When the vague thought comes to our mind about how we get our meat, there’s likely an image of a big open farm with animals popping up in our head. Also, it’s arguable that when people think about farming, they associate it with years gone by, and view it as an occupation of the past. Eating Animals not only elaborates on this theory of ‘old school’ farming becoming less prevalent in society, but it also bursts the bubble on how damaging this is to the food we consume on a daily basis.
Based on the book by Jonathan Safran Foer of the same name, Eating Animals focuses on a select few individuals who are either one of the remaining traditional farmers in America fighting against the new factory farms, and also people who were once a part of the factory farm business, only to later rebel against the corporate system due to their inhumane treatment of animals.
A lot of documentaries that take on topics like this can often have aggressive approaches in terms of how they convey their message. However, one thing director Christopher Dillon Quinn has done very well is ease audiences into the story. Revolting (and unfortunately accurate) images and videos don’t appear on-screen immediately. The film begins by comparing factory farm locations with ‘old school’ farming. We see rundown fields alongside a big white building in one shot, and the next shot is a small home with a nice healthy field. Immediately, the differences are on display.
We then move onto one of our main characters throughout the documentary, Frank Reese, owner of Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch. Frank shows books that detail how to grow birds the traditional way, while we see his turkeys and chickens roaming around freely. Frank is also shown working hard, removing new birds from their eggs, and he also sheds some light on how farmers used to come together to help one another produce the best possible product. A tradition that no longer exists. All of this shines a positive light on Frank’s process and makes the eventual change of tone all the more heartbreaking.
As the transition into detailing the terrible effects of factory farming begins, the film intelligently incorporates the origin story of Colonel Sanders and KFC. Alongside rare images and footage of Sanders interviews, audiences learn about how he sold his chicken business because of overwhelming demand from customers. The type of demand that has led companies to look for cheaper, quicker, and less than ideal ways of getting meat.
All of these stories and shots that make up the early part of Eating Animals sets up the heartbreaking footage we come to see later on. Videos that look like they are from a mobile phone show horrible events such as people hitting pigs with objects, forklifts pushing and lifting cows in filthy conditions, and also an image of a broken down cow to support a story of a cow being raped to death by bulls in a factory. The visuals are disturbing enough, but to find out these very animals were the source of meat that fed children at schools is startling.
The footage and facts are spread out nicely across the documentary. The editing is also crisp as they piece together Frank and the various other central characters stories together well. Natalie Portman’s name and narration lend a strong presence to Eating Animals, as a big star like Natalie always helps with making the general public pay more attention to a subject such as this one.
While the film does do a good job of building up to more intense images and stories, there are moments where you find yourself losing interest. Certain scenes go on for too long, and we’re left waiting for more important information. So a shorter runtime may have benefited the end product.
Overall, Christopher Dillon Quinn has made a compelling documentary, one that opens our eyes to what so many people are consuming on a daily basis. And instead of forcing an opinion or action upon you, Eating Animals gives you an insight into what is going on, and hopefully, by learning about these facts, you’ll have second thoughts about what you support and put in your body.
Dir: Christopher Dillon Quinn
Prd: Natalie Portman, Jonathan Safran Foer, Christopher Dillon Quinn
DOP: W. Mott Hupfel III
Eating Animalswill be released on the 7th of June.