Saturday, March 12, 2011

Movie Review: Earthlings

Em & Me at Roo!
I first watch Earthlings about a year ago with my friend Em, a like-minded flexetarian (who is now totally veg). Em was my food documentary companion and liked learning about and eating food almost as much as me. She also turned out to be the perfect Bonnaroo buddy! So you can imagine my distress when she left me for the even colder climate of Ottawa!
James helping w/ Blue Potato + Leek Soup
Luckily, James loves documentaries, too. Sometimes, they're the only movies we can actually agree on, so we end up watching a lot of them and I end up watching a few I've already seen. I like the refresher and the act of sharing information about something you care about with someone you care about. James' first food documentary was Food Inc. That was a few months ago and he went veg for a 30-day trial promptly after the images of factory farming. He cracked and had a burger after about a month, which kinda grossed him out even though it was free-range and organic, and hasn't gone back to the beef (or turkey or chicken for that matter) since. (YAY!) Once I knew this wasn't just a passing phase, I suggested we watch Earthlings and we added it to the Netflix queue. My appetite for information is a big part of what keeps me veg and I like that I can cook/eat vegetarian with James and know that he won't be missing anything he would want if he were cooking for himself.
James has even gotten a little evangelical about his new-found vegetarianism and has started spreading the word of animal compassion to his circle of friends. One actually took him up on his offer to come over for dinner the one night last week and watch Earthlings with us! I don't think he had any idea what he was in for, but he took it all in stride and I don't think he's eaten meat since. I made tortilla soup and an apple bake using my brand-new Vita-mix (more on that soon!), and after we devoured dinner and dessert, we watched the documentary from beginning to end, cringing at all the horrific things we do to animals along the way.
Earthlings is narrated by Academy Award nominee Joaquin Phoenix, who shares with us the harsh realities of man's five dependencies on animals. Food is an obvious one of them. The other four are clothing (leather and fur), companionship (cats and dogs), entertainment (zoos and circuses), and scientific experimentation. It's a film we should all watch at least once as it serves as a powerful reminder of the routine abuses of animals. 
The images of factory farming and dolphin slaughtering are disturbing and not for those with weak stomachs. The gas chambers used to euthanize unwanted cats and the skinning of live animals for their fur are shocking. But perhaps most troubling images were those of the people performing the morbid tasks of abusing animals for no other point than entertainment. I've known about the debeaking of chicks and the castration, tail-docking and ear-clipping of pigs for a while and those images are part of what turned me veg, but after seeing what happens behind the scenes at circuses, I can unequivocally say that I will never, under any circumstance, go to a circus ever again. If you care at all about where your food or clothing comes from, please consider spending the 95 minutes to watch this film. What you witness will leave a lasting impression... one that I hope you will appreciate!