Eating Animals (4 stars)

Eating Animals

Natalie Portman narrates a sobering factory farming documentary from Christopher Dillon Quinn

If ever a single film could inspire you to turn vegetarian it is Eating Animals. Christopher Dillon Quinn's sobering documentary offers a clear-eyed account of the rise of factory farming in America. The consequences can be measured in declining standards of animal welfare, the ruination of natural resources and the untold hazards that now lurk within the food chain. If we are what we eat then the human population is in a sorry state.

Based on Jonathan Safran Foer's book and dryly narrated by Natalie Portman, the film illuminates the bigger picture through individual stories. We meet Frank Reese, a farmer swimming against the tides of history as he tries to maintain heritage breeds of turkey. We witness the anguish of poultry farmer Craig Watts as he finds himself heavily in debt and at the mercy of a corporation that puts scale and profit ahead of any other considerations. Eating Animals eventually arrives at the inescapable irony that everyone may express concern for animal welfare, yet most people are happy to buy cheap chickens or a fast food burger that costs less than a newspaper.

There is a lyrical, elegiac quality here as Quinn mourns the virtual demise of traditional, family farms and fears that the widespread use of antibiotics in animal feed is already being felt in the rise of drug resistant bugs.

There may be black-and-white snippets of state fairs and archive footage of Colonel Sanders, but there is more than nostalgia at play in a film that also pays heed to the notion that we cannot feed an ever-growing population from chickens running around in fields. It may not have the answers but it provides a compelling, thought-provoking argument that change is urgently needed. That beetroot burger never looked so inviting.

Selected release from Fri 7 Jun.

Eating Animals

  • 4 stars
  • 2017
  • UK / India / Germany / China / USA
  • 1h 34min
  • Directed by: Christopher Dillon Quinn

Documentary on factory farming in America, looking at the declining standards of animal welfare, the ruination of resources and the untold hazards that lurk in the food chain. Portman’s dry narration contributes to the film’s sobering tone and it’s a compelling and thought-provoking argument for the necessity of change.