Book your tickets now: while it may not be one of the most relaxing or comfortable times you’ll ever spend at the cinema, it will certainly be among the most challenging, vital and informative.
New American documentary Eating Animals will arrive in UK on June 6, and will hopefully prove as effective here as in the States at opening people’s eyes to the damage our addiction to meat is doing to the environment.
Based on the book by Jonathan Safran Foer, published in the UK in 2010, the film is narrated and co-produced by the actress Natalie Portman and traces the last 40 years of US agricultural production, from traditional small-scale farms that used to feed America to the huge factory farms that now dominate.
Taking a long hard look at modern industrialised farming practices, it explores the move from local food production to a nationwide, super-sized process, one that has stamped itself on the countryside, to the detriment of the environment, animal welfare, human health and the economy.
“Our system of creating food [has] been put into this capitalist, corporate kind of frame,” Portman, a vegan, has said. “I think it’s really upsetting when you see the impact on human health, from so many different aspects – [from] the environmental aspect…to the consumption of the product.”
The film offers a sober insight into what happens to food production when big agribusiness and multinational companies get involved. In North Carolina, for example, thousands of pigs are kept in vast metal sheds in cramped, unsanitary conditions. Their waste pools in huge lagoons, which poor weather then causes to overflow, contaminating the area’s waterways.
It is a timely reminder too, in the run-up to a possible Brexit, of the practices this country might be expected to adopt in order to sign a trade deal with the US.
MFMers will already be well versed in the issues involved from a succession of news stories and official reports over the years. On the economic impact, for example, a report in 2011 revealed that nitrogen pollution from livestock farming costs the EU £280 billion a year.
In terms of agricultural land being used not to grow crops for humans but feed for livestock, a WWF report found that the loss of two-thirds of global biodiversity is down to fields being given over to growing feed crops. And the Eat-Lancet Commission said that heavy meat-eating countries, such as the UK and US, should cut their consumption of the most environmentally destructive meats – beef and lamb – by 80 per cent.
It all serves to underline one simple message: there are no downsides to eating less meat. And cutting back on your consumption for just one day a week can make a world of difference.
Click here to watch the trailer and learn more about the film.