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Animal activists protest cat-killer doc

January 13th, 2005, 09:23 PM
Animal activists protest cat-killer doc

Megan Leach
Canadian Press

September 15, 2004

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TORONTO -- More than a hundred protesters gathered outside a Toronto movie theatre Tuesday to protest a screening of the film Casuistry: The Art of Killing a Cat at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The protesters were angry about the film's inclusion in the festival, saying it glorifies an act of animal cruelty. The film explores the case of art student Jesse Power, who along with two friends tortured and killed a stray cat in May 2001. The three men videotaped the torture of the cat, claiming it was an art project.

The trio eventually pleaded guilty to animal cruelty and mischief charges.

Their tape of the grisly crime is not included in Casuistry, but the protesters felt the filmmakers glorified Power's act of violence.

Animal rights activist Suzanne Lahaie organized the protest along with her group Freedom for Animals.

"This case has hit people all over the world," Lahaie said in an interview before Tuesday's protest. "The film fest should be totally ashamed."

Lahaie said the movie gives Power a platform, but "the only platform he should have is in court."

Lahaie admitted she had not seen Casuistry, but has seen the original video of the cat's killing, which is in police custody.

"Not too many people did see that, but they are able to base an opinion on it," she said. "You don't have to see something to really base an opinion."

The protest outside the Cumberland Theatre was non-violent but vocal. Demonstrators chanted "Shame, Shame" while one woman with a megaphone described the cat's painful death in detail.

Some held pictures of the cat while others carried signs reading "Cruelty is not art" and "Demand tougher cruelty laws."

Some passersby seemed unaware of the reason for the protest, while others felt the demonstrators weren't making their point. One man wondered if he should point out that some of the protesters were wearing leather and suede.

Movie-goers waiting in line to see Casuistry appeared to keep an open mind.

Anthony Lawrence from Reading, Pa., said the film might raise awareness about animal cruelty.

"I'm not really sure what I'm expecting to see," he said. "I'm going in more with an open mind to see what they're going to say and see if these protesters are right about the whole controversy.

Another festival attendee from Utica, N.Y., named Philip, who declined to give his last name, said he was unfamiliar with the case.

"We weren't going to come because we thought there was a lot of graphic violence in it," he said. "But after we read some other reviews we found that there was less violence, so we're coming to see what it's about."

Last week, Pat Tohill, the campaign and communications manager for the World Society for the Protection of Animals, issued a statement after viewing the film. He said he was disgusted by the movie and was sorry he saw it, but defended the festival's right to screen it.