Earthlings: An Animal Rights Documentary That Preaches To The Choir, But Fails To Advance The Cause [Guest Blogger] 27

Posted by adam.harrell on July 13, 2009

When I first heard about the documentary Earthlings, I have to admit, I immediately assumed the worse. The fact that Joaquin Phoenix is on the cover and Moby provided the musical score brought to mind images of Pamela Anderson screaming meat is murder. I expected a greatest hits film of animal suffering with little subtlety and a complete lack of nuance. Unfortunately, that’s mostly what this film offers.

Since this is a food blog, I’ll naturally focus on the aspects of the film that relate to food production. The core flaw of this film is that Earthlings too often presents a flawed practice as the only possible alternative. They take the classic arguments of “Animal Liberation” and remove all the subtlety. They start the film by equating modern day human society with Nazis because of our treatment of animals. Instead of Jews, it’s Animals that we kill needlessly in a holocaust of massive proportions. The idea being that like the Nazis, human society has systematically built a world in which animals are tortured and eliminated because of their identity as the other.

The film takes this same approach to food production. It implies that if we want to eat meat, then animals will be treated cruelly in factory farms. That there is no other way. It’s an all or nothing approach, that while appealing to PETA members, won’t change the way most people relate to their food. It may guilt trip a few people into becoming vegetarians, but for the rest of us they offer no answers to the problem of large scale animal suffering.

I agree wholeheartedly that practices such as “tail docking” and the countless other atrocities that take place on factory farms need to stop, but the greater question is how can we truly reduce the overall level of animal suffering incurred by our food system. And, that’s where I think this documentary fails. By presenting the problem from the urban, narrow viewpoint of animal rights activists, they’re ignoring too many aspects of man’s complex relationship with animals.

The film features a quote from Jeremy Bentham, the philosophical godfather of animal rights, who said the single most important question is not “Can they reason?” nor “Can they talk?”, but rather “Can they suffer?” This argument is often seen as the cornerstone of the animal rights philosophy. The irony of this quote is that Jeremy Bentham actually saw nothing wrong with eating meat. He ate meat once per day. But, he lived by the code that man should seek to give farm animals a decent life, and strive to offer the animal a death that was less painful than what would have awaited them in the natural world.

Animal suffering is perhaps one of the most complex ethical questions of the 21st century and it should be treated accordingly. It doesn’t deserve to be simplified and robbed of all nuance. To pretend that going Vegan will eliminate the animal suffering caused by our modern society is ridiculous. It’s the balm of self-righteousness. Every acre of soy that is planted requires the death of hundreds of small rodents. Field mice are shredded and baby deer are crushed underneath advancing tractors. Our end goal as a society shouldn’t be to eliminate the consumption of animal meat (leather is a byproduct of meat processing here in the states, not a separate industry as shown in the film’s clips from India), but instead we should to try and reduce the net amount of animal suffering that is incurred by our food production.

A pig who lives happily rooting in the woods until he’s killed at the hands of his farmer is most likely happier than one who dies in the wild at the hands of a bear. Man’s relationship with domesticated animals isn’t as one sided as it’s presented in this film. Farm animals have prospered by partnering with man. Chickens are more numerous than any other bird in the world. They are arguably the most successful species of their kind. However, their success shouldn’t doom them to live a life of squalor in tiny cages. Chickens deserve to roam, peck and kill bugs. Chickens should live their lives as chickens. Fortunately more and more farms are taking this approach, and realizing that the end product is better as a result. Grass-fed beef and pasture-raised poultry products are better for us health-wise than their corn fed brethren (higher levels of good fats/lower levels of bad fats), and have the added benefit of increasing the quality of life for the animal.

The real question about these these farming practices is, can they be adopted on a massive scale? Right now it’s a luxury that I can drive to Stockbridge to pick out my chickens, or buy a heritage turkey straight off the farm. However, the simple fact that I have to buy an entire 1/2 of a grass fed cow directly from a farmer (300 lbs at a time), instead of just picking up steaks at the super market, shows how far our food system really has to go. Ethical food has yet to move into the mainstream. And till it does we need to shine light on the worst aspects of our food system.

