From the Kill Pen : Sharon Boeckle directs a documentary that deals with the underground railroad of horse slaughter. The meat is then mixed into beef and finds its way into our grocery stores, restaurants and could be deadly to eat. These issues are addressed in the film that interviews Congressmen and women as well as agriculture experts in New Mexico and Texas.
Slaughter: The most intense images come in the slaughterhouse and are captured by undercover agencies. Horses are seen beaten by crew members and we see the gritty way that they, along with cattle, are killed. There are no cuts in one instance and it is very difficult to watch. However, Boeckle presents us with this scene to get a visceral human reaction and lets us choose which side we should take, pro-slaughter or anti-slaughter. From the Kill Pen is a documentary that will be jarring and even heartbreaking to many. It has images that stick in your mind for long after the credits roll, however, the message of the film is what should be most striking.
Drugs: There is nothing wrong with killing horses in mass, theoretically. The problem becomes when the film brings up the fact that most of the horses are race or rodeo horses, thus have been injected with performance enhancing drugs. These drugs are not meant for human consumption and they never leave their system. This is the main thing that makes horse meat different than beef, there is a certain amount of time that cows can be given a drug and then slaughtered without it affecting the meat that humans then consume.
Big Business: I suppose the thing that I found the most refreshing about Boeckle’s documentary is that it doesn’t shy away from the prospect that there are two sides to every story. There are multiple people interviewed who see no problem with horse slaughter and one points out that the cattle industry dried up in the recession and this was a new and completely legal way to keep his business alive. The film is not perfect, but this aspect does a long way to get it closer to being there. I wasn’t a huge fan of the narrator’s voice, but that is a matter of preference. The film also does a great job of connecting the dots from how a horse goes from a race track or rodeo to a grocery store.