The connection that I have to animals while I’m photographing them is one of empathy. There is a huge mistreatment and inequality between human and non-human animals, and that’s always in the forefront of my mind. – Jo-Anne McArthur
In The Ghosts in Our Machine Director Liz Marshall follows acclaimed animal photographer Jo-Anne McArthur as she creates her book We Animals, a profound look at at how humans use animals daily as the food, clothing, animal tested goods and entertainment/companions. Through McArthur’s photographs we learn the stories of the animals she photographed, becoming intimately close with their stories and their brethren. The richness of the film and its warm, at times melancholy, tone enhances McArthur’s photography which features prominently along with her compassionate voice and writings as she meets, studies and interacts with her subjects.
McArthur, a vegan, believes that animals are sentient beings whose lives should be honored and respected. Taking us from the fur trade and animal parks, to research facilities, factory farms and finally the slaughterhouse, McArthur, other animal advocates, and the animals themselves provide compelling reasons why we should stop creating more ghosts in the machine of daily lives.
McArthur and the other humans in the film are never shrill or angry, but rather speak with strength and gentleness about the animals they have rescued. The stories heartbreaking–beagles used for research, a chimpanzee who underwent numerous surgeries in a lab, a factory farmed pregnant sow who was beaten and shocked by workers simply because they could, animals bred for our use and amusement. The last interview is with the designer of slaughter houses who proudly explains how she designed the facility to use the cattle’s instincts to help drive them to their death. The Ghosts in Our Machine thoughtfully raises the question: Are non-human animals property to be owned and used, or are they sentient beings deserving of rights?