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Okja: Worth Watching, but Not For the Reasons You Think

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Guest post by Frances McCormack and Alan O’Reilly

[SPOILER ALERT: details about the movie discussed below]

Hailed by animal advocates as a vegan movie that will change the way many people view animals, Okja, which is now screening on Netflix, is far from that. Although the film is worth watching, with moments of comedy and poignancy, and with a powerful and understated performance from Ahn Seo-Hyun in the role of Mija, this film does not set out to bring people to veganism, doesn’t convey a vegan message, and never intended to.

Throughout the film, animals are consumed with no moral questions raised. Okja, in an early scene, helps Mija catch fishes for her dinner, and we see one fish writhing and then being consumed. Mija’s grandfather prepares for her a chicken stew (her favourite dish, we’re told) from the hens he farms.

Director Bong Joon-Ho, in an interview with the Independent, states that “I don’t have a problem with meat consumption itself, but I do want my audience to consider, at least once, where the food on their plate comes from.” Similarly, the co-writer, Jon Ronson, in an interview with Newsweek, asserts that the movie is neither an anti-meat polemic nor an anti-factory-farming film.

Not even the “animal activists” in the film—valorised but lightly comedic members of the ALF—are vegans. Silver, who is fasting to reduce his carbon footprint when we meet him, later eats some Super Pig Jerky in order to maintain his cover during a parade in Okja’s honour. While the conditions and suffering farmed animals endure is touched upon, veganism as the necessary means to address the injustice of all animal exploitation and use is not specified. In fact, veganism is not mentioned in the film at all.

But the main problem here is the nature of Okja. Not in any way similar to a real pig, she looks like a hippopotamus with human teeth, canine ears, and some of the facial features of Falkor the Luck Dragon. She also seems to be able to at least understand human language, and in a later scene in the movie she appears to whisper to Mija, who smiles in understanding. Okja and her kind are most definitely not representative of the domesticated, farmed pigs that we use for food—they are marked off as special and different from the opening scenes of the film.

And, ultimately, it is Mija’s love for Okja that is the reason for the audience’s concern for this super pig. The character of Mija is so well portrayed by Ahn Seo-Hyun that she instantly elicits the viewer’s empathy—so much so that we are relieved to find that it is not Okja but another super pig who has been stunned in the slaughterhouse. In the scenes depicting the progress of the animals up the slaughterhouse ramp, our point of view is firmly fixed on Mija’s reaction, and we feel because she feels.

It’s impossible to be able to imagine how a nonvegan might view this film, but there is no overtly vegan message—co-writer Jon Ronson has explicitly stated that that was not his or Bong Joon-Ho’s intention—and perhaps the moral confusion of the film is best seen in the closing scenes as a super piglet, rescued from the slaughterhouse, cavorts in Mija’s grandfather’s yard, scaring the chickens. The wide-angled lens used keeps us at a remove from these other animals, and no question remains as to whether they will continue to be farmed and served for supper. Okja is special because she exists at once as mythical beast and friend. The chickens, however, are merely chickens.

While Okja is a beautifully filmed, well acted movie, and while we recommend it for its entertainment value, claims of its veganising power are wildly overrated. Even where a cultural artefact conveys moral concern for an animal or for some animals, all of this is hollow without an unequivocal vegan message.

Watch Okja, but don’t expect it to do your vegan advocacy on your behalf, because if you do you’ll likely be disappointed.

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  • kdawg81

    sorry but anyone who watches this and doesn’t develop more compassion for animals is without a soul

    • The default notion in our society is that it is possible to love animals and eat, wear and use them at the same time. Developing more compassion under these circumstances does not necessarily translate into realising our moral obligation not to eat, wear or use them.

      Veganism is about justice, not compassion. Being just means fulfilling our moral obligation; being compassionate is a personal choice. We may or may not like animals, but we are morally obliged not to harm them.

    • Yogesh Khandke

      There are no devils in hell they’ve all become human

  • Connor Owens

    Mija and her grandfather are seen eating an all-veg meal at the end of the film, implying that the experience has at least changed one person’s views on the subject.

    It’s true that Okja is made into a mythical figure in the story, but that’s always been necessary in order to evoke empathy in an audience in works of art which expand the public’s sphere of compassion. In this case, it’s with regard to nonhuman animals rather than a dominated category of humans. An audience are made to feel for an individual figure from a dominated group in order to understand the situation of the groupmas a whole.

