I’m increasingly troubled by our treatment of the farm animals that eventually make it to our tabletops. I say “our treatment” because, even though I’m not a farmer, I eat animals and therefore contribute to perpetuation of whatever system delivers them to me. Have you heard of CAFOs—Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations? Click for the CAFO Wikipedia article. You might call it factory farming or industrial farming. Are these animals treated cruelly? I realize that small farms aren’t necessarily more humane. Click for an example of alleged cruelty to chickens in a CAFO.
I rarely publish guest posts. Here’s one from Beth Kelly, a graduate of DePaul University and a freelance writer and blogger. She is a passionate environmental and animal rights activist, as well as an active triathlete. You can reach her on Twitter @bkelly_88. (I don’t know Beth personally; this is what she shared via email.)
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Documentaries That Challenge the Meat You Eat
By now it’s fairly common knowledge that there are some major flaws in the average American diet. Obesity claims nearly 35% of all American adults and nearly 18% of all children, and these numbers are only increasing. Those are some frightening figures about the general state of our collective health. Undoubtedly, the situation is a complicated one, involving the government as much as it does corporations and individual consumers. With the Paleo lifestyle, eating high-quality meat is of utmost importance. And with factory farming more or less institutionalized in America, finding safe, healthy meat products can sometimes be a challenge. Awareness is the first step however, and the more you know about where your meat comes from the better you will feel about making other healthier choices. Documentaries are a great source of inspiration, and are also useful for spreading information to interested family members and friends. Read on for five of my own personal favorites!
Documentary film’s answer to Upton Sinclair’s famous expose The Jungle, Food Inc. challenged everything we thought we knew about what’s in our fridge. The film looked at many different aspects of American food production and educated millions of Americans to facts they never even thought about; like the fact that a majority of meat sold in supermarkets only comes from four giant companies. It not only discussed the monopolistic business structure but also the methods used to create such cheap products, often at the expense of farmers and the animals.
Taking aim at one of those four companies, Perdue, was chicken farm owner Craig Watts. In this documentary from DirecTV’s Fusion Network, the whistleblower gets to discuss why he called Perdue out and what happens after. After he spoke out against the inhumane treatment of chickens and unfair business practices Perdue sent twenty six inspectors to his farm in the following two months as well as a few visits from government officials, no doubt looking for any excuse to shut him down. It’s an eye opening look at what has happened to the much celebrated American farmer.
The product of a successful IndieGogo campaign, this documentary from Geri Atos shines a light not only on animal treatment in factory farms but also what it’s doing to our environment. It shatters the illusion so many have of those “happy cows” and the family farm many assume their food comes from. It not only shows the cramped, dirty, and unsanitary conditions farm animals are kept in but it also shows us how these farms are having a massive impact on the environment (methane emissions from cows comprise 10% of total methane emissions, the same amount as coal).
Created by Mercy for Animals, this 12 minute video looks to shock you into understanding. There’s no hand holding here, they show you the horrific abuse and injustice animals at factory farms are subjected to on a regular basis. Beyond that, the filmmakers embarked on a nationwide tour, hosting screenings and open panels to discuss the state of the American agricultural system. Obviously the push here is to get viewers to give up on eating meat altogether, but aside from that bias, it poses some serious questions to the viewer about what price our food really comes at.
There is a big push towards eating “local” recently, making information easier to find than in past years. It’s up to you to do your research, and identify meat products that are sourced from local, independent farms. In the end, it’s worth it to be a conscious carnivore!