1st September 2004
Mr. Piers Handling
Director & CEO
Toronto International Film Festival Group
2 Carlton St, Suite 1600
Toronto, ON M5B 1J3
Re: Casuistry: The Art of Killing a Cat
Dear Mr Handling,
I am writing on behalf of The Humane Society of Canada and the millions of Canadians who share our views about the protection of animals to express our outrage over your decision to run the 91 minute film "Casuistry: The Art of Killing a Cat" at the Toronto International Film Festival.
We have carefully reviewed Mr Cowan's fax of August 31st 2004 and find it inconceivable that any well-respected institution would promote a film documenting behaviour that results in the torture and death of animals under the guise of performance art. What absolute sophistry and nonsense.
While the fax states that this film "does NOT show any of the actual, graphic video footage from this criminal event", we understand that was merely due to the fact that the director and producer were unable to obtain this footage which had been seized as evidence by the police.
While a festival programmer reportedly called the film "an intelligent, responsible handling" we question the light in which it was made, as it has been alleged that the producer, Linda Feesey, is associated with Jesse Powers and the others charged and convicted of cruelty to animals.
reportedly opens with clips from a performance art piece where two cats
are disembowelled and worn as hats for "art's sake". Also reportedly
included in the film are clips from two of Jesse Powers' older videos:
one "Dead Animal Disco" where he made the corpses of a fox, muskrat and
orang-utan (which he acquired from the Royal Ontario Museum) dance; the
other video showed him slaughtering and eating a chicken.
While the director and producer reportedly did interview people that were outraged by this event, and your statement in the fax that this film "does not allow room to sympathize with the convicted criminals portrayed and shows them to be morally bankrupt" according to reviewers of this film, there are many in this film that excuse Jesse Powers, Anthony Wennekers and Matt Kaczorowski - and these three do not show any remorse, complaining that the cops "went all righteous on me", and blaming everyone else from society to cats for their behaviour.
In our opinion, these three people committed a brutal cowardly act of cruelty.
By showing this film you are giving them a forum to display their "art for art's sake" under the guise of freedom of expression, no matter what the cost in pain and suffering to the animals.
There is a growing recognition of the link between animal cruelty and violence against people. In 1997, an Ontario survey of women entering shelters in Hamilton and Owen Sound found that 61% of those with pets reported that their partners had hurt or killed their animals. A study in England by the Royal SPCA found that 83% of families with a history of animal abuse had also been identified by social service agencies at risk for child abuse or neglect. The FBI lists cruelty to animals as one of its three indicators of criminal behaviour.
Cruelty to animals has been illegal in Canada since 1892 and punishable upon conviction by a fine of up to $2,000 and a term of imprisonment of up to 6 months and an order prohibiting a person form owning or working with animals for up to two years. A person convicted of such an offence also receives a criminal record.
We would ask the Festival to put aside egos and stop hiding behind the façade of artistic freedom in favour of justice and compassion. Please do not show this film and instead we would ask that you observe a moment of silence for the animal victims that were the unwilling participants in this brutal crime.
Awaiting your reply, I remain, yours sincerely,
Chairman & CEO