Now that streaming services are so widespread with over 75% of the UK’s 16-24 year olds using a subscription streaming service, these platforms are more important than ever in sharing the right message. This age group is the next generation of adults – key players in the saviour of our planet and its animals.
A 2013 survey by The Vegan Truth found that 42% of participants said they converted to veganism after watching an educational video or film. If you’re considering veganism but haven’t quite been persuaded yet, then scrolling down and watching whichever sounds most up your street might seal the deal. Alternatively if you’ve been desperate to persuade someone you know and they’re not getting the hint, the answer might be to send them a link!
TW: some of the documentaries mentioned contain graphic footage of slaughterhouses, in particular Earthlings and Dominion. Viewer discretion is recommended.
Diet & Health
Forks Over Knives is a food documentary that views the diet as medicine. It’s not necessarily completely vegan, as veganism is just mentioned (and gently promoted) by some of the doctors they talk to, but the conclusion is to eat a healthy balanced diet with plenty of wholefoods and more plant-based dishes. It’s a good starting point for those that are dubious about whether you can be healthy on a vegan diet, though!
What the Health also looks at the nutrition side of things, but it focuses specifically on the relationship between processed meat & dairy and disease. It’s somewhat controversial, because it makes some claims that aren’t particularly well backed-up, and they overstate the role of food in disease compared to other environmental factors. Take the numbers with a pinch of salt, but definitely listen to their main message and let it it lead you on a journey of your own Googling.
Game Changers really took off in mainstream media recently because of its presence on streaming services and its celebrity involvement. This one has more of an individualised message surrounding fitness, and aims to prove that there doesn’t have to be a ‘protein deficiency’ in a vegan diet. Bodybuilders (including Arnold Schwarzenegger!) are able to compete successfully as athletes on a plant-based diet. The documentary goes deep into the science and physiology, and looks at the effect that the switch does to the body.
Cowspiracy might be the most well put together documentary that focuses mainly on the effect of animal agriculture on the environment. It’s therefore no surprise that it’s become a bit of a household name! It’s a good one for those who don’t think they won’t like vegan documentaries, because it’s much more cinematic.
Whilst it does touch on animal cruelty, their main claim is that livestock and their byproducts are the main contributors of greenhouse gases. They offer some mindblowing statistics on water usage by livestock and feed, land coverage by monoculture and emissions. The numbers are enough to get anyone’s brain whirring, so it really stays with you. Can you believe agricultural emissions are expected to increase 80% by 2050 based on current trends?! As we in the Western world eat less meat, those in the Eastern world eat more due to increasing wealth in those areas, which is why they’re still climbing at a scary rate.
Read more about the effect of agriculture and consumerism on the environment in our dedicated blog post here!
Earthlings is a good documentary, but they start to compare speciesism to racism/sexism etc. It’s upsetting to watch – it’s not worth watching for people who already know about the negatives of the animal agriculture industry, but might be for people who are new to it. Their political message isn’t necessarily one to hold onto though, because human issues are a much broader issue in comparison. There is a sequel to Earthlings called Unity, but this is based more around the spirituality and human side of consumerism.
Dominion is produced by the same person as Earthlings. It also shows animal abuse from hidden cameras and animal drones. It has similar celebrity involvement, but doesn’t follow as much of a political agenda.
If you’re looking for something a bit more positive then Live and Let Live focuses on the human stories behind going vegan: find yourself moved and persuaded by what made everyone from prominent vegans to ex-butchers make the leap. Called to Rescue might also be the one for you. This follows the journey of rescued animals in sanctuaries, and shows you the life these beautiful creatures really deserve.
We can’t end this list with a clear conscience unless we mention Blackfish. This is an animal welfare documentary that sparked “the Blackfish effect”, and it was impossible to ignore. So impossible, that the US Government shut down its killer whale breeding programme as a direct result of its spread. The best part is that it was made by Gabriela Cowperthwaite after she took her kids to SeaWorld for a show. What we’re saying is: if you’re feeling shocked and inspired, act on it. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t make a difference.
Are vegan documentaries the way to go?
It’s worth taking into account that all documentaries – vegan or otherwise -have an agenda: they’re there to make money, headlines, or both. There’s a lot of sensationalism in all media, where writers cherrypick from sources that lack peer reviews rather than going with the generally accepted consensus. So if you’re going to try and use them in your arguments, make sure you do your own research too! It’s important to go back to the source, but there’s no need to knock anything that gets you on the right path.
That’s why we have to make an honourable mention to Okja (available on Netflix) here – it might not be classed as a documentary, but it’s based around the same agenda (and it’s got added Jake Gyllenhaal and Tilda Swinton). What if we engineered the perfect animal for meat? Oh wait…
And hear us out here… Chicken Run or Babe (The Sheep-Pig) are absolutely an acceptable place to start. When you really think about it, what better way is there to put people off eating animals than by humanising them? So ease yourself (and the people close to you) into it, research what you’re comfortable with and see how the learning curve goes.
If you have any thoughts or recommendations of your own, we’d love to hear them! Just leave a comment below.