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We can’t create change for animals in a vacuum — we need to educate ourselves, raise awareness in others, and embrace the small steps people take in learning more about different issues. For many, the seeds of change are first planted by a great documentary that informs and compels them to act.

We’ve compiled this list of documentaries to give you an array of different animal-related topics to choose from, or you can watch them all! These films will give you a new perspective on different animals, and we believe all of them are compelling in their own way.

If you find one particularly moving, consider hosting a screening party in your home, or at a local community space. This is a great way to introduce people to a new topic in a non-threatening environment. Provide some light refreshments and after the movie, some discussion of the topic is sure to follow. Get active, Green Monsters!

1. Off the Chain


The gist: Director Bobby J. Brown spent three years infiltrating the underground subculture of pit-bull fighting. “Off the Chain” is the result of this research that explores the evolution of the American Pit Bull Terrier in American culture, leading up to how we abuse these animals through dog fighting today.

How it makes you think: You’ll hear directly from the mouths of the dog-fighters themselves, which is something not many other documentaries offer. It also provides evidence that highlights how this abusive system has become so ingrained in people’s lives and minds that it has become a culture.

Availability: Watch the full documentary on YouTube.

2. Animal Odd Couples


The gist: This 50-minute documentary takes a look at unlikely pairings in the animal kingdom, while zookeepers and animal behaviorists discuss these and other examples of cross-species kinship.

How it makes you think: Unlike the typical nature documentary, where wilderness is cruel and wild animals are at the mercy of their instincts, “Animal Odd Couples” presents a side of nature we don’t often see – the emotional lives of animals.

Availability: Watch the full documentary on PBS or on Netflix.

3. The Cove


The gist: Follow an elite team of activists, filmmakers and freedivers as they embark on a covert mission to penetrate a remote and hidden cove in Taiji, Japan, shining a light on a dark and deadly secret.

How it makes you think: “The Cove” exposes something so terrible, we wonder how it has gone on for so long. Recent news from the town of Taiji, the main town featured in the film, is to build an amusement park to further their exploitation of dolphins. Watch this documentary to gain an understanding of how dolphins have become exploited for their “trusting” demeanor in swim with dolphin parks and marketed as food to unsuspecting consumers.

Availability: Buy the full version online from Amazon or Netflix.

4. Blackfish


The gist: The story of captive whale Tilikum, who has killed two people at SeaWorld, one of them being trainer, Dawn Brancheau.

How it makes you think: It forces viewers to confront the reality of what it means to take a complex wild animal forcibly from their home, then abuse them over countless years expecting a flawless performance to amuse humans in the name of “entertainment.”

Availability: In some geographic locations, you can view the full version online or buy the full version on Amazon or on iTunes.

5. My Life as a Turkey


The gist: One man’s remarkable experience of raising a group of wild turkey hatchlings to adulthood.

How it makes you think: The film raises many questions about our relationship to animals, especially one that we often eat. Joe Hutto’s experiences with the wild turkeys are quite moving to watch. However, he often makes a distinction between wild turkey behavior, and the domesticated birds we kill and eat, even though they share many of the same instincts. Despite this drawback, the film is still eye-opening as it allows people to examine their own relationship with farm animals.

Availability: Full documentary on PBS.

6. Born to Be Wild


The gist: This heartwarming film documents orphaned orangutans and elephants and the extraordinary people who rescue and raise them – saving endangered species one life at a time.

How it makes you think: First of all, this documentary has some amazing footage of elephants and orangutans in Imax 3-D. Following two different sanctuaries, Born to Be Wild explores the human element of habitat destruction and our role to rehabilitate these species back into their natural habitat.

Availability: Rent or buy the full movie on Amazon.

7. Vanishing of the Bees


The gist: Details the economic, political, and ecological consequences of a dwindling world honeybee population. It’s a phenomenon with a name — Colony Collapse Disorder — but no explanation or solution currently exists.

