COUNTDOWN TO YEAR ZERO – ACADEMIC VERSION
SUBJECTS — The Environment; U.S. History & Culture 1991 to present.
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Caring for Animals; Taking Care of Yourself;
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Respect and Responsibility.
AGE; 15 and up; 2019; 52 minutes; Available free from Unchained TV, Click here.
MOVIE WORKSHEETS & STUDENT HANDOUTS
Students can be asked to fill out the Worksheet for Films that Seek to Persuade on Issues of Political or Social Significance.
This is an academic version of an advocacy documentary on an important issue of public debate citing the environmental, ethical, and health-based reasons to adopt a plant-based (vegan) diet. The film has won awards from many film festivals.
SELECTED AWARDS & CAST
Awards: 2012 Studio City International Film and TV Festival – 2021 Best Documentary Feature; Culver City Film Festival – Best Director Documentary; 2021 Toronto Independent Film Festival-Finalist; 2021 Cicely Art Cinema Festival – Semi-Finalist; 2021 Hong Kong In The Film Festival – Finalist; 2020 Without Borders International Film Festival – Best of Show Environmental Documentary; 2021 Toronto Indie Shorts Film Festival – Award Winner; 2021 Madrid Art House Film Festival – Award Winner; 2021 ARFF Perez International Awards – Award Winner; 2021 LGBTQ Unbordered International Film Festival – Award Winner; 2021 LA Sun Film Fest – Award Winner; 2021 Cannes International Cinema Festival – Official Selection; 2021 Montreal Independent Film Festival – Official Selection; 2021 Montreal Independent Film Festival – Official Selection; 2021 Catalina Film Festival – Official Selection; 2021 Boston Independent Film Awards — Official Selection; 2021 Los Angeles Lift Off Film Festival – Official Selection; 2020 International Vegan Film Festival – Official Selection; 2020 La Femme International Film Festival – Official Selection; 2021 Garifuna International Indigenous Film Festival – Official Selection; 2021 California Women’s Film Festival Grounds Winter – Official Selection; 2021 California Indies – Official Selection; London Movie Awards – Official Selection; 2022 Hispanic International Film Festival – Excellent.
Cast: Sailesh Rao, Jane Goodall, Moby, James Cromwell, Steven M. Wise, Genesis Butler, Anita Krajnc, Jane Velez-Mitchell, Jasmine Afshar, James Aspey,
Director: Jane Velez-Mitchell
BENEFITS OF THE MOVIE
Students will be introduced to an important issue of public concern and will be able to analyze some of the techniques used by documentarians seeking to persuade their audiences to accept the filmmakers’ view of an issue of current debate.
This film is suggested as an example of a documentary seeking to persuade on an issue of political or social significance. However, after watching the film students may decide to reduce or eliminate meat, fish, dairy and/or eggs from their diet; and parents may object. Tell the class (both before and after showing the film) the purpose for presenting the movie and that they should check with their parents before making any change in their diets. See also the suggestions for before showing the movie in the Helful Background Section. Note that peer reviewed scientific research shows that a vegan diet, with a few readily available supplements, would benefit students’ health, the environment, and non-human animals. Some of that research is cited in the movie and in the Links to the Internet Section
The statistics cited in the film are accurate and supported by peer reviewed studies or official documents of United Nations expert working groups.
USING THE MOVIE IN THE CLASSROOM
Before showing the film:
- Tell the class, and repeat this instruction after showing the film, that the movie is presented as an example of an advocacy documentary and that the teacher is not recommending any particular diet, either the Standard American Diet (“SAD”), with meat and dairy, or a vegan plant-based diet. Tell students to consult with their parents before they change their diets. If students tell a teacher that they are thinking of adopting a vegan diet or that they have already done so, teachers should again refer the students to their parents and also to the four websites on teens and vegan nutrition cited in the Links to the Internet Section. Teachers should consider obtaining parental permission to show this film. See the TWM Permission Slip.
- To the best of TWM’s knowledge, the statistics in the film are accurate. The commentators, such as Dr. Rao and Jane Goodall, are reliable authoritative sources.
- TWM suggests that teachers review the questions in the Worksheet for Films that Seek to Persuade on Issues of Political or Social Significance and then have the students respond to the questions on the Worksheet.
