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Food Integrity Campaign Blog

Review: ‘Eating Animals’ Skewers Factory Farming

June 14, 2018

This article originally appeared in the New York Times.

by Ben Kenigsberg

For the last 36 hours, since seeing “Eating Animals,” I have had trouble consuming meat. O.K., I had some lox, but probably only because the movie doesn’t deal with ocean fish.

Christopher Quinn’s documentary makes a persuasive, far-ranging case against factory farming, which it skewers from philosophical, epidemiological and even economic perspectives. Factory farms may make it possible to feed more people, but their environmental effects may make their efficiency a Pyrrhic victory. The movie isn’t even advocating vegetarianism. But it seems impossible to come away from it without wanting to know more about where your meat comes from.

The subject is familiar from documentaries like “Food, Inc.” and books like Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Eating Animals” (2009), of which the documentary is at once an adaptation and an extension.

Being a movie, it can show us Frank Reese, a Kansas poultry farmer who carries on old traditions, at work with his turkeys. We hear from others who aren’t in the book, like Craig Watts, a former Perdue contractor who blew the whistle on the way chickens raised for the company were treated, and James Keen, who approached The New York Times to expose animal mistreatment at a government research center in Nebraska.

Natalie Portman (along with Mr. Foer, one of the producers) provides the narration. If there is a weak point in the movie’s argument, it concerns demand. Plant-based meat substitutes may be our future, but the broader public isn’t clamoring for them to replace burgers.

Even so, this upsetting documentary offers plenty to chew on.