Review by Liora Israelsohn
Pictures by Pixabay
Eating Animals, based on the autobiographical novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, explores how the American farming system has changed over the past 50 years.
Directed by Christopher Quinn and narrated by Natalie Portman, the film lets the people tell the story.
Rather than a replica of Foer’s first person account, the film acts as a companion to the novel. It’s made clear that Quinn spent a significant amount of time creating intimate relationships with the both traditional and industrial farmers, and it is these characters who drive the story. The film delves into the great toll the job takes on the personal lives and emotional and moral stability of these farmers.
Unlike many animal-advocacy or pro-vegan documentaries, Eating Animals was not created simply to tug on the heart strings, or invoke guilt. It doesn’t focus all of its screen time on difficult-to-watch images of animals being murdered (though there are a few), but also deeply explores the environmental and personal health factors associated with the consumption of animal products.
The brutal undercover footage of animals in factory farms is sparse but economical. The selected footage reveals perfect, unadulterated moments that stick in your mind, without burying the lead of the overall story. They’re presented more as a political issue, questioning the industry, than a moral issue that blames consumers.
The narration is tasteful and understated, delivered steadily by Natalie Portman, a long-term vegan. Its inserted only occasionally, to deliver larger chunks of information in quick places, and is pleasantly succinct and easy to understand.
Author of Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer, is an American novelist and advocate for vegetarianism. He is best known for his novels Everything Illuminated (2002, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2005) and his non-fiction work Eating Animals (2009). His most recent novel, Here I Am, was published in 2016. He teaches creative writing at New York University.
The film attempts to takes a step backwards in the discussion of animal product consumption. It focuses on undoing all the work, and hundreds of millions of dollars, that corporations spend to divorce the public from where our food comes from. And it does just that; urging viewers to question how we can support a failing system where few people are making money, animals are suffering, and ultimately everyone loses.
Eating animals is not trying to make you go vegan. It’s not pointing fingers at consumers, but rather exposing the disturbing details of the current food industry and animal agriculture. It blames the bigger man, the huge agricultural conglomerates, for forcing our society into an unhealthy way of living. Simultaneously, it honours the whistle-blowers who have dedicated themselves to exposing the inhumanity and health issues associated with factory farming.
Eating animals is a representation of how our society has lost touch with basic humanity, in favour of affordability and convenience.