While there have certainly been previous documentaries about the various foods we consume in mass quantities as Americans, Eating Animals is perhaps the most comprehensive on the subject of factory farming and how it is not just about the abhorrent treatment of animals, but that the byproducts of such food production is destroying a way of life and setting the stage for everything from a massive disease outbreak to global warming. This is an issue that more traditional animal farmers and anti-corporation liberals see eye to eye on, and they are being shoved aside by lobbyists representing some of the largest companies on the planet.
Director Christopher Dillon Quinn is likely best known for his landmark 2006 doc God Grew Tired of Us (about the Lost Boys of the Sudan), which had the unique distinction of winning both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival.
By putting a human face on a much bigger issue, Quinn (working from the book by Jonathan Safran Foer) brings an immediacy to 40 years of unsafe practices that result in us putting food in our bodies that are so rarely screened for anything harmful that it’s terrifying. The film in no way encourages people to become vegetarians or vegans, but it does ask audiences to not be so complicit and push to have practices—hidden from view and have rarely been exposed except by hidden cameras—opened up for inspection and public scrutiny.
Narrated by Natalie Portman (who is also a producer on the movie), Eating Animals is quite shocking, often scary and will likely lead your mind down a path that forces you to think about meals you’ve eaten recently and consider how often certain food has made you feel like garbage in the aftermath. The propaganda machine from the meat-using industries is also given a close look here, and it borders on outright sinister.
Nearly as powerful as the landmark slaughterhouse doc short Blood of the Beasts, Eating Animals, at times, enters into the surreal, especially when cameras are allowed to enter the lives of some of the farmers who either refused to switch over to factor farming and were nearly driven out of business, or others who did sign up for the program and were forced into a lifestyle of production they simply couldn’t afford to continue financially but also could never get out of due to mounting debts.
One of the reasons the film is so effective is that it does actually offer solutions to the current issues related to food production practices. A solid case is made for a type of ethical farming that still allows people to eat the meat they want without the health risks associated with factory farming. Eating Animals is less about delivering a message than making a case, and it’s unlikely your relationship with food will be unchanged after seeing this harrowing work.
The film opens today exclusively at the Music Box Theatre. Director Christopher Dillon Quinn will take part in an audience Q&A on Sunday, July 15 after the 4:45pm, with yours truly moderating.
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