Tribe of Heart Film Makers James LaVeck and Jenny Stein Show a Peaceable Kingdom That Includes Us All
In a profound scene from the film Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home, fifth-generation beef farmer Harold Brown describes his transformation when the cow Snickers ran up to him and thumped his head against Harold’s chest. In that moment, Harold felt his heart open to his deep bond with animals, especially the farmed animals he at one time raised for food on his family’s farm, an activity that killed his ability to feel and care right along with the animals he sent to their deaths.
You can watch Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home on the level of animal stories, smiling as a mother hen brings the choicest food to her chick and shelters the baby under her wing. You can sniffle and cheer as lambs dash excitedly to reunite with their mothers after a three-day separation. You can also open yourself to the deeper message, about the transformative power of the human-animal bond, with a profound thump to your heart and soul that can open the door to gentle choices and a more peaceful life.
In addition to Harold’s inspirational story, Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home tells the story of “family farmers” Cheri Ezell-Vandersluis and Jim Vandersluis, who had a small dairy goat operation, and that of Howard Lyman, “Mr. Agribusiness,” who had thousands of cows and chemicals to match. Interwoven are the efforts of animal rescuers Cayce Mell and Jason Tracy to stop abuse and save lives.
The film opens with a statue of a one-winged angel and the message: “We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing each other.” The image that formed in my mind was to hug another person in beautiful flight. Then, when the one-winged angel showed up again at the end of the movie, it morphed in my mind into
the image of me holding onto a cow or goat or cat, a fellow being who also has the other wing.
The stories in Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home show that when we kill animals, we diminish ourselves — because we are all bound together, part of the same family, each with one wing.
I spoke with the producer of the film, James LaVeck, who co-founded Tribe of Heart with his partner Jenny Stein, who directs and edits their films. “There is a sense of solemnity in the audience right after the film ends,” James said. “Then, people begin to find the words to express their personal experience, it seems like there is a gradual transition to quiet joy that builds into an exciting sense of community. It’s a wonderful experience. The film is ultimately about finding what dwells at the center of your heart, and living it.
At screenings, people who grew up in farm culture often share poignant stories of their own after seeing the film. Educators, and environmental, human rights and peace activists also seem to connect with this film, perhaps finding in it something they haven’t experienced before in a film exploring animal issues. The farmers in the film tell the story in their own words, and perhaps some people are surprised to find that it’s not just a story about awakening compassion, but also about universal themes of justice. In talking in person and getting hand written comments cards and surveys from thousands of people after screenings, we’ve received almost no negative comments. That’s pretty amazing given how strongly the film challenges
commonly-held ideas about who farmers, and farm animals, are.”
In response to requests from many audience members, James and Jenny and the Tribe of Heart team created the Peaceable Journey web site, which is dense with resources for learning more about who animals are and how we can treat them with greater respect. The site also explores the culinary, nutritional and environmental dimensions of the vegan diet. It encourages you to make connections between different social justice issues, and to get involved, with detailed step-by-step guides making it easy to use the film as a vehicle for change in your community.
James and Jenny live the integrity of their message. They put the audience’s experience ahead of commercial success. Screenings of their films, which are held by volunteers all over the world, are free of corporate sponsorship and are never used as fundraising events. In this same spirit of respect, they encourage audience members to listen to their own hearts and tune in to their personal sense of connection to animals. This can lead to a more critical examination of the meat industry’s message that so-called “humane” or “happy” meat eliminates the ethical problems caused by using and killing
animals who are each individuals with strong family bonds and emotional lives.
Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home is a brave film that will touch both your heart and your mind with indelible images, some playful and happy, others that will shake you to your innermost being. It re-awakens the innate connection with animals that many of us had in childhood, but then were encouraged to break as part of accepting the “necessary evils” of adult life. When you find this lost part of yourself again, as Harold Brown did in the film, then you, like him, may find profound and joyful peace on your own journey home.
To support your journey, enjoy these additional whole foods, plant-based recipes.
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Blog posting by Janice Stanger, Ph.D. Janice authored The Perfect Formula Diet: How to Lose Weight and Get Healthy Now With Six Kinds of Whole Foods. This easy-to-follow eating plan is built on a whole foods, plant-based diet that can prevent, and even reverse, most chronic disease. Janice plans on watching Peaceable Kingdom again and sharing the film with family and friends.
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Tags: Cayce Mell, Cheri Ezell-Vandersluis, Harold Brown, Howard Lyman, James LaVeck, Jason Tracy, Jenny Stein, Jim Vandersluis, making a difference now, one-winged angel, Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home, Tribe of Heart, whole foods