    And given that this is a rare movie where direct-actionist animal liberationists are portrayed as heroes instead of as either deluded extremists or figures of fun, I’d say it’s better to look at the positives.

    • AJ

      It’s not really clear at all whether it’s an all-veg meal at the end. For all we know it could be one of the chickens in that pot..i.e. “chicken stew”. The pot itself was obstructed.

      I’d have to disagree that the ALF members weren’t portrayed in an embarrassing way. Mija was the only real person portrayed as a hero in the film. ALF members were a joke, and portrayed as such. The supposed leader of the group himself nearly struck Okja, the nonhuman protagonist of the film, with a metal rod for crying out loud.

      • Megan

        Jay only tried to hit Okja because he thought she was going to eat Mija.

        The definition of veganism is to exclude animal exploitation and cruelty as far as is practical and possible. I absolutely adore all animals, and have dogs of my own. But if I saw a dog (even my dog) trying to kill my child, or any child, of course I would intervene. Jay would do the same. His choice was a practical one.

        • AJ

          Just like it was a practical choice to beat the shit out of the translator? LOL no, Jay’s character was eccentric and you’re just defending a fictional ALF charter. Animals aren’t usually the ones at fault, and neither was Okja.

          • Megan

            Yes, his character was eccentric, as were most of the characters in the movie. No, he didn’t need to beat up the translator.

            Neither of those things take away from the fact that he only tried to hit Okja to stop her from eating Mija, which is what it looked like she was trying to do. The vast majority of people, including vegans, would have done the same.

          • AJ

            Interesting how you make that statement as if you’ve done a survey or something, where vegans overwhelmingly respond that they would do what Jay did and strike Okja with a metal rod versus what Mija did, which is stop Jay and calm Okja down with sympathy and love.

          • Megan

            Mija knew that Okja wouldn’t really try to eat her because she grew up with Okja. She knew Okja.

            Jay did not know Okja and saw what appeared to be her attacking and trying to eat Mija. He made a snap decision to try to save Mija.

            The look on his face says it all. He wasn’t angry. He was fearing for Mija’s safety.

            It’s not hard to grasp that most people would have done the same or similar in that scenario.

          • AJ

            “It’s not hard to grasp that most people would have done the same or similar in that scenario.”

            Again, speaking as if you know what’s in most vegans hearts… Out of all the vegans I’ve discussed this with, so far you’re the only one holding this view.

            Maybe it would be easy for you, as an animal lover ALF member, to send an animal back to hell, where they are abused and raped, and then strike them for later for displaying aggression from going through that ordeal…but I couldn’t.

            It’s also very telling what the filmmakers views are, which I think are not accurate ALF views, from the scene in the getaway truck where ALF is trying to get Mija’s approval for using Okja for their mission in the way they did…all while Okja is right there, her wishes ignored. I’m sure Okja wouldn’t have approved.

  • Megan

    Uhhh, watch again, Silver doesn’t eat the “super pig jerky”… he only pretends to. It’s inches away from his mouth.

    • Joel Bartlett

      Yes. Thank you. It’s weird the the authors of this article have such an agenda to make their point that they re-imagined the movie as they were watching it.

      • Frances McC

        That would have to be some very weird agenda, Joel, since it’s not a particularly vital part of our review.

        But we’ve watched it three times now: he sniffs at it, retches, and then raises it to his open mouth. The camera pans away at that moment and the implication is that he eats it.

        But as I said, not a particularly vital point to the review as a whole, since animals are consumed throughout the movie.

        • Megan

          If the point was for him to eat it, then it would have shown him eating it. He is very obviously pretending, and looking at the guys on either side of him to make sure they don’t see him not eating it.

          Also, Mija is only shown consuming animals in the very beginning of the movie, before she meets the ALF and saves Okja and the baby, and sees all of the other super pigs she cannot save. Most people aren’t vegan their whole lives, the vast majority of us have consumed animal products before we reclaimed our compassion.

          The rest of the animal consumption was done by “the bad guys” and cast in a very negative light.

          • Alan O’Reilly

            By the same token, if the point was for him to reject the jerky it would have shown him rejecting it. Both the writer and director stated that the film was not intended to carry an overtly vegan message (a statement of the obvious as it transpires), perhaps their intention was to imply that Silver is a hypocrite for consuming the jerky.

          • veganjoyce

            No- he did not eat it . Watch it again.

