The BAFTA-winning filmmaker behind smash-hit short documentary 73 Cows, about a former dairy farmer, has made a new film tackling animal testing.
Alex Lockwood’s new film Test Subjects, which will be released on December 9, focuses on the stories of three scientists who were all pressured into animal testing as part of their studies.
He spoke to Plant Based News about why he wanted to make the film, why he believes the scientists who took part are brave, and some of the challenges of tackling animal justice topics.
“There are animal injustices going on all around the world and in all kinds of different contexts,” he said. “Animal experimentation is something I really wanted to explore as through a lack of knowledge, I wanted to understand it’s validity in the context of human health.
“I questioned whether or not modern-day science could cope without doing these sorts of experiments. I was shocked to find that animal testing when it comes to human health is 95 percent ineffective and that there are much more sophisticated and ethical forms of research out there.
“For whatever reason, this information just isn’t common knowledge, and so I wanted to make a film to make sure that the truth behind animal testing was out there.”
Lockwood’s previous film, 73 Cows created painted a startlingly nuanced portrait of a farmer who felt conflicted about sending animals to their death while feeling trapped within farming.
According to the filmmaker, Test Subjects does the same thing, saying ‘the most surprising thing about this story was that the three scientists (Frances, Emily, and Amy) all had such similar experiences of testing on animals and the personal conflict they felt as a result’.
“It opened me up to the idea that there must be vast numbers of scientists who are dealing with the trauma of their own work,” he added. “One thing I’d never considered until working on this film was the human side of animal testing, and so I felt that it was really important that this was explored within the film.
“For me, the fact that these stories are coming from scientists who have tested on animals rather than people looking in at the issue from the outside, makes it much more powerful.”
He described the scientists as ‘brave’, for having the courage to ‘go in front of a camera and lay your feelings out for everyone to see’, describing questioning your behaviors and ultimately breaking free of them as being very difficult.
“I think these testimonies serve as confirmation that we’re all products of our environment and that we all do things that are wrong, purely based on what others are doing and the pressures that come from institutionalized traditions,” he said.
Showing the audience
For Lockwood, one of the challenges of making films around animal justice, is deciding how much to show the audience. “I knew I didn’t want to show anything graphic, but I did want to show animals in a lab environment as I feel it’s important for people to see what really goes on,” he said.
“It’s difficult to balance making sure that you show the truth whilst not alienating your audience. I went through hours of undercover lab footage in order to decide which bits I would and wouldn’t show.
“This process was quite difficult as some of those images will stay with me for a long time. That process though, also strengthened my desire to make the film and get to information out there.”