Vegetarians in Paradise inaugurates our VegParadise Media Reviews with a provocative documentary film called Eating.
A Documentary Film Written, Edited, and Produced
By Michael Anderson
Videocassette available from BeaconDV.Org, 2002
Anderson was not a complete novice to filmmaking having produced several educational videos previously. In the case of Eating he wanted to show the American public how their dietary choices were affecting their health, their environment, and the animals they used for food.
"In a nutshell this project was borne out of anger because I was already in my 50's when I first came across the full range of arguments for a plant-based diet," says Anderson. "Quite frankly, I was stunned and angry because the arguments are so powerful, yet virtually unknown in the mainstream. I was angry because of what I had been doing to my body, the environment, and the animals I was eating. Like most Americans, I never made the connection."
Anderson himself narrates the 89-minute film and includes brief scenes of himself jogging at the beginning and the ending. The narration is both on and off camera. His narration includes his own family's story that mentions his father-in-law with heart disease, his mother with osteoporosis, and his sister-in-law with diabetes. His conclusion is that "the American eating habit is officially suicidal." As he points out, the Standard American Diet (SAD) that relies on animal protein contributes to the death of two out of three Americans each year.
Before 1900 heart disease was not mentioned in medical textbooks. The working class was mostly vegetarian. Only the rich were dying of diseases caused by an overabundance of animal protein. In the Twentieth Century meat became more abundant and affordable as heart disease became the number 1 killer and 40% of the people developed cancer. Obesity has become rampant as people reaching the age of 65 have already consumed 50 tons of food, enough to fill six garbage trucks. The visual of a garbage truck might also be interpreted to reflect the quality of foods people are eating.
In discussing cholesterol and clogged arteries, the film presents visuals showing the buildup of plaque that narrows the flow of blood. Seeing the narrowing of an artery is far more effective than reading about it. As the narrator declares, "Cholesterol has caused more deaths than all the wars of the Twentieth Century, all natural disasters, and all automobile accidents combined."
In 1971 President Nixon declared war on cancer. Anderson lets his viewers in on "a dirty secret. We already have a cure for cancer--your immune system." The biggest cause of cancer is a weakened immune system that can be strengthened by a plant-based diet. "A cure for cancer is inside you," declares the narrator.
One of the highlights of the film is the interview with cancer-survivor Ruth Heidrich. Heidrich, a marathon runner and champion triathlete, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1982. After surgery to remove the malignancy, she refused radiation and chemotherapy. Her seeking of other opinions led her to Dr. John McDougall.
McDougall told her that her SAD diet had caused her cancer. She informed him that she had not eaten red meat for years, only chicken, fish, and skim milk. He responded by telling her she needed to be on a plant-based diet to save her life. After three weeks on a plant-based diet she had lowered her cholesterol from 236 to 160. Twenty years later she was still cancer free.
Also revealed in the film are the nutrition myths surrounding dairy products. Both doctors and dieticians have bought into the myth that dairy is healthy and will help prevent osteoporosis by providing calcium. "The primary cause of osteoporosis is a sedentary work and lifestyle," the narrator asserts. "Dairy is liquid meat." Drinking three glasses of milk a day is equal to eating 21 slices of bacon. A pint of ice cream is the equivalent of 24 slices of bacon.
Anderson briefly details how he became a vegetarian overnight. He now enjoys what he calls a "delicious, varied, old-fashioned diet." For others he recommends a gradual approach using meat, dairy, and egg substitutes. He suggests eating the old-fashioned way with occasional animal foods until the individual is comfortable in making the total change to a plant-based diet
The program Anderson follows and recommends to others is the RAVE Diet.
The benefits include:
The long-term benefits include clearing of plaque in the blood vessels, more oxygen in the body, fewer toxins in the body, lower blood pressure, stronger bones, and longer life.
The second part of the film is called "Beyond Health--Environmental Waste." The statistical information on the amount of agricultural raw materials used in animal production is quite boggling. Approximately 80% of corn, 80% of grain, and 95% of oats are fed to farm animals. Quite startling is the fact that 50% of the fish catch goes to feed those same animals.
The 99-cent burger costs the public much more if the animal food, animal waste, destruction of the rain forests, and excessive use of water are factored into the price. Producing one pound of beef, for example, requires 12,000 gallons of water.
The issue of disease-causing animal feces in food is dramatized showing a typical toilet and then stating that "your toilet is cleaner than most of the meat you eat." Irradiating the meat to kill the pathogens is an unsatisfactory solution to the problem because the meat still contains animal waste.
The film graphically demonstrates how our animal-based diet consumes 1/3 of our raw material and fossil fuel, uses 1/2 of our fresh water, pollutes fresh water, poisons our food supply, destroys topsoil, destroys forests, destroys biodiversity, and destroys species.
In revealing how animals are abused in the factory farm system that provides meat and dairy products, the film shows farms animals living under brutal conditions. Society has created concentration camps for animals. Cattle are castrated and their horns are cut off. Male calves are confined in narrow cages and malnourished to create veal. Hens have their beaks cut off and are confined in small cages, while male chicks are decapitated or put into a grinder when they are still alive.
"Eating animals is one of America's socially acceptable aspects of violence," says the narrator. "Changing your diet will give you better health and help reverse an eating habit that is destroying the very fabric of our lives."
The film concludes with a list of famous vegetarians past and present from Herodotus to Paul McCartney. Musical selections include "Amazing Grace" sung by Leslie Clark, "Last Dolphin" performed by Ivory Tower, and "Just Three Words" played by the Eve Selis Band.
Credits for photos and film clips are provided. Selected References features a list of books Anderson obviously used in his research for the film.
Anderson has created a professionally executed powerful and moving film. What makes the film exceedingly valuable is that it is grounded in careful research. This reviewer has read most of the Selected References and can target where most of the statements in the film originated. Although there is a cautionary note about showing the film to children, young people should be aware that the package of meat in the supermarket has a history that reflects violence and mistreatment of animals.
To Anderson's credit, he financed the project with his own funds and persuaded others to assist in the project. His one failing was not giving specific credits at the end to those who helped bring the project to fruition.
"After investing a year of almost full-time research, I felt compelled to do something to spread the word and help turn plant-based diets into mainstream diets," Anderson says. With this excellent film he has taken a giant step toward achieving that goal. Hopefully, he will be able to gain a wide mainstream audience. Despite the cautionary note for young people, this film should be shown to them. They have so much to gain.
Anyone interested in learning more about the RAVE Diet can go to http://www.ravediet.com/