Ending factory farming. Ending animal cruelty.
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News Icon 1/9/2024

Last week, I binge-watched “You Are What You Eat”—the new Netflix series promoting the benefits of plant-based diets. The show, which is directed by Louis Psihoyos (“Game Changers,” “The Cove,” “Racing Extinction”), uses footage from Compassion in World Farming’s 2014 exposé of U.S. chicken farming practices featuring chicken-cum-mushroom farmer Craig Watts.

A New Hit

In this four-part documentary, Stanford University’s School of Medicine scientists challenge pairs of identical twins to adopt either a vegan or an omnivorous diet. After eight weeks, the twins eating a vegan diet demonstrated improved cardiovascular health through lower LDL cholesterol, diabetes-inducing insulin, and body weight. In Stanford’s larger sample size, vegans lost an average of 4.2 pounds more than the omnivore group. Vegan participants also saw a decrease in inflammation indicators and an increase in, ahem, sexual health indicators compared to their omnivorous counterparts.

The series describes a host of problems caused by the current industrialized farming system, from the spread of antibiotic resistance caused by more antibiotics being given to factory-farmed animals than to humans to the racial injustices caused by the location and accessibility of polluting factory farms and their harmful products. The show also profiles the harbingers of change, such as head chef Daniel Humm, who took the world’s best restaurant at Eleven Madison Park and turned it vegan, and Mayor Eric Adams, who oversaw a transition of New York City’s hospitals to serve plant-based meals by default, leading to 59% reduction in initial cost per plate and a 36% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Compassion in World Farming's Feature

In the final episode, former CIWF US Executive Director Leah Garces tours the farm she first visited a decade ago when Watts was a chicken grower contracted with Perdue Farms. In 2015, Watts and CIWF highlighted the challenging work of contract chicken growing, which led to Watts exiting the industry and becoming a champion of higher welfare and plant-based eating and led to Perdue becoming a leading advocate of welfare reform within the chicken industry. Watts now uses his converted barns to grow mushrooms instead of chickens.

Compassion in World Farming shares the viewpoints of United Nations agencies such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the World Health Organization that a shift towards plant-based diets is essential for the health of people and the planet. Our recent white paper, Advancing Sustainable Food Systems, suggests that an ambitious reduction in national meat consumption of around 82% would be necessary for the U.S. to remain within the sustainable planetary health diet outlined by the EAT-Lancet Commission. All remaining consumption of animal protein should shift to higher welfare and regenerative sources to give those fewer farmed animals a life worth living and help restore the planet’s soil and natural ecosystems.


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