REVIEWS: Humane education videos

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2003:

Proudly Human
Compassion In World Farming [South Africa] c/o Humane Education Trust (P.O. Box 825, Somerset West, 7129,
South Africa; <avoice@yebo.co.za>), 2003. 20 minutes.
60 rand ($7.50), plus postage & handling (inquire).

Desert Dogs
Hilder Productions (1617 Taylor Gaines St., Austin, TX 78741),
2002. 42 minutes. $15/video, $20/DVD.

Produced by the same team who made the 15-minute video Saving
Baby Ubuntu, reviewed in the May 2003 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE,
Proudly Human presents a similar but farther reaching anti-meat and
pro-vegetarian message.
While Saving Baby Ubuntu offers a story suitable for grade schoolers,
Proudly Human may be preferred by teens.
Narrator Mantsadi Molotlegi, 23, is just far enough out of
her teens to have childhood memories of the last days of the South
African apartheid era. She observes that “The way we treat animals
has the hallmarks of apartheid–prejudice, callous disregard for
suffering, and a misguided sense of supremacy. I have a message for
my brother and sister South Africans,” she continues. “The struggle
is not over yet. Please join me,” she asks, “in putting things
right for the animals.”

Facilitating the production of both Saving Baby Ubuntu and
Proudly Human is Louise van der Merwe, an Afrikaner who long ago
recognized that apartheid was essentially an attempt to put black
Africans behind the artificial line that most humans draw between
themselves and “lesser” animals. Like Mohandas Gandhi, who entered
into activism as an opponent of South African apartheid, and like
Nelson Mandela, who finally brought about the end of it, van der
Merwe came to believe that the fundamental error of apartheid was not
where the line was drawn, but rather that it was drawn at all.
Louise van der Merwe sees, however, that erasing the line
exposes humans of every color to psychological peril.
“All societies depend on us being proud of who we are,” she
writes. “By now everyone knows the slogan ‘Proudly South African,’
but unless we are proudly human above all else, we cannot be proudly
anything. Millions of people feel totally alienated from the very
species into which they are born, and with wry smiles openly confess
that they prefer the company of their animal companions to the
company of members of the human race. This is a most unhealthy state
of being.”
Proudly Human, van de Merwe says, “examines the quandary in
which so many ‘unproudly humans’ find themselves, and digs for some
of the roots of this discomforting and disquieting state of affairs”
in the choice to raise and kill animals for meat.
Desert Dogs offers a non-white perspective on another basic
humane issue: the human relationship with dogs, illustrated by the
work and struggles of Sharon Morgan and friends with Desert Dawg
Rescue of Shiprock, New Mexico, capitol of the Navajo Nation.
Most Native Americans kept dogs in pre-Columbian times, but
dogs held especially high status among the Navajo, as evidenced by
the ceremonial burial of the Yellow Dog of Crypt Cave, Nevada, 6,360
years ago. The Yellow Dog was obviously a pet, because a bad leg
left him unfit for hunting and most other work. He may have suffered
the leg injury, however, in defense of his people some years before
he died.
Briefly reviewing dogs in Navajo myth and history, before
focusing on the Desert Dawg pet sterilization campaign and rescues of
strays, Desert Dogs was produced by TV journalist Julia Hilder for
educational use by Sharon Morgan, Lavonda George of the Boys & Girls
Club of Shiprock, and the late Nathania Gartman, longtime education
director for the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. It
proceeds very slowly, and could probably be trimmed to 15 minutes
just by eliminating redundant statements from a small army of
speakers and slow panoramic shots of the desert.
Yet those redundant statements have value in a community
where everyone knows everyone else. They establish that the Desert
Dawg work is endorsed by a variety of locally respected voices–and
those slow panoramas show the homes of many of the primary audience.
There are countless short, succinct pet sterilization videos. There
is only this one, however, made explicitly for the Navajo of
Shiprock.

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