"Chicken Run" and Vegetarianism

    The Associated Press ran a story the other day on whether or not the movie “Chicken Run” might motivate some audience members to stop eating chicken, or go entirely vegetarian. Does a movie have the power to change people’s dietary habits? I doubt it.

Those who claim that people do change their diets based on movies are typically like the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s Neal Barnard who tells the Associated Press:

If people run from the theater screaming for a veggie burger, I’d be thrilled. It’s what happened with “Babe.” I can’t tell you how many people saw that movie and happened to sit down to a pork chop and were so overcome with guilt, they said, “Make mine the veggie platter, please.”

When Barnard says he can’t tell you how many people went vegetarian after seeing “Babe,” that’s probably one of the more honest statements, because he probably doesn’t have a clue. How would you even begin to measure this? Pork prices fell during the last half of the 1990s, but that was due largely to overproduction rather than any fall in demand for pork products. There certainly hasn’t been any enormous social movement toward vegetarianism in the last 5 years.

And why should there be based on a movie? If I ever met a chicken as articulate as those starring in “Chicken Run,” I’d have to think twice before having a chicken sandwich. Or if I ever met a talking pig like Babe those pork chops might not be so appealing. But outside of the movie theater, chickens and pigs don’t talk, they don’t use language at all, and they certainly don’t have the sophistication to make coordinated escape plans.

If moral lessons should be drawn from fictional depictions of non-human beings, then perhaps the activists should start campaigning for animated creatures that appeared in “Antz” and “A Bug’s Life,” or perhaps even start up an offshoot organization to advocate for computer and robot rights in the wake of screening “The Iron Giant.” That would make about as much sense as giving up chicken based on an animated cartoon.

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