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Review: Do We Need To Eat Meat - A DW Documentary

WARNING: This documentary is NOT suitable for children

The documentary, Do we Need To Eat Meat by DW, is part 2 of a series about animal agriculture, its affect on the animals, our health and the planet. This instalment was released 20th February 2023 and is available on YouTube. This time the focus is on whether eating meat is natural, necessary or simply normal.

chart of animals killed in 16 minutes
The opening animation shows how our relationship with animals has changed

The documentary starts with the story of a family pet, Tessi. As a puppy she was the runt of the litter that the breeder could not sell. One family fell in love with her and took her home at only a few weeks old. Tessi became a member of the family, going on holidays, being a guest at weddings, growing up and growing old with the children, until she developed cancer. Tessi has an operation, the vet works to save her, this is then contrasted with the way that we see farm animals. That they are seen as food and not individuals and they are certainly not to be saved.


"Imagine that you're eating a hamburger, and as you're biting into this juicy burger, your dining companion says to you, 'actually, that hamburger's not made from cows, it's made from golden retrievers'. Chances are what you just thought of as food you now think of as a dead animal."

Melanie Joy

Melanie Joy discusses the idea of eating animals as not being something that comes naturally to humans, it is something that we are conditioned to do through the use of a belief system. Vegans believe that eating animals is wrong, whereas people that eat meat may feel that eating a cow or a chicken is fine, while eating a dog or a parrot is wrong, even disgusting.

"Do I love animals? To me, an animal welfare officer in a slaughterhouse? I like working with animals, so yes, I have an affinity for them."

Gerald Otto

At the Goldschmaus slaughterhouse 35,000 pigs are killed every week. The animals arrive, they are moved to fenced areas where they are kept until they are processed, a couple of hours later. Gerald Otto, a worker at the slaughterhouse, talks about how animals are left to settle down before slaughter to improve the "quality" of the meat, the flesh of stressed animals does not taste as good. The animals are lead to a gondola and gassed, a painful experience, before the animals are hung by their legs and killed with a wound to the neck. It is well known that this method of slaughter is anything but humane, but no practical, quick and cheap, alternative has been found and so the practice continues.

A historian, Ilja Steffelbauer discusses how humans are suited to eating meat, that plants are too hard for our digestive system to process, he does not mention that cooked plants are easier to digest, he only talks of cooking meat. He also argues that humans eat meat due to it being calorie dense with a high water content. The conclusion of his studies is that humans evolved eating meat, being hunter gatherers, but this changed when humans became less nomadic, farming and growing food, including plants and crops. There is no discussion of the physiology of humans, the enzymes in our body's, the relatively high pH of our stomach acid, the shape of our teeth, the strength of our jaws or even the length of our intestines being better suited to plants. There is no input from any medical doctors at all.


The Western diet is not a healthy diet, it is high in calories, but low in nutrients. Vegan nutritionist, Niko Rittenau looks at how necessary it is for us to consume meat. He argues that, all though eating some meat is not detrimental to health, we don't need to eat meat, we just need to make sure that we get the right amount of the nutrients that can be found in meat. The iron, protein, omega oils and more, these are the things that we need, these are things that can be found in plants. One thing that plants cannot provide is vitamin B12, however animals don't make B12 either, bacteria in their guts make the vitamin. As well as this, farm animals are also given vitamin supplements as the unnatural way that they live and the diets that they are fed prevents them from producing the nutrients that they need themselves. Doctors recommend that people supplement with B12 if their levels are low, meat eater or not.


The final part of the film visits a duck and geese farmer, Florian Boucherie, the third generation of his family to run the farm. On the farm duck liver pate is produced through over-feeding of the birds to create a fatty liver within the birds. This is done by feeding the birds with a tube that goes down their throats, feeding them huge amounts of food until the fat gathers in their liver cells. The birds are then killed and their livers are used to make pate, this is used as an example of what is considered normal. In some countries eating the fatty liver of a force-fed duck is fine, to be enjoyed even. Some countries eat cats, dogs, rats, in the UK you can find restaurants that will serve pigeons and rabbits. The idea of normal is purely subjective and up to the individual, suggesting that eating some animals and not others may not be normal at all, just common.


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