Since the best way to combat animal cruelty is to shine a light on the practices, this film does accomplish some of it’s goals. But, I’m left with the feeling that Earthlings was in the end a wasted opportunity.I don’t want to call it vegan propaganda, as the creators obviously had good intentions, but I feel that it could have been so much more than it was. Instead of taking the opportunity to create a film that looked at the complex relationship that human’s have with animals, with the intent of ending needless animal suffering, they decided instead to make the equivalent of a snuff film in the hopes of shocking people to adapt to their belief system. Peter Singer’s philosophy deserves to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same of this film.

P.S. — If you’re looking to buy products from farms that treat their animals ethically, there are two approaches: Number one, meet your farmer and connect with your food. Visit their operations and see what really takes place during processing (Localharvest.org is a great place to start). Number two, seek out products labeled “American Humane Certified.” This American Humane Society certification ensures that animals are treated ethically and humanely on the farm.

About The Author

This guest post was written by Adam Harrell, a local foodie and interactive marketer. You can find him at www.neboweb.com/blog/

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  • Chris

    I say bring back the foodie buddha and reserve this post for moviebuddha.com, the great new website featuring biting movie reviews and scrumptious Hollywood gossip.

  • Taylor

    I refer the author to this piece by Gaverick Matheny, which refutes the sort of argument he makes about animal suffering and death:
    http://homepage.uab.edu/nnobis/papers/least-harm.pdf

  • Kelly

    Fantastic review! Well written.
    Great to see somebody using some logic instead of pure emotion.
    You should definitely post this on IMDB, as it seems only vegans have posted reviews there.

  • Caleb

    While I appreciate a different stance I must tell you there are two very different sides in the Vegan community and has become highly debated – the welfare vs abolition debate. You are advocating welfare, because you don’t agree with abolition – the film and its makers and many who watch it agree with abolition. Animals are not here to eat, wear, etc, period. If you are fine eating a humanely raised pig then why not a humanely raised dog? Dog meat is redily available in China, yet most americans think that is “sick”.

    We don’t need animals for our survival so why eat, wear them, etc – that is the abolitionist approach.

    Since you obviously don’t agree with that then I would recommned watching Food Inc, it never talks about not eating meat, just eating “happy” meat. The ethical dilemma is not weather we should treat them well before we eat them, it is “should we be eating them?” and if that is a yes then what animals are ok to eat and what animals are off limits?

    Also, the so called free range chicken and grass fed cattle and all of that fluff, it is true in SOME scenarios they have somewhat more of a normal life but it is still ended short and not exactly natural and I think you are missing the larger issue. All of these “happy” animals still end up a normal slaughterhouse where all the same horrific things occur.

    • http://www.foodiebuddha.com foodiebuddha

      I think adam makes some good points

  • Adam Harrell

    I agree that the question is mainly “Should we eat animals?”—humans are biologically omnivores. This means that we’re designed to eat both plants and animals. A fully vegan diet is unsustainable without supplements (vitamin b12, D and A). That’s why traditional vegetarian diets were supplemented with large amounts of both eggs and dairy, or they were indirectly supplemented with insect protein during grain processing. A truly vegan diet isn’t what humans were designed for. Just as cats (natural carnivores) would starve on a diet of rice and potatoes, humans cannot survive on the limits of vegan diets. Sadly all we have to do is look at cases of infant deaths caused by vegan diets (Crown Shakur here in ATL). But, this doesn’t mean a vegan diet is bad. It is a diet that a century ago would’ve been impossible, but is now (with supplements) an option many people choose to take. We can go against our evolutionary biology and sustain ourselves on a diet that would’ve killed our ancestors.

    As far as the question of why a pig, and not a dog. That’s mainly a cultural issue. People are innately gifted with the unique ability to empathize. To put themselves in the shoes of the other. This is a cornerstone of human society. It also means that we are able to empathize with the animals we eat, and this is both a good and bad thing. The bad aspect is it encourages people to disassociate themselves from the animals they feed on. They make them abstract instead of personal. The good aspect is that it allows us to understand the horror inflicted on other animals/beings when it is presented to us.