- Also, for fun, tell students that one of the leading actors from the film Babe makes a cameo appearance in the movie. See who can recognize that actor first. This will cause a little disruption at an important part of the film, so be prepared to play it back to the start of Mr. Cromwell’s scene when he is identified.
- There is a reference in the film to the Sixth Mass Extinction. Introduce the concept to the class with the following information from National Geographic Magazine,
More than 99 percent of all organisms that have ever lived on Earth are extinct. As new species evolve to fit ever changing ecological niches, older species fade away. But the rate of extinction is far from constant. At least a handful of times in the last 500 million years, 75 to more than 90 percent of all species on Earth have disappeared in a geological blink of an eye in catastrophes we call mass extinctions.
Though mass extinctions are deadly events, they open up the planet for new forms of life to emerge. The most studied mass extinction, which marked the boundary between the Cretaceous and Paleogene periods about 66 million years ago, killed off the nonavian dinosaurs and made room for mammals and birds to rapidly diversify and evolve. . . .
Earth is currently experiencing a biodiversity crisis. Recent estimates suggest that extinction threatens up to a million species of plants and animals, in large part because of human activities such as deforestation, hunting, and overfishing. Other serious threats include the spread of invasive species and diseases from human trade, as well as pollution and human-caused climate change. (Explore National Geographic magazine’s special issue on extinction.)
Today, extinctions are occurring hundreds of times faster than they would naturally. If all species currently designated as critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable go extinct in the next century, and if that rate of extinction continues without slowing down, we could approach the level of a mass extinction in as soon as 240 to 540 years.
Climate change presents a long-term threat. Humans’ burning of fossil fuels has let us chemically imitate large igneous provinces, through the injection of billions of tons of carbon dioxide and other gases into Earth’s atmosphere each year. By total volume, these past volcanoes emitted far more than humans do today; the Siberian Traps released more than 1,400 times the CO2 than humans did in 2018 from burning fossil fuels for energy. However, humans are emitting greenhouse gases as fast as—or even faster than—the Siberian Traps, and Earth’s climate is rapidly changing as a result.
As mass extinctions show us, sudden climate change can be profoundly disruptive. And while we haven’t yet crossed the 75-percent threshold of a mass extinction, that doesn’t mean things are fine. Well before hitting that grim marker, the damage would throw the ecosystems we call home into chaos, jeopardizing species around the world—including us.
The Environmental Message:
If everyone adopted a plant-based diet, or even most of us, it would go a long way to solving the problem of global warming.
The Ethical Arguments for a Plant-Based Diet
See the statement in the film by James Aspy:
I am somebody who grew up not really understanding who animals were and so I didn’t really like them. I didn’t think their lives had any value. And therefore, I thought it was pointless to give any consideration to their feelings, their emotions, their lives in general. I ate meat every single day through my whole life. I didn’t feel bad about it at all. I watched footage of animals being slaughtered. I still felt no shame. All because I felt you needed to eat animals to be healthy. When I learned, finally, that you can live and thrive on a vegan diet in fact live a lot longer and reduce your chance of getting many diseases: basically, live a much healthier life. Then I questioned if we don’t need to kill animals to live and thrive, then what do we do it for? And when I realized there was no justification for the violence that was any better than we like how they taste, I realized that I was totally out of alignment with the person I was striving to be, really wanted to be, which is a compassionate respectful loving, basically just a nonviolent person. I don’t think it’s okay to stab somebody to death. So, why is it ok for me to pay somebody to stab somebody to death?
And then there is the statement by James Cromwell holding a dead piglet:
We all know what this is. This is the corpse of a living creature, someone’s baby. A sentient being, like us. With thoughts and feelings and a destiny. And it’s taken from millions of animals every year in the name of that “We can’t possibly live without eating meat. It’s not possible. I can’t do it. I can’t take responsibility for this industry. I can’t take responsibility for this planet.” And what it represents to the people who did this, is just money in some corporation’s profit, in their pockets.”
