Reacting to the Documentary Earthlings.

“Compassiona feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering”. Compassion is how we hopefully react when we see a being being abused, exploited, or murdered. If compassion is a part of human nature, how are we so capable of turning it off?

Genocide, environmental destruction, abuse and neglect. These acts cannot coexist with true compassion and love. I believe that we turn off compassion when we see another being as less than ourselves. We use justifications and faulty world views to turn the switch on compassion. When we reduce another being to an object, or when we see our power as a sign of superiority, we lose compassion. 

Watching Earthlings filled me with a nearly unbearable compassion. The compassion came pouring out of me in the form of sobbing. I felt the suffering of these beings and the horror of the acts deep inside of me. I felt pain wash over me and I didn’t sleep. I laid awake, mulling over the fact that in an instant my world view had been shifted. This is my experience.

This past year I have been researching lifestyle choices as they relate to nutrition. I was a vegetarian for four years and decided to transition back to a meat-eating diet. I wanted more options and it seemed easier to create a balanced diet. My reasons for reintegrating meat felt less significant than my reasons to cut it out but everyone around me was happy about it. Family dinners wouldn’t prompt groans from my custom dietary choices and going out with friends didn’t involve googling the menu before agreeing to be there.

I was convinced that the paleo diet made sense. Dark leafy greens, various vegetables, lean proteins, and a starch or fruit. This felt natural. No preservatives, no baked goods or heavy carbohydrates, lots of eggs and lots of chicken and of course lots of vegetables. The thing is, I’ve never particularly liked meat. Since I was a little girl, my mom would put meat in front of me and I would repeat “I don’t like chicken!” regardless of what kind of meat it was. I remember it repulsed me; I thought of it as dead food.

Similarly, I had an instinct to avoid pop like Coca Cola at all costs. It looked gross, it tasted weird, and from a young age I didn’t want it. Soon my friends started drinking coke at birthday parties and I saw it everywhere and I thought “I want to be like that” so I drank it, and I drank it, until I liked it. Or at least wanted it. Same goes for eggs, chicken, oysters, raw fish, milk, and smelly cheeses.

I thoroughly enjoy animal products now. And hey, they’re in everything right? Everyone eats animal products. The vegans are the odd ones out; the extremists. This is what I used to think. Then I began to think, maybe the mass majority of people aren’t always right just because they continue in traditional thought patterns and habits. If they were so healthy and knowledgeable then why was one in two American adults and one in six American kids overweight or obese?

Maybe my instincts were right. “Dead foods” like meats, animal flesh, puss-filled milk, corn syrup, xanthan gum, boxed up preservatives, and deep-fried take-out, were addictive and tasty but really gross at their core. “Foods with life” like fresh fruits, dark leafy greens, seeds and nuts, herbs and spices, and cleansing water were the foods our bodies really needed. We may not crave them with such intensity, but just because people crave cocaine, it doesn’t make it good for them. I don’t often crave going to the gym but I feel nourished and energized when I do.

I continued diving research, studies, and any information the internet had to offer on both sides. I watched countless documentaries on the meat industry, dairy industry, marketing tactics, sugar addiction, chronic illnesses and the pharmaceutical companies, poverty and food accessibility, sustainability and production, etc. I couldn’t believe how fooled we all were by the “got milk” campaigns and the trending diets. I walked by a poster in the Subway station that read “Strong people get more out of life”, it was a milk advertisement.

I was shocked that The China Study had been buried away. Why didn’t I learn about the most comprehensive study in the history of nutrition in my high school or university nutrition classes? The study that debunked the traditional food pyramid and had real world evidence of plant-based lifestyle success.

The China Study

“In 2005, T. Colin Campbell, PhD and his son Thomas M. Campbell, MD, shared the China Project findings along with additional research with the world in The China Study. This groundbreaking book examined the connection between nutrition and heart disease, diabetes, and cancer and the source of nutritional confusion produced by powerful lobbies, government entities, and opportunistic scientists. The revised and expanded edition includes new content, statistics, research and information about the changing medical system and how patients stand to benefit from a surging interest in plant-based nutrition. The China Study is hailed as one of the most important books about diet and health ever written.” –Read more here

You can watch T. Colin Campbell, PhD discuss this study in greater detail in the documentary Forks Over Knives. This documentary focuses primarily on the scientific research and clinical studies that stand behind the plant-based diet. It basically summarizes that a plant-based diet is the only diet that can reverse effects of heart disease, the number one killer in North America. The plant-based diet was correlated with a reduction in cancers, chronic diseases, and early death. At this point I was already on board and ready to start cutting meat out of my diet. Then I heard about Earthlings.

I heard about Earthlings after watching a series of interview of well known people in history who decided to become vegan. Ellen Degeneres was interviewed and talked about how she was considering the idea and then after watching the horror/documentary Earthlings, she couldn’t justify eating animal products ever again. This intrigued me. If I was already on board, could this documentary push me over the edge?

I sat in my bed and cued up the film. Fast forward only 15 minutes later and I was sobbing more than I had in years. I consider myself an empath. I’m sensitive to the emotional energy of people in my direct environment. I’m even sensitive to the energy of people outside of my direct environment. When I watched the suffering and inhumane treatment of the animals in this movie my heart bled for them. I felt myself screaming at the computer screen, turning away, weeping, and angry. I could not justify participating in this suffering. I endured a sleepless night, thinking about what thousands of animals were suffering through every day.

Earthlings discusses the significance of power struggles throughout history. When one race, religion, or species believes itself to be better or more powerful than another, this can be abused in horrific ways. It’s when a creature is treated like a worthless and lifeless object that true pain and suffering, hate and horror unfolds. This is what I saw in these slaughterhouses. The workers had a complete disconnect between the pain they inflicted and the being that was crying out for them to stop. It was clinical, it was procedure, and it was carnage.


Some people say “ugh I can’t watch that sort of thing, it makes me too upset”. You can’t watch where your food comes from? You can’t bare to look at it but you put it in your mouth? None of this made sense to me, and yet just months ago I was eating meat without the thought of any of it. I understood why vegans were angry that people ridiculed their choices without considering it for themselves. I felt angry. I hope to channel this anger into action. I hope to turn this hate and suffering into love and compassion. I hope our generation can inspire change in future generations. I hope we soon look back on the torture we have inflicted on other beings and see it for what it was.


Featured image by Mar de Lío