So many amazing documentaries are coming out all the time about vegan diets, animal welfare, and the environment. In my previous post about documentaries Must-Watch Documentaries, I listed some of the absolute must-see films about these topics.
However, there are many more documentaries that I consider to be essential viewing. So if you’ve watched Forks Over Knives, Eating, Earthlings, Blackfish, Cowspiracy, etc. definitely move on to these ones.
None of these documentaries are always enjoyable to watch, in that they examine disturbing issues in our society – whether it be animal exploitation and abuse, environmental destruction, corporate malfeasance, or cover-ups within the government and the media. That being said, they do tend to be riveting and entertaining, not unlike a good mystery or thriller. After watching them, we feel more knowledgeable and enlightened, as well as more eager to share what we’ve learned with people we know or meet. We become more committed to seeking out truth and justice, and doing our part to no longer be complicit in crimes against humanity, the environment, and animals.
What is speciesism? A young and endearing college student, unfamiliar with the worlds of veganism and animal rights, takes it upon himself to answer this question as a part of a self-initiated school project. He films this journey, in which he interviews animal rights experts and organizations, and eventually comes to see our society’s attitude towards animals in a completely different light. The protagonist’s quirky sense of humor helps to make the documentary more lighthearted and fun despite the at times difficult subject matter.
Available to rent on Vimeo.
From the same filmmakers who produced Cowspiracy, detailing the catastrophic effects of animal agriculture on the environment, What the Health investigates the health implications of consuming animal products and why it is exactly that nonprofit organizations searching for “cures” to diseases of affluence such as heart disease and cancer don’t warn against the dangers of eating animal foods. As with Cowspiracy, we learn that often these organizations are funded by the meat, egg, and dairy industries, thereby leading to a fundamental conflict of interest.
Available on Netflix and Vimeo.
Virunga National Park in the Congo is home to some of the world’s last mountain gorillas, which are critically endangered due to loss of habitat and poaching. At the beginning of Virunga, we learn about the people who work at Virunga National Park, committed to preserving the sanctity of the biodiverse park. There’s André Bauma, the loving caretaker of orphaned gorillas who lost their parents to poaching, some of which suffer PTSD from their encounters with violent humans. Then there’s Rodrigue Mugaruka Katembo, a park ranger who daily risks his life to protect the gorillas. Since the 1990s, 130 park rangers have been killed at Virunga National Park. We also meet several other interesting characters as the documentary progresses, such as Emmanuel de Merode, a Belgian of royal descent who serves as warden of the park, and Melanie Gouby, a young undercover french reporter. Meanwhile, a British oil company called SOCO is establishing a presence in the area, with designs on infiltrating the park in search of oil. While some locals are averse to the idea of SOCO coming in, others think that the oil company will bring money and progress. Towards the end of the film, civil war literally breaks out as rebels attempt to take over the park. Bauma, Katembo, and de Merode courageously hold down the fort, prepared to die in order to protect the gentle gorillas and the park itself.
Watch this inspiring clip of Andre Bauma and his gorilla family here.
Available to stream on Netflix.
In the US, corporations are protected as persons under the 14th amendment, and yet they are not subject to the same rules and penalties as normal citizens. Companies have no moral or social obligations; their only obligation is to make money. As a result, they have been able to get away with murder, literally and figuratively – exploiting the environment, people, and animals, without having to account for their actions.
Viewing corporations through the lens of a psychological evaluation, the film demonstrates that if corporations really were persons the vast majority of them would fall under the criteria of psychopaths. We come to understand that in giving corporations supreme power and not requiring them to have a social conscience, America effectively created a monster.
Available on Amazon Video.
Of the many documentaries I’ve seen about the havoc that plastic is wreaking on the environment, and have found this one to be the most thorough and compelling. A journalist and record-holding free diver travel the world to catalog the environmental and health hazards posed by plastic. We learn about the million tons of plastic is dumped into the ocean every year, and the species who mistake it for food or become entangled in it. We also get a glimpse into the insidious ways in which plastic chemicals find their way into our own bodies. But despite painting a bleak picture, A Plastic Ocean ends on an optimistic note, detailing various alternatives to consuming plastic and the efforts of pioneering organizations to take on this scourge of the ocean.
Max Gerson was a German-born American doctor who discovered the fact that cancer could be cured through dietary changes. After immigrating to the US in the 1930’s, he began treating cancer patients using his method – which involves a vegan diet, juicing, and supplements – with successful results. He published his findings in a book called A Cancer Therapy: Results of 50 Cases. However, his work was discredited and silenced by the medical establishment, and he was later poisoned to death.
In Dying to Have Known, documentary filmmaker Steve Kroschel sets out to figure out whether or not the Gerson therapy is effective and to understand why Gerson’s method was so aggressively maligned by the medical-pharmaceutical industry. We are given the testimonies of patients, doctors, nutritionists, and scientists, which point unequivocally to the truth that the Gerson therapy works. Kroschel must then ask, “Why is this powerful curative therapy still suppressed, more than 75 years after it was clearly proven to cure degenerative disease?” The answer is disturbing, to say the least.
Available on YouTube.
I believe that humans owe a massive apology to all animals for how callously and cavalierly we’ve treated them since we began herding them about 10,000 years ago. Still, elephants have in many ways been singled out by humans for mistreatment and exploitation. We’ve killed them by the millions just for their tusks; we’ve taken them out of their natural habitat and put them in concrete prisons so that we can see them at our local zoo; and we’ve subjected them to cruel training methods that they can perform silly tricks for us at the circus. Narrated by Lily Tomlin, this 40-minute HBO documentary accounts for some of the hardships elephants have had to endure simply to satisfy our whims. It also sheds light on some of the remarkable characteristics of elephants such as their intelligence and the strong emotional bonds they share with one another.
Available on Amazon Video.