“The meat industry has done a really good job of disconnecting [the idea of] eating meat from killing animals. If the consuming public saw what [confinement agriculture] really looks like, they would stop eating it.”
This is a quote from Bill Niman, whose story is depicted in the new documentary Eating Animals. This must-see film by Christopher Dillon Quinn, based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s book by the same name, examines the debilitating global, moral and health consequences of factory farming in one-and-a-half hours of gruesome realities and candid interviews.
To provide some insight into the key issues raised in the film, I am providing the following “FAQs on Veganism” for the veg-curious, veg-haters and veg-lovers across our community. This revolutionary documentary is made for all three.
1. “What’s wrong with eating meat?”
It’s not eating meat that’s the problem per se. Rather, it’s the inhumane ways animals are treated before they become meat.
Here’s an inside look at meat-production companies: baby pigs being thrown around by farmers while crying and surrounded by their dead parents; a cow being run over by a bulldozer inside of a dark factory-farm building as it calls out for help.
There are too many more disturbing images of what really goes on inside factory farms that I won’t share here, images that were so disturbing that several times throughout the film, I had to pause and take a breath. I am not a crier, but I couldn’t control the tears flooding my eyes throughout the hour-and-a-half I spent witnessing the terrifying realities that go into our food.
2. “I heard that some meat is infused with antibiotics; is this true?”
The FDA has reported that 80 percent of US antibiotics are now used in animal agriculture. According to the CDC, over 23,000 people die each year in the US as a result of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
“The use of antibiotics is the single most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance around the world. Antibiotics are commonly used in food animals to…promote the growth of food-producing animals. The use of antibiotics for promoting growth is not necessary, and the practice should be phased out.” This was published in a report five years ago.
As Dillon Quinn writes and Natalie Portman narrates, “I finally learned why drugs are so essential to factory farming. Healthy chickens don’t need drugs. Sick, mutated ones do.”
3. “Why do you give up all animal products? Milk and cheese don’t hurt animals.”
Here’s the truth about milk, that delicious drink everyone assumes is healthy and necessary for a proper diet: Dairy cows are artificially inseminated and bred to maximize milk production (which leads to bleeding and infected udders). After going through pregnancy and giving birth, their newborn baby calves are ripped from their mothers within moments so that the milk can end up in a plastic carton on your grocery store shelf.
4. “How can this be going on without the public’s awareness?”
Several moments throughout the documentary showed the abysmal fear that factory-farm workers and owners have of cameras. They put up sign after sign, install security system after security system—all to prevent the outside world from realizing they are nothing more than cruel slaughterhouses for innocent creatures.
5. “Why isn’t our government stopping this?”
When it comes to the government’s role in all of this, Portman sums it up pretty well as she narrates, “You were established by Abraham Lincoln who called you The People’s Department. But now your job is to protect the industry from increasing public fears about farm animal abuse. You ignore sound science and side with meat companies. You silence the whistleblowers who do the job you were created to do. You are known as the USDA.”
6. “Is there any silver lining here?”
Yes. The future is coming.
The film does an exceptional job of sharing stories from all sides of this issue—from factory farmers who dread waking up each morning, to government veterinarians who have witnessed corruption at the highest levels, to independent farmers who are trying to farm the “right” way. In the end, there is only one category of players in this saga who have a sustainable solution.
These are the folks who are making our favorite foods without meat. The film interviews founders of several companies who are dedicated to finding plant-based substitutes for meat.
Ethan Brown, founder and CEO of Beyond Meat, a plant-based meat substitute company, says, “I was taken by how similar animals in the barn and animals in our home were. I had trouble making the distinction between the two of them, in terms of which ones you would treat as a pet, and which ones you would take to slaughter.”
Josh Tetrick, founder and CEO of Just, another plant-based food company, explains, “Electricity was once known as the gas-light substitute. When [vegan meat products] can become the affordable thing, [they will] no longer be known as a substitute.”
Also, although not mentioned in the documentary, there’s this thing called “Clean Meat” which is on the rise. Read about it here.
7. “What can I do?”
According to the Mishnah (Sanhedrin 4:5), “Whoever destroys one life, it is as if he destroyed a whole world.” In contrast, whoever saves a life, it is as if he saves a whole world.
You can start by saving the world of one animal. And you can do it all from the comfort of your own wallet: Research companies before you buy from them. Eat less meat. Eat more vegetables. Drink more almond milk.
Eating Animals will be released by Sundance Selects on June 15 and premieres in DC at the Landmark E Street Cinema and Landmark Bethesda Row on June 22. Find more information about the film and other resources on its website.