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Changing the Story

Eating Animals: Book, film, and education project

Farm Forward collaborated extensively with Jonathan Safran Foer, a Farm Forward board member, for three years while he wrote Eating Animals. The book quickly became a New York Times bestseller, and soon was incorporated into the curricula of many high school and college courses.


Farm Forward was created to turn the vision of the groundbreaking book Eating Animals into real-world action to end factory farming

In 2006, author Jonathan Safran Foer asked Dr. Aaron Gross to help him with a book about the ethics of meat consumption. That three-year collaboration resulted in the internationally best-selling book Eating Animals, which has helped inspire a generation of anti-factory-farming activists. The Los Angeles Times wrote of Eating Animals,

“It is the kind of wisdom that, in all its humanity and clarity, deserves a place at the table with our greatest philosophers.”

That collaboration resulted in much more than a book. The remarkable farmers and activists Aaron met while researching the book, including heritage poultry farmer Frank Reese and ranchers Bill Niman and Nicolette Hahn Niman, to name just a few, changed his perspective on how to end factory farming, and he realized there was a need for a new kind of organization—one that sees farmers as important allies in creating both the higher welfare animal farms and the plant-based food movements that will replace the factory farm system. With Jonathan Safran Foer and Frank Reese as founding board members, Farm Forward was created to carry out the mission of the book Eating Animals and to shepherd its ongoing impact.

Eating Animals Education Project

As articles in the New York Times1 and the Chronicle of Higher Education2 reveal, the study of animals and their multi-faceted, intricate, and intimate relations to humans is a growing social and scholarly concern. It is no surprise then that immediately after topping the New York Times bestseller list, Eating Animals—one of the most powerful cases against factory farming ever written—began to reshape classroom discussions on industrial animal agriculture around the world.

To increase the book’s reach to young people across the globe, Farm Forward works with select high school teachers and university professors who already use Eating Animals in their classrooms to develop and share discipline-specific support materials for all educators. In addition, we also offer periodic live Virtual Visits to classrooms by Foer himself.

In a first-of-its-kind education initiative, we creatively address the issues that often accompany the animal-agriculture debate, including: the social and environmental responsibilities of business in the interests of community and the world; intersections of pollution, resources, industry, and meat production; the ethics of animal consumption; discrepancies between the law’s demands and the welfare standards advocates and consumers feel would be minimally humane; and inquiries about animals’ capabilities and rights.

The Jonathan Safran Foer Virtual Classroom Visit has brought Eating Animals author Jonathan Safran Foer and other speakers into the classrooms of more than 17,000 students around the world and has built a network of hundreds of educators who are passionate about teaching their students the truth about factory farms. The book Eating Animals has become a staple of high school and college reading lists. It has been required reading for the entire incoming classes at least three universities, and our Virtual Visits network includes educators across many fields including environmental studies, business, creative writing, religious studies, and sociology.

Eating Animals documentary

Farm Forward supported the creation of the stunning documentary film Eating Animals, produced by Natalie Portman and directed by Christopher Quinn, released in theaters across the country in 2017 to widespread acclaim. We are proud to have played our part in bringing Quinn’s creative vision to life and are thrilled by the transformative impact the film has already had on its audiences. Farm Forward’s investment into this phenomenal cultural product included research and consultation such as scouting locations and making introductions to farmers, activists and intellectuals, many of whom are featured in the film. Our CEO Aaron Gross was a credited writer on the film and we helped raise capital for the film’s completion through fundraising and by making a direct loan.

Like our collaboration to help bring the Eating Animals book to the world, our work to support the documentary film has shaped our direction as an anti–factory farming organization. The film introduces new heroes to the Eating Animals universe such as the whistle-blowing veterinarian-turned-activist Jim Keen and the environmentalists fighting pig Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), Rick Dove and Larry Baldwin of The Waterkeepers Alliance. We’ve collaborated with some of these individuals, like Jim, to achieve their goals, and we’ve begun exciting conversations with others that are expanding our own strategies for fighting factory farming. Through the course of researching locations and individuals to feature in the documentary we met inspiring animal advocates and farmers in India, and our relationships with them have shaped and revitalized our international outreach to fight the spread of factory farming globally. The film also expands on the story of heritage poultry farmer Frank Reese, with whom Farm Forward developed a close relationship during the creation of the Eating Animals book, and we are excited to see the film generate support for both Frank’s vision and our own work advancing highest welfare poultry farming.

What’s next?

Farm Forward supported the creation of both Eating Animals projects because we believe that books and documentaries are two of the most powerful vehicles for changing the story we tell about food and inspiring action to end factory farming. With the film version of Eating Animals on the big screen and now streaming after more than five years of effort, we’re on the lookout for new projects and collaborators to help create other inspiring narratives about the future of food. We’re especially refocusing our energies on supporting amazing young culture-makers that we believe will create the books and films that will shape the future of the anti-factory farming movement—leaders like Farm Forward board member Rev. Dr. Christopher Carter, whose new book, The Spirit of Soul Food, just might change the way we think about eating animals, again! We hope you’ll join us in changing the story.

Endnotes

1. 

James Gorman, “Animal Studies Cross Campus to Lecture Hall,” New York Times, January 3, 2012 (accessed January 10, 2012)

2. 

Tom Bartlett, “Seeing is Believing,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, Nov 27, 2011 (accessed January 20, 2012)