          • Alan O’Reilly

            No – he did not reject it. There was no movement away from Silver’s mouth when the camera panned away. Watch it again. The film gives the nonvegan viewer no reason whatsoever to suggest that he would not eat it. This review was written to address the claims made prior to release that Okja carries a “clear animal rights and vegan message”. Sorry, but it does no such thing.

          • Albert marvelous

            what is your point. even if not meant to be “overtly vegan” so what. it is a mainstream film that can hopefully change some people choices.

          • Alan O’Reilly

            We reiterate that this review was written to address pre-release claims that the movie present “a clear animal rights and vegan message”, which it most certainly does not. If we had wanted to address this and other points you’ve made we would have done so

          • Bingoblap

            omg the way people argue on the internet who are obviously passionate about their beliefs (which isnt the annoying part).. its like people cant even see that the scene is entirely subjective and was likly done that was intentionally hence the camera pan.. A person will side with their own bias more ften then not in such a situation.. so a vegan person may say hey he didn’t eat it and a non-vegan may think well he must have ate it.. then it can be the other way around too. I think a good general rule of thumb is, if something is not explicitly stated then its being left up to viewer interpretation internationally unless other information comes out later down the line… “squeals, director commentary ect” that shine another light at a part or the motivations of a character..

            Besides too me its pretty obvious that it is a satire of many things… I mean the advocates pretty much make fun of them selves and others, while the villains do the same..

          • Pepper

            When I first read you claim the activists are not vegan I was dumbfounded as I didn’t take that away. After rewatching this part about 10 times I don’t see at all how you think they are implying he eats it. To me he clearly looks uncomfortable and wants to pretend to eat it. The last few frames of this part he is not at all looking like he is about to eat it, in fact he looks like he looks to see the guy to his left is not watching him and he then continues to hover it in front of himself. The fact that you write in your piece that even the activists (and you say activists plural) aren’t vegan based on this one clip is really misleading to the reader!

          • Joan Kennedy

            Why does it matter whether the filmmakers intended to carry an overtly vegan message in this film? The movie Babe didn’t carry an overtly vegan message and the human characters in the film ate animals throughout. But that film turned many people away from eating animals, some of them immediately and for good. It had meat-eaters rooting for a piglet not to be slaughtered because they saw the piglet as the little guy in the storyline, maybe reminding them of periods in their own past when they’d triumphed against odds and being underestimated. Quality serious fiction will rarely if ever have an overt message, or a clear moral. It doesn’t drag you to the water’s edge and dunk your head into it and force you to drink the water. It quietly raises questions it doesn’t try to answer, it plants seeds in your mind about whether you might not perhaps be feeling a little bit of thirst. And if the filmmakers did have a vegan message in mind, wouldn’t the best way to put it over be subtle and deniable? For an overtly vegan message, documentaries are the way to go.

            I’ve always thought the best vegan influence in fiction would be a compelling, multidimensional, captivatingly flawed vegan character in a book that was mostly about something else. The viewer could but wouldn’t have to buy the veganism to admire the character, but could take in the thought that this character is someone worth emulating. We can’t all charm sexy people out of their clothes, or climb up the sides of buildings, or fight crime with our preternatural command of kickboxing. But we can cut bangs into our hair and buy a yellow sweater that looks like hers. And we can stop eating animals like she does.

          • veganjoyce

            Exactly !

        • veganjoyce

          Frances- yes- they eat animals in the beginning – just like I did before I went vegan. You? Then they change. See my posted comment above . And what do you mean consumed throughout the whole movie? You mean the bad guys? Yes they eat animals. They’re not vegan. So?

          And watch it again – the ALF does not put the sausage in his mouth.

          • Frances McC

            Sorry, what evidence do you have that they’re not consuming animals at the end of the movie?

            No, he doesn’t put the sausage in his mouth. The camera pans away as he’s about to. The implication is that he does.

          • Raine Dyani

            i watched it a second time last night, and paid close attention to this part, and it was clear to me that he reluctantly took it soas not to blow his cover, but only pretended to eat it. and i was very disturbed by things in this article and things the director and other cast members have said in interviews, so i watched it w/ all of that in mind, and my take at the end was that they were no longer consuming animals. i asked a non-vegan who watched it, and her take was the same.

          • Albert marvelous

            “the implication that he does” is your opinion. just like it’s my opinion that he doesn’t. like most films we are supposed to connect with the main character, and i believe she learns to love all animals by the end. again my optimistic opinion, but i hope this film will help some people make choices that harm less animals.

