Thursday, December 20, 2012

Movie Review: Vegucated

Disclaimer:  I am not being critical of the vegan diet per se only how the movie portrays it.  In fact I am very curious about the life style knowing a few vegetarians in my life.

Vegucated is a documentary (I love documentaries) about three omnivores agreeing to change their diet for 6 weeks to a vegan one and be documented along the way.  The movie is very insightful particularly when it talks about health and animal processing.  And it is interesting to see how the participants change their eating habits.  But...I have some major criticisms of the movie and I'm sure some vegans would agree.

1) When the narrator/ educator takes the trio shopping, she talks about how many processed foods are vegan.  The problem is that if even if you change your diet from one of animal to all plant-based you can still run into dietary issues.  It's easy to carb load, which the body changes into sugar.  It's also easy to eat foods with high levels of sugar, salt, and fat from being fried.  As the movie explains later on, it's vegan diets that are also low in sugar and fat that are healthy for you.

2) Soy- A lot of vegans substitute soy products for dairy.  The problem is that soy also produces estrogen in a plant-based form.  Consuming high amounts of soy can affect women causing PMS, disrupt lactation, and for men and women affect natural onset of puberty and the ability to reproduce.  Some gynecologists actually tell peri-menopausal women to increase their soy intake to help alleviate commons complaints like hot flashes.  Throughout the movie, participants show things like soy milk, soy dogs, soy butter, and boca burgers.  If a person is looking into the vegan diet, limiting ones soy intake should be recommended.  You can easily use bean-based burgers or almond or rice milk and dairy products instead.

3) Plastics- In the beginning of the documentary the trio is also introduced to the vegan life style, in which you also don't wear any animal products.  The man of the trio tries on a faux leather jacket.  They are introduced to mooshoes, a vegan shoe company based in New York.  The problem is that in order to make the products appear to be leather they have to use plastics.

According to mooshoes website:
Our shoes that look like leather are made from a polyurethane synthetic microfiber. Our shoes do not contain any pvc or vinyl. They will breathe, stretch, and act just like leather.
In other words it's made from plastic.  Plastics are petroleum based (although there are some that are plant-based).  Petroleum oil spills, like the one off the Gulf Coast, affect wild life.

So while living a vegan life-style maybe all well and fine to protect the environment and prevent cruelty to animals, if you're buying plastic, you're still contributing to the problem.

But you say, what shoes can a vegan wear?  Ones made in jute, hemp, or cotton.  Unfortunately a lot of these shoes are produced in a countries that have poor working conditions and low wages.  So is it animals or humans?  Other alternatives are plastic based shoes with companies willing to use a closed-system.  Meaning they will accept worn out shoes, grind them up, and then remold them into new shoes.

4) Halal and Kosher slaughter- One of the things the documentary doesn't address is other forms of slaughter other than the standard.  In Halal and Kosher slaughter, the animals are immediately slain so that the animals feels no pain.  The slaughters take great pains to insure that this happens.  It's bloodier than the standard practices which involve putting a bolt into the animals brain, but as the documentary mentions the bolt sometimes misses.  If you live in an urban area, it's easy to find Halal or Kosher butcher shops.  There's one down the street from my house.  One doesn't necessarily need to eliminate meat from their diet, but one could seek an alternative and choose to limit the amount of meat in their diet.

I think the movie was certainly eye-opening, but as it went along I felt like it was skewing the facts and and forgetting things like "fair-trade" and "factory conditions" which normally accompany vegans.  I'm not sure if the documentarians avoided these issues on purpose to focus more on the trio or if they felt that it wasn't relevant to the movie.  I'm also unsure if they've addressed these problems either publicly through promotions/screenings or their website.  I'm sure I'm not the only person whose noticed these flaws. 

5 comments:

  1. Hi,

    I agree with your title sans the immediate concession. This documentary was a joke. It was largely based on emotional appeal which was not comprehensive. I do agree with some of your points but have others to add as well, like the example of 100% grass-fed beef. They never mentioned this alternative, only speaking of cows that are fed grains (which is not their natural diet). They made mention of the different types of farms and lamely attempted or pretended to cover these farms, then went back again to the factory feed farms which anyone with half a brain would agree is abhorrent, disgusting and an abomination. The premise of the film was that veganism is healthy, but let me remind us that it is an invention of the 21st century. A time where we are largely unhealthy, so we should not trust ourselves to create these new diets. Anyhow. Good post.

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  2. I agree with you blogger and also Anonymous. I believe that they portray Veganism as simply an alternative 'lifestyle" changing what one wears as well as eliminating certain foods. I wonder if they would criticize truly local meat producers who do not ship outside their area and you have to go to the farm to buy the meats. These type of farms allow their animals true free range since they are not producing meat for the masses but only for the locals who go out of their way to go to their farms.

    I believe it would have been much more informative and effective if they simply stressed the health benefits of a vegan diet as opposed to the morality of eating or not eating meat. Its interesting to note that a Vegan diet is a luxury of living in an environment where there is an ample array of different fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables and grains year round ie. The industrialized high-tech West.

    I think a Vegan diet is a very healthy alternative IF you eliminate the processed foods but I feel this way only for reasons of health, if it were only being offered as an alternative because I cannot raise fish and meat myself and so cannot monitor where my meat is from and how its handled I probably wouldn't consider it at all.

    I found it disturbing that the documentarian suggests fake processed meats and cheese and 'oh by the way' you can also utilize processed Oreo cookies. If one has chosen to switch to a healthier diet then they can well learn how to make their own batch of homemade dairy free cookies, its actually quite easy.

    And what's the case against butter anyway? I mean really.

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  3. Oh and one more thing. The China diet study as well as other studies comparing diets world wide and even Dr. Thurman stress a mostly vegetable diet as being the best. The key to these studies is MOSTLY vegetable, it does not have to be completely meat and dairy free. As we see from studies that show Mediterranean diets as healthier compared to Western diets its based on the lack of processed foods and balance between veg, grains, meats and healthy oils. Vegetarians get less cancer than meat eaters but so do those who consume fish.

    Change your diet for health! Be balanced and incorporate good eating habits that work for you.

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  4. Oh by the way I found a much much better documentary on this subject called "Forks Over Knives". They don't mention veganism as a way of life nor do they go on about vegan clothing or how animals suffer before being slaughtered, instead they delve into the China Study, American health issues and the research doctors who came to the conclusion that a vegan diet is a better health choice.

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  5. AHH! Yes. So true! We share many of the same "beefs" with this movie (pun intended :)). Well said. Check out my review here: http://www.drnicoledinezza.com/doctor-dinezzas-blog/a-review-of-vegucated

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I love to read your thoughts. Thanks for sharing!