September 13, 2004, TORONTO - In an open letter to Mr. Piers Handling, Director & CEO of the Toronto International Film Festival, The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) is asking that a 91 minute film called CASUISTRY: The Art of Killing a Cat" which depicts animals being tortured and killed be pulled from the Festival.
In the charity's view, the film is about the sadistic, brutal killing of innocent animals which resulted in those responsible being charged and convicted of criminal offences involving cruelty to animals, " says Al Hickey, HSC Western Regional Director.
Under the Criminal Code, those convicted of cruelty to animals can face up to six months in prison, fines of up to $2,000 and be prohibited from owning or working with animals for up to 2 years.
In responding to a fax received from the Toronto International Film Festival, The Humane Society of Canada's Executive Director, Michael O'Sullivan responded: "…We have carefully reviewed your 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."
The letter goes on to say that: "… 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."
Two people, Jessie Powers and Anthony Wennekers were charged with mischief and cruelty to animals. On April 18 2002, each received a jail sentence of 90 days plus time served. After an extensive manhunt, the third person, Matt Kaczorowski was apprehended in Vancouver on March 8, 2003. While he was charged with mischief, theft and possession of property obtained in a crime, he could not be charged with cruelty to animals as the charge for animal expires after 6 months. Matt did plead guilty to mischief and animal cruelty and received a sentence of time served plus 3 years of probation during which time he must receive counselling, not own animals or weapons, 200 hrs of community service, reside in an approved area and stay out of Toronto.
The film 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," O'Sullivan continues in his letter.
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.
"We are asking 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," says O'Sullivan.
"We will be asking every celebrity, corporate sponsor, and the public at large to stop the showing of this film. We have learned that the involvement of Powers and the others in this film does not violate the terms of their sentencing or parole. We will be asking that the law be amended to prevent convicted offenders of profiting from or promoting such animal cruelty incidents, and for a law like that in Britain which prohibits scenes in films showing cruelty to animals,” promises O’Sullivan.
A copy of our letter to the Director & CEO of the Toronto International Film Festival can be found here
CONTACT: Michael O'Sullivan by toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at www.humanesociety.com via twitter at www.twitter.com/HSCanada and on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Humane-Society-of-Canada/211468055538280
[For more than 17 years, Al Hickey was the Chief Executive of the BC SPCA and before that headed up the Alberta and BC Chambers of Commerce, and was the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver. He has been The HSC Western Regional Director for over 12 years. He has 4 children and 6 grandchildren. For his lifetime of achievement dedicated to helping people, animals and the environment, we have bestowed upon him our prestigious Heroes for Animals Award, shared by only a handful of people and organizations.
A father with two children, and a houseful of dogs and cats, Michael O'Sullivan has worked across Canada and in over 110 countries during the last 40 years helping people, animals and nature.]
The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) works to protect dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits and small animals, livestock, lab animals, wildlife and the environment. We carry out hands on programs to help animals and nature, mount rescue operations, expose cruelty through hard hitting undercover investigations, work to pass laws to protect animals, use a multidisciplinary approach, support animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centres, and spread the word about how to help animals and nature through humane education.
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