How it makes you think: There is an enormous link between the food we eat, and the tiny but mighty honeybee. What’s more, bees are an indicator of environmental quality — healthy bees don’t die out naturally in huge groups. This documentary is definitely a must-watch for anyone concerned about our food system, environmentally and financially.

Availability: View it on Netflix or purchase for $10.

8. Maximum Tolerated Dose


The gist: The film charts the lives of both humans and non-humans who have experienced animal testing first-hand, with hauntingly honest testimonies from scientists and lab technicians whose ethics demanded they choose a different path, and simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking stories of animals who have seen both sides of the cage.

How it makes you think: Hearing from people who have directly participated in animal research offers a new look at the animal testing discussion that is not often heard. The film does contain graphic footage, but it’s necessary to the overall message of the film, and the animal testing debate as a whole.

Availability: Purchase the full documentary for $5 online.

9. Parrot Confidential


The gist: Parrots can live more than 75 years, but most humans only keep them as pets for a few years at a time. What happens to these birds when they become unwanted?

How it makes you think: A parrot is one of the most complex household pets a person can have, and the film explores a side of birds in captivity that is not pretty, but needs to be seen. It poses the question: How ethical is it to keep these animals as pets?

Availability: Watch the full documentary on PBS Nature.

10. Peaceable Kingdom


The gist: The film features five farmers, a humane officer, an animal rescuer, and a cow named Snickers, whose stories will challenge your ideas about farmers, farm life, and the animals themselves.

How it makes you think: Hearing the personal stories of conflict and transformation from the film’s human subjects, alongside footage of farm animals in peril and in a sanctuary, gives you a deeper understanding of the complexity of animal rights issues. What’s more you’ll discover how “farm animals” are just as unique as your household companions.

Availability: Buy the full documentary online.

See something, Say something. Bookmark, share and help further build our directory of Animal Rescue Hotlines and let's be prepared to help animals today!

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89 comments on “10 Documentaries that Will Make You Rethink Everything You Know About Animals”

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1 Months Ago

The Elephant in the Room, covers the issues of the big cat problem in the US. From black market dealings to unprepared private ownership and all the points between.

1 Months Ago

Where\'s "EARTHLINGS" ???!!!

1 Months Ago

an apology to elephants (HBO)

Colin Wright
1 Months Ago

Do you think it\'s wrong to inflict unnecessary suffering and death on animals?

100% of the suffering and death we intentionally inflict on nonhuman animals is unnecessary. 99.99% of that is in the matter of "food" alone. However, the ways in which we exploit nonhuman animals are numerous and go far beyond the mere production of "food."

Each individual animal has an interest in their own continued survival and freedoms. If we claim that nonhuman animals matter morally, as most of us seem to do, how can we morally justify unnecessarily harming even one individual animal? And yet, each year, we intentionally kill around 60 billion nonhuman land animals and upwards of 1 TRILLION aquatic nonhumans (that\'s 1,000,000,000,000) for no other reason than our pleasure, amusement or convenience. Nonhuman animals can feel pain, pleasure, fear, happiness, and many other sensations and emotions that humans do.

Humans are not morally superior to nonhuman animals in any objective, factual sense. They can only be made to seem so if glimpsed through the lens of arbitrary, morally irrelevant criteria and subjective personal opinion (and self-serving opinion at that).

This means that we can\'t morally justify intentionally harming animals without also leaving the door open for moral justifications for harming humans. We then can\'t claim that we ourselves should be protected from the threat of being harmed; any criteria we use to justify denying animals the right to not be harmed can also be used to exclude our own claim to that right.

Nor should we want to deny them the same rights we have. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is The Golden Rule for a reason. Most people know intuitively that we should not harm others for no good reason. The only questions we need to start asking ourselves are "why shouldn\'t animals qualify as \'others\'?" and "what constitutes \'a good reason to harm\'?"

