Netflix has many documentaries on offer, but over the last year there seems to have been an influx of anti-meat, pro-vegan films taking the American Food industry to task. The continued mistreatment of animals is awful, the obesity epidemic is out of control and the health benefits of reducing the amount of ‘bad’ foods you eat is self-explanatory, yet consistently needs explaining. With all of this well-intended messaging, what most of these struggle to do is present an impartial view, and instead resort to cheap emotional exploitation to convey their point.
Documentaries like Fed Up tackle the misconception that ‘diet’ alternatives are actually better for you, the fundamental facts are presented in a clear and concise way that could be new information to people – in that sense it’s great. However, the statement that sugar is the main cause of obesity and other factors such as the rise in poverty are completely overlooked in favour of emotional tales of overweight children, unable to get slim because of corporate fat-cats.
Forks Over Knives is even worse, as they follow individuals who adopt a meat/diary free diet, most of which are overweight and on an obscene amount of medication. All of them manage to lose weight and get off the medication. Who’d have thought that cutting out fatty foods, eating less, and not taking drugs would reduce weight and side effects? Farmageddon bangs on about raw milk and how it’s better for you but nobody does anything about it, and even a fairly comprehensive documentary like A Place At The Table squanders the opportunity to further explore the poverty in the US by focusing on a select few individuals. Which leads me to believe, does anyone actually have the answer to ensuring people eat well, and if so, can we ever agree on a right one?
Vegucated succeeds in not trying to be anything more than it sets out to be – emotional exploitation. It takes 3 individuals who all eat meat and could stand to lose weight, shows them many images, videos and takes them to the sites of animal cruelty, and challenges them to become Vegan for the next 6 weeks. Unsurprisingly, the benefits are largely positive and as a viewer you would be inclined not to agree with the rationale to an extent. However, much like Vegans are tarred with the same brush of simply being “stupid hippies”, they tar the meat-eaters and farmers with the animal cruelty brush.
They have a point, but somehow completely missed it. The health benefits are indisputable, and while these are discussed, the crux of the documentary seemed to hinge on convincing these individuals that eating meat was evil. It glossed over the fact that by adopting a diet which included more vegetables you also somewhat eliminated processed foods, quite possibly because the soy products they were eating had been reconstituted into so many different meat shapes, colours and sizes that it would be contradictory to say otherwise.
What essentially materialised was a dumbed down argument for becoming a Vegan. It explained that by replacing everything with Soy, actively encouraging people to eat processed vegan alternatives and not eating meat you would live longer and be fine forever. It ignores the core health benefits of adopting a more plant-based diet, ignores any positive benefits or work carried out by farmers and/or meat-eaters, it also provides no nutritional awareness or enlightenment into what you’re actually consuming. It’s quite possibly the least educational documentary I have seen on the subject, and would not look out-of-place in a high-school media project.
People should want to eat healthier because you demonstrate why it’s better for them, and as a result the bad practices will reduce as demand declines for mass produced meat products and sugary nonsense. Emotionally blackmailing someone into a dietary choice turns them into pretentious individuals who just regurgitate pamphlets in an attempt to shock others too. Maybe there is no right documentary to make people eat healthier, this shines a very minimal light on an alternative and goes so far as to raise awareness on consequences of bad health, but it’s clear something more needs to be done.