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Unlikely companions

In Mr. Pig, HSI teams with Diego Luna, Augusto Mendoza, Danny Glover and Maya Rudolph to tell a tale of transformation and a prized pig

All Animals magazine, September/October 2016

Forced to sell his prized pig, a farmer played by Danny Glover (pictured with, clockwise, Maya Rudolph and Bob) discovers the unbearable world of factory farming.  CANANA FILMS

When filmmakers Diego Luna and Augusto Mendoza began discussing a story about an estranged father and daughter, little did they know that spark of an idea would lead to a pig named Howard as one of their main characters.

In Mr. Pig, Danny Glover plays Ambrose Eubanks, a down-on-his-luck farmer on a road trip to Mexico to sell his last remaining animal—a prize pig named Howard—to the son of a fellow farmer. But Eubanks discovers that the old-style farm he remembers is now a factory farm. The ensuing journey takes the farmer, his grown-up daughter (Maya Rudolph), the pig and the audience through heartbreak, healing and hope.

Humane Society International provided movie staff with information on gestation crates and Mexican factory farms. Through its Déjalas Mover campaign, HSI Mexico is working with the food industry to eliminate some of the cruelest practices in animal agriculture.

HSI corporate outreach and program manager Sabina Garcia Hernandez accompanied the film crew while they shot scenes in the factory farm and slaughterhouse. It was a tough two days, she says. Most everyone looked shocked, and many had to take breaks because of the intense smell.

In this edited interview with HSI, the actors and director talk about the film.

Mr. Luna, why did you choose to focus on the pork industry?

It was a way to show how modernity becomes incomprehensible, unbearable and unacceptable. The voracity of growth, the need to satisfy needs which we believe are essential, but in reality are anything but.

Many people ask: "Are you vegetarian? Are you vegan? Why are you doing this?" But no, it's about this character. Ambrose raises pigs for human consumption. It's just that he cares about the journey these animals will endure, which he hopes will be one of compassion, respect and dignity."

Mr. Glover, you describe your grandfather as a farmer who cared greatly for his pigs. This film sheds light on factory farms by highlighting the animals’ living conditions. What impact do you hope the film has on viewers?

The way we produce animals has changed so much in a short period of time. It’s about efficiency and profit. Food, which we need for survival, has been commodified. It’s frightening. I hope that awareness comes down to the philosophical questions: What does it mean to be a human being, and what you do about it as citizens?

Ms. Rudolph, does the relationship between Ambrose and Howard remind you of the one you have with your dog?

Everyone said when we first started working with the pigs that they were like dogs, but pigs just do whatever they want. I really grew to love Bob, the hog we worked with the most. Diego always said he was the Brad Pitt of hogs because he looks great on camera and knew how to find his light. I got to take him down to the beach. It was so hot, and I saw him just enjoying the fresh air and rolling around in the sand. You get to see it in the movie. You get to see him genuinely enjoying nature.

  • The grandson of a caring pig farmer, Glover sees serious implications in the way we have reduced the animals we eat to commodities.  CANANA FILMS

Rudolph: It changed my way of thinking about meat. When you get to know someone—and I introduced my children to Bob—when you see an animal face-to-face like that, it shifts something.

Luna: I visited a factory farm and was shocked. I thought, this world has forgotten the fundamentals. These animals don’t get to run, see the sun or choose their food, let alone have any sort of interaction between themselves. When I left, I thought, “Oh my, I have to find out where my pork comes from!” This appetite for growth regardless of everything else has to be stopped. If anyone can do it, it’s the consumer.

To learn more about HSI’s work for farm animals, go to hsi.org/farmanimals

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