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Interview with Sarah Teale and Tom Simon

In a way, this is the civil rights movement of our time.

HBO

You've both previously made films, including 'Dealing Dogs', which examine animal abuse. How did you come to this subject, and why does it continue to interest you?

Sarah Teale

Neither Tom nor I are vegetarian, and we aren't particularly animal rights people. But we have a fascination with Pete (the undercover investigator featured in the film, pictured above), who Pete is, what Pete does, and the risks he takes, and the kind of life he leads to do it. And also the fact that, in a way, this is the civil rights movement of our time. A lot of people are dedicated to getting information out about animals and factory farming, and Pete is on the forefront of that.

Tom Simon

That's why we find what he does so compelling, because we know that it makes for incredibly engaging television and filmmaking. This film ended up being about his investigation of a factory farm, but over the course of three years, we followed him and shot a number of different investigations from puppy mills to issues of horse slaughter. But when it came down to it, we felt this investigation was the most compelling story.

HBO

When you first viewed Pete's undercover footage, what were your feelings?

Tom Simon

In terms of first impressions, seeing the piglets for the first time slammed against the post and tossed into that bucket still in their death throes, with Pete going right up so you can hear that piglet twitching and his little feet scraping against the side of the bucket, is an image that will last with me the rest of my life. But when you're working with the footage, you somehow get inured to it a bit because you have to be able to work with it.

HBO

Most people go to the supermarket and buy their food, but don't really think about the production process that went into putting that meat on the table. Why is that do you think?

Sarah Teale

With so much else to be worrying about right now it's easy not to think about it. But I think factory farming has gotten to such a level that it's not only about animal cruelty, it's also unhealthy for us. What we're eating is impacting our children, it's impacting the environment because of the waste, and it's reached such a level that I think there's a growing number of people who are concerned about it.

HBO

What can people do if they find themselves outraged by the images in the film?

I do think the more enlightened people in the industry are realizing thats if the industry doesn't police itself, if it doesn't clean up its act, somebody's going to do if for them.

Tom Simon

Take action. There are a number of groups, among them The Humane Society of the United States that has major anti-factory farming campaigns.

Sarah Teale

Support legislation. Talk to your local grocer and say, why can't you carry humanely raised products, or more of them? Eat local.

Tom Simon

Go vegetarian a couple days a week for starters, which is something I've started to do.

Sarah Teale

In addition to the animal cruelty side of this, there are all kinds of related health issues, because the animals get so sick, and they can't afford veterinary care, so they just pump them full of antibiotics. That's not good for us. So it's a health issue as well as a humane issue.

HBO

Another issue you raise in the film is the lack of federal laws governing factory farming and the treatment of animals. Has there been any legislative movement to change and mandate how animals are treated, as a result of your coming out with this film?

Sarah Teale

We hope so because there aren't any laws to convict people on for this. And animals raised for food are exempt from many of the cruelty laws.

Tom Simon

That's probably the most important point that people should understand, is that almost all animal cruelty laws do not apply to agricultural animals. But I do think the more enlightened people in the industry are realizing that if the industry doesn't police itself, if it doesn't clean up its act, somebody's going to do it for them.

Death on a Factory Farm

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