The Utilitarian Argument: Many ethics-based vegans point to the fact that human beings (except for a very few who have unusual food allergies or severely compromised digestive systems) can live well on a plant-based diet supplemented by several readily available vitamins. Since a plant-based diet is healthy and can fully satisfy our need for nutrition, especially in wealthy societies, there is no need for people to continue to eat meat, fish, dairy, or eggs. The only reason to continue eating non-human animals or their milk is because we like their taste or texture. But this is no justification for forcing billions of sentient beings to live in miserable conditions, to have their babies taken away (or to be taken away from their mothers), and to then be killed long before they have reached the full span of their natural lives. It is the most trivial of our interests (taste and texture in our mouths while we eat) as against the most important of theirs (life itself, a miserable existence for the short period that we permit them to live, and the integrity of their families).
Farmworker union organizer and ethical pioneer, Cesar Chavez, was also an ethics-based vegan. (For a description of the prescient ethics of this remarkable man, see TWM’s Learning Guide to Cesar Chavez, Respect for All.) He pointed out that dairy cows suffer their own special nightmare. Cows are very maternal. They love their calves and they mourn when their calves die or are are taken away. They also give more milk when pregnant and just after birth. Thus, they are repeatedly artificially impregnated by the farmers who own them. However, the farmers, in order to maximize the amount of milk they can get from each cow and to increase their profits, take the calves away immediately after birth. Thus, for dairy cows, life is dominated by round after round of pregnancy followed by the loss of their babies. They live in eternal mourning. After a few years, when the dairy cow is used up and can no longer give the amount of milk the farmer requires, she is sent to the slaughterhouse to be ground up for hamburger.
Utilitarianism is a branch of moral philosophy which teaches that the ethics of an action can be determined by balancing the benefits and the number of beings receiving that benefit against the harms and the number of beings harmed. The interests of non-human sentient animals are considered in this analysis. As the founder of modern-day utilitarianism, 19th century English philosopher Jeremy Bentham referring to non-human animals famously wrote, “The question is not, Can they reason?, nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?”
Strict utilitarian theory gives the same weight to the suffering of any sentient being. However, most people assign more value to a human life than to the life of a non-human sentient animal, such as a farm animal or a pet. In the thought experiment of a situation in which a lamb and a human being are both drowning in a lake and only one can be saved, most people will choose to save the human being. In addition, no one can actually live in modern society according equal value to the interests of people and non-human animals.
Ethics-based vegans argue that even if you assign more value to the interests of human beings than to the interests of non-human animals, the magnitude of the suffering caused to animals caught up in the factory farming system outweighs by far the minor pleasures that humankind derives from eating animals and their milk. To put it on an individual basis, every bite that a person takes of meat, fish, dairy, or eggs, benefits that person only in the fleeting pleasure of taste and texture in their mouth, but it results in a life of terrible suffering and a brutal and early death for the animal being eaten. Under this modified utilitarian analysis, it is unethical for any person to take that bite unless it is the only way to survive.
Ethics-based vegans refute the argument that people are justified in eating animals and animal products because non-human animals in nature kill each other for food all the time and that this demonstrates that pain and suffering are inherent in nature. The answer to this argument is that the entire enterprise of human technology is to take us out of the state of nature. And, for the most part, we have been successful. Human beings in wealthy countries live far away from a state of nature.
The Human-Centered Argument: What about people who reject the idea of giving any moral weight to the suffering of non-human sentientbeings and believe that we should only consider the interests of humankind in evaluating the ethical implications of our actions. Vegans contend that even from the perspective of the interests of mankind alone, a diet including the flesh and milk of animals, is not ethical. There are a number of reasons for this.
First, there is no doubt that this diet causes pain, family disruption, and an early and often brutal death for billions of animals each year. While the animal agriculture industry goes to great lengths to insulate consumers from the knowledge of what goes on in factory farms and slaughterhouses, all of us know at least something of what happens in these places. Thus, when we take a bite of what once was the living pulsing muscle of an animal that had feelings, a family, and a desire to live, we are acting without compassion for that sentient being. Acting without compassion for one sentient-being makes it easier to act without compassion for other sentient beings. The great Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy put it this way, “As long as there are slaughterhouses there will always be battlefields.” By this he meant that we construct a mental wall that allows us to avoid feeling compassion for the animals we eat and slaughter, in the same way that we protect ourselves from feeling compassion for enemy humans in war. This denial of compassion can affect how we treat people in other situations as well by classifying them as “the other.” The argument is put most forcefully in its positive aspect: if we decide on a daily basis to act with compassion for non-human sentient beings by adopting a plant-based diet, we will be more likely to act more compassionately for each other.