      • In a movie, a fictional animal person may eat an animal, may not eat an animal, or the scene may be deliberately made ambiguous. What ultimately matters is that undercover investigators employed by animal charity organisations have talked about the fact that they engage daily in torturing and killing animals in order to get their video footage which is needed to bring in donations.

    • Kellie Fletcher-Kahmar

      That is what in was going to say. It was clear as day

  • aer

    if people kill animals that lived a free live, why isn’t that good enough. I m vegan but i’m ok with people who kill a animal that lived a normal life but not for joy and only to survive

    • “…If people kill animals that lived a free live, why isn’t that good enough…”

      1. Because animals want to live and they care about their own lives just like you and I want to live and care about our own lives.

      2. Because eating animal products is not necessary for human health. If we, like most people, believe that inflicting unnecessary harm on animals is morally wrong, and in our everyday lives we are faced with the choices a) to kill an animal who had a miserable life b) to kill an animal who had a good life, or c) not to kill anyone, it is obviously not necessary for us to inflict harm on an animal.

      3. Because the notion of killing animals “humanely” is just as twisted as killing humans “humanely” would be, and it does not even contribute to making the animals’ lives any less miserable. We have had animal welfare laws for two hundred years, and today, two hundred years later, we kill more animals, we eat more animal products per capita, and we legally torture animals in more horrific ways than in any other time in the entire human history.

      I have had a fantastic life so far, and I do not think it would be acceptable for someone else to take my life painlessly in order for them to survive. It is never morally right to kill another human. And the fact that in a desert island scenario we may need to eat another human in order to survive definitely does not mean that raising humans for the purpose of killing them for food is fine. Besides, today hardly anyone eats animal products in order to survive.

      Killing painlessly is better than killing painfully just like raping without beating is better than raping with beating. Why isn’t rape without beating good enough?

  • veganjoyce

    I’m completely baffled how points made in this article are blatant mistruths. The ALF member does NOT eat the sausage! He pretends to do so to keep his cover and CLEARLY does NOT put it in his mouth. Watch it again . Also, Mija is a mainstream meat eater when film begins- yes. She CHANGES. The point of the film. To say it’s not a vegan film because she catches fish ( yes- painful to watch) and that she grandpa eat animals in beginning is sorry to say , ridiculous. The experience changes her later. That’s called a story. An arc. Look at her face as she repeatedly looks back at all the pigs. At the end their chickens are relaxing on the porch like family members unlike earlier when they were in a pen. And yes I wish they showed the dinner they were eating but to me it’s obvious the point was now they aren’t or may not be eating animals. This article says they are eating animals. Ummm how do you know? This film’s message is clearly animals deserve to be liberated (see: ALF in the movie and the whole actual movie) and not just Okja but all the pigs – otherwise they would not have shown the factory farm feedlot scenes. The director also said in an interview that he chose Netflix- not ideal distro- because all the major studios wanted him to delete the slaughterhouse scene. Please rewatch the film as necessary, and correct this article’s factual inaccuracies.

    • mikey

      i completely agree!

    • Raine Dyani

      thank you for pointing out that the chickens were first penned, and then at the end were free – along w/ everyone else. i missed that! (and i too interpreted it as they were no longer eating animals, having been changed by the slaughterhouse experience – and whole experience in general)

    • Albert marvelous


    • Yogesh Khandke

      Hope you’re right

  • Natalie

    I personally think this movie is an excellent step in the right direction, and I have to disagree with some of the points the author makes. Yes, that guy eats the jerky, but it’s obvious he felt he had no choice because he was trying to keep his cover. Yes, at the beginning of the move her father says her favourite dish is chicken, but that was only to show that like most people, she had never really thought of where her food comes from. In the last scene of the movie, they are eating again and all you see on their table is vegetables.

    And no, they don’t mention veganism, but there is such a stigma and misunderstanding around that word, that I think the mere mention of it would put a lot of people off. It’s better to show them, not to tell them. And they really did that with the slaughterhouse scene at the end. I hope millions of meat-eaters watch this movie and I hope it makes them think twice.

    • Frances McC

      Natalie, you’re evidencing the kind of moral distinction that this kind of film makes with your own comment.

      The problem is not with “meat-eaters”. It’s with all animal use. We need to be clear about that. This movie wasn’t.

