Tuesday, July 3, 2018

A tough look at factory farming

Natalie Portman narrates Eating Animals, a documentary based on Jonathan Safran Foer's book about the horrors of factory farming. Take the word "horrors" seriously; I can't imagine anyone watching this documentary and not giving some thought to becoming a vegetarian. Now, that is not -- I stress -- the position of the documentary. In taking us to a variety of farms run in a humane fashion, the movie makes the case that we ought, at a minimum, not submit to the dictates of industrial-scale farming. To advance the case, we meet farmers who do not raise their animals under extreme conditions, which include horrible overcrowding and the introduction of antibiotics into animal diets. Frank R. Reese, the owner of the Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch, sends his beloved turkeys to their deaths with regret but makes sure that they aren't tormented or force-fed while they're alive. The movie also points out the environmental impact of some kinds of mass-farming operations. Hog waste, for example, can be pumped into outdoor pools that can lead to contamination of local water supplies. In reviewing Safron's 2009 book in the New York Times, Michiko Kakutani wrote: "Mr. Foer's chief contribution to the subject seems to lie in the use of his literary gifts ... to give the reader some very visceral, very gruesome descriptions of factory farming and the slaughterhouse." The same might be said of the movie. Director Christopher Dillon Quinn's documentary seems intended to upset and provoke. Maybe it should. It raises an important question: If we're going to eat meat, don't we have some obligation to consider the welfare of the creatures that supply us with it? Or to put it another way. The novelist Isaac Bashevis Singer was once asked why he was a vegetarian. Health, he replied. Yours, asked the interviewer? No, the chicken's, said Singer.

No comments: