Earthlings — A Discourse on Compassion

Jane and I became vegans primarily for our health, but as with many other decisions one makes in life, our reasons were varied. We were happy to be doing something that is better for the environment and pleased to do our part to reduce the need for factory farming, but our primary focus was our health.

Our primary reason, better health, hasn't changed. But over time, we've become more aware of the compassionate nature of our decision. As I've mentioned in the past, Jane does most of the food preparation in our home. In our meat-eating days, I'd occasionally come home to find her "grossed-out" about the carcass she was handling. Now, when we're grocery shopping, she'll say to me "I can't imagine eating a dead animal ever again."

Recently I came home to find her crying in front of the computer. I dropped my things and ran into the room to find out what was wrong. When Jane was able to compose herself, she told me she'd been watching Earthlings, a 2003 documentary on the relationship between animals and humans, narrated by Joaquin Phoenix, with music by Moby.

The video is presented in a less militant manner than the usual animal rights material. Personally, I find this to be much more effective. Rather than putting people on the defensive, it presents the facts in rational, straightforward manner which encourages thought.

We all need to understand where our food comes from. We should all understand the impact of buying our pets instead of getting them at the pound or an animal rescue. We should all be made aware of just how that new medicine (which may just combat the disease brought on by your meat-laden diet) was developed. We need to understand the environmental impacts of our actions. We all have a right to choose how we live and to choose what we eat, but we should make our choices based on all the facts. Watch Earthlings in streaming video (or click here to download Earthlings-- also available in Brazilian Portuguese, Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, German, Hebrew, English, Estonian, Greek, Italian, Swedish, Portuguese).


  1. I was very sad after watching this. As a species, we think we’re enlightened… and then you see something like this movie, and listen to their well positioned arguments. And suddenly we’re all barbarians.

  2. Thank you very much for posting the link for the download. Got it saved and will be watching it soon. I’ve been wanting to see it but most rental places around here don’t carry it and neither does Netflix.

    I recently was sent a DVD to review called “A Sacred Duty” which addresses the environmental crisis from the view point of Judaism. I haven’t watched it yet but there’s supposed to be a large part dedicated to the cruelties of factory farming and the moral/ethical issues related to how animals are treated, and our diets in general.

    I am not a religious person but I am very interested to hear the perspective they take in this film. I think you can get a copy at and if you do a search I believe it’s online as well. I’ll review it over on my blog once I’m able to find a moment to watch it!

  3. Foodeater… make sure you’ve got a box of Kleenex handy. It’s really sad.
    I hadn’t heard of “A Sacred Duty,” but “Earthlings” touches on how Kosher meats are processed versus how they are supposed to be.
    Thanks for sharing the link. I’m curious to read your review of both.

  4. OMG. This was incredibly moving. I’ve been a veggie for about 7 years. I’m going to have to go vegan now. I used to justify the milk and eggs, but after seeing this, I can’t.
    I might still eat dairy and eggs if I could buy them from a small traditional, family farm – but the factory farming practices are just too horrific.

  5. Hi Neville,
    Yeah, that’s kind of the way Jane was after she watched it. It’s flipped the switch for us. We went vegan for health reasons, we’re staying vegan for the animals.

  6. It’s flipped the switch for me too. I am no longer a meat eater! And this is one grandmother who is going to spread the word. Count on it.

  7. I agree with Neville H. “I can’t stop crying…what have we done?”
    I’ve only gotten about 30 minutes into the film thus far and had to stop for a break from my raw emotional reaction. And gut reaction – I’m nauseated at the thought of how I’ve been feeding myself just as recently as breakfast, and my body is suddenly in revolt…
    I think you’ve made a suddenly vegan convert with this link, Lane. Thank you for the (very sad) eye-opener.

  8. i just stumbled onto your site
    I have been vegan for 23 years born out of ethical reasons that is not waishing to cause pain or suffering to other souls inhabiting other bodies.whether for health reasons or ethical reasons the ability to have compassion is central to being vegan .and it should also encompass a close look at whethe rone can not buy leather goods clothign or shoes. where does an ethical vegan draw the line ? and where does compassione nd? it does not
    thanks for your blog
    good job

  9. Hi Carole,
    I’m sorry you’re feeling badly about the animals you have consumed previously. But you have to let go of that. You can’t blame yourself for something you knew nothing about and did not “actively” participate in. It’s what you do from this point forward that matters.
    But we believe, it’s important to first be compassionate to yourself. Converting to veganism from a meat-centered diet takes some work. We did it cold turkey, but it took a while for us to feel like we’d gotten the hang of it. And we slipped up a few times along the way. It’s likely you will too. Just don’t be too hard on yourself. Do the best you can do.
    Feel free to contact us if you need some additional pointers. And good luck on your vegan journey!

    Hi Sophia,
    Thank you so much for your kind words. 23 years. Well, that should be proof to all the nay-sayers, that a vegan diet is indeed healthy.
    While Jane and I didn’t come to veganism for ethical reasons, we can’t go back because of them.

  10. I recently went vegan from just reading more about factory farms. I know that my weak stomach, and the fact that I cry when I see an animal who’s been run over; that even though I wish I could take it I won’t be watching it. I cried and got sick from the description in the book “Skinny Bitch”. Yes, that book is more than just a silly title. I was vegetarian already and had been for about 4 years (and already banned leather or fur from my life even before I was vegetarian), but I can happily say that I’ve not had one single animal product in my body in about a month and I feel so much better. Mentally and physically, I just feel more pure.

  11. Hi Jayme,
    Congratulations! And keep up the good work.
    We went vegan for health reasons, but as time has passed, neither of can conceive of eating animals again. We simply know too much. And we know that no animal has to die for us to live.

  12. Vegans are happy to know where their food comes from. Meat eaters and vegetarians don’t want to know. After watching this film it is obvious why. I think vegetarianism is a million times better than ominvorism, though, don’t get me wrong. There need to be facts about where certain restaurants get their food from. It needs to be brought to the attention of the consumers so they can’t just close their eyes. I think a great point often overlooked, even by me, is the start of the movie about pets. Pets have become a consumer good. Even though we love our pets, we often buy them from breeders, instead of from shelters. This is asinine when there are literally millions of great pets out there in cages wishing someone would get them out. How many animals are euthanized every year??

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