A Vegan Education

One of the reasons I love documentaries is because I like to learn. Call me a nerd, but it’s true, I love digesting information on just about any topic. More recently I have become curious about our food industry, which is why when I saw Vegucated floating around in my recommended watchlist, I figured I would give it a shot.  Having watched and enjoyed Food Inc a few years ago (this is also available on Netflix, and I HIGHLY recommend watching it), I thought it was about time I sat down to watch another doc about food. Vegucated is one of those feel good documentaries about a topic that many people hold many presuppositions in their mind about. That’s right, it’s a documentary about those “crazy” liberal animal activists: vegans. The film not only clears up a lot of the myths surrounding veganism, but also highlights the positive impacts of a balanced vegan lifestyle has on overall health and animal welfare. In this personal and highly accessible film, we learn a lot about veganism, as well as some helpful tips for anyone looking to adopt a more plant based diet.

The film follows the director, food activist and vegan, Marissa Miller Wolfson as she takes three “meat and cheese loving” New Yorkers on a crash course in veganism. She posted an ad online looking for participants who would be willing to be filmed living vegan for six weeks, and found: Tesla, a veggie hating student, Brian, an actor and meat lover, and Ellen a comedian and single mother. Each person joined up for a variety of reasons. Ellen, for instance, was looking for a healthier diet having become worried about the impacts her on the go lifestyle and subsequent steady diet of fast and processed foods was having on her and her children.

Marissa takes her new vegans on many educational journeys throughout their six weeks. Everyone begins the first week with a health check, measuring things such as cholesterol levels and weight, in order to compare end results to see if they experience a positive impact. She educates them on easy recipes, and the types of food to look for while shopping, including tasty alternatives for meat, cheese and milk. She also gets them to dig into the factory farm industry, to highlight why activism such as veganism is important. All three are shocked to learn about the processes behind how animals get from the farm to the plate, and are sickened at the inherent cruelty of the factory farm system which they had previously turned a blind eye.

The film follows the ups and downs the participants face, particularly Tesla, whose traditional family is far from supportive of her new diet. At one point in the film, Tesla tearfully confesses to Marissa that she feels guilty and doesn’t think she can be a true vegan. Marissa tells her to do the best she can, and if she can’t make the full commitment after the six weeks, to try vegetarianism, which she may find more viable.  Despite the occasional bump in the road, all of Marissa’s new vegan’s make it through their six-week challenge with opened minds and broadened palates.

The film has won several awards, including Best Documentary at TIFF in 2011, and all for good reason. Overall, Vegucated is a well-balanced documentary that mixes the participant’s experiences with facts about the factory farm system, and health information provided by renowned nutrition experts Dr. Joel Fuhrman and Dr. T. Colin Campbell.  Both doctors are advocates of plant based diets as the most powerful way to obtain good health and prevent disease. I really enjoyed this film and thought it gave a fresh, fun perspective on veganism. For being both entertaining and educational, I suggest that everyone, vegans and non-vegans alike, park themselves in front of Netflix and check this out.