Animals: Friend or Food?. Dir. Jason Young . National Film Board of Canada. 2003.

Animals, a documentary film directed by Jason Young, follows a young couple’s journey through a year-long experiment in raising their own livestock on a farm in Nova Scotia. The re-birth of the abandoned farm the couple takes over mirrors his re-birth as he changes from urbanite to farmer. After questioning their relationship with animals, the two decide that if they’re going to eat meat, they should raise it themselves. Unlike Julia, Jason has little knowledge on farm life as he becomes the primary protector of the animals, while Julia distances herself away to focus on her horses. He vows to give the animals the best life he can before their inevitable end. By doing so, Jason eventually realizes his growing companionship to his livestock as he forgets the animals are raised for food and not as pets. 

The cinematography presents a mixture of picturesque shots of the farm in contrast to the harsh, bloody slaughters through demonstrations by local farmers who help Jason. As the film progresses, Jason is troubled by his conscience, often referring to the bible for spiritual guidance. Jason continues to perform the slaughters as each one becomes increasingly more difficult to execute. When the time comes to slaughter his favourite calf JB (short for Jersey Boy), Jason is unable to do so and claims he is done with killing. However, the couple continues to be meat eaters. This honest and emotional scene outlines the complex relationship between human and non-human. It creates a divide between an occupation and leisure. The final shot is a brutal reality of this concept as JB is shot and killed without hesitation by two slaughterhouse workers. The frame is filled with JB’s suffering as the cow twitches and bleeds out on the floor. The workers vanish from the scene as viewers are left with the morbid shot still fresh in their minds. Jason concluding comment, “in the end, we all know my decision not to kill JB only let me off the hook, not him”, explains the motive of this film. Are animals our friends or foes?