Every now and then I'll watch a film that strikes a cord. Some people would call it a light bulb moment, you know, it's when you are shaken from your comfortable habits and you think is this really me, do I really believe in this, does it support who I want to be?
Last week I watched not only one but two films that shook me in this way. They have a few things in common: both nominated for an Academy Award, both documentaries and both touching on issues of consumption, food and ethics in humanity's relationship to animals.
The Cove directed by Louie Psihoyos is a thrilling work. Psihoyos and his team travel to a small and idyllic looking town in Japan to uncover a fiercely guarded secret of the horrible slaughter of dolphins that kills about 23,000 of the brilliant creatures a year. This issue is more complex than the mere fact that dolphins are so loved by most people all over the world. Richard O'Barry who brought Flipper to fame is now a driven activist in the plight to free captive dolphins who are being mistreated and ultimately to release all captive dolphins. The film tells his story and is full of suspense as the film team tries to capture this practice on film so that it can be uncovered and ultimately stopped for good.
view trailer here
Not only was the slaughter and sale of dolphins in this film compelling but it also presented some general information about fishing, whale hunting and the toxin levels in the seafood chain that are so important for everyone to consider. Including that at the rate that the world is fishing and eating seafood in 40 years our oceans will be depleted. This fact alone helped my resolve in no longer eating seafood. I can not justify it. I love salmon, I love many seafood dishes but I can survive without eating fish.
Food Inc. directed by Robert Kenner lifts the veil on the industry of food in the United States. There are slight differences in food production and policies in Canada but as an overview of the cultural and political red tape that effects how Americans eat and consider food I think Canadians culture is similar. Factory farms and big business control almost all of the food production in the United States. I can not stress enough how important it is for every North American to see this film. You may think you know where your food is coming from...but do you really? Do you know the person who grows it? What their practices are, how the meat on your table tonight was processed? Who processed it? You'll find many answers to these questions in this film and you'll also find harsh realities accompanied by real steps you can take to change them. This video is the opening 3 minutes of the film.
After watching this one I have some serious reservations about eating animals. Deep in my core I feel that if I can and want to eat an animal I should be able to kill it myself and process it myself and do it in a manner that is respectful and reverent. And the honest truth is that I can't. I feel that I could learn to if it was a matter of survival but what does that leave in the meantime? A guilty meat eater. And more and more I can't resign myself to that. I purchase organic meat but how can I be assured that the animals are being treated the way I believe they should be? The ethics of whether humans should eat animals is not one that I grapple with. I do feel that we have evolved eating meat and that as long as the raising and killing of animals is done with gratitude and respect we can eat them. But factory farms and massive, dangerous and exploitative processing plants are not grateful or respectful of the lives of cows, pigs and chickens being sacrificed for our consumption. These businesses only care about profit margins and bottom lines. I decide where to put my dollars and they are not going towards the perpetuation of this mentality of cruelty. So my commitment is to search out local farmers raising animals ethically and ask them about the slaughter and process of their animals and if I can find ones that I feel meet the standards that I have set for myself and Ky (Dave is already a vegetarian) then I will purchase meat directly from them and invest in a deep freeze. If that is not a possibility I will refrain from eating meat and move into the waters of balancing our way through eating plants only. This post is very wordy so I thank you for making it this far. I hope that every family and individual will see these movies and truly put their money where their ethics are. Demand to buy meat products that are produced with the least amount of suffering for animals possible. We can live in a world that respects all the creatures of nature and is grateful for the food that gives us life.