Originally published at scoop.co.nz
The feature documentary that is on everyone’s lips at the moment is quite simply called Meat. Producer David White has gone behind the scenes of an industrial pig farm, a chicken farm and a sheep and beef farm. This movie also features a deer hunter.
All of these people are at the very coal face of meat production. They believe that there is a general lack of awareness by the public over where meat products come from. This Is put down to the rural-urban divide. Meat aims to bridge that gaping chasm by bringing the reality of meat production out of the farms, bush and abattoirs and into the cinemas.
On a recent radio show Kathryn Ryan called the movie ‘thought provoking’, ‘quirky’ and ‘strangely compelling’. Personally I find nothing compelling about dead lambs, pigs in crates being artificially inseminated and chickens with their throats being slit. That’s why I keep animals off my plate.
Still Meat has gathered enough interest to bring the punters. It is screening in cinemas currently and I am sure the cinema is full of people equally fascinated with where the flesh on their plate originated from. Producer David White has a readymade audience of people who are clearly compelled to witness animals being farmed, mutilated, inseminated and killed in the name of their food.
I’m just going to say it. What’s wrong with us? As a society, a ‘bunch of people’ with a supposedly shared set of values I mean? Why are we so horribly drawn toward a movie featuring such darkness? Why do we want to witness animals being hurt? Is it some kind of sick rite of passage for the meat eater to know where their meat comes from? Wouldn’t it be easier just not to eat them in the first place?
The film has already been marketed as ‘the reality’ – what really happens down on the farm. Who are they kidding? Anything on film is not the reality – it’s a mere version of a reality. And in this case the version has come straight from the farmer’s mouth.
That is perfectly ok, no one is suggesting farmers should not have their side of the story documented. But then to suggest, as Kathryn Ryan did on ninetonoon that the film does not moralise is a mistake. Here she is deadly wrong and I use that pun with purpose. The film moralises through shaping our attitudes toward farming and eating animals as a normal and acceptable thing to do.
The film sits within the comfort of the status quo, and film-goers sit within the comfort of cinema chairs. The pigs sit in their crates and the hens in their battery cages.
And that’s the point.
The ones being forgotten here are the animals – the real subjects of the film – who have been denied a voice. They have had their stories told for them in the vilest way.
I call it vile because their subjugation and killing has been framed as legitimate. And if they could talk, tell their story to the camera, I am sure they would not say they want to die for your meal.
If anything can be salvaged from this is that it will ignite genuine dialogue about the harm behind seemingly innocent food choices. We need to think critically about the ingrained cultural conditioning around animal farming as a society. By accepting and normalising the worldview of those in animal agriculture, their attitude towards animals as mere objects of monetary value, their fundamental economic brutality, we become part of the problem.