    The core reason the pig is ok to eat is because we think of it in the abstract. It’s not a companion animal, it’s bacon. The dog is a companion animal in our society and most people are reluctant to eat their companions. In other cultures certain breeds of dogs are raised specifically for meat. They’re not companion animals. They’re food. The general rule of thumb for man throughout history is an animal is either a companion, or food. Cattle ranchers wouldn’t eat their horse for the same reason that most people wouldn’t eat their dogs.

    The real point of disagreement between our views is the idea that an animal’s natural death is somehow more noble than death at the hands of a farmer. The natural world is a brutal place, and the death of a baby pig in the wild by coyotes is a more violent, painful prolonged affair than a death administered by a skilled hand. My personal view on the issue is that an animal raised for food should be raised in a natural environment and killed in a manner that is more humane that what it would face in the wild.

    But, I also understand that this a view that is influenced by the unique circumstances of my upbringing (summers spent on a farm, a belief that there is cultural knowledge that is taught through food etc). Other people have different views of the natural world that may not exactly align with mine, and that’s ok. What we eat is one of the most personal decisions we make. And while arguing tends only to re-enforce and cement the beliefs you already have, it can also expose you to different viewpoints if you’re willing to listen and understand the other perspective.

    One final note, a chicken that’s pasture-raised (vs free-range), or a cow that’s grass-fed doesn’t necessarily have to end up in an industrial slaughterhouse (and not all slaughter houses are equally brutalistic). It all depends on where you source them. I’ve picked up chickens from farms where they’re slaughtered on location in the view of the customers. I’ve also got half a cow in my freezer from my family farm in NC that was killed by my uncle. The reason I prefer food in this manner is I know what the animals went through.

  • Caleb

    Adam – You do have some points but your facts on vegan diets is just false. Vitamin A? Never heard that one, I get plenty. B12 is ALWAYS brought up, Vitamin D I get in fortified foods but most from the sun(just as omnivores do). You can get B12 in a vegan diet naturally but nothign is a guarantee – actually a hundred years ago it would have been easier because the soil quality was that much better and contained B12, b12 in soil, b12 in plants. B12 in meat is not guaranteed thing either, it all depends on the bacteria in the animal and since processing, feed and other things today are out of wack it’s not a given. That is why some ominvores still suffer from B12 defecienty so if you are saying Vegans need to take b12 then omnivores should as well. I have been a vegan for 3 years with no supplements and get my full spectrum blood work done every year and everything is always in normal range.

    I really don’t want to get into the cultural differences but you are right on why some people eat dogs and some pigs – you are spot on, I am just saying I beleive that is wrong. Just like religion influences what some people eat, we should not need to look to upbringing, cultures, religion to tell us what to do. Ethics are ethics and we need to look a the big picture if animals are on earth and you feel some are ok to eat then why not all of them? I understand why you choose pigs, cows, etc but why? Less intelligence – errr that’s a slippery slope there. Earthlings touts this as “speicism” – but I am assuming you have already watched the movie so you would know this.

    As far as upbringing, I was raised on 100 acres in rurual Maine, we had chickens, pigs, horses, etc. I was taught to hunt when I was 14, although something never felt right I still did it and never thought twice about it well into my 20s. I didnt become a vegan till my late 20s so blaming choices one is “forced” to make today on upbringing is false. It is really just in how a person feels and how they evaluate their diet and lifestyle. I think EVERYONE needs to be armed with all the FACTS and then they can make their own choice, many, many people will continue to eat animals but at least they are not ignorant to what they are doing.

    A baby pig in the wild is a natural process. Yes it might be scared and it might be what you consider violent but it had life as it was meant to be up to that point. A skilled hand? Again you might be talking about a small time farmer who does his own slaughters, this is so far from the norm though that it really should not even be considered. Plus are they letting the pig bleed out still? How are they imposing death, and they snapping its neck? Nothing is really natural about that from human hands. I can’t say as I have ever heard of a coyote and baby pig in the wild either but I figured I would bite at the comparison.

