A few years ago, health and environmental considerations compelled me to try giving up beef. I thought it would be difficult so I was surprised to find that I did not miss eating beef.
There are many delicious dishes and meat alternatives to be enjoyed. The main reason for my decision was rainforest degradation and my eyes were also open to farming and slaughterhouse practices, so it was important to make a modest change to my dietary consumption.
It was difficult however to shut my eyes to a film I recently caught on Netflix. OKJA, directed by Bong Joon-Ho and starring Tilda Swinton, starts out like ET, with the beautiful friendship of a young girl and a gentle giant, a geoengineered super pig.
The loving pair are torn apart as the adventure twists and turns with a sinister corporate marketing scheme and a clumsy but earnest animal rights and rescue squad. I’m not giving anything away by saying that the manic caper ends with a sad look at how animals live out their last days before being killed and processed for human consumption. It is a chilling statement against factory farming.
OKJA probably won’t turn you into a vegan – it didn’t turn me into one, and I don’t think that was the filmmaker’s intent – and I remain supportive of exploring how to feed the world’s population without continued negative impact upon the environment.
But the movie certainly has a timely message to act humanely and honestly. In an interview, OKJA’s screenwriter Jon Ronson said: “You don't want to think about the slaughterhouse, so you deliberately find ways to block that thought out of your head...like, we destroy people on social media and then come up with psychological tricks to make ourselves not feel bad about it.”
Meanwhile, OKJA is a thrilling David v Goliath story that kept me on the edge of my seat -- first with the beautiful Korean mountainside scenes, then with the manic chase scenes, and finally in a devastating slaughterhouse scene where a child and beast exhibit our best selves.
Have you seen a film or documentary that has made you think more deeply about an issue recently? I’d love to hear your recommendations.