Monday, June 22, 2009

Food - More Frightening Than Any Thriller

by Clare Langley-Hawthorne




I literally just got home from seeing this incredible documentary Food Inc, and am still shuddering over much of what I saw. I tell you some of the behind-the-food-you-eat politics, processes and industrial intrigue is enough to put any thriller to shame.


Although I was already a proponent of organic and local foods, this movie opened my eyes to the food production industry in a way that I never expected - It scared me. From contamination of our food sources to horrific conditions (for workers as well as animals) and the unconscionable practices of companies that perpetuate the dangers in our current food production system - this movie affected me as viscerally as any horror film would.


I wept for the mother of 2 1/2 -year-old Kevin who died after eating a hamburger contaminated with the E. coli strain O157:H7 and I was sickened by images of chickens who are artificially bred so that their limbs cannot sustain their own weight anymore. I honestly thought I would vomit after seeing images of how meat is processed in this country - not because I am squeamish, but because I was so outraged at the chemical treatments that are now needed to prevent contamination - contamination due to the fact that we now feed corn rather than grass to our cattle. Don't even get me started on immigrant worker issues or the practices of companies such as Monsanto...because my outrage would just be stirred anew.


The greatest thing about this movie, however, was not just that it lifted the veil on the food production industry in America but that it also made me feel empowered to make the changes that will hopefully, one day, alter the system forever. As a writer I want to delve deeper into some of the stories behind the reports in this film - because truth seems stranger and more terrifying than any plot I could have concocted. As a mother, I can make a difference to my family each day and with every meal - and have vowed to become a 'mindful eater'. I have no excuse now not to eat organic, local produce that is in season and which comes from companies who respect their workers, their animals as well as the environment. Pretty easy in California but the film recognizes that for many struggling families it is cheaper to buy a cheeseburger than a head of broccoli (what kind of crazy system lets that occur?!)

I tell you, after seeing this film, if I do write a dark noirish thriller, it won't be called "The Firm" or "The Chamber" it will be called "The Farm".

8 comments:

  1. I've heard great but horrifying things about this film. As for me, in high school I read Upton Sinclair's The Jungle and didn't eat meat for over a month. Can't imagine what this would do to me. But we must be informed to take action.

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  2. Years ago, my daughter became a vegetarian after reading Fast Food Nation, which similarly exposed many of the practices of the food industry. I've never become a vegetarian, but over the years I've gradually altered my eating and buying practices--buying only cage free eggs, free range poultry, etc. I also keep removing whole categories of animals from my consumption list. I recently removed pork and turkey after reading about some of the appalling conditions and practices at industrial farms. Some members of my family dismiss my concerns and question my willingness to pay higher prices for food that is produced a certain way. But I think that it is important that animals should be treated ethically and humanely while they're alive, even if we plan to consume them eventually.

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  3. I tell you, after seeing this film, if I do write a dark noirish thriller, it won't be called "The Firm" or "The Chamber" it will be called "The Farm"

    Maybe you ought to go for it, Clare. Outrage is often a good story starter. I do remind new writers not to stack the deck if they do an "agenda driven" book. I tell them to crawl into the skin of the villain, too, or the book will seem thin. I just finished a thriller that did this. The villain was right out of the currently trendy catalog of convenient stereotypes, and the book was a complete letdown as a result.

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  4. Good advice, James! I just finished Michael Crichton's AIRFRAME, where as I read along I thought the villain was going to be the evil corporation that offshores US jobs and sells critical American technology to mainland China. But the end was surprising. The author managed to get his agenda across while keeping the reader engaged.

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  5. Outrage is indeed a poweful motivator Sue and Kathryn - I am definitely changing my eating habits after seeing this film! James, I think perhaps I could do a thriller like this but you are totally right - a writer needs to get beneath the skin of the characters not let the agenda dictate the book.

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  6. I used to kill my own meat. It doesn't get much more organic than bullwinkle in the back yard, or fish straight from the North Pacific.

    While I still get the fish, I don't get to hunt anymore. Moving to the city means I can't just shoot stuff when I'm hungry...and the cats around here seem to move pretty fast. Therefore it's the grocery store, and I tell you, there's a big difference between store bought killed cow and organic home-killed cow.

    Tried going vegetarian once, but ended up with lots of head aches and loss of strength, just isn't in my physiology. I'm an omnivore, therefore must kill my dinner from time to time. Looks like its time to clean the ol' hunting rifle and get out there.

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  7. This movie shows a terrific farmer who is all about doing it the old fashioned way. I was pleased that the agenda wasn't a vegetarian one because I'm an omnivore just like you Basil. I just haven't quite got to the point of hunting for it - though I did catch a fish once! just call me an urban wuss...

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  8. You've heard it before, but ...My wife and I harvest about 60 Cornish Cross cockrils that weigh about seven pounds each yearly. All they do for 8 weeks is eat, drink water, and move used feed. We kill humanely (lethal injections after appeals are exhausted). We have laying hens for eggs, an acre garden, and we're looking into adding rabbits. I'm booked to shoot a Bison in October for meat and a deer or two should fill the freezer. I think we could be pretty much self sufficient one of these days--it's the goal.

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