05 April 2011

'The Elephant in the Living Room' reveals both sides of the exotic animal trade

The Elephant in the Living Room, directed by Michael Webber, is a documentary about the exotic animal trade in the United States. The film follows Tim Harrison, a decorated police officer, firefighter, and paramedic and Terry Brumfield, the owner of two African lions who he raised from cubs to adults at his home in Ohio. By showing both sides of the story with interviews from people in various communities where cougars, lions, and other exotic animals have gotten loose and interviews with the owners that see the animals as their children, we are presented with the grey area of the subject.

Tim Harrison asks if he is really the bad guy because there are rarely happy endings in his line of work. If he takes the animals away, there is a high chance that they will get killed because there is no room for them elsewhere or they will be resold. The film touches on the subject of owners that kill the animals themselves or set them loose because they can no longer care for the animals. Unfortunately the effects of the released animals upon the local ecosystems to which they are not native are never mentioned. Even though the film is primarily set in Ohio, it is mentioned that if you travel to any town in the USA, you will find someone with these animals. It can be a very frightening thought.

I like this film in particular because it is not strongly biased (though, weighing a little bit heavier on the negative side of the issue) and instead presents the audience with the stories from both sides to let them draw their own conclusions. The film is less of a propaganda piece and more of an emotional drama. However, the film's main focus is the effects of the animals on the communities and humans around them, not really on how the captivity effects the animals involved. No matter which way you look at the issue presented, the story is incredibly sad.

Kristen McFarland | @MohawkedMaven
Kristen, a vegan from Cincinnati, Ohio, is passionate about animal rights and film. She has a degree in electronic media and spends her time working as a sideshow performer and a photographer. Follow Kristen on Facebook.

Photo credit: theelephantinthelivingroom.com