Another human-centered moral argument comes from the environmental effects of eating meat, fish, dairy and eggs. Animal agriculture is terrible for the environment, leading to deforestation and emitting tons of methane into the atmosphere each day. Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Wealthy societies such as the U.S., Europe, and much of Asia, use more of the world’s finite resources than other people on the planet. There are limited amounts of potable water and food. Plant-based diets use much less water and much less grain than diets using animal products. Farmers who now cultivate grain for animal feed could, instead, grow grain to feed the millions of starving people throughout the world.
Yet another human-centered moral argument arises from the adverse health-effects of eating animal products on the health of human beings. Parents, who feed their children animal products are setting them up for diseases of the Standard American Diet: heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity.
Note: These are not the only ethical arguments for adopting a plant-based diet. However, they are a good start for class discussions based on the film.
Interesting Biblical and Historical Antecedents of Vegan Activism:
Biblical Antecedents: A prophet is a person who through divine inspiration speaks the truth to the people. In the Old Testament a prophet was a person chosen to guide the people to obey the word of God. Moses was the greatest of the Old Testament prophets. Adherents to the environmental and vegan movements see their collective efforts as the voice of a prophet. “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the LORD,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” John 1:23: New King James Version. The environmentalists telling us that we need to take care of the Earth and other species and the ethics-based vegans advocating for a plant-based diet see themselves as voices “crying in the wilderness” of modern Western society.
In the Bible, what is the penalty for failing to heed the words of the prophet? “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” Malachi 4:5–6. Is the pending climate catastrophe the “great and awesome day,” when the land will be struck “with a decree of utter destruction”?
Vegans as Abolitionists: Ethics-based vegans see the killing of billions of sentient beings each year for their meat and the eternal mourning of the dairy cows to be an ethical abomination similar to slavery. Ethics-based vegans see themselves as the abolitionists of the current day, crying out against injustice in the wilderness of modern society – just as the abolitionists protested the evil of slavery in pre-Civil War America. As did the abolitionists, ethics-based vegans believe that the arc of the moral Universe bends towards justice and that, in time, perhaps fifty or a hundred years from now, society will look upon what we do to the farm animals with a horror similar to the way that today we view what the Southern plantation owners did to the slaves in the American South.
1. The movie asks the question, “Are we in trouble?” What is that “trouble?”
Suggested Response: Global warming and human actions that threaten to cause the Sixth Mass Extinction. For purposes of the discussion, teachers can show students slides from the film. Here are some suggestions:
- Wildlife death rate;
- Except for animals on farms, “populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians have, on average, declined by 60% from 1970 to 2014” and the decline continues; source: WorldWildlife. org
- One million species are threatened with extinction;
- United Nations Report: Nature’s Dangerous Decline; Unprecedented Species Extinction Accelerating;
- Global temperatures are rising to disastrous levels; source: NASA;
- Livestock is the world’s largest user of land resources . . . representing almost 80% of agricultural land; source: The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations;
- Current global response insufficient: “transformational changes” needed to restore and protect nature; source: United Nations Report: Nature’s Dangerous Decline; Unprecedented Species Extinction Accelerating;
2. The movie then asks, “But can you fix it?” One man says that there’s something we can all do that will create a very positive change. A woman says, “Maybe the solution is to look in the mirror.” What are they suggesting that we do?
Suggested Response: The solution proposed by the people shown in the movie, its “call to action,” is to adopt a plant-based diet. This is something we can all do and if enough of us adopt a plant-based diet, the rate of global warming will be substantially reduced. There are several other ways to put the message of the film: “We have seen the enemy and the enemy is us.” “Society may be driving off an environmental cliff but as we go down, if I have adopted a plant-based diet, no one will be able to say that I didn’t do my part to try to stop the disaster from happening.”
3. Put yourself in the position of a visitor to planet Earth from outer space. How would these sentient non-human beings view the way that humankind treats other animals, such as farmed animals (cows, pigs, or chickens), or wild animals (rhinoceroses, Canada geese, or deer)?
