Only by Telling the Truth Can the Truth be Changed
The year was 1999 and I had already been advocating for No Kill sheltering for many years. There was much I did not understand at the time and things I believed that turned out to not be true, and reflecting back on those days helps put the entire No Kill Movement into a clearer perspective for me.
A pivotal moment in my life happened when I was helping to coordinate a conference at the University of Minnesota on the topic of "pet overpopulation," which, it turns out, isn't real, but was widely believed to be what caused killing in our nation's shelters. It was an experience that changed my life forever.
As part of the work on the conference, I was asked to produce a short video to use as the opening. I wanted something short but powerful. And, I had been given a copy of a video that had been broadcast at a local cable TV station in North Carolina. The original video footage was taken by a sheriff who ran animal control. He was tired of all of the killing taking place in his own shelter. Not really knowing what else he could do to stop the killing, he at least did something: he video taped the killing of dogs, the dumping of their bodies as well as the rendering truck coming to collect them. It was really gruesome. But, I wanted to use it, because what better way to kick off the conference than to show exactly what we were there to talk about: the killing of millions of healthy or treatable pets in our animal shelters.
At the same time, I realized that I could not show the whole unedited video that the sheriff broadcast on their local cable TV channel. I decided to edit the footage, combine it with other video and images I had of animal shelters and puppy mills and set it to some very dramatic music. I picked On Earth as it is in Heaven, the opening song to the movie The Mission. I wanted the images and video to be perfectly choreographed to the music.
It was a challenging editing job, particularly given that this was long before digital editing was common. It was before high-definition TV. There were countless editing cuts that needed to be done with exact precision.
Long story short: I ended up watching the video I was editing over and over and over all day long for about a week and the project slowly came together. The resulting video is embedded in the top of this blog post. During the making of the video, I cried every day, sometimes many times per day. During the process, something changed inside me, something deep and very profound. I decided I needed to spend my life stopping what I was seeing on my screen.
I quit my corporate job and went to work for a small, rural No Kill animal shelter, and the rest, as they say, is history.
In the years since I first put the video together I have learned so much. Most importantly, I have learned that killing animals in shelters is not due to "overpopulation" or any other factor that is outside the control of the shelters themselves, which actually makes the killing animal shelters do that much worse.
For those too squeamish to watch the video, it ends with the words, "Only by telling the truth can the truth be changed." Those words remain true and likely always will.