      • Albert marvelous

        you are talking about an all or nothing approach, which may work for you, but this film will definitely get some people on the right path, and hopefully that path will lead to a vegan life. i mean, cmon, they could have just made any movie with not even a hint at treating animals well.

        • Alan O’Reilly

          We reiterate that this review was written to address pre-release claims that Okja presents “a clear animal rights and vegan message”, which it most certainly does not.

    • Alan O’Reilly

      Both the writer and director have stated that making a movie with a vegan message was not their intent and, let’s face it, they have succeeded. We are perplexed by the notion that nonvegan executives and actors would want to make a vegan movie in the first place and, in any case, would have sufficient knowledge to do so.

  • BD

    I stopped eating meat because of this movie (except fish). My wife had been a pescatarian for about a year so I was already eating less meat and used to going a week or so at a time without meat. This movie was obviously anti-factory farming and was very effective. It’s ridiculous to pretend they didn’t have a motive. Even though Okja is more intelligent than cows and pigs, they have similar emotions and anybody that watches Okja makes that connection. There isn’t that great of a difference between the intelligence of Okja (basically a very smart dog) and that of sheep, goats, etc. This movie will definitely convert many people.

    • Hi BD, you wrote: “…I stopped eating meat because of this movie (except fish). My wife had been a pescatarian for about a year so I was already eating less meat and used to going a week or so at a time without meat. This movie was obviously anti-factory farming and was very effective. It’s ridiculous to pretend they didn’t have a motive. Even though Okja is more intelligent than cows and pigs, they have similar emotions and anybody that watches Okja makes that connection. There isn’t that great of a difference between the intelligence of Okja (basically a very smart dog) and that of sheep, goats, etc. This movie will definitely convert many people…”

      The authors of this essay specifically argue that this film “does not set out to bring people to veganism, doesn’t convey a vegan message, and never intended to”. Neither did you go vegan as a result of watching this movie, nor do you share vegan values. Next I will explain what those vegan values are.

      Ethical veganism is a social justice movement that rejects all animal exploitation; vegans do not eat or wear any animal parts or animal products, and they do not use animals for entertainment, experiments or other purposes.

      You share the mainstream nonvegan belief that eating less meat or no meat, eating animal products while on a “journey” toward veganism, eating animal products that do not come from factory farms, eating sea animals instead of land animals, eating dairy or eggs instead of animal flesh, eating sentient beings who are less humanlike or have less cognitive abilities, are positions that are morally right and helpful to the animals. The truth is that we are not “helping” animals as long as we participate in animal exploitation; we are harming them.

      Of course hitting a slave nine times instead of ten times is better, but to say that hitting a slave nine times instead of ten is morally a good thing, or to say that hitting a black slave is better than hitting a white slave is morally a good thing, especially when the option not to enslave or hit anyone in the first place is readily available to us, is deplorable, even by nonvegans’ own view that inflicting unnecessary harm on animals is morally wrong.

      1. A fish feels pain and cares about his or her life just as much as we humans feel pain and care about ours. Sea animals are the most abused animals on the planet being suffocated in trillions each year. Coincidentally, of all species, sea animals are factory farmed in the greatest numbers, and this movie is another example showing us that when we specifically focus on factory farming, no meaningful change takes place.

      2. The fact that a fish cannot write symphonies would be a relevant characteristic only when considering to hire a music professor. Sentience is the only relevant characteristic when considering the right not to be exploited, tortured or killed. For having the right not to be used as the property of others, humanlike intelligence is just as irrelevant as the ability to swim under water without equipment. Besides, most humans cannot write symphonies, and there will always be a few humans who possess less cognitive abilities than most members of those non-human species we forcibly subject to the kind of treatment that would be seen as torture if done to humans. The only justification we have for raising, torturing and killing non-human animals is that we are humans and they are not, which is not different from saying that we are white and they are not, we are male and they are not, or that we are heterosexual and they are not.

      3. Consumption of all animal products inevitably perpetuates injustice, torture and death. Eating dairy is not morally better than eating meat. In order to produce dairy products, dairy cows are routinely impregnated, their babies forcibly taken from them and killed. In order to produce eggs, all the male chicks are ground up alive at birth. All the farm animals, no matter whether they are raised for dairy, eggs or wool, end up slaughtered just like the animals raised specifically for their body parts.