    I don’t want to come of as brash but you have to understand as a vegan I make up roughly 1% of the countries population. I have heard all these arguements and questions so many times it really gets frustrating. I didnt wake up one day and become vegan, it too years and years of research and looking at studies, reading books and even reading arguements to being vegan. You have chosen to eat animals and that is your choice, you are trying to do so in a manner that is less impactful which is good(I was doing that before I went vegan). I just have a different view on animals at this point and after these years and they should do what I feel they are here for, whatever the hell they want without us intervening.

    I understand humans are omnivores, the two extremes being carnivore and vegan. How long do you think a human could live on a carnivorous diet? How long on a vegan diet, people are drastically improving there health on a vegan diet. Triatheletes are performing and recovered at amazing levels on plant based diet. Yes we have canines but they are measly and rounded, we couldn’t do anything with them in regards to real meat eating. The majority of our teeth are flat and blunt, similar to herbivores. I am not argueing that we are 100% designed to be vegans but it’s highly more likely then us being carnivores.

  • Adam Harrell

    Hey Caleb,

    I understand your points, and it’s great that you’ve been able to adopt the vegan diet in a manner that’s good for your health. A carefully balanced vegan diet is no doubt healthy, and I agree with you that humans are designed to eat more plants and less meat. However, I feel that as a natural omnivore I should eat accordingly.

    I’m not a big fan of the slippery slope fallacy, so I’ll leave that one alone. The standard response would be to argue that specieism is a slippery slope (what next? bugs? plants have feelings too?). But, slippery slope arguments are tools of rhetoric. Not logic.

    Growing up on a farm I’m sure you know just how violent nature can be. The idea that any prey animal in the wild is going to have a peaceful death is a false one. The goal of any slaughter should be to minimize the pain incurred to the animal. And the goal of farming should be to give an animal as natural life as possible. To let the pig be a pig.

    We should also put as much care into killing the animal as we did into raising it. As you pointed out unfortunately modern industrialized food production doesn’t, and we’re left with some horrifying conditions that are not only bad for the animals, but also the environment and our health. People have said everyone would be a vegetarian if slaughter houses had glass walls. I’m not so sure, but I do know that their practices would change dramatically for the better.

    The reality is that you’ve done a lot of research and considered a lot of things before making your decision on how you want to eat, and how you feel humans relate to animals. I can see why you came to the decision you did.

    From what it sounds like we both went down the same path, but the only difference is the destinations where we ended up. I could never quite shake the feeling that specieism at it’s core asks us to recognize ourselves as animals (we’re all equal), but yet also asks us to treat our animal brethren in a non-animalistic way. This isn’t to say that makes specieism wrong; in fact some would argue that as human’s we have a greater responsibility (we are the ethical animal after all). But, that always struck me as reminiscent of the white man’s burden. A condescending approach that asserts agency over the animal, and undermines the core argument of equality of the species.

    In short, I see no problem with your approach to food. But, I also don’t think it’s right for me. One day down the road I may have an epiphany, and we may end up at the same destination. As for now I think our paths have diverged.

    Hats off though. The world we be a better place if more considered their relationship to both food, and animals as carefully as you have.

  • VeganHindu

    Hi,

    Interesting debate on whether humans were born ominvore. On this front, there is evidence to suggest that at some point in evolutionary history, humans made the transition from pure vegetarians to carnivore. This transition happened some 140,000 years ago, as humans evolved from other great apes. If you notice, most of the great apes today are vegetarian, except of course humans. In fact, evolutionary theories will say that several skills that humans possess are because he made the transition to kill animals for their meat. As an example, the opposing thumb, development of vocal chords, use of tools such as stone axes and stone spears, ability to think and plan a kill, ability to work as a team of 10-20 members to plan a large kill are skills acquired because of the transition. This led to evolutionary trends such as larger brain size, erect posture etc. Therefore, the very existence of humans as intelligent beings is due to the ability to kill for food.

