like Nancy Phipps, whose daughter Jill was murdered when she was ran over by a transport truck driver during a UK protest that was blocking trucks full of sheep from entering a slaughterhouse. Like Rod Coronado, who organized Operation Bite Back, which targeted animal testing laboratories and fur farms. Like Melanie Arnold who carried out acts of Economic Sabotage, burning down slaughterhouses from which they had liberated animals, to ensure they would not re-open. Like Paul Watson, Greenpeace activist and Captain of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, who uses Direct Action tactics, including ramming enemy vessels, in order to protect the animals of our oceans.

In the final segment of the documentary we are exposed to some of the absurd and rather extreme tactics used by the State and law enforcement to target the people involved in movements like the ALF- which is kind of like the Blac Block, in that it is more a system of tactics that could be employed by anyone, than it is a group with an organized structure. Here Keith goes over some of the evidence that she has accumulated concerning her own experience of being surveilled by the FBI- for her supposed involvement with "terrorists"- which included wiretapping, people going through her trash and having people following her. We are told how one ALF activist faced over 20 years in prison for merely owning and operating a website that released footage of animal abuse taken by members of the movement. And how the lead singer of Goldfinger, John Feldmann, had his home in California raided by a plethora of police officers in riot gear with helicopters, trashing his house, invading his privacy... for what? Because his wife had participated in a perfectly legal animal rights protest. Surely there are more important issues warranting the use of police resources and your tax dollars.

The film concludes with a Call to Action. The activists make the argument that, even if you aren't ready and willing to put your life and freedom on the line to instigate change in a manner like the people in this film, the least you could is utilize your Consumer Power and Boycott Cruelty by refusing to eat meat, purchase animal products and products that have been tested on animals. YOU HAVE THIS POWER, USE IT. Change is Possible.


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