‘Eating Animals:’ Are we what we eat?
At the outset, the documentary feature Eating Animals (three out of four stars) initially appears to be an almost idyllic tribute to the hard work of today’s independent farmers, who are indeed a rare breed, and how they have managed to survive – against considerable obstacles – in the shadow of corporate-backed factory farms.
As the film progresses, however, it takes on a darker tone as it concentrates more on practices and trends in factory farming, some of which are taking place right here in North Carolina. Many consumers are oblivious to these practices and trends, in part because that information has been essentially suppressed. (If you’ve never heard the term “Ag-Gag,” the film explains it clearly.)
Eating Animals, adapted from Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2009 nonfiction best-seller by director Christopher Dillon Quinn, is narrated in quietly forceful fashion by Natalie Portman, billed alongside Foer and Quinn as a producer.
It’s a film with a distinct point of view, and although some viewers may find Eating Animals alarmist in tone, the stance it takes – augmented by footage that is frequently disturbing – is persuasively rendered. In an effort to make things cheaper, faster, and more profitable, it appears that some lines have been crossed, particularly with regard to the mistreatment of animals. In some cases, they’ve been genetically engineered to such an extent that they’ve become mutations.
Among those profiled are farmers, experts (including no less than Temple Grandin), and whistle-blowers – some of whom have criticized the regulations currently in place by the U.S. Department of Agriculture – often at the risk of their own livelihoods.
The issues and flags raised by the film don’t just apply to farmers but ultimately to consumers, and the potential consequences to them (i.e. us), not just domestically but throughout the world.
Eating Animals tackles a valid, worthy subject and, to some extent, leaves the rest up to the viewer. If the film’s only intent was to inform, it certainly succeeds. Whether it affects sweeping change – or any change — remains to be seen, but it’s not for lack of effort on the part of the filmmakers.
What we eat is our own individual decision, but how can that decision be informed if we don’t have all the available data at our disposal? Eating Animals wants us to ponder, and digest, the information it serves up – and it’s not exactly appetizing.
Eating Animals opens July 27 at Aperture Cinema.
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. © 2018, Mark Burger.