At the Fork: An Exploration

Hello all!  I know I've been awfully quiet over here.  For the last week and a half I've been up to my neck in the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and five Dallas police officers, and I'm just now able to disengage from those very important events for long enough to get back into some vegan/AR work.

I did so by attending the Whole Foods-sponsored screening last night of At the Fork, a film by John Papola.  Per the website, "Filmmaker and omnivore John Papola, together with his vegetarian wife Lisa, offer up a timely and refreshingly unbiased look at how farm animals are raised for our consumption. With unprecedented access to large-scale conventional farms, Papola asks the tough questions behind every hamburger, glass of milk and baby-back rib. What he discovers are not heartless industrialists, but America’s farmers — real people who, along with him, are grappling with the moral dimensions of farming animals for food."  Hmmm.

I live tweeted the event, and now because I love you have compiled those tweets here.  Enjoy, maybe?

About to live-tweet . This will be interesting, no doubt.

That is, if the theater can figure out how to take all these people's vouchers... 

Made it. Made it. Ribs on the grill three seconds in. Ribfest! Wife Lisa says what I feel: bleeeeegh. 

Visit Animal Place to meet real live farm animals on not a real live farm. Sanctuary mission is to end animal exploitation. 

Have a "human gestation crate" to show people what pigs go through. "This is the price they pay for me to eat my spare ribs" 

Shots of pigs in gestation crates. Obligatory Temple Grandin interview. Indiana mega-piggery that lets people see inside... 

Various farming conditions make it unsustainable to keep pigs outside; legacy farms says pigs can lead happy lives in stalls. 

Filmmaker holds a piglet and is surprised he doesn't scream; then he screams. "Farmer" pulling piglets from a sow's vagina... 

...and clipping their teeth. Legacy farms guy says God gave man dominion over animals, we shouldn't humanize them.  

In to Iowa: $7 per pig is what they profit. 1969 confinement shed footage. More holding of piglets, "processing" them. 

Processing includes injections, tail docking; farmer says "it's not wrong." Pigs weaned at 30 days; market weight @ 6 months.

Now using a shock prod to get pigs onto a truck. I don't know if I'm going to make it through this movie.

There are more corporations in animal farming because we want to pay less for our food. TRUTH. But many of us need to...  

Now a farm that raises animals outside. Pigs frolicking; big red barns. Ethical meat.

So why do you castrate pigs? "It helps the food quality." They crawl into a sow's pen and move her piglets; she's FURIOUS. 

"It seems like it's really an invasive mutilation... and it is I guess." Re the piglet castration. But it's a business...  

And now artificial insemination. Farmer is sitting on her to keep her still; she lets him because she's in heat.

"The consumer has to vote with his dollar" to change industry practices.  

Farmer wants to know what's going through the pigs' heads. "I know you had pork for lunch you jerk." Ha ha ha.

Governor Terry Branstand wants us all to know how great Iowa pork is.  

Will Harris of White Oak Pasture, GA - "Cowboy culture is glamorous" but not best for animals or land.

Animals should be able to express their instinctive behaviors. Hogs are hanging out in a forest. No stalls or crates.

Was bothered most by old way of shipping cattle on double-decker semi - so they built an slaughterhouse on site.

Temple Grandin again, on how to nicely slaughter. Filmmaker: it's a contradiction to care about food animals' feelings.

"Dominion does not mean complete domination." A different farmer who believes animals are sentient; cares about feelings.

1000k cattle feedlot; they can lose dozens of animals a day due to heat. They spray water to cool, so it gets muddy.

While filming from the public road, the feedlot threatens to call the sheriff to make them leave.

Filmmaker John's wife is vegetarian; they fight because she knows this won't change his dinner.

Grandin: ag gag laws are not the thing to do. Change your practices instead. Governor of Iowa says it's "very effective."

Craig Watts: contract chicken grower: "I just felt like the consumer is being lied to." Footage of chicks in a shed.

Broiler chickens grow too fast, are kept too crowded. After two weeks, must focus on culling birds that won't make size.

Wife wants to revive a chick that isn't doing well. "I think I found a lady who's going to adopt him."

Discussion of food labeling. USDA has organic, but welfare isn't really involved. There's "certified humane" and two others.

"Higher degrees of animal welfare are being rewarded in the market" for the first time, says .

Crystal Lake Farms lets chickens actually live outside. "They're being real chickens... Chickens came from jungle fowl."  

And yet, the catchers still come at night to take them to slaughter, carrying the typical five birds per hand.

Next up: mechanized cow milking at Fair Oaks Dairy Farm, Indiana. Don't pasture because food is inconsistent.  

Radiance Dairy, Iowa: cows live on pasture. Produce less milk and live a lot longer; one cow 13 years old.

At Fair Oaks, calves are taken almost immediately away from mothers, to keep them from bonding. Veal crates.  

Wife: "I don't know why you can't hold on to the compassion" when you sit down to eat. He explains that the feelings fade.

Now egg-laying hens in battery cages with automated food and water. Least expensive product for the consumer, worst welfare.

Grandin: this large scale egg production is very efficient, but also very fragile. Exploration of bird flu epidemic.

Pasture-based egg farms largely avoided the bird flu epidemic.

Pasture-raised eggs are more expensive because of labor and land costs. Egg Innovation in KY is trying to scale up pasture.

Of note: like all movies, the music is very emotionally manipulative. It's telling you how to feel. Pay attention to it.

Wayne Pacelle says we should eat more vegetables and treat farm animals more humanely. Ok.

Filmmaker John enjoys a pulled "pork" jackfruit sandwich. Mark Bittman talks about "vegan before seven."

Belcampo Farms cattle ranchers refer to cows as beef, say raising them is a predictor/prey relationship. Call it killing.

Now county fair. 4H participant kid says pigs "just like dogs." Pigs are named Hopper and Copper. "It sucks" when they go.

Kids talk extensively about how much it hurts to raise pigs and then see them go to slaughter.

Filmmaker John has decided to become a conscious eater. Fairly vegetarian message at the end here, though not quite explicit.

Challenging us to take the "at the fork" challenge, reducing animal products and sourcing humane ones.

The end. I really have to think about whether to recommend this movie. Sure is hard to watch for the already converted.

Thinking back on - was there a single person of color in that movie? Seriously asking.

And that's all she (me) wrote.  I'm still processing my conclusions on this movie.  On the one hand, it does clearly show some brutal truths about how most animal farming is done - even on "humane" farms.  On the other, it promotes continuing consumption of animal products, though it does also promote reduction and seeking out more responsible production.  I just don't know.  What do y'all think?

1 comment:

  1. hi first time reader...I too was at the viewing and left early before the end. As someone that already lives a vegan life I found the movie exploitative. Many people need to see just how inhumane the treatment of animals are, however to present the movie as unbiased is just not the truth.
    The sponsors of this movie make profits off of the misery of animals. I can not support this.


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