Friday 31 May 2019

My Favourite Vegan Documentaries and Films

funny vegan documentaries

One of the easiest ways to learn more about veganism (or show your friends and loved ones more about veganism) is to watch it in a documentary or film. But with so many new vegan documentaries out there, all varying in degrees of graphicness, how do you choose the best one for you? I read (okay skimmed) a lot of blog posts about vegan documentaries and, put frankly, they're overwhelming - who in their right minds is going to sit through 50 vegan documentaries? Why do all the blog posts mention the same vegan documentaries? And why are all these blog posts written by people who've clearly never watched said documentaries? In this blog post I've tried to be super personal, and I've written it with the idea that you are my friend* and you're asking me for a recommendation: maybe you want something non-graphic, maybe you want something super-graphic, maybe you want something about a specific part of veganism (no-honey, no-leather etc). I've tried to cover all basis - let me know if I've missed anything!

(*honestly, if you're reading this I do think of you as a friend, I'm honestly honoured, most of my real friends never read my blogs haha.)

I. Best Vegan Documentaries (IMO)

I'm going to start with the best vegan documentaries out there, the ones that give you a good overview of all the main reasons why people are vegan, from why they don't eat meat to why they don't wear leather:

#1. Carnage

funny vegan documentaries

Directed by Simon Amstell, Carnage is probably my absolute favourite vegan film. Technically, it's not exactly a documentary, it's probably better classified as a mockumentary, although it does contain a lot of real footage: set in the future, the narrator (also Simon Amstell) looks back on how the UK became vegan. Anything after 2017 is imagined, but anything before 2017 is real footage. Being presented in this mockumentary-type way provides a safe setting for both vegans and non-vegans (or as the film calls them, 'carnists')

best vegan documentaries

Because the future is so ridiculous and hilarious e.g. people dancing naked in front of the dairy to promote a vegan lifestyle - you get into the mindset of 'oh that would never happen' so when ridiculous stuff that really did happen in the past pops up you think 'wait did that happen or not?' e.g. the UK's agricultural minister feeding his 4-year-old a beef burger in the middle of the BSE outbreak (later, that same guy's friend died of BSE). I think this film is accessible to vegans and carnists alike, because it makes fun of everything everyone hates about vegans (namely, them being snowflakes). It also reminds vegans not to be so hard on carnists:

'It's very cruel for youngsters today to ask why people did what they did. We couldn't have known that we were active participants in the slave trade because the language at the time just suggested that we were eating our dinner [...] It's hard to break an abuse cycle, especially when the abused don't know they're being abused.' Anyway, here is the trailer:

In terms of how graphic it gets, I would definitely say it has the best ratio in terms of 'how graphic it gets to how much you learn', in that it's not graphic unnecessarily, just enough to let you know where animal-sourced foods have come from. In terms of what it focuses on, as far as I remember it was very meat-centric, definitely talked about eggs and what happens to male chickens (that bit is in the form of a kids tv show), they touch on feminism and milk, but they don't really go into honey or leather. You can watch Carnage on the BBC iPlayer if you're in the UK or have a VPN. For everyone else, there's downloading illegally or keeping an eye on YouTube - every now and again someone uploads it in full there. Unfortunately, it's not on Amazon, but Simon Amstell's autobiography Help is. And if you want more thoughts from me about Carnage, you could read my Carnage Simon Amstell Review.

#2. Earthlings

vegan documentaries

I doubt there's a blog post about vegan documentaries out there that doesn't mention Earthlings, and in this case it's with good reason. Earthlings is a grotesque masterpiece which shows you exactly how livestock is treated across the planet on a daily basis. On an hourly basis. It's not for the faint-hearted, the trailer alone put me off meat for a month:

But I relapsed after a month which is when I made myself watch the full film. After that I never ate meat or wore leather again. I did continue to eat dairy for a while though. Earthlings mainly focusses on not using animals for medical research, cosmetic research, entertainment, leather and meat, it's not too heavy on the dairy industry. Yes, Earthlings is graphic so I can fully understand why you wouldn't want to watch it. Some people need to see where their meat is coming from to see how barbaric it can be to stop them eating meat, for other people it's enough to just hear how sad it is. You can rent or buy Earthlings on their website, or from Amazon.

#3. Babe

best vegan films

If you're looking for something lighter / want to push someone at veganism who is not interested in sitting down and watching an official vegan documentary, try Babe. If you weren't a 90s kid, let me introduce you: Babe is a film about a pig on a farm. The pig learns about many of the ways humans treat animals harshly, but because it's for kids it's not graphic. It's a nice way to hear some facts without getting nightmares. I was never into Babe (I thought the pig was a dumbass), but I think it's hilarious that when the film came out McDonald's brought out a happy meal to match - take your kids to watch a film about a pig not wanting to be eaten and then take them to eat pig/beef/chicken straight afterwards - hello cognitive dissonance. The main character (James Cromwell) became vegan after filming babe and is an awesome animal rights activist. You can rent or buy Babe from Amazon here. Here's the trailer of Babe:

II. Environmental Documentaries 

There are generally three main reasons why people become vegan: for the animals, for their health and for the environment. With the environment being such a hot topic nowadays (thanks Greta), there's been a big influx on environmental vegans. If you wanna attack it from that angle, try these:

