If you are an ethical vegan, you probably are aware of certain types of documentaries. Take, for example, the squeamish ones that show glimpses of the horrible fate of farmed animals. While these documentaries do a great job at appealing to pathos, not everyone aware of this reality needs to be traumatized right off the bat. I still haven’t even watched Dominion, nor do I think I will ever watch it. I think some people benefit from the shock factor that these dark documentaries provide, but I don’t think it’s for everyone.
Dr. Melanie Joy, a vegan psychologist and author, said it best in one of her speeches at Farm Sanctuary. She states, “Animals don’t need a movement of walking trauma survivors. The animals need a movement of healthy, self-connected, and resilient individuals who are not going to burn out and who are going to be their advocates for the long haul.”
After hearing this, a light bulb went on in my head. I knew that bearing witness was exhausting, but the guilt would never go away. I didn’t want to be seen as someone who cared more about their feelings than the awful abuse animals had to go through. Yet, it was in realizing how misaligned I was from my values that I eventually stood back from bearing witness. I then focused my efforts, energy, and enthusiasm in other ways that were much more sustainable for me as an animal rights activist.
Over the years, my veganism has morphed into practicing what I preach so that my actions can speak louder than my words. I would rather someone ask me why I do or don’t do something, instead of telling them that what they are doing is “wrong” and therefore needs to be changed. Activism has become a huge part of my vegan journey. I’m grateful for all the times I bore witness at slaughterhouses. Now I can still do activism by utilizing all the abundant resources out there to share to vegan-curious folk.
Here are four “milder” movies (available on Netflix) you can show to family, friends and even strangers if they are curious about veganism.
I had not idea what to expect from this film, but the fictional narrative was so mesmerizing it pulled me in right away. The story of a girl developing a strong bond with a mutant pig who is destined for the slaughter house begs several questions. Why does the little girl care so much for this pig? Is it justifiable to take this pig away from their companion? Do pigs really have these complex emotions? I thought this movie was great at weaving some of the more complex ethical debates into a story. I always recommend this to my friends, and even some younger people, because of its inviting storyline. It does have some heavier scenes, but they aren’t meant to be scary. In the end, the movie will hopefully have done its job and leave one in a state of cognitive dissonance. No one will change behaviors until they start to question to which they have become so accustomed.
My Octopus Teacher
This documentary of a diver in South Africa shows the amazing connection humans and animals can create. But this movie isn’t about just any animal. It follows the journey of a female octopus, one of the most ingenious species of animals on our planet. There seems to be a misconception that sea creatures don’t feel pain the same way that land animals do. However, after watching this documentary, it would be hard to argue that misconception. Showcasing remarkable animal-human connections gives veganism a pretty strong case. Especially for the naysayers out there who claim that animals aren’t complex enough for such interactions and relationships. Just like Okja, My Octopus Teacher highlights how humans are positively affected by these bonds. Animals can also be teachers, and this documentary highlights that as well.
Mowgli is a live action movie based off one of the characters in The Jungle Book. This breathtaking film with impeccable CGI shows the story of a boy being raised by animals in the jungle. The boy believes he is just like them, only to find out he’s a human and will never be fully like the family of wolves who raised him. I love how this movie shows his relationship with the jungle creatures. Throughout this film, you will get to experience the personalities of each character and learn just how dynamic and interdependent the jungle is. Mowgli also captures and portrays how animals have souls, and even when they die, they are still deserving of respect and companionship.
This Netflix docuseries intimately captures nature in a way that will take your breath away. Every episode is eye-opening. This series was created with a purpose to inspire people to understand the natural world and the challenges it faces. In capturing such raw scenes in nature, the message becomes clear that what we do matters. By maintaining the delicate biodiversity of our planet to the best of our abilities, which includes all the animals that inhabit our earth, we can develop a healthier relationship with everyone and everything. We will be able to transform our ignorance into awareness, and truly shape a future where we can all thrive and coexist with nature.
What movies have shaped you on your vegan journey? How has your activism been influenced by watching media? Can you think of some inspiring films to recommend to your friends and family?
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Photo: Georgia Vagim via Unsplash; Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash