If you plan to see this film, make sure your menu plan for dinner does not include meat. This informative documentary by Christopher Dillon Quinn (21 Up America, God Grew Tired of Us) and narrated by Natalie Portman is based on a book by Jonathan Safran Foer who helped write the screenplay. All three are producers of the film that provides data about our food industry, about which I venture few of us are sufficiently knowledgeable. Yes, I personally had heard about “factory farming”, but I had no idea of the extent of it nor of the gargantuan political weight of food manufacturing companies in making sure government regulating agencies do their bidding. (Not an unfamiliar state of affairs, unfortunately.)
Eating Animals also does a fine job in highlighting the personal stories of farmers, ordinary citizen observers, and a former U.S. government-employed veterinarian about their lives and the costs to them and their families for speaking out. These accounts lend considerable weight to the thrust of the documentary.
Apparently, industrial farming began to dominate food production in the 1970’s when corporations became a powerful force in food production. By that time, they had captured 99% of the market, after edging out independent farmers. How did they do it?
Partly by duping farmers into signing contracts that would keep them beholden for years (not informing them, of course, of how they would be housing thousands of animals under deplorable conditions, going into enormous debt to keep the whole operation going, and sickening them with the smells and state of the animals), and take away even their rights to protest. One disheartening strategy is labeled “tournament farming”, in which stats are kept as to which farmers produce the most for the least cost. “Winning” farmers get bonuses on the backs of “losing” farmers, and its forbidden for neighbors and friends to share information. (The underlying strategy, of course, being to prevent neighbors from banding together.)
Eating Animals is a commentary about another instance in which big corporations have bought off our Congressional representatives and regulatory agencies to do their bidding. There are now “Ag-Gag” rules that prevent anyone from filming or talking about the abuses that go on in the food industry. Taking a picture on a factory farm can be a felon.
This is a very even-handed account about the meat and dairy industry, being frank and illustrative without being preachy, and it shows how we all are complicit and will undoubtedly suffer the consequences further down the road.
On the upside, there are U.S. companies coming up with plant-based protein, and China has announced its aims to decrease meat consumption 50% in its country by the year 2030.
The unconscionable cost to animals and humans of a meat-based diet.
Grade: A By Donna R. Copeland