      The great majority of people accept that inflicting unnecessary harm on animals is morally wrong. How is trophy hunting or sport fishing, activities protected by laws that supposedly prevent inflicting unnecessary suffering on animals, necessary? How is buying clothes or furniture made of animal skin necessary?

      How is eating meat, dairy, eggs or honey necessary? No one, including the health professionals who promote consumption of animal products, maintain any longer that we need to eat animal products in order to be healthy. In fact, the scientific world in the 21 Century is in agreement that a diet centred around animal products and processed foods such as oils, sugars in a bag, white flour and isolated proteins, and lacking in unprocessed fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds rich in vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fibre, in combination with sedentary lifestyle, is the main cause of all our biggest killers such as heart disease, diabetes and most common cancers. It is the position of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) that a balanced vegan diet is “appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.” Not only is eating animal products unnecessary, but according to the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, the animal agriculture is the number one cause of greenhouse gases emission, species extinction, deforestation, soil degradation, drinking water depletion, top soil erosion, pollution and the oceans dead zones. Additionally, only a small fraction of plant foods we feed to the farm animals would be enough to feed the world’s entire human population. What is then our moral justification for eating, wearing and using animals for entertainment and other purposes? We have none.

      In conclusion, if we believe that inflicting unnecessary harm on animals is morally wrong, the only way to live in alignment with our own morals is to reject all animal exploitation by going vegan.

      If what I wrote here makes sense to you, I highly recommend reading the book Eat Like You Care: An Examination of the Morality of Eating Animals by Gary L. Francione and Anna Charlton. This book not only presents a very convincing argument why all of us must go vegan, but also addresses all the standard objections to veganism people may have.

      • Albert marvelous

        do you think your reply is helpful to this new vegetarian?

        • Yes, I do. Until proven otherwise, I assume that the gentleman to whose comment I responded to and all the silent readers are emotionally intelligent, good at heart, fully capable of understanding this simple information most likely never presented to them before, and want to do the right thing.

      • Hamilton Sharp

        Balint Balasa, I think you are an incredibly amazing individual. Your compassion towards animals is inspiring and commendable. I would like to make one point however. Not all farms are like the ones you decribed. I have cows, goats, sheep, donkeys and chickens. Just the thought of any of my baby chicks, male or female being “ground up alive” makes me want to cry. Also none of my farm animals are going to “end up slaughtered”. Domestic sheep must be sheared. If not, they would have serious mobility and health problems. It takes no more than five minutes and does not harm them in any way.
        Wishing you love and happiness!

        • Hamilton Sharp: “…Your compassion towards animals is inspiring and commendable…”

          It is the sense of justice that drives me and not compassion. Compassion is a personal choice, while being just by abstaining from inflicting harm on both humans and non-humans is everyone’s moral obligation. See, it is our personal choice whether we love animals or not, but it is our moral obligation not to inflict unnecessary harm on them.

          “…Not all farms are like the ones you described. I have cows, goats, sheep, donkeys and chickens. Just the thought of any of my baby chicks, male or female being “ground up alive” makes me want to cry…”

          I take the position that there is no such thing as ethical consumption of animal products regardless how the animals are treated. I acknowledge that some farmers treat their animals better than others, but ultimately, the injustice remains because domestic animals are commodities brought into existence for our use. As I said, hitting a slave nine times is better than hitting a slave ten times. The truth is that even if farmers treated their animals in the best way possible, and the customers were willing to pay for the highest animal welfare, the injustice, torture and death would still be an inevitable part of delivering animals products.

          Milk can only be produced by periodically impregnating the animals and indefinitely increasing the heard, which is unsustainable; by the simple law of mathematics, the majority of the offspring must be killed either by the milk producers themselves or someone else.

          If the male chicks are not killed at birth, the most likelihood is they end up in a soup, fight each other to death, kept in separate enclosures, eaten by foxes, or at best, their owner may try hard to rehome them and the luckiest ones may end up in some petting zoo arrangement. Once they are not under our guardianship, it is not in our control what happens to them or their descendants. Even dogs and cats who are specifically raised as pets inevitably end up on death rows in millions. Roosters are not even allowed to be kept as pets in most urban areas. Even if we do not breed them and buy only egg-laying hens for our own use, treat them as family members and never kill them, these hens must come from somewhere, and buying them inevitably perpetuates injustice, torture and death.

