Director Curt Johnson takes an evenhanded approach in Your Mommy Kills Animals, his look at the warring factions in the modern movement to help and protect animals. The abuse footage is hard to stomach, but thankfully for the squeamish, the film is dominated by the ideological battle.

Johnson features a variety of representatives, including the leaders of SHAC 7 (Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty) who have been arrested and tried for “domestic terrorism” against the corporations who sponsor scientific experimentation and product testing on animals (a case that raises critical freedom of speech issues). Johnson also interviews the animal researchers themselves, some less extreme animal lovers, and fur farmers. Some of the better-known talking heads include Margot Kidder, P.J. O’Rourke, Christopher Hitchens and Ben Stein.

Perhaps the most enlightening aspect of Your Mommy Kills Animals is how it distinguishes the animal-rights activists from the animal-welfare activists: The former take a much more radical approach (including protest marches and, at times, vandalism), while the latter focus on animal care. Also, the dirty little secret the film reveals is that the larger, more established animal-rights organizations (PETA, The Humane Society) may be doing more harm than good for the animals, while the smaller groups (e.g., SHAC 7) are better-intentioned and more effective.

In one archival sequence, PETA president Ingrid Newkirk claims to euthanize animals in a humane way (compared to typical shelters), but the PETA workers are then seen killing homeless dogs in a disgusting fashion. In another sequence, the national Humane Society clearly drops the ball on the stranded animals of Katrina. Not surprisingly, no representative of PETA or The Humane Society would be interviewed for this film.

Both the problem and virtue of Your Mommy Kills Animals is that it leaves viewers unsure whom to trust. In the film, several celebrities look foolish in their blind support for PETA, but how can they be blamed? One’s best bet, the film seems to say, is to help or contribute to smaller, local organizations, but the abuse and neglect of animals is so overwhelming and the antipathy among the people trying to do something so palpable, it could have the effect of alienating those eager to become involved. Even this “objective” documentary puts itself in question by not revealing that two of the more outspoken interview participants (Sia and Shane Barbi) are also associate producers of the film.

Your Mommy Kills Animals is worth seeing by anyone who cares about animals, but like any kind of reportage, it needs to be accompanied by additional materials.