Who was really behind “Your Mommy Kills Animals”

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November/December 2007:


LOS ANGELES–Producing a video about the
animal rights movement in 2005-2006 called Your
Mommy Kills Animals, Minneapolis documentarian
Curt Johnson, 39, spent much of 2007 and may
spend much of 2008 fighting lawsuits for
allegedly misrepresenting the project to both
anti-animal rights investors and animal rights
advocates Shane and Sia Barbi, who are credited
in the video as associate producers.
Johnson lost the first round to Center
for Consumer Freedom founder Richard Berman and
Speakeasy Video company owner Maura Flynn, wife
of former Center for Consumer Freedom employee
Michael Flynn.
Alleging copyright infringement on
January 12, 2007, Berman and Flynn contended
that Johnson violated their intent to produce a
documentary attacking the People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals.

Summarized Virginia Lawyers Weekly,
“Johnson worked with Flynn on the movie, Michael
Moore Hates America. In 2005, Flynn and Johnson
discussed co-producing two documentaries, one on
smoking,” which was eventually issued and
contends that bans on smoking in public places
violate civil liberties, “and one on PETA and
the animal rights movement. Flynn prepared a
‘treatment’ of the PETA filmÅ Berman invested
$300,000 in the production.”
Johnson and Flynn both interviewed
sources who were to appear in the documentaries,
but Johnson “At some point in 2006,” according
to Virginia Lawyers Weekly, “instructed Flynn
not to travel with the crew working on” the
project that became Your Mommy Kills Animals.
“Over time,” Virginia Lawyers Weekly
continued, “Johnson accepted less and less input
from Flynn and finally ceased all communication
with her. Johnson began screening and promoting
a substantially complete version of the film.”
A version of Your Mommy Kills Animals was
shown to the Virginia jury, one of several
versions in circulation, according to the Barbi
“Roughly 80% was devoted to a favorable
portrayal of the SHAC-7, members of an animal
rights group called Stop Huntingdon Animal
Cruelty, who were tried and convicted for
violations of the Animal Enterprise Protection
Act,” Virginia Lawyers Weekly said. Reviews of
Your Mommy Kills Animals published by the Los
Angeles Times and L.A. Weekly gave similar
descriptions of the documentary, which is not
presently in public distribution.
Berman and Flynn were unlikely funders of
a project defending SHAC. Six SHAC defendants
were convicted in March 2006, of conspiracy to
commit “animal enterprise terrorism.” Five were
convicted of “interstate stalking.” Later in
2006 the convicted SHAC members were sentenced to
prison terms ranging from three to six years.
Berman, the Center for Consumer Freedom,
and an ancestral organization he headed called
the Guest Choice Network became aggressively
critical of animal rights activity in early 2002.
Berman appeared to have been best known
previously for opposing legislation that holds
hotel and restaurant owners liable if they
knowingly or negligently allow guests to drive
drunk, and for opposing laws that require hotels
and restaurants to pay at least the minimum wage
to waiters and waitresses, instead of requiring
them to work for tips alone.
Maura Flynn, as Maura Whalen, appears
to have first become prominent in 1993 as
spokesperson for the Individual Rights
Foundation. This organization sued the
University of California at Riverside, after the
university issued a three-year suspension to a
fraternity chapter for producing a t-shirt
bearing an allegedly racist caricature.
An out of court settlement reinstated the
fraternity, required two university
administrators to take First Amendment
sensitivity training, and included the
fraternity chapter writing letters of apology to
offended ethnic groups, other fraternities and
sororities, and the national headquarters of the
Michael Flynn, though not directly
involved in making Your Mommy Kills Animals, and
not a party to the lawsuit brought by Berman and
his wife, may have had the longest history of
interface with animal advocacy, as director of
policy and legislative activities for the
American Legislative Exchange Council before
joining the Center for Consumer Freedom. Founded
in 1973, ALEC has pushed state-level pro-hunting
and anti-“animal enterprise terrorism” bills
since circa 1992.
The Virginia jury agreed that Johnson had
breached his contract with Berman and Maura
Flynn, and awarded Berman damages of $360,000.
But the U.S. District Court for Virginia
in October 2007 refused to give Berman the
exclusive right he had sought to promote Your
Mommy Kills Animals, holding that the award of
damages satisfied Berman’s claim for copyright

