A gripping new documentary by award-winning filmmaker Shaun Monson tells the heartbreaking story of Regan Russell. A longtime animal activist, Russell was attending a Toronto Pig Save vigil in June when she was struck and killed by a truck carrying pigs to slaughter. These vigils are meant to bear witness to pigs in their final moments. According to witnesses, shortly before she died, Russell had been giving water and comfort to pigs confined in a transport truck.
Monson’s new documentary, There Was a Killing, premiered worldwide on November 7. The 30-minute film dives into the circumstances surrounding Russell’s death—along with the aftermath. It features first-hand footage taken by activists, as well as interviews with attorneys, people present at the scene, and a former slaughterhouse truck driver.
The film also explores the possible role Ontario’s new ag-gag law played. The day she died, Russell was protesting enactment of the law, which criminalizes entering a farming operation without the farmer’s consent. “Consent” is broadly defined to ensure it applies to anyone on the premises—including those permitted on the premises, such as employees. This means that anyone found to have filmed on the farm could be prosecuted—not for filming but for entering the farm without consent. Laws like this are designed to sweep evidence of animal cruelty under the rug and shield the meat industry from consequences.
The driver responsible for Russell’s death was given only misdemeanor charges of careless driving. Monson told VegNews:
It is compelling to see the footage, some of which was never released to the public, and hear first-hand accounts of Regan’s death. In exploring the story, including a new animal ag-sponsored law that appeared to be a license to kill, one can’t help but wonder if there was a cover-up and corruption involved.
Monson’s previous films have also covered animal justice issues. He wrote, produced, and directed Earthlings in 2005, which explores many ways animals are exploited. Another of his films, Unity, delves into the negative relationships people have with one another, animals, and the planet.
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