    Around 10,000 years ago, as agriculture and vegetable farming took off, the hunter gatherer lifestyle evolved into settled community that ended up over many years into a system that over-produces food. With the over-production came a lifestyle that increased the amount of processed food, with farm products feeding farm animals and eventually farming as a way of producing meat. Now, the real vegetarian movement did not exist anywhere until Buddha’s introduction to the lifestyle known as the Ahimsa lifestyle. Even Hindus before Buddha were meat-consuming population. The world of vegeratian lifestyle is due to Buddha’s efforts at spreading animal life as a precious life that needs to be respected. So, the vegetarian lifestyle is not a natural thing for humans. So, there seems to be nothing strange that humans are omnivores. Should they continue to be? Probably not, since the over-production of food and our understanding of nutrition seems to suggest that a vegerarian lifestyle is sustainable. Beside animal cruelty, a vegan lifestyle places less environmental demands, since a pound of meat is known to take about 8-10 times the energy to produce compared to a pound of bread. At least on being good citizens of the earth, with a consideration for our resource intake, it makes sense to adopt a vegan lifestyle. Now that we have intelligence to make the choice, we should, for saving the earth.

  • Mark

    VeganHindu, “Therefore, the very existence of humans as intelligent beings is due to the ability to kill for food.” That is completely false. There are hundreds of smaller contributing factors that led to human evolution, and while scientists DO NOT understand what exactly caused human evolution, the idea that hunting is a main or sole contributing factor is an utter unsubstantiated untruth. I could easily tell you of a theory of humans evolving due to being prey, as they were. Humans are weak creatures, many wild animals easily killed humans in the wild. It’s just as plausible that humans evolved due to the need for methods to escape being eaten. In fact, scientists recently released a report stating that potatoes were a large contributing factor in human evolution, contrary to the largely hypothesised, but never actually proven, idea that meat helped us to evolve: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/6983330.stm?lsm
    “Even when you look at modern human hunter-gatherers, meat is a relatively small fraction of their diet. “, “To think that, two to four million years ago, a small-brained, awkwardly bipedal animal could efficiently acquire meat, even by scavenging, just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.”

    I’m not criticising you, i just wanted to correct that commonly cited untruth.

    To say that a vegan diet is unnatural is quite naive; before civilisation, many tribes worldwide had very little access to animals, or the necessary tools to kill animals in the wild, and as such lived on a diet of mainly fruits, plants etc.
    If after all these facts, people still see fit to justify their consumption of meat by referring to it as “natural”, and “necessary”, does that morally justify these actions at all? Of course not. Nature is, and always will be, an indifferent force wreaking terror and beauty alike. Rape, murder, incest: these are all perfectly natural acts for a human, but which modern society has risen above and decided are morally reprehensible and will be condemned wherever they exist. Various diseases throughout the ages, costing billions of human and inhuman lives, are also a work of nature. Good, bad, nature doesn’t give and damn and should play no role in trying to morally justify our actions in today’s modern society.

    When we get down to the basis of why humans eat meat, dairy and animal products in today’s modern society, it all comes down to the fact that “it tastes good.” Humans wreak murder and pain on an unimaginable scale to fulfill the trivial pleasure of taste. There is no other justification for eating animal products, and those that claim otherwise, I’m sorry, are uninformed.

    “Every acre of soy that is planted requires the death of hundreds of small rodents. Field mice are shredded and baby deer are crushed underneath advancing tractors”. As long as humans exist on earth, beings will die at our hands whether it be intentional or unintentional. Our race is far too expansive and destructive to escape that fate. Our role as ethical beings should be to try and reduce that suffering to an absolute minimum. Comparing the relatively minuscule number of wild creatures that die due to the farming of plants and cereals, to the animal industry itself, is ridiculous. Seeing as there is no need for us to consume animal products, and it is in fact a disaster for the environment, there can be no justification for deliberately causing pain and suffering on those animals.
    Without getting into a huge philosophical debate, I think most people could acknowledge that. If one is trying to single out hypocrisy in the vegan philosophy by pointing out that some small amount of wild animals indirectly die as a result of their actions, then surely the burden falls on the meat eater ten times harder. Not only do animals directly lead a miserable life of suffering for their desires, but wild animals also die on a mass scale due to the production of grain to feed those farm animals and the thousands of acres of deforestation that is constantly occurring to provide farming space for cereals and grazing space for those animals.
    So yes, even though animals do indirectly die as a result of farming practices to feed vegans, vegans are doing the most within their power to reduce suffering to a minimum. Organic farms exist all around the world in which pesticides aren’t used and animal deaths are minimised in the agricultural process; if moral treatment of animals eventually becomes an issue plant farmers must legally deal with, then far more progress could be made to make sure animal deaths are kept to a minimum.

