Activists Continue to Protest Documentary about Cat Killers

In 2001, Jesse Power and Anthony Wenneker were arrested in Canada for torturing a cat to death and filming their criminal acts. Matthew Kaczorowski, who also participated in the torture, was apprehended in 2003.

Power and Wenneker tried to defend their torture of a cat by claiming they tortured the cat and filmed it as an artistic statement against animal cruelty. Its the sort of logic some activists appear comfortable with, such as PETA’s “we have to kill the animals to protect their rights” mentality, but courts rejected the argument and all three men were ultimately found guilty of animal cruelty. All three also received ridiculously short sentences for such a base, premeditated act of cruelty.

Enter filmmaker Zev Asher, who decided to make a documentary about the case. Asher interviewed Power, Wenneker, and Kaczorowski, along with animal rights activists, police, art gallery and others about the case. The actual video of the cat torture is not shown.

I have not seen the film, but the New York Times review of it noted,

”Casuistry” consists mainly of talking-head interviews — with animal rights advocates, art gallery owners and two of the three accused young men — intercut with news clips about the event, shots of Mr. Power’s disturbing artwork, and extreme close-ups of a variety of cats (all of whom, pet lovers will be relieved to know, remain alive and well throughout). The offending videotape is never seen, but the entire film is built around its absence. Periodically, the film returns to a written police account of the video, which scrolls up the screen, documenting the animal’s suffering blow by blow to the sound of ominous music.

Two of the cat’s assailants come off as bored, alienated and none-too-bright young men seeking a nihilistic thrill. The third, Mr. Power, is a more complex figure, an intelligent and well-spoken but possibly psychopathic art student who has long been obsessed with the death of animals (he once took a job in an abattoir, he says, to better understand the suffering of the animals he ate). Among the least sympathetic figures in the film are two local gallery owners who seem callow and pretentious as they refuse to judge Mr. Power for his actions. Though it clearly takes the position that the animal’s death was a crime, Mr. Asher’s film is likely to leave viewers eager to discuss the limits of artistic freedom and the extension of human rights to animals.

The Village Voice went further in its review, saying that the film makes unfavorable connections between what Power and company did to what medical researchers do.

And yet, for all that, animal rights activists have turned out to protest the film and demand that it be pulled from film festivals almost everywhere it appears.

For example, when the film was shown in Australia as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival in July, activists from Animal Active showed up to protest the film. Animal Active spokeswoman Rheya Linden told The Herald Sun that screening the film was irresponsible,

This film presents animal abuse voyeuristically to a general audience in the name of art and entertainment.

Similarly, when the film was shown last September at the Toronto Film Festival, activists also showed up to protest with Suzanne Lahaie of Freedom for Animals telling the BBC that the film should never be shown because it includes interviews with Power, Wenneker and Kaczorowski,

Shame on the international film festival for allowing this to go on.

When an e-mail was posted to AR-NEWS recently calling for activists to pepper James Hewison of the Melbourne International Film Festival with calls and e-mails to stop the showing of the film. It was left to Toronto Star columnist and animal activist Barry Kent McKay (who is often a voice of reason on AR-NEWS) to note that,

Many animal advocates who have seen the film feel it should be shown to the
public. It certainly does not in any way glorify the abuse, but rather,
exposes something that should be exposed. Actual torture is apparently not
on screen. It is seen by many to be a powerful indictment against animal
abuse, at most, and a stimulant to debate at least. Others, particularly
those who have not seen it, oppose it.

I have no view one way or the other, as I have not seen it.

What is interesting and telling, however, is just how many activists simply don’t want a film shown because they disagree with it, and often even though they haven’t even seen it.


Catcalls unheeded at movie screening. Herald Sun, July 25, 2005.

FILM REVIEW; A Self-Proclaimed Artist and an Inexplicable Act of Cruelty. Dana Stevens, The New York Times, April 27, 2005.

Fur flies over cat-killing film. The BBC, September 15, 2004.

Canadian Court: Cat Torture Is Not Art

The National Post reports that the Ontario Court of Appeal this month rejected an appeal by convicted animal abuser Jesse Power after dismissing his claim that his torture of a cat constituted art.

Power is one of three men arrested for their involvement in making a video showing the three men torturing a stray cat. At the time Power was a student at the Ontario College of Art and Design and after being arrested claimed that the film was designed as an “artistic protest” against society’s treatment of animals.

