Veganism is on the rise. Quorn has just released their first vegan products, Follow Your Heart have announced they’ve invented some vegan scrambled eggs, and a few supermarkets are even stocking vegan options that aren’t falafel and hummus wraps.
The chances are, then, that you know someone, or know someone who knows someone, who’s gone vegan, and unless you’re the kind of person who thinks “BACON!!!!” is both a comprehensive and hilarious response to such a person’s every move, you might even have thought about whether you should adopt a plant-based diet yourself. Thankfully, in this digital age, it’s easier than ever to do your own research and find out why, when and how you can make the transition yourself, and one website-thing-a-bobby has a lot of interesting and entertaining documentaries on the subject: Netflix.
So, whether you’re already thinking of going vegan, or it’s never crossed your mind, or it’s just 5AM and she hasn’t texted back and you need something to keep you going ‘til dawn, these five documentaries will make you think long and hard about how you spend your time on this planet.
Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, 2014
Premise: The often overlooked relationship between animal agriculture and climate change is laid bare in Kip Anderson’s crowd-funded documentary. Cowspiracy often makes for troubling viewing, whether it’s exploring meat’s effects on global hunger, confronting the reality of slaughter, or questioning the wall of silence from environmental activists held literally at gun-point by the industries they should be rallying against. However, the real (albeit slightly contrived) pleasure at the heart of this documentary is joining Kip on his journey from concerned environmentalist to animal rights activist.
“You can’t be an environmentalist and eat animal products. Period!”
– Howard Lyman, former fourth-generation cattle farmer of forty years
Premise: Three meat and cheese-loving New Yorkers adopt a vegan diet for six weeks. Along with director and presenter Marisa Miller Wolfson, the trio explore the vegan lifestyle and its effects on their health, social life, and ultimately their worldview. Filmed on a minimal budget, Vegucated explores every nook and cranny of veganism, and its charming blend of humour and solemnity, as well as the real-life struggles and triumphs of its participants, make it an accessible truth-bomb for those beginning to explore veganism.
“I’m not crazy, this issue is real, this is a real f*cking issue.”
– Brian Flegel, vegan for just two weeks
Premise: In August 2015, SeaWorld announced that its net income had declined 84% compared to the second quarter of 2014, and many have attributed this to Blackfish. The documentary pulls no punches as it explores the captivity of Tilikum, an orca at SeaWorld responsible for the deaths of three individuals, and the corporate interests responsible for his exploitation. Through interviews with former SeaWorld trainers and those responsible for his capture as an infant, Blackfish paints a deeply unsettling portrait of a psychologically traumatised individual, who just happens to weigh 12,000 pounds.
“I think that in 50 years we’ll look back and go, ‘My God, what a barbaric time.’”
– John Jett, former SeaWorld Orlando trainer
Fed Up, 2014
Premise: “Congress says pizza is a vegetable”, reads Fed Up’s poster, which gives you some indication of the documentary’s flabbergasted and politically-charged tone. Fed Up examines the obesity pandemic affecting the children of America who, for the first time, are growing up fatter than their parents. Under particular scrutiny is the prevalence of processed foods high in sugar and saturated fat in the school meals system. The movie also examines the on-going battle between American families, physicians, and healthcare experts and large corporations intent on concealing the growing body of evidence that links a high-sugar diet to poor health. Before the end credits, Fed Up lists twenty companies, industry groups and politicians who refused to be interviewed by the filmmakers.
“In a recent study, forty-three cocaine-addicted laboratory rats were given the choice of cocaine or sugar water over a fifteen-day period. Forty out of the forty-three chose the sugar.”
– Katie Couric (narrator)
Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, 2010
Premise: Joe Cross, a fat and Australian man, spends 60 days consuming nothing but juice, and becomes a not-so-fat man. He stays Australian, though. Whilst it’s been called an infomercial disguised as a documentary, there’s no denying that Cross’ transformation, and the empowering effect he has on other victims of junk food, provides impressive evidence of a plant-based diet’s medicinal qualities, preventing and even reversing the onset of illnesses like diabetes and multiple sclerosis. Watching Joe abandon his medication and heal himself with food is truly remarkable, as long as you can stand mediocre animation.
“70% of the diseases that affect us now are caused by our life choices: how we exercise, if we smoke and what we eat.”
-Dr Joel Fuhrman