    After all the ethical debates if humans still refuse to treat animals as equals, then somewhere in the near future, the earth and environment will force us to. We are at a point in time where animal farming, harvesting and usage is destroying our earth at an unbelievable rate. With the human population growing by the billions, and the demand for meat sky rocketing, if we are unable to change our dietary habits soon, the fate of the earth is dim. Veganism is the only solution for a sustainable earth.

  • c

    thanks to Mark and others correctly criticizing this article. People easily write pieces that serve their own personal preferences. We are capable as a species, notably those of us in a rich country, of choosing to bring about less suffering via being vegan (science-lite about how it was 100 or 10,000 years ago is less important than this ethical question).

    And, if a website is going to use the word ‘Buddha,’ it really would do well to read Buddhism’s words and Buddha’s bio. Not-Killing is the first precept, and part of that meant not letting an animal be killed for you. Webmaster, please respond re this.

    Thanks, all,
    C

  • Charity

    you’re trying to obscure too much what the film was about. don’t criticize it because of what it didn’t cover, it would have been included in the documentary if it was meant to be a theme in it. you fail to bring up any good points or arguments; you make yourself look like a fool as well as the people who agree with you. besides all of that, heres a fun fact for you; with the growing human population by 2050 there wont be enough animals to feed people. also because of this reason the united nations wants everyone to become vegan. if you don’t believe me do your research. get your head out of your ass and try not to over evaluate things.

  • will

    I just had a look at the obvious regarding Charity’s overpopulation ‘fact’.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overpopulation

    Doesn’t seem quite so simple. Very interesting though.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a bit of debate about this and the film seems like a good starting point. Also I recently read J.M. Coetzee’s Eilzabeth Costello which contains some interesting philosophical discussion on this topic. The film presents no debate. It presents one side of the arguement. I’ve been to abattoirs and know that they aren’t full of animal detesting mad men although the people working there can cetainly be a bit odd.

    I wonder if the earth and the environment will force us to stop having so many children. In the battle of higher imperative vs human gut instinct the instinct seems to normally win. It looks like there are a few countries where population is already going down so I guess there’s some hope that it won’t come to that. That might not be such good news for the abolisionist movement but then again other forces may come into play to reduce animal harm. Nathaniel’s Nutmeg is a book that is largely concerned with the unspeakable harm and torture that spice traders inflicted on Pacific island dwellers and rival traders over spices a few hundred years back. This was in an age when tribal leaders might meet in rooms decorated with human head. We look back and think WTF, if they could have seen this debate they’d have no doubt thought the same. Maybe in 500 years time people will look back at the animal cruelty of this age and be dumbfounded by us. What I’d give to live a thousand years (ha ha, that was a bad joke)

  • Vegan Idiocy

    “I don’t want to call it vegan propaganda”

    Not a fan of calling a Spade a Spade?

    I would think the absolutely idiotic nonsense beinbg spouted by sollipistic sheep like Mark would dispel any notion that this isn’t misinformative propaganda.

  • Eilon

    I enjoyed your review, although I don’t fully agree with you. You didn’t give any real solutions either. At least the film portrayed what was going on. In my opinion, the major problem is overpopulation, which may partially have lead to assembly line slaughter and unethical practices. Another major one is ignorance and this film helps in that regard.

  • …complicated?

    No animal rights organization that I know of promotes the message that veganism will eliminate all animal suffering. To put forth such a statement as representative of the animal rights movement is specious and dishonest. You’re creating a straw man to mask your own discomfort with the topic.