          “…Also none of my farm animals are going to “end up slaughtered”. Domestic sheep must be sheared. If not, they would have serious mobility and health problems. It takes no more than five minutes and does not harm them in any way…”

          How short or how painless the shearing procedure is, does not eliminate the injustice factor. People need haircuts and human hair is highly priced in the boutiques of Paris and London, yet it would be unimaginable to cut someone’s hair for our own gains.

          The point conveniently missed is that sheep must be sheared only because the unjust consequence of bringing them into existence in the first place, with characteristics we deliberately developed that are beneficial to us but disadvantageous to them, in your own words, “they would have serious mobility and health problems”. Who is responsible for that? To say that “sheep must be sheared” is not different from saying that “cows must be milked” while conveniently missing the point that we were the ones who created the unnatural milking cow, we were the ones who impregnated her, and we were the ones who took her baby away. We must feed cats either meat or some concoction unnatural to their species, conveniently forgetting that we created the unjust institution of domestication in the first place.

          The animals we already brought into existence are in need to be protected, therefore offering them a shelter in order to save them for exploitation and death is not only desirable, but it is the morally right thing to do, but not in a disguise of exploitation we call a “mutually beneficial relationship” in order to lay our hands on their milk, eggs or wool. And bringing new domesticated animals into this unjust situation we created is definitely morally wrong.

          I do not think that any farmer is in a business in order to deliberately inflict injustice, torture and death. Farmers are simply responding to our demand for animal products. If we demanded fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, that is exactly what farmers would deliver. The root cause of this injustice of gigantic proportions are not the farmers, hunters or fishermen. It is our thousands of years old mainstream assumption that using animals is as normal as breathing air. The situation will start changing to the better only when a significant proportion of the population understands that the only morally right approach is to reject all animal use by not eating, wearing or using them, in other words go vegan.

          I am unable to post links here, but if you google “AEON Why keeping a pet is fundamentally unethical” by Gary Francione and Anna Charlton, I think you would find this essay very eye-opening.

          • Rodrigo Marcondes

            This answer /, realy, it was realy good. I absolutely share your views, and envy your sensibility to translating them into words in such a pragmatical way.

          • Hamilton Sharp

            Balint Balasa, Thanks for taking the time to respond to my comments. Do you believe all domesticated animals should be allowed to go extinct? I just can not imagine a world without my animals.

          • Hamilton Sharp: “…Do you believe all domesticated animals should be allowed to go extinct?…”

            Yes, I envision the end of the institution of domestication including pet ownership.

            Advocating the abolition of all animal use and veganism as a matter of being the least we are all morally obliged to do in order to serve justice to the animals is not a matter of “allowing” domesticated animals to go extinct; it is about consciously refusing to add to the demand for breeding more domesticated animals into existence for our wants. If we love animals or care about justice in general, going vegan is the most important and the most powerful thing we can do on an individual level.

            According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the number one cause of species extinction (and greenhouse gases emission, and deforestation, and land degradation, and water pollution, and the oceans’ dead zones) is the animal agriculture. Being concerned about species extinction only adds another good reason to go vegan.

            What is our moral justification for inflicting unnecessary suffering by perpetuating the demand for raising, torturing and killing billions of farm animals and pulling out from the oceans trillions of sea animals, with dire moral, environmental, social and health consequences? By default, eating animal products involves inflicting unnecessary harm on them and cannot be morally justified.

            While we inflict suffering on animals by eating animal products despite the fact that no dietetic or medical body anywhere in the world maintains any longer that humans need to eat animal products in order to be healthy, and the environmental consequences of our actions endanger the survival of our own species, of course we will have no objection against raising animals for pets, of whom a tiny percentage of individuals may be lucky to be bought by owners who treat pets as their family members. However, once we acknowledge that inflicting unnecessary suffering on animals is morally wrong, and we align our actions with these values by stopping eating animal products, our perception drastically changes.

            I am unable to post links here, but by typing into search “AEON The Case Against Pets”, an essay by Gary Francione and Anna Charlton that responds to the question about the morality of raising animals for pets and all other purposes will pop up. There are many brilliant comments attached to this essay, and here I am copying/pasting one that stands out written by Vincent J Vegan:

            “…Pet ownership is obviously morally wrong. Here’s why!

            1) Imagine aliens visit us.

            2) Imagine they make us their property. Over the centuries, they change the atmosphere to better suit themselves, and to weaken us. They keep us in small, cramped spaces. They groom us. They breed us. Some of them cut off our fingertips.