Suggested Response: Here are some phrases that the filmmakers would suggest aliens might apply to the human race: “Killing machines.” Beings who have “normalized violence.” “Hypocrites” who love their dogs, cats, hamsters, and parakeets, but who brutally disrupt the families and kill billions of farm animals who feel pain, love their offspring, and desire to live.
4. One of the commentators in the film says that we are giving planet earth a “buzz-cut.” Is it correct that we are destroying forests to grow crops to feed livestock? What evidence does the film provide to support that?
Suggested Response: In the discussion, teachers can show the following screenshots from the film:
“A fifth of the Amazon [jungle] has disappeared in just 50 years.” (WorldWildlife.org) “Livestock is the world’s largest user of land resources … representing almost 80% of all agricultural land.” The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.
5. Can people accurately call themselves environmentalists if they are still eating animals?
Suggested Response: The makers of this film would certainly answer, “no”, for all the reasons given in the movie, such as, deforestation and the over-use of land for grazing farm animals as well as the waste of water for animal agriculture.
6. Can people who eat meat or dairy accurately describe themselves as having compassion for animals?
Suggested Response: They could only say that they love some animals, dogs or cats, for example, but not the ones who are used for food. Farmed animals are used as a commodity and given no moral value.
7. Some people say that animals in nature kill and eat each other all the time and that this gives people the right to do the same. What do you say to that?
Suggested Response: The filmmakers and ethics-based vegans would give the following response. First, there are only a few animals like vultures and hyenas who, like people, eat the carcasses of dead animals that they haven’t themselves recently killed. So, the proper way to frame the question is, “Since some scavengers in nature, like vultures and hyenas, eat animals killed by others, why shouldn’t people eat the carcasses of dead animals?
The filmmakers would also answer that mankind in developed societies, by virtue of our technological prowess, our ability to reason, and our hands with opposable thumbs, have taken ourselves out of the state of nature. See also the section on The Ethical Arguments for a Plant-Based Diet, above.
8. What is a climate refugee? Are there any climate refugees now or is this a fear for the future?
Suggested Response: A climate refugee is someone who has had to move out of their home due to a climate change related effect. In the U.S., for example, thousands of people who had been living in New Orleans were forced to leave their homes in the wake of hurricane Katrina; each year people must abandon their homes due to floods and others are burned out of their homes by forest fires. In other parts of the world, drought makes entire regions uninhabitable. There are millions of climate refugee throughout the world.
9. Why does Dr. Rao call mankind the “thermostat species” and what does this have to do with the ice ages? See movie, minute 26:33 – 29:09.
Suggested Response: Variations in Earth’s orbit change the amount of solar radiation the Earth receives in each season. In the last 2.6 million years ice ages would last roughly about 100,000 years. They would be separated by warmer interglacial periods of about 40,000 years. Dr. Rao calls us the “thermostat species” because we have modified that cycle in the same way that a thermostat keeps the temperature warm and comfortable in our houses. By cutting down the forests and burning wood from the trees, we have changed the environment to forestall the coming of the next ice age, extending an interglacial warm period. The problem is that we have gone too far. Due to the unrestricted burning of fossil fuels we are making the Earth too warm. However, by controlling our use of fossil fuels, replanting the forests and sequestering carbon, we might be able to return the Earth’s temperature and climate to what it was 200 years ago and save many species, including our own, from extinction. As Dr. Rao sees it, this is our only way to survive.
10. Do you know any vegan celebrities? Name them.
Suggested Response: There are several websites that list vegan celebrities. Check out: Vegan celebrities 2022: 55 stars share why they went vegan.
11. Why won’t the government act against the animal agriculture industry
Suggested Response: The political power of farmers and the lobbyists of various animal agriculture industries; in short, political power and money.
12. Play the statement by James Aspy, Ask the class: What is your response to this statement?
Suggested Response: There is no one correct response to this question. To get the discussion going, teachers may also want to ask, “Why does this man feel good about himself?” Response: he has always had the belief that a good person would be compassionate and caring. He has now found a way to live up to that ideal.
13. Some people claim that what they do in life is their “personal choice” and that they should be free to do what they want. What should be the limits on “personal choice.”
