Interview By Christine Thompson

Punishing people and making an example of them should not be a part of the great American way, yet that is exactly what happened to animal rights activists who took on the US Government and Big Pharma.  What was their crime? Inciting a riot, which led to actions that others committed but they were blamed for.. In the documentary THE ANIMAL PEOPLE, which premiered at The Austin Film Festival, information is finally offered to the public – information which was disallowed in the courts during the trial of the SHAC 7,  Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) was an international animal rights campaign to close down Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), Europe’s largest contract animal-testing laboratory. SHAC ended its campaign in August 2014. HLS tests medical and non-medical substances on around 75,000 animals every year, from rats to primates.[It has been the subject of several major leaks or undercover investigations by activists and reporters since 1989.[

Executive produced by Joaquin Phoenix (“Joker,” “Her”) and produced by Jorja Fox (“Roll With Me,” “CSI”), the film explores an intensely shocking story that played out in US headlines, with those caught in the crosshairs. An unprecedented journey inside a radical animal rights campaign that shook multinational corporations to their core that led to the first-ever indictment of six young American activists for terrorism, this film is  a chilling portrait of what happens when activism rattles the institutions of power.


Intimate, harrowing, gut-wrenchingly shocking but ultimately inspiring, “The Animal People” is an unforgettable chronicle of a campaign that almost brought a multinational corporation to its knees, and the price its victories cost. As Executive Producer Joaquin Phoenix, who joined the project during post-production, put it: “This film is about much more than just this case: it’s about fundamental questions concerning free speech, social change, and corporate power that have never been more urgently relevant in our world.”

More than ten years in the making, the documentary feature “The Animal People,” from directors Cassandra Suchan (“Rock The Bells,” “Janey Van Winkle”) and Denis Henry Hennelly(“Goodbye World,” “Bold Native”) follows the journey of six young activists who find themselves indicted as terrorists by the United States government. The reason for indictment: the activists’ leadership of a controversial open protest campaign aiming to close down the largest animal testing laboratory in the world. The activists used the then fledgling internet to dramatically magnify their impact and systematically knocked down pillars of financial support for the lab. But when protests began to mushroom into dead-of-night vandalism and worse by unknown underground elements, the FBI stepped in. The Bureau began an unprecedented campaign of surveillance, creating a model that would later be used against Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter. The United States Congress, under corporate pressure, rewrote laws in specific preparation for prosecution, potentially weakening free speech rights for all Americans. Featuring expansive interviews with the six activists spanning more than a decade, rare archival footage – including never-before-seen surveillance footage, wiretaps, and government documents, “The Animal People” is a chilling portrait of what happens when activism rattles the institutions of power.


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