Regardless of any other definitions, "others" must include "all sentient beings", and "a good reason to harm" MUST NOT include "merely for our own pleasure or other trivial selfish interests and desires." To make but 2 examples, we have no dietary need for any animal substances at all; neither do we have a real need to mount the head of a slain animal on our wall. If we have no real need to harm sentient animals, then doing so merely for a trivial interest is immoral. Their right to not be harmed naturally supersedes our interest in harming them.

Not only is there no dietary requirement for flesh, dairy or eggs, but the consumption of those substances is the majority cause of chronic disease in humans. The production of those substances for "food" is the majority cause of all environmental destruction caused by humans as well.

All the worst infectious diseases have also been linked to the domestication of various nonhuman animals in the past. And we are creating worse and worse new infectious diseases in factory farms right now. Moreover, the consumption of animal substances as "food" both facilitates the contraction of infectious diseases and prolongs and exacerbates the symptoms of those diseases.

The intentional exploitation of nonhumans by humans is also directly and/or indirectly the cause of all the human rights problems we now face.

The objective truth is that all nonhuman animals qualify as deserving of the right to not be intentionally exploited in any way by humans merely for our own pleasure or other trivial interests. This includes being used for "food", clothing, entertainment, or medical research subjects. Either they do deserve the right to not be used for these things, just like we do, or neither nonhumans nor humans deserve that right. We can\'t have it both ways.

If our species as a whole continues to believe that humans are superior to animals and that it\'s therefore morally justifiable to harm and otherwise exploit them merely for reasons such as species membership or rational abilities, then we will continue to believe that it\'s morally justifiable to harm and otherwise exploit other humans for whatever arbitrary reason we deem acceptable. Until we evolve past our irrational belief in intentionally exploiting nonhumans merely for our trivial interests, we will continue to endure racism, genderism, homophobia, ableism, tyranny, mass murder, and all the other human rights atrocities we commonly abhor.

When we stop exploiting nonhuman animals, we as a species begin to see how the exploitation of other humans in these ways can be ended. When we truly believe that these atrocities we are committing need to end, and we decide to match our actions to our beliefs in this regard, the only logical choice is to completely stop using animals for food, clothing, research or entertainment.

This is not a question of merely being "kind" or "loving animals", it\'s a question of moral justice, which is the most important thing for every human to observe. In my opinion, it\'s the very heart of what it means to call ourselves human.

If we claim that animals matter morally, even the tiniest amount, then the only logical course of action is to stop exploiting them in any way. Not stopping means that we do not have the courage of our own convictions, and that we believe in irrational, subjective personal opinion and not objective fact. To stop intentionally exploiting animals completely means Abolitionist Veganism.

To learn the answers to every question you have on why it\'s wrong to exploit nonhuman animals, go here:

01 Sep 2014

Very well written. We recently saw a movie called "Speciesism" which explored many of the same ideas. My husband - who has understood but not been swayed by anything I have said over the past six years I\'ve been vegan - actually thought about it after watching this movie precisely because of the moral / philosophical outlook. He\'s actually giving going vegan a shot, now.

One question he posed to the director, actually, was, "why live a moral life?" He recognized the soundness of the arguments used in the movie, and in your reply here, but the only thing that wasn\'t really addressed was that question. He did get his answer from the director, but I was just curious about your viewpoint since you had such a well-thought-out response.

Rapid Fitness
3 Months Ago

Nice line up team. we will check them out.

Sam Glasswell
3 Months Ago

I've seen a few of these, including Maximum Tolerated Dose! :( Educational for sure..

Hannah Rogers
3 Months Ago

I didn't know there was so many! I have seen Blackfish and Born to Be Wild

She Lives Cruelty Free
22 Jul 2014

Blackfish is a must watch right!

4 Months Ago

MUST BE ON THIS LIST: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ky4RGYva90E

4 Months Ago

SHOULD BE ON THIS LIST: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ky4RGYva90E

4 Months Ago

You must add "The Ghosts in our Machines" http://www.theghostsinourmachine.com/


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