The Court of Appeal was not buying that nonsense. Writing for the court, Justice David Doherty wrote,

While it may help those who cannot reconcile this act with [Power’s] character to rationalize his actions as some form of artistic endeavor or artistic commentary gone amok, that interpretation is inconsistent with the contents of the videotape.

Doherty also criticized the trial judge, Judge Ted Ormston, for the lenient 90 day sentence imposed on Power. Doherty described as “patently unreasonable” the logic that Ormston used to arrive at the conclusion that Power “did not intend that the cat should suffer . . . there is nothing in the videotape or in his subsequent conduct to suggest that he did not fully appreciate and, indeed, to some extent relish in the cruelty being inflicted upon this cat.”

The National Post offered a chilling description of the tape that, to my knowledge, has not been published before (warning this is rather gruesome),

With the three young men whispering in the background, the camera suddenly comes into focus.

The cat, a pretty creature with a white belly and a striped tail, is alone in a white-walled barren room of a “squat” with Power and friends. It appears nervous from the get-go.

“Killing a raccoon would be a helluva lot more exciting,” whispers one unidentified voice.

“Pillowcase,” whispers another.

“No, we won’t be needing that,” someone says.

A white mouse, atop an empty margarine container, is put before the cat, who barely looks at it.

“Pacifist kitty,” one man says.

“Here they come on the run with their fingers up their bum … on the Tom and Jerry Show,” sings another voice.

The mouse is held by the tail before the cat, who moves away.

“Should I mutilate it now?” someone asks.

A little later, Power asks, “How do you guys feel about being filmed?”, and one of the others asks him, “What are you going to use it for?”

“I don’t even know yet,” says Power.

Wennekers then fashions a noose in the wire that has been affixed to the ceiling.

“Let’s get to work,” he says.

“I want to cut open its belly while it’s still alive and watch everything move around,” someone says.

“Yeah, me too,” someone else replies.

Power suggests they just “slit its throat and let it bleed,” but one of his cohorts says, “We can do both. Gut it and slit its throat.”

They hang the cat, which immediately begins to struggle frantically.

Power says, “Why don’t we just kill it?”, but takes a black glove and a straight razor when Wennekers hands them to him.

Power saws at the cat’s throat, while Wennekers stabs at it with a buck knife, and over the next terrible minutes, with the cat howling in agony and twitching, the trio attack it in various ways.

Once, Power is seen bending close to the animal, staring at it while it cries; another time, he whispers, “Beautiful, man”; once, he wipes the blade of his knife on the cat’s head.

In the final scene, Power slits open the cat’s chest, and appears to inhale deeply.

Surely the appeals court was right that Ontario might want to expand the 6 month maximum jail term for the sort of scum who can do this.


Cat torture was not art: judges. Christie Blatchford, National Post, June 14, 2003.

Cat Torturer Pleads Guilty

Matthew Kaczorowski, 21, plead guilty earlier this month for his role in the making of a videotape showing the torture and killing of a cat.

Kaczorowski made the tape along with Jesse Power, 22, and Anthony Wennekers, 25. Power and Wennekers were arrested back in 2001 and eventually plead guilty to charges stemming from the videotape, but Kaczorowski remained a fugitive for 18 months until his arrest earlier this year.

Kaczorowski was allowed to plea to a charge of mischief. His sentencing will not take place until the appeal over Power’s sentence is resolved. Power was sentenced to just 90 days in jail and 18 months house arrest. The prosecutor is appealing that light sentence to a higher court.

Wennekers was sentenced to time served and released after 11 months in custody.


Man pleads guilty in cat torture case. Nick Pron, Toronto Star, April 10, 2003.

Ontario Prosecutors Appeal Cat Killer's Lenient Sentence

When an Ontario judge sentenced Jesse Champlain Power, 22, to just 90 days in jail to be served on weekends for torturing and killing a cat, animal activists were outraged. So was the prosecutor’s office which announced earlier this month that it would appeal the judge’s sentence.

The prosecutor decided not to appeal the sentence of Anthony Wennekers, 25, who was sentenced to 10 1/2 months in jail, and was released immediately based on time served.


Ontario: Crown to challenge cat-skinner’s sentence. The Ottawa Citizen, May 17, 2002.

Crown appealing cat killer sentence. Gretchen Drummie, The Toronto Sun, May 17, 2002.