I watched Earthlings for the first time. I didn’t look away. I watched the living breathing dog get crushed to death in the garbage truck. I watched the cows being skinned alive in order to make leather. I watched the elephant being shot in the street when it tried to escape the pain and suffering of the circus. I saw the medical experiments, the anal electrocution, the throat cutting, the fear and pain in so many animals eyes.
I cried. I felt despair. But I did not look away.
My boyfriend turned away from particularly difficult parts. He asked why we were watching this? Weren’t we already enlightened by eating whole food plant based? But he has changed his diet for health reasons, me for weight loss. I was vegetarian for years and slipped back to meat quite easily when I got discouraged. I told him it was the truth and we should never look away from the truth no matter how hard it might be to watch. If it helps me to remember to buy vegan cruelty free products, it’s worth it. If it helps me to start thought provoking conversations with others, it’s my obligation to watch it. When you know better, you do better. I wanted us to be absolutely certain we knew better.
I didn’t look away. My boyfriend did though. He isn’t ready. He is following a plant based lifestyle because it is helping with his health, but he still buys his son chicken nuggets at McDonald’s, without blinking an eye. My skin crawled just sitting in the car and watching the busy parking lot and drive-thru. He still pours cow’s milk all over his son’s cereal. I can gag just thinking about it.
The entire time I watched this documentary I kept wondering how is all this okay? Why don’t more people care? And how can some people watch films like this and then just keep doing what they’ve always done?
I get it. I am a Queen of Denial. I knew. I had my “chicken guilt” and continued to eat chicken fingers nearly every day when I was in my confused depressing diet funk. It’s like smoking. Everyone who continues to smoke knows it is killing them and anyone around them who is breathing in the second hand smoke. Some people still smoke with their children in the car or house. They know they are harming their children and they do it anyway. The gambler who loses his family’s weekly wages at the card table; the alcoholic who spends his children’s lunch money at the bar; the drug addict who leaves her kids alone and starving for days while she is out getting her fix; they all know on an intellectual level that they are doing harm to helpless innocents as well as themselves. But that self-gratification part of the human DNA seems to trump everything else.
Yet not everyone smokes, gambles, drinks, or takes drugs. Most parents would think it inconceivable that they could ever harm their kids in that way. Most pet owners could never imagine that they would ever skin their pet alive. But the majority of people are at least somewhat aware of the horrendous conditions animals raised for the purpose of being food or products endure … and they choose to eat it anyway. Because it is enjoyable.
I get it. Fat tastes good. Meat and dairy are the fattest of the fattiest. Leather, suede, feathers, are … I won’t say “nice” or even “beautiful”, just because I have never really been a fan, just unconscious when it came to spending my consumer dollars … but these materials are social status statements … not everyone can afford a designer leather handbag or pair of shoes or genuine leather seats in their sports car. Owning these types of things can be very self-gratifying to a lot of people.
I know there are some people who will always eat meat no matter what they know about the industry, in the same way that people will continue to smoke even when they literally can’t breathe, they’re taking tons of medications, and fighting cancer. There are some people who will continue to drink or take drugs no matter how much it destroys their lives, no matter how much they lose. But I’m an optimist. There are a whole lot of people who can only lie to themselves for so long before they need to make a change. These people should watch Earthlings.