Eating Animals is an eye opening, if sometimes frustrating documentary that looks at the national, and international agriculture industry, our appetite for convenience over quality and the havoc that consumer choice has wreaked over the treatment of animals, the environment and ultimately, you and I.
There is an old adage: “You are what you eat.”
I do not mean to be condescending when I make this supposition, but it is true. Our busy lives define when we eat, what we eat and how we eat. We are a mobile population, always on the go. The mobility has the power to limit our choices, ultimately leading to fast foods loaded with saturated fat, healthier quick serve meals or a sit down dinner. We end up being satisfied with the meal choice we made, allowing us to continue to push forward.
But, do we stop to ask ourselves how the animals who sacrificed their lives for our meals were treated?
Based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals, a scathing indictment of modern agriculture, Christopher Dillon Quinn sets out to expand on the ideas presented in Foer’s book. The documentary is co-narrated by Foer and actress-producer Natalie Portman.
There has been a growing movement recently of people questioning how their meat is raised and how humanely the animals were treated. The movement aimed to expose the harmful conditions agriculture has imposed, not only on the animals which end up on the dinner table, but also how their treatment directly impacts the environment around us.
Quinn makes a point to interview several subjects, covering the multiple impacts that today’s agriculture industry has on the environment, and just how politicized the process has become. It dives into the history of agriculture, and demonstrates the power of farmers who remain independent in a sea of corporately-driven, technology infused operations and the legislation that is designed to continue to homogenize food production.
In several instances, the documentarians were intercepted by security, saying that cameras were not permitted. Steps were taken to get cameras in where visually horrifying moments that depict the conditions were presented. The amount of pharmaceuticals used to accelerate growth amazed me.
As horrifying as the treatment of the animals presented was, I was more horrified over the treatment of a scientist who worked in a Nebraska government – sponsored lab where they tested on animals. This man photographed the conditions and put the videos out on the internet for the world to see. The government has taken great strides to not only affect his ability to work, but his home life as well.
Was I mad coming out of Eating Animals?
It is safe to say that I was more frustrated by the legislative push behind the destruction of our environment, the treatment of animals and how our food gets to our tables. But, as Eating Animals pointed out at the beginning, in the 1970’s our national appetite moved towards convenience over quality. This was not some phenomenon that started yesterday, but we’ve slowly been building towards national outrage over the inhumane treatment of animals, and ultimately those smaller business people who want to make money.
What, then, is the answer to this national challenge?
Quinn ends Eating Animals by presenting meat alternatives which are gaining some momentum. Farm Forward, who co-wrote the original book with Foer made a marginal splash in the final few minutes of the documentary. I was frustrated over the idea that we are simply shifting one laboratory method of food production to another laboratory method of food production. Though I offer kudos to those who are thinking outside the box, Eating Animals offers little hint on how to change our habits as a society. It is certainly eye opening and should inspire discussion amongst us about our own choices. As long as Washington, D. C. continues to be propped up by Big Ag, it will take shock and outrage to continue thinking beyond the box.
Eating Animals has not been rated by the MPAA.
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