Oro must prove no abuse

Early in my life as a civil servant, I raised quite a bit of a fuss when I saw a stray dog, tied around the neck with a length of metal wire, to a post in front of a Civil Service office in Quezon City. And as if that wasn’t enough, the poor dog – scarred, mangy, and shivering in abject terror – had been lit on fire, while alive! – by presumably the same assholes who had tethered it in the first place. My apoplexy brought some Civil Service security guys out and the dog was rescued. A couple of weeks later, I received a letter from the Civil Service, sort of commending me (not really sure of the language, but you get the drift) for my intervention.

Not to detract from the pleasantness of that gesture, but it was a completely unnecessary one. The humane treatment of animals and, necessarily, the outrage at seeing inhumanity towards them, shouldn’t be any more commendable than being able to tie your shoelaces by yourself. Both are expected of you because you’re not six years old.

Which brings me to this bit of welcome news.

Important point to note: the revocation of the award seems to be provisional – “while (the MMFF executive committee conducts) their investigation as to whether a dog has been slaughtered for use in the Alvin Yapan-directed drama.”

Thankfully, the producers of Oro have (1) denied killing a dog – they say they killed a pig and edited the footage to make it look like a dog; and (2) alleged that dog slaughtering – for food – is a tradition in that part of the country (and others besides) where the events of the movie took place; that in fact, the movie was only being faithful to actual events.

I hope they’re able to prove their denial – seeing crappy behavior punished is no substitute for the crappy behavior not having taken place at all. As for the second, I have to admit that it’s kinda trickier.

I haven’t yet found any specific program by the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), but the American Humane Society – the organization that awards that “No Animals Were Harmed” certification you might have seen at the end of movie credits – maintains a website prescribing how animals should be treated in film making. Check that out here.

Myself, I think certain rules of thumb apply.

First, unless you’re filming a documentary specifically about the culinary traditions of a place, there is no call for the movie to go into the details of a slaughter, much less to portray the actual slaughter taking place.

Second, even if you are filming such a documentary, unless you are specifically focusing on slaughtering techniques, there is still no call to show the actual deed in any detail.

Third, and still even if you are specifically zooming in on slaughtering techniques, unless the work you are shooting is intended to be an instructional video to teach professional slaughterers the most humane techniques possible, and therefore not intended for commercial display, you should seriously consider alternative means of portraying the action. Animation, for instance. Or sock puppets.

You see what I’m getting at here?

My objections are all rooted in one simple concept: Deliberately inflicted animal suffering should not be used for entertainment; the decision to commit deliberately inflicted animal suffering on film should, therefore, not be made lightly. Even if the suffering is simply in the form of the animal’s anxiety at having a gun pointed at its head.

Being human isn’t just about being able to do whatever we can conceive of; it’s also about not being dicks to the other living beings – especially those who repose implicit trust and love for us, like dogs.

Bravo, MMFF. And best of luck to the producers of Oro. I sincerely hope you prove the allegations of animal cruelty false.

UPDATE: Oro lied; turns out to be Mata.




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