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An Omnivorous Family’s Dilemma (Jap-sik-go-gui-dil-le-ma)
by Mary Nyiri

South Korea 2014
Directed by: Yun Hwang

Yun Hwang was born in Seoul, South Korea in 1972. She began her career as a documentary filmmaker with Farewell (2001) which looked at the life and death of wild animals in zoos. She married and had a son. Then in the winter of 2013, the news reported the culling of two million pigs due to an outbreak of hoof-and-mouth disease. Yun realized she had never seen a real live pig. So she started calling around industrial pig farms to find some to film. She found a farm where culling was taking place and through the fence filmed hundreds of live pigs, squealing in terror, being shoved into a huge hole with large tractors, apparently being buried alive. She became more determined to look into how pigs become pork in the grocery store.

Finally a pig factory let her film inside. The conditions were appalling. Hundreds of huge pigs were individually confined to a space surrounded by bars which barely allowed enough space to lie down on the concrete. There the seemingly confused and fearful pigs were over fed, watered, artificially inseminated, gave birth, and eventually were slaughtered, never having left the pen.

Yun also traveled to the mountains to see pigs raised on a traditional farm. There pigs are kept in large stalls filled with hay and they can run around the farm. The pigs look healthy with good coats, clear eyes and a curiosity about what is going on around them. Yun even takes her young son with her to visit the farm and together they feed and help take care of the pigs. They learn the pig names. But there it is not idyllic either. The male piglets are castrated without pain relief. During the castrations, the mother frantically tries to hide all of her babies in the hay while others are screaming during the procedure. One piglet dies from the procedure and the mother tries in vain to comfort him.

Yun incorporates her very personal views on the treatment of pigs in part through discussions with her husband.  She becomes a vegetarian while her husband, who is a veterinarian, insists on eating pork. Capturing the family life of pigs on the free range farm and her own home life, Yun leaves the impression that pigs, too, enjoy life as a family. But reality hits home when as a parting gift, the farmer hands Yun several boxes of fresh pork. Watch the film then decide for yourself what you want on your dinner plate.