Are Vegan Documentaries Good for the Movement?

Herd of cows grazing on a farmland in Devon, England

Over the past few years, our Netflix feeds have seen several high-profile documentaries designed to push the vegan movement. They promote the health, environmental, and animal rights benefits in a way books and articles simply can’t.

But many of these documentaries have also sparked blow-back both online and off. So it begs the question:

Are vegan documentaries good for the movement?

The answer is a bit more complicated than we thought…

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • The What the Health controversy.
  • Is video the most powerful medium?
  • NFL players going vegan.
  • Vegan documentaries made just for vegans.
  • What Forks Over Knives did right.

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Comments

  1. Loved this episode. I definitely agree that if someone “turns” to veganism after watching the documentaries they were already considering it. I was vegetarian for years but recently a documentary reminded me why I quit meat years ago and I’ve since been eating plant based. I think the consumer has to plant their own seed in order for these docs to be effective. I’ll also say they should be better produced. I’d love to hear your take after you guys actually watch “What the Health”…its full of great information and is ruined by the producer/journalist thinking customer service reps are covering up some big beef/dairy conspiracy.

  2. So I actually watched what the health as my first Vegan documentary. I absolutely knew that the “facts” in the documentary may not be totally accurate but took it upon myself to further research afterwords since it was quite shocking. After more research I started watching other vegan documentaries such as forks over knives and vegucated. These along with food Inc. really solidified my decision to go vegan. Food Inc. is not a vegan documentary but I think it shines a good light on how much influence there is our food choices including beef and dairy that have nothing to do with health but money instead. When I watched what the health I was a 100% carnivore with no interest in going vegan. It was never a thought in my mind. Almost instantly I went vegetarian and one month later I am vegan. I do think that what the Health has a lot of controversy because it was extremely one sided toward a vegan diet, but at least it is getting people thinking. It certainly worked on me but I did not take the facts at face value.

  3. I agree that documentaries can be helpful, but I don’t feel the argument for veganism is strengthened by misleading and wrong information about health and nutrition. In the world of nutrition professionals, there is already an uphill battle against broad generalizations drawn from studies that look at diets more restrictive than veganism.

    Documentaries like “What the Health” make this even harder. Evidence-based nutritional advice goes a good deal farther in developing credibility and advancing adoption of vegan diets. The facts are compelling enough without embellishment. As advocates, all we have is our credibility. If we are not willing to vet arguments and base health claims on evidence, the messenger – and the message – lose credibility. And then you really are left speaking to the choir.

    Ginny Messina (The Vegan RD) did a couple of great articles critiquing “What the Health” and the impacts of sharing misleading nutrition and health information in the name of vegan boosterism, and links to other evidence-based responses by vegans. I highly recommend the read. https://www.theveganrd.com/2017/07/a-science-based-and-vegan-perspective-on-the-new-what-the-health-documentary/

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