Suggested Response: People have a personal choice to do what they want so long as the action does not violate the law or willfully or negligently hurt another. Other than that, they have unrestricted personal choice. However, each person’s choice has consequences and before making their personal choices people should think about the consequences to themselves and to others. Ask the class to come up with examples.
Here is an example from the movie about the consequences of eating a diet with meat, fish, dairy, or eggs: (1) A plant-based diet is better for our health. (2) In order to raise the farm animals that people kill for meat, we are contributing massively to global warming and driving other animal species to extinction. (3) We are harming the animals themselves, splitting up their families, causing them pain, and killing them. (4) Animal agriculture uses immense amounts of water that is not used when growing soybeans and grain; (5) Animal agriculture causes the creation of immense amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
1. Will becoming an ethics-based vegan improve your image of yourself.
Suggested Response: It did for Mr. Aspy.
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS (CHARACTER COUNTS)
1. What are the ethical reasons for eating animals and dairy? What are the countervailing arguments?
Suggested Response: There are no ethical reasons for killing animals for their food or consigning dairy cows to perpetual mourning… See The Ethical Arguments for a Plant-Based Diet, in the Helpful Background Section above.
ASSIGNMENTS, PROJECTS & ACTIVITIES
1. Students can be asked to fill out the Worksheet for Films that Seek to Persuade on Issues of Political or Social Significance.
2. Each of the discussion questions are good essay prompts.
3. Students can be assigned to write a review of the film.
4. Students can be asked to research, evaluate, and update any of the claims made in the film. Here are a few examples:
- Feeding antibiotics to billions of farm animals each year to prevent outbreaks of disease on factory farms causes antibiotic
- resistant bacteria to grow. (Antibiotic-resistant bacteria and fungi cause more than 2.8 million infections and 35,000 deaths in the United States each year.)
- We are destroying the forests of the world to grow crops to feed livestock.
- 52% of all wild vertebrates died between 1970 and 2010 and more of them died in 2010 than died in 1970. . . . By 2012 it had become 58% . . . and if we follow that trend by 2026 100% of all wild vertebrates will be gone.
- The earth is estimated to have lost half its living corals in the past 30 years.
- The earth is in the midst of the Sixth Mass Extinction.
- 70% or more of all soy beans grown on the planet are fed to farm animals.
- The methane gas emitted as part of the digestive process of grazing animals is a major cause of global warming.
- It takes 8 pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef. We could end world hunger by giving the grain that we give to farm animals directly to people.
- We could stop climate change if we could just change our diets to be plant-based.
- Less than a third of the earth’s surface is land; of that land, not all of it is suitable for agriculture; and of the agricultural land about 75% is used to graze livestock.
- We are overfishing the oceans. 40% of fish caught in the ocean is fed to pigs, chickens and domestic salmon.
- The ocean is an important regulator of climate. It is the single greatest absorber of CO2. 70% of the oxygen that we breathe comes from Phytoplankton in the ocean. We’ve depleted phytoplankton populations 40% since 1950.
CCSS ANCHOR STANDARDS
Multimedia: Anchor Standard #7 for Reading (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). (The three Anchor Standards read: “Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media, including visually and quantitatively as well as in words.”) CCSS pp. 35 & 60. See also Anchor Standard # 2 for ELA Speaking and Listening, CCSS pg. 48.
Reading: Anchor Standards #s 1, 2, 7 and 8 for Reading and related standards (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). CCSS pp. 35 & 60.
Writing: Anchor Standards #s 1 – 5 and 7- 10 for Writing and related standards (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). CCSS pp. 41 & 63.
Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards #s 1 – 3 (for ELA classes). CCSS pg. 48.
Not all assignments reach all Anchor Standards. Teachers are encouraged to review the specific standards to make sure that over the term all standards are met.
BRIDGES TO READING
The following books are recommended for excellent high school level readers.
- A Life on Our Planet: My Witness Statement and a Vision for the Future by Attenborough, David and Hughes, Jonnie, Grand Central Publishing, New York, 2020;
- The World Without Us by Alan Weisman, Adam Grupper, et al.;
- Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth? by Alan Weisman, Adam Grupper, et al.