    A vegan answers the question, “Is it ethical to exploit and kill other sentient beings because we like the way their bodies or secretions taste or because we find them fashionable?” with a firm, “No.” That is all.

    You keep insisting that the exploitation of animals for food, clothing, etc. is a complex issue. How exactly? Unlike bears, at no stage of our lives is animal-based food necessary to survive, thrive, or to even take pleasure in eating and clothing ourselves. Therefore, for us to slaughter animals is unjustifiable.

    How is it a “balm” to confront that truth honestly? What you refer to as “ethical food,” has nothing to do with ethics—at best, it is just a more environmentally responsible way of “farming” animals. At worst, people find it appealing merely because of the superior quality or taste of the actual flesh and the ability to purchase a clear conscience with a disingenuous illusion that it’s ok to kill animals to satisfy our taste buds as long as they had a “happy” life.

    It does not matter how “naturally,” or comfortably an animal “lives out” its life (another dishonest phrase–all animals raised for meat are killed at the cusp of adulthood, no matter how “humanely” raised), when it is slaughtered it is afraid, it is in pain, and it does not want to die. This does not Have to happen–it is completely unnecessary. They “deserve” better—to live for their own sake and survive to the best of their ability.

    Veganism can seem intimidating at first, but rather than choosing to do nothing–or very little–because we can’t do everything, we need to be doing all that we can.

  • Duededan123

    interesting but for me it wasn’t that you should never touch meat again but to start thinking about the lifestyle we all live on and to realize we can’t keep doing these things.

  • Asaky

    Just watching this film now, and it reeks of dishonesty in the wording of it.
    They are taking the small percent of bad eggs and touting it as if the entire industry follows these practices.  

    I have been to a dog breeder, I have been to a diary farm, and I saw none of what they say happens.  The dogs had food, shelter, socialization, grooming, bedding, vetinary treatment, and the would be taken on walks everyday by the owner on a large property.  The dairy is the same, the cows had a large field to graze and would graze for most of the day, they had shelter and would go to the milking stalls on there own volition. I see the cows on the field in the front of my house everyday, none show signs of injury.   But this film would have me discard what i have seen, and believe the dogs I saw running and playing were really in boxes, and the cows I see on the fields grazing is just an illusion and there really chained up in a stall.   As for slaughter houses, butchering is never going to be pretty, but atleast he clearly states in this section that what they are showing is illegal.  What he does not tell you is less then %2 of places do this, and they do not do it for long before they are caught, and face legal ramifications, and seeing the fines issued for these things, its not in a businesses best mind to continue doing it.All in all, I just see dishonest propaganda that borders on lying outright.  I don’t understand the near religious fervent vegas, and vegetarians show.  The fact is, the human race cannot support itself on vegetation alone, the amount of land it takes up is enormous, not to mention that vegetarians also hate the use of pesticides and genetically modified food.  Which lowers the output of farms by huge amounts upwards of %30.  If we did what these people wanted to the book, we would have to kill a 3 quarters of the human race in a mass killing.  Or everyone would just starve.

    • Veganb1tch

      Uh, earth to idiot. Plants are FED to animals- are far much more of it. Animals also take up much more food than a crop feild. So you are very very wrong. If we stopped eating animals, there would be MORE plant foods for everyone to eat. Common fucking sense really. And just because you see one ‘oragic or free range’ dairy farm does not mean all are like that at all! If you knew what you wer talking about, youd know that factory farming out numbers organic/free range farms greatly! And how do you know the mother is ‘happy’ when she has her calf taken from her?

  • Roseyjames

    The “karmic” solution is already happening. People are dyeing of cancers, being treated for mental and physical disorders/ailments with side effect laden, addictive medicines all because we essentially “are” what we eat…we are eating what the greed driven giants are telling us to and they are killing us in body and in spirit. But….we can change that by accepting the cruel facts which have been displayed for us, there were no animal actors in that film, and simply choosing to not be a part of it. Then the journey begins….

