A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Growth of industrial farming depicted as horror show with consequences that are emotionally difficult and can feel hopeless. But film ends by lighting a path to show how America, if not the world, can escape this cycle through ethical farming and making conscientious, humane food choices.
Positive Role Models
Interviewees are compassionate people who are doing the right thing, no matter the consequences. Ethical farmers earn smaller profits and take on extra work because of choice to farm responsibly. Whistleblowers share alarming discoveries, facing intimidation, repercussions; they persevere to deliver meat to the table in a way that doesn't degrade the environment, the animal, or the consumer's health.
Violence & Scariness
Footage (usually quick) of animal cruelty throughout. Mistreatment of live fish/farm animals includes confinement in tiny cages, disease (sores, blood, pus), being tossed through the air, being rolled by a forklift. Carcasses include those of baby animals. Gruesome stories told with supporting visuals (sickening but not explicit). Verbal explanation of how a constrained cow was raped to death by multiple bulls during an experiment; story accompanied by one non-graphic image. No consequences for humans treating the animals this way; in fact, some farmers may be rewarded, and some of the experiments are government sanctioned. Violence toward humans limited to a story about a state-ordered Native American massacre in 1850.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Animal reproduction is discussed in a nonsexual way.
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"Ass" and "f--k" are used in moments to express frustration.
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Products & Purchases
Small, independent farms Niman Ranch, BN Ranch, Good Shepherd Poultry, and plant-based protein company Beyond Meat are portrayed positively. Factory farm giants Perdue and Tyson are portrayed as evil.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Animals are injected with antibiotics.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that they'll never snack on a chicken strip the same way after seeing Eating Animals, but that doesn't mean they'll never eat meat. This important but difficult to watch documentary (narrated by Natalie Portman) tells viewers about the grim practices of factory farms while suggesting that a better way exists. You'll see disturbing footage of animals being confined in tiny cages, suffering from disease, being tossed through the air or into a bin, and being rolled by a forklift. Swearing includes "ass" and "f--k," and there's a verbal reference to a cow being raped to death by bulls. The way that shadowy "Big Ag" is portrayed could upset/scare sensitive viewers. But the interviewed advocates, including people who breed animals for eventual slaughter, care deeply about animals, and their compassion is contagious. Ultimately, the movie's objective is to outrage and influence viewers to demand change within the industry by changing their own eating habits and purchasing decisions. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
The film does an effective job of revolting viewers into rethinking their food choices, shaking any faith in the USDA and Congress and mourning the loss of the American farmer. Truly, "you don't want to know how the sausage gets made" is a cliché for a reason: It's nauseating. (Or maybe that saying took flight because the meat industry doesn't want anyone asking questions.) The information is well-presented, but the film gets increasingly difficult to stomach with images of animal abuse. Portman narrates with a quiet calm that's juxtaposed with troubling stories and images of animal abuse and environmental nightmares that sufficiently leave viewers with, well, a lot to chew on. Perhaps not everyone will agree with its message, but Eating Animals' conclusions are fair, offering solutions that include veganism and sustainable animal agriculture.
That said, while Big Ag is an easy villain to target, the movie lacks balance. No explanations, justifications, or counterpoints are offered from corporate farms. The only opposing perspective comes in an unfair presentation: The owner of a new meat processing plant that sits where a notorious slaughterhouse used to be is clearly exasperated when he catches an animal activist filming his place. He explains that all the cameraman had to do was ask for a tour; his employees go through training, they care for the animals, and they aim for transparency. That conversation is followed with footage from 2008 of injured cows being rolled by forklifts by the former business, likely appalling viewers, who may not realize it's of a totally different company a decade ago. And, frustratingly, the film ends with mixed messages. Two of the hero farmers the film follows sell their sustainable farms to Perdue and Tyson, confusing those who were led to believe that those companies were the enemy. For all the work the film does to prove that industrial farms are the devil, it doesn't give enough guidance on farm names that the viewer can trust.
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