The Barbi twins sue too

Shane and Sia Barbi, better known to
celebrity media as “The Barbi Twins,” ask in a
lawsuit filed on August 27, 2007 in Los Angeles
County Superior Court that the distribution of
Your Mommy Kills Animals “in all forms and
versions should be enjoined until there is a
final version that meets the editing approval of
the plaintiffs. The current visions at this time
do not portray animal organizations in a truthful
and unbiased way as promised [by Johnson],” the
Barbi Twins contend.
“The celebrities and organizations who
participated in the filming have only given
conditional agreement to be in the film,” the
Barbis add, “as they were promised that they
could be removed if it did not remain unbiased or
took on an anti-animal agenda.”
Known to the world as actresses and
former Playboy models, the Barbi Twins were
known to ANIMAL PEOPLE as animal advocates who
asked frequent serious questions about issues and
organizations for some time before ANIMAL PEOPLE
had any idea of their celebrity status.
“On or about early 2006,” the Barbi case
begins, “plaintiffs were informed by several
others involved in the animal rescue movement
that a producer, Curt Johnson, was making a
movie about animal rights organizations and
wanted to talk to them because of their breadth
of experience.
“After plaintiff Shane Barbi agreed to be
contacted, defendant Curt Johnson provided this
plaintiff with many magazine articles including
articles from Hollywood Reporter and Variety.”
The articles stated Johnson’s claimed
credentials. An August 2005 item by Claude
Brodesser of Variety stated that “documentarian
Curt Johnson’s Gotham- and Dallas-based
production shingle Indie Genius has secured a $30
million financing commitment that will allow it
to produce, co-finance and acquire finished
projects,” said to have been “brokered by
Georgia-based attorney William Slater Vincent.”
The Barbi Twins believed this reported
deal was Johnson’s source of funding for Your
Mommy Kills Animals, but only after trying to
verify the information.
States their lawsuit, “Plaintiff Shane
Barbi contacted several Variety reporters whose
names were on the articles” that Johnson gave
them, “and was told that Variety investigates
their facts and stands by their articles…Had
the plaintiffs Shane and Sia Barbi been aware of
the truth of how this film came to be, they
would have never even taken Curt Johnson’s phone
calls, let alone agreed to play any role in his
“Before becoming involved with defendant
Johnson,” the lawsuit continues, “plaintiffs
approached and questioned him about a rumor
connecting Johnson’s film to organizations like
the Center for Consumer Freedom that supported
anti-animal and anti-animal rights campaigns.
Johnson persuaded the plaintiffs that this was
totally untrue. He denied all connections to CCF
or any other anti-animal rights organizations.
He declared that he was the sole funding source
for his film, that not one cent came from any
anti-animal rights groups. He admitted,
however, that it was difficult or impossible for
him, on his own, to get any representatives
from animal organizations to cooperate or
participate in his yet unnamed film, because
they were boycotting him based on these rumors.”
Trying to help Johnson produce a
documentary that they believed would be favorable
to animal advocacy, the Barbi Twins “entered into
a verbal agreement with defendant Johnson,”
their lawsuit contends, “that plaintiffs would
bring celebrities and representatives of
organizations who work for the benefit of animals
to the film. For bringing celebrities and animal
organizations into the film, plaintiffs the
Barbi Twins were both to receive credit as
associate producers, and editorial control over
the entire film.”
The Barbi Twins assert that they “used
their contacts and connections to get all of the
nationally and internationally known celebrities
who appear in the film. In addition, they got
most of the representatives of the animal
organizations who appear in the film.”
However, “On or about February 1, 2007,
defendant Johnson abruptly stopped communicating
with plaintiffs,” the lawsuit explains.
“Plaintifss learned that Johnson was not
personally funding the film, as they were told,
but that he had received $300,000 from Maura
Flynn,” which she had received from Richard
Berman, whom the Barbi Twins contend “was
silently exercising editorial control over
portions of the film.”

Johnson’s approach

ANIMAL PEOPLE repeatedly asked Johnson
for his response to both the Berman/Flynn and
Barbi Twins lawsuits, but received no reply.
Claiming to be producing a documentary
history of the animal rights movement, Johnson
introduced himself to ANIMAL PEOPLE in much the
same manner as to the Barbi Twins, and at about
the same time. Johnson interviewed ANIMAL PEOPLE
editor Merritt Clifton and publisher Kim Bartlett
at the ANIMAL PEOPLE office in Clinton,
Washington, on January 24, 2006, en route to
interview Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
founder Paul Watson in Friday Harbor,
Washington, the following day.
Johnson recited a list of previous
interview subjects that included, as well as
prominent figures, many little-known people who
were involved in the early phases of the animal
rights movement. That he had found and talked
with them significantly reinforced his
Johnson in preliminary conversation asked
Clifton for background about anti-animal rights
organizations, including the Center for Consumer
Freedom. Johnson mentioned having interviewed
Center for Consumer Freedom staff writer David
Martosko, whose name appears on the Your Mommy
Kills Animals cast list, but did not demonstrate
exceptional familiarity with CCF.
Johnson did, however, indicate that he
tended to accept the SHAC defendants claim that
they were charged with criminal offenses for
exercising freedom of speech.
The SHAC trial concluded five weeks
later. In the interim, individuals targeted by
SHAC testified that they “they were besieged by
screaming protesters outside their homes at all
hours, deluged by threatening phone calls, and
were sent pornographic magazines they had not
ordered,” according to Wayne Parry of Associated
Press, who attended the trial. “One woman said
she received an e-mail threatening to cut her
7-year-old son open and stuff him with poison. A
man said he was showered with glass as people
smashed all the windows of his home and
overturned his wife’s car.”
The Barbi Twins in e-mail discussion with
Clifton had already expressed their strong
disapproval of violent and threatening tactics.
Distribution blocked
While not responding to questions about
the court cases, Johnson on November 14, 2007
forwarded to ANIMAL PEOPLE a link to
<www.Cinematical.com>, a film news web site.
“According to a statement released by
representatives of distributor Halo-8
Entertainment,” Cinematical offered, “Curtis
Johnson’s documentary Your Mommy Kills Animals
has been pulled by ‘several’ retailers,
including Internet giant Amazon.com, in advance
of its scheduled release date. The statement
quotes an unnamed retailer who claims that this
is ‘due to legal threats from a well-known
Washington lobbyist who represents major
corporations in the tobacco and food industries.'”
Halo-8 Entertainment president Matt
Pizzolo told Cinematical that, “Our
understanding is that there is no legal
restriction on the film whatsoever. Some
retailers are buckling under threats that have no
legal basis.”
Said Amazon.com director of corporate
communications Patty Smith, “Our understanding
is the film is subject to active litigation
between the parties, and as a result we removed
it from our catalog as per our usual practice
when we receive notice of an allegation of
copyright violation. We are in the process of
investigating whether in fact, that dispute still
exists. If the matter has been resolved, and the
seller has been given the rights to sell the
title, we’ll happily list it on our site.”

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