PFF 2006 - Last of the Spanish Mustangs

Sunday night we saw Last of the Spanish Mustangs. This is a documentary by local filmmaker Len Johnson. The film looks at horse slaughter in the U.S. (mostly for European countries where horse meat is a delicacy), particularly the slaughter of wild horses rounded up on public lands.

I have to give major respect to Len for making this films. It cost him a lot of money out of pocket and put him in a lot of dangerous situations, from confronting those selling wild horses to slaughter to connecting with the horses themselves in the wild. It was a real labor of love, very genuine, and he does get his message across.

However, I can't say this was a great documentary. Too much of Len's TV background comes through, and it comes across as an overly long local TV special, not a film in its own right. Much of the humor just doesn't fly, and I think some of the better arguments that could be made for protecting the mustangs were left unexplored (perhaps focusing on the biological uniqueness and scarcity of the horses, rather than condemning horse slaughter and consumption outright?). He reveals a lot of shady government and business activities related to the horses. Yet, we already know the government and big business are shady. I kept waiting for a compelling argument and found none. At the same time, the emotional connection with the horses was scattered throughout the film, lessening the impact it might have.

Last of the Spanish Mustangs is a good, not great documentary with a lot of heart.


BarnGoddess said...

The slaughter of horses for ANY reason is wrong. As for MEAT for humans to consume is SICK! The AVMA (American Veterinarian Medical Association) does not classify horses as livestock. Horses are classified as companion animals, just like a dog or cat. Sorry to be ranting, but this is such a touchy subject with me.

I would like to view this documentary, I hope it comes available in the Tulsa/Bartlesville Area soon.

Joshua Provost said...

Hey, it doesn't make me comfortable, but I have to admit that although we don't view horses (or cats or dogs) as livestock here, they do eat them elsewhere in the world. Who's the say that you can raise and kill cows and chickens, but not horses and dogs? It's just our local perception, our local customs and values. So unless you are opposed to killing all animals (that's a different argument altogether), it's unfair to say that it is patently wrong to kill horses, especially since it's for food, not for sport.

That being said, I think there is an important conservation/preservation aspect to these horses since they are biologically quite unique and rare. There were some interesting physical traits and marking to some of these horses, and they need to be preserved like any other rare creature. I think making that point would have been a better sell in this film.

If you want to see the film, you can buy the DVD from the web site. Perhaps you can arrange with Len to for a local exhibition of the film?

Gabe said...

I agree with you wholeheartedly on this review. I'm totally against the slaughtering of these wild horses, but the film didn't really motivate me.