So, I was glad to see a (brief) interview with Gary Baur of Farm Sanctuary, and a nod (however grudging) to the animal rights argument. I was also glad to see that the film restricts itself mostly to the phrase "whole-foods, plant-based diet" rather than "vegan" (in fact, the only person in the whole film who utters the word "vegan" is Mac Danzig, and you know better than to correct him...). The first because I think the ethical argument should always be front and center, and we shouldn't be playing a shell game with people, tricking them into the subculture. And the second because, as Messina says, the argument for a whole foods, plant-based diet, however strong, is not in itself an argument for veganism.The counter-argument to all of this, of course, is that getting people to go vegan for any reason is a good thing. It reduces animal use and it helps shift paradigms about food choices—which can eventually open minds to the issue of animal liberation. I’m in favor of most efforts and campaigns that do those things. But here is the problem with using the health argument in this way—it’s that there isn’t any health argument for veganism.There is, of course, a pretty good argument for eating more plants (lots more plants) and less animal food, but no one has shown that you must eat a 100 percent plant diet in order to be healthy. So to make an argument for a 100% vegan diet based on health benefits alone, we have no choice but to stretch the truth. We have to overstate the benefits of vegan diets, and sometimes minimize or dismiss the risks. And as soon as we stray from actual facts, our advocacy is on shaky ground.
Mixed feelings aside, I still recommend the film. It's an engaging and moving portrait of Drs. T. Colin Cambpell and Caldwell Esselstyn, and the people whose lives they've saved with their approach. I found it particularly poignant that both men grew up on dairy farms, then had their minds changed by evidence and experience. It helped me see them not as advocates for a cause, but as honest scientists promoting their work.
And thankfully, there's zero talk about homeopathy, naturopathy and other forms of unproven, unethical quackery; and only a brief bit of borderline conspiracy thinking.
Overall, it's a great documentary that will probably convince a lot of people that they need to eat lots more plants. I'm not sure how much it will help the animal rights movement, but at least Mac Danzig will keep kicking ass for the film's audience on TV.
Not a perfect film for the vegan cause, but we can't all be Earthlings.