“Take care of yourself after watching Dominion” read the paper that was handed out to all participants, in warning, at the Sustainable Development Society’s event this Tuesday, 19 November. I have to admit, with a name like “Dominion” and all that it implies, I was apprehensive. As a Conservation Studies student, I can probably safely assume the society and I share sympathy for many of the same environmental causes, but, as a frequenter of Blackhorn, I am also skeptical of what might be referred to as militant veganism.
The event, though hosted by the Sustainable Development Society, featured HerChoice St Andrews, the Biology Society, St Andrews Socialist Society, the Philosophy Society, the Geography Society, UN St Andrews, St Andrews Film Society, and the Environmental Subcommittee. It included a screening of the documentary Dominion followed by a panel discussion, Q & A session and finally refreshments in the form of sushi (veggie of course) and wine (always allowed).
It seems not everyone was as apprehensive as I was; Buchanan was packed (as one of the panelist mentioned, probably the most packed the lecture theatre had been in weeks) and I had a hard time finding a seat 10 minutes before the scheduled start time of the showing.
Now, I am admittedly no great aficionado of horror or gore, but honestly this movie made The Texas Chainsaw Massacre seem as easy to watch as Made in Chelsea (cringe-inducing for different reasons, sure, but that’s a whole other conversation). In sum, Dominion is a feature-length documentary, filmed in Australia, that explores the relationship between humans and animals, namely the assumption that humans have any superiority or “dominion” (see what they did there) over the latter. They provide an unabridged, uncensored documentation of the happenings of slaughterhouses and the violence and conditions that animals endure. For those of you who question my threshold for gore, allow me to elucidate using five words so that this article can still be publishable for all ages: Baby chicks. Industrial blenders. Alive. Yes, tissues were provisioned for the inevitable tears of some audience members.
TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE WAS EASY TO WATCH IN COMPARISON
But as this is not a film critique, let’s move on. Following the movie the panel was introduced. It included Dr Lisa Jones, Director of Teaching in Philosophy; Dr Stan Frankland, Director of Teaching in Social Anthropology; Professor Will Cresswell, School of Biology; Bennett Collins, Executive Director Third Generation Project; and Luisa Montes Contreras, a graduate student of Environmental Economics.
When the panel opened with a question, directed at the audience, of who shops at Tesco, I have to admit I had to restrain the eye-roll that was begging to be released. To my pleasant surprise however, the hour of guilt-tripping I braced myself for instead taught me a few things about the anti-meat world.
The panel was very nuanced in their deliberations, but it was sometimes difficult to keep the discussion on track. When asked why, when everyone else seems to participating in this industry (i.e. eating meat) should an individual decide to abstain from animal products, the discussion quickly divulged to one about morality and why one should even bother being moral. While at some points it did seem, particularly during the Q & A, that a bunch of like-minded people had gathered to iterate the ideologies they already subscribed to rather than critically assess the movie, the event ended on a rather inclusive note. The consensus seemed to be (much to my relief) that a person does not need to impose their views in order to be moral.
Overall, this event convinced me that there are many levels to veganism and it is a subject worthy of nuance. And if the goal was to gross me out of my next Dervish kebab, it may have convinced me there too.