#4. Before the Flood

vegan movies

Directed by the love of my life, Leonardo Dicaprio, Before The Flood is the kick in the butt everyone needs to stop being dicks and start saving the environment. Whilst it's not the most vegan-centric documentary ever (and thus is accessible to everyone), it nevertheless addresses that traditional diet is ruining our environment and, perhaps more importantly, states that the easiest and one of the best things you can do for the environment today, is change what you eat. And you can find the full Before the Flood on Amazon here, and here is a trailer:

#5. Cowspiracy

best vegan documentaries

Cowspiracy, like Earthlings, is on the top of every vegan documentary list. Lots of vegans say "watch Earthlings to make you vegan for the animals, watch Cowspiracy to make you vegan for the planet". I'm not one of those vegans though because I haven't watched it yet. I'll get around to watching it at some point and give you my opinion on it, which I'm sure you're dying to hear... You can buy Cowspiracy for me for yourself here. And apparently, there's even a Cowspiracy book too! Until then, here is the trailer, and you can watch it too:

#6. Wall-E

vegan films

It's a bit of a stretch (read: a complete stretch) to say Wall-e is a vegan film, but just as Babe is the softer version of Carnage and Earthlings, Wall-e is the softer version of Cowspiracy and Before The Flood. If you want to watch something that shows you what could happen to our planet if we keep littering it and what will happen to our bodies if we keep ignoring what we put in them. Watch Wall-e. Here is the trailer:

I love this movie, is one of my favourite vegan films and films in general. And is perfect if you're sick of depressing vegan documentaries and want something a little more light-hearted (though definitely still informative and awesome). You can find Wall-E here.

#8. Blackfish: why vegans don't visit Seaworld

best vegan documentaries

Something that's a lot heavier than the Bee Movie but no less important is Blackfish. Blackfish is all about how killer whales/orcas do not belong in tanks and how cruelly they've been treated/continue to be treated:

There was a lot that horrified me about this film: how they capture the orcas, how humans have been killed etc. It's not too graphic though and definitely worth a watch: Watch Blackfish here. A lighter version would, of course, be Free Willy. Also, Earthling Ed (the guy behind Earthlings) has made a wonderful Youtube video explaining why vegans don't eat fish:

#9. Okja: why vegans don't eat beef

vegan movies

Another non-documentary vegan film that's thought-provoking and sweet is Okja. As an added bonus it does a good job in showing that vegans make mistakes too. The film follows a Korean woman and her super-pig, who get caught up between horrible greedy corporate people (Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal) and try-to-do-good Animal Liberation Front.

On the one hand, it's not graphic at all because everything that happens to the super-pigs isn't real footage because the super-pigs are CGI. On the other hand, everything that happens to the super-pigs, from their incarceration to their forced breeding right up to the machine that kills them, all of this happens to cattle every day. Long story short, I think this is a good film for people who don't like things too graphic but want to be informed.

#10. Chicken Run: why vegans don't eat chicken

vegan films

Another easy vegan film is Chicken Run. This mainly concentrates on how chickens don't want to be eaten ("but I don't want to be a pie"), but it also touches on how unfair the egg industry is. Sure it skips the bit where male chicks are ground alive on day one, but it does highlight another cruel fact: when chickens are exhausted and done overproducing eggs, they are killed. (Which is ultimately the problem with vegetarianism, egg-chickens still get killed and eaten.)

Chicken Run was one of my favourite films as a kid and it still holds up today. You can buy Chicken Run here.

#11. Dairy is Scary

Not a film, but certainly more of a vegan documentary than most of the other films on this list is YouTube video 'Dairy is Scary' by Erin Janus. After watching this 5-minute video I never ate dairy again, and I'm yet to find a vegan documentary that says it better than this. (And put frankly, why watch an hour-long documentary when you can watch it in 5 minutes.) It does contain real-live footage so yes it is gruesome, but it's mainly flashes and not too nightmare-inducing.

III. Best vegan documentaries, for your health

Last, but not least, two vegan documentaries that I haven't seen but I'm going to recommend to you anyway: Forks Over Knives and What The Health. These two always pop up on lists of best vegan documentaries. As previously stated, people tend to become vegan for one or more of these three reasons: the environment, the animals and their health. Forks Over Knives and What The Health looks at human's health and how the meat and dairy industries pressure health officials in order to sell. If you're interested in your health, give them a watch.

IV. Wrap Up: My Favourite Vegan Documentaries and Films

So there you have it, the best vegan documentaries and films to watch if you're interested in learning more about veganism, or looking for a way to teach someone else about veganism. For a good overview of veganism try Carnage or Earthlings, for a non-graphic overview try Babe. If you're into the environment try Before the Flood and Cowspiracy, for a lighter version try Wall-E. Then there are enlightened kid's films Bee Movie (that taught me way more about bees, and capitalism, than any other documentary), Chicken Run for the chickens, and Okja for the cows/pigs. Let me know if there's a specific section you want to learn more about in the form of a film and I'll try and find you a good one! Also, we made a reaction video to Earthlings, filming the first time we started watching it:

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