            3) Humans become profoundly removed from our environment and evolutionary balance with it that we could no longer easily survive on our own in many cases. We live out our existences dependent on these aliens.

            It would be (obviously) unethical to say: hey, this is great – let’s just keep doing this, generation after generation! We would say, instead, those aliens who kept us as ‘pets’ were doing something wrong, something unethical. Because they would be.


            1) Let’s also imagine that there are some aliens who acknowledge the cosmic kinship that binds together all sentient beings: that because we are obviously someones rather than somethings, these aliens acknowledge that they owe us moral consideration.

            2) Instead of using humans as property or resources, these aliens use the property system against itself (as much as this can be done), to fulfill (as best they can within limited options) what they owe us in light of that cosmic kinship: a) nonviolence as an absolute bare minimum, and b) to provide us with care and rescue in light of the harm they’ve done to us by bringing us into the world to serve them (collectively if not individually).

            Two things are obvious from this:

            1) The aliens who kept us as pets and wanted to perpetuate our status as their property were doing something wrong to us.

            2) That doesn’t relieve any of the aliens involved of their duties as a society to care for those of us they would have brought into existence…”

  • Grace Emily Nasmith

    * Silver does NOT eat the sausage. he pretends to. Just wanted to clarify that!

    • Alan O’Reilly

      Please see our responses to this point elsewhere in the thread.

  • Albert marvelous

    this movie starts a conversation among people that might not normally talk about these things. if one person stops even just eating cows because of this than that is x amount of animals saved per year. no?

    • Alan O’Reilly

      We reiterate that this review was written to address pre-release claims that the movie presents “a clear animal rights and vegan message”, which it most certainly does not.

  • cshap

    The movie may not have a vegan message, but it is clearly condemning our current system of exploiting animals for profit in the food production industry, and makes a clear argument that people should consider animals as individuals rather than pieces of meat to be eaten. Like others have said, at least it opens people’s eyes to the horrors of factory farming and current animal agriculture practices. If people sympathize with Okja, that will no doubt translate to sympathy for real farmed animals, as many people who were affected by this film have mentioned. Yes the fish and the chickens are left out of this which is unfortunate, but overall is still sends a very strong message of compassion and awareness of our food choices.

    • How useful would be for human rights if the abolitionists joined a “progressive” slave owner in condemning the cruel practices of beating slaves to death? After all, both the animal rights activists and the majority of slave owners are against beating slaves to death. Would it not make sense to unite in fighting the worst evil? No. While the slave owner is against beating his slaves to death, he *owns* slaves. When we unite with slave owners in condemning the common evil, it cannot be interpreted in any other way than saying “yes” to slavery, especially in a society in which the majority accepts slavery as being normal.

      According to the polls 90% of the Australian population is in favour of banning live exports.

      The great majority of nonvegans clearly condemn our current system of exploiting animals for profit in the food production industry. They want animals to be raised in their natural environments without the use of pesticides, GMOs and antibiotics. They want the animals to be cared with compassion and killed painlessly.

      The great majority of nonvegans condemn factory farming, killing kangaroos for leather, fox hunting, wearing fur, seal clubbing, dog festivals, killing whales, dolphins, tigers, lions and elephants and experimenting on beagles and primates.

      The difference is that a vegan message rejects all animal exploitation by abstaining from eating, wearing and using them, while a nonvegan message tells us that it is possible to be fair to the animals and eat, wear and use them at the same time.

      There is nothing unfortunate about nonvegans creating movies that approve of traditional farmers raising and eating chickens and disapprove of factory farming. What is unfortunate is vegans joining in supporting movies with a nonvegan message instead of supporting a vegan message.

      Let’s leave nonvegans to promote nonvegan messages such as vegetarianism, reducetarianism, Meatless Mondays, baby steps, “journeys”, and single-issue campaigns that condemn elephant shooters, sealers and dog festivals. Promote unequivocal veganism instead.

  • Yogesh Khandke

    Agree – opportunity lost

France’s ban of faux-meat branding won’t stop veganism

I’ll take “mycoproteinous food tube” over a tube of dead pig any day.

Concerned about endangered animals? Stop eating them

Methods of animal conservation that support the exploitation of animals don’t exist for the animals, they exist for human profit.

What you can do if live exports disturb you

The outcry should go further than importation and should be directed at the fact that the animals in question were on their way to slaughter in the first place.