Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Meat kills

And that ain't the half of it

Posted By on Wed, Jul 1, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Welcome to America 2.0 — A government by corporations, for corporations. It's a Matrix-like reality; only instead of machines we're ruled by Monsanto, Tyson, ConAgra, and Wal-Mart, companies just as determined as the Matrix to keep the truth secret. 

If you doubted the fix was in, Robert Kenner's documentary Food, Inc. makes it crystal-clear that our industrial food system is so corrupt, so divorced from the realities of the natural world and so integrated into our political system that it'd be easy to despair over the future health of our country. As one film subject convincingly points out, our government's more interested in protecting corporations than it is citizens.

If you've read Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation and Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma (both authors appear as commentators), Kenner's agitprop plays like a greatest-hits collection of unappetizing revelations about our perverted food system — from horrifying and unsanitary factory farms to our government's complicity in illegal labor practices to Monsanto's thug tactics ensuring that all U.S. crops come from their patented seeds to the infiltration of corporate shills in the highest posts in our government (including ex-Monsanto attorney Clarence Thomas deciding Supreme Court cases that directly affected his former boss). There's an endless list of ordinary people sued and even killed by the industry tasked with providing our nation's sustenance.

Amid these inconvenient (and awful) truths about what we eat and how it's made is the realization that Kenner's doc isn't just about our fare, it's about the suppression of information and a relentless corporate assault on freedom of speech. 

Even if you choose not to eat the food, you'd better keep your trap shut because you'll be sued into oblivion via "veggie libel laws." It's what put Oprah in the meat industry's crosshairs a few years ago (she spent $1 million defending her comments) and it's what keeps Barbara Kowalcyk, a Republican-turned-food safety activist, from naming the brand of meat that killed her 2-1/2-year-old son after he ate an E.coli-laden hamburger.

Kenner does a terrific job presenting a host of compelling actors and issues without becoming self-righteous, polemical or touchy-feely earnest. Though none of the investigated agribusinesses offer their point of view (they refused to participate), the documentary offers plenty of irrefutable and firsthand evidence, while making sure to contextualize its claims and indictments.

Though Food, Inc. will undoubtedly make your blood boil, it ain't perfect. Its big-picture approach prevents it from investigating its numerous topics in depth (each warrants a film of its own), and problems get more screen time than potential solutions. But this disturbing doc should be necessary viewing for each and every American. Seriously. If you're like most film audiences, you avoid such documentaries like the plague — especially in this season of retarded robot battles and Vegas-inspired depravity. Still, if capitalism's good for one thing, it's that you get to vote with your wallet, and if you choose to close your eyes to the realities of where your food comes from, then you're part of the reason our country's current system is so incredibly fucked up.

Main Art Theatre, 118 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-263-2111.

Jeff Meyers writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to


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