  • Paul York

    I disagree entirely with this review. It is a great film. Those who don’t like it are speciesist, prejudiced against animals, and that is why they don’t like it. They want to hang onto their right to exploit other sentient beings and construct elaborate justifications to convince themselves and others of the rightness of animal abuse. Asaky, it is well established that puppy mills and industrial livestock operations exist on a massive scale, whether you have seen them or not.

  • pebble

    Personally I disagree with this review . Simply put, one more reason for me to absolutely and wholeheartedly keep my diet strictly on vegan. Our selfishness, arrogance, and greed have won our mind when we speak, and clearly claim victory when people like you voice your opinion. when I read articles like this, im also reminded that as a whole this human race is hopeless. I’m also guilty of all charges, but I’ve decided documentaries like Earthlings deserve my time and attention to change my lifestyle for the better. And I firmly believe it’s a good thing.

  • Robert

    I enjoyed your critique of the film and your discussion of some of the issues the film raises. You really gave me some perspective and I had to amend some of my viewpoints. I’d like to point out two problems that I have with your argument: (1) An ethical person acts morally because it is the right thing to do. Even if the impact of becoming a vegan is insignificant, it doesn’t excuse you from your moral duty.
    (2) Just because nature is fundamentally cruel, doesn’t mean humans should live their lives according to nature’s way. I consider the word ‘human’ an idealistic term; as we need to ascend our natural disposition. We need to learn empathy and make this a better place for everyone (and that includes animals). The ethical complexity (I agree, a minefield) and the fact that there are no simple solutions, shouldn’t weaken our resolve.

  • natasha

    I find this review confusing. The author seems unperturbed by the animal cruelty brought to light by Earthlings yet states ‘Every acre of soy that is planted requires the death of hundreds of small rodents. Field mice are shredded and baby deer are crushed underneath advancing tractors. ‘. So you only care about animal welfare when it relates to clearing of land for soy? Wow. You also seem to ignore the fact that the majority of land clearing is for live stock. Over 70% of land clearing in the Amazon is for livestock. Oh and soya bean is also fed to livestock. Going vegan may not necessarily put an end to all animal cruelty, but it certainly would reduce the demand for meat and directly reduce the amount of deforestation, methane gas (which contributes to 40% more carbon than all cars in the world), and reduce the strain on the health care system. Do the research, meat is the most inefficient form of food. If all the grain and water used to raise livestock was instead used to feed people, we would have significantly more food for the world. If you can’t garner the compassion to give up meat for the cruelty aspect, surely you can give it up for your health and the environment.

  • Stuart M Degville

    Don’t agree with your review i’m afraid, to be honest i’m fed up of reading or hearing that the animal rights activists create video’s of abuse and cruelty towards animals to shock people……..nothing is created in these video’s for a start, they are all REAL, and if they shock people thats because it is in fact SHOCKING what actually does go on!! As for looking for more ethical ways of consuming meat…….There aren’t any, even if the animal is treated well on a farm, as soon as its put on the truck and driven to the slaughter house to be killed the whole practice becomes UNETHICAL!! Your statement about chickens being successful as a species, seriously, are u having a laugh ? Being bred to suffer and ultimately die is not success!! Animals are NOT ours to do as we please with, and that includes satisfying our greed!!

  • Ben

    Is it really ironic that vegans use a basic principle (can they suffer?) and find a different conclusion than the first person to pose the question? I think not. People are allowed to reevaluate conclusions for a variety of reasons (i.e. new data/information). The film does not exist to show people how some farms and practices are good, it exists to show that the industry standard is extraordinary cruelty.

    When is the last time you got pig meat that came from a wild pig that was slaughtered quickly? I don’t know of anyone who this applies to. The bottom line is you seem to reject what you saw in the movie in favor of imagining a more idyllic process from which your meat comes. This allows you to see the horrors, but not really feel them because they are only a few select cases. If that were true, undercover investigators for Peta and MFA would have more trouble getting the footage that they get.

  • Nicholas Allen

    I find the argument that being vegan would cause somewhat more suffering to rodents rather flawed. Most fields grow food for animals and this is less efficient than growing food directly for human consumption. So eating animals requires more fields for crops not fewer.


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