Monday, November 16, 2009

To shoot or not to shoot

I’m wrapping up the editing on a program that’s a story about South Texas ranchers and how they deal with a variety of threats to their livestock and land.

Of primary concern are the millions of feral hogs that roam the open expanses of Texas and destroy hayfields by rooting for wild onions and nut grass. Another threat comes from coyotes preying on calves and other small farm animals.

I was fortunate to capture a few kill shots during the videoing of the program; two feral hogs and one coyote. Yes, animals were injured (actually worse) during the filming of this program.

So here’s my quandary. Do I include the kill shots or not?

By showing these animals being killed, it’s an opportunity to bring the raw reality of ranching to the viewer, bringing home the seriousness of the threats and how ranchers deal with the problem day in and day out.

Leaving the clips on the cutting room floor removes the shock of seeing an animal being hit by a rifle bullet, but also takes the edge off the video, making it suitable for viewers who think the only sacrifice to produce a steak dinner is made by the chef sweating in the kitchen.

Now it’s your turn to log your opinion by commenting on this post and voting in the survey at the top right of this page.

Here is my rough cut of the coyote clip. Don't watch it if you can't handle it.

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt


  1. Why (unless this is a documentary for elementary school classrooms?) remove the shock of seeing an animal being hit by a rifle bullet? It seems a legitimate part of the story.

    If how the ranchers deal with the hog/coyote problem shocks people, maybe it'll spur some better solutions, if there are any.

    A lot depends on narrative text and tone, as well.

  2. No, this isn't for elementary kids. I have a banner posted during the show's introduction advising viewer discretion. Additionally, there are two warning that occur within a minute of each of the shooting scenes.

    I also cut the video in such a way as to not dwell on the animal dying.

    It is part of a rancher's life. Imagine losing a $1,000 animal to a pack of coyotes. Not something anyone would wish for. Running a ranch is tough enough as it is.


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