LINKS TO THE INTERNET
Articles assisting teenage vegans to ensure proper nutrition
- Vegan Nutrition for Teens, by Jack Norris, Registered Dietitian, accessed 5/17/22
- Vegan Nutrition for Teenagers, by Reed Mangels, PhD, RD, Vegan Resource Group, accessed 5/12/22
- Vegetarian & Vegan Nutrition for Teens, Vegkitchen, 2017, accessed 5/12/22
- Nutrients vegan teens need to focus on by Leslie Beck, 9/21/20, The Globe and Mail accessed 5/12/22
A few Peer-Reviewed Scientific Studies that show the health benefits of a plant-based diet
- Dairy consumption and risks of total and site-specific cancers in Chinese adults: an 11-year prospective study of 0.5 million people, Maria G Kakkoura, et al, BMC Medm May 6, 2022, accessed 5/17/22
- COVID-19 Illness Severity in the Elderly in Relation to Vegetarian and Non-vegetarian Diets: A Single-Center Experience, Yi-Chen Hou et al, Frontiers in Medicine, April 24, 2022, accessed 5/17/22
- Vegetarian diets in children and adolescents, Amit, M, Canadian Paediatric Society, 2010
Abstract: “A well-balanced vegetarian diet can provide for the needs of children and adolescents. However, appropriate caloric intake should be ensured and growth monitored. Particular attention should be paid to adequate protein intake and sources of essential fatty acids, iron, zinc, calcium, and vitamins B12 and D. Supplementation may be required in cases of strict vegetarian diets with no intake of any animal products. Pregnant and nursing mothers should also be appropriately advised to ensure that the nutritional needs of the fetus and infant are adequately met. …
- Estimating impact of food choices on life expectancy: A modeling study, Fasdness, et al, PLoS Med, 2022, accessed 5/17/22
“Conclusion: A sustained dietary change may give substantial health gains for people of all ages both for optimized and feasible changes. Gains are predicted to be larger the earlier the dietary changes are initiated in life….”
- The Ideal Diet for Humans, Galit Goldfarb, TEDxWilmington, 16 minutes; downloaded 5/12/22
(This is an excellent and accessible short description of the anthropological origins of a vegan diet.)
- What are mass extinctions, and what causes them? by Michael Greshko and National Geographic Staff; National Geographic Magazine 9/26.19; accessed 5/17/22
- Films for the Feminist Classroom accessed 5/17/22
- Vegetarian Diet, Growth, and Nutrition in Early Childhood: A Longitudinal Cohort Study Pediatrics, May 2, 2022, Elliott, Laura, J et al, accessed 5/23/22
“Evidence of clinically meaningful differences in growth or biochemical measures of nutrition for children with a vegetarian diet was not found. However, a vegetarian diet was associated with higher odds of being underweight.”
- Characterizing Interglacial Periods over the Past 800,000 Years, C. Sullivan, Eos March 2, 2016, accessed 5/23/22
- Glacial-Interglacial Cycles, NOAA, accessed 5/23/22.
More People in the United States Dying from Antibiotic-Resistant Infections than Previously Estimated, U.S. Centers for Disease Control, accessed 6/25/22
See the websites linked in this Guide and the books listed in the Bridges to Reading Section.
This Learning Guide was written by James Frieden and published on June 27, 2022.
TWM received permission from the filmmakers to create an “Academic Version” of this movie which obscures a few explicit scenes showing the brutality of slaughterhouses. Teachers should view the film before showing it to a class, but our goal was to eliminate scenes that would be problematic for teachers to show to students.
LEARNING GUIDE MENU:
Benefits of the Movie
Selected Awards & Cast
Using the Movie in the Classroom
Assignments and Projects
CCSS Anchor Standards
Bridges to Reading
Links to the Internet
Students can be asked to fill out the Worksheet for Films that Seek to Persuade on Issues of Political or Social Significance.
One of the filmmakers asks Jane Goodall “What would you tell consumers?”
Goodall: I would tell consumers to eat less or no meat; to move towards a plant-based diet.
Questioner: Can you discuss the role of animal agriculture in deforestation and habitat destruction?
Goodall: In a nutshell, animal agriculture, where animals are kept in these intensive factory farms: one, it is shockingly cruel. We have to realize that farm animals too have personalities and emotions, can feel happiness and fear. But, also, to feed all of the billions of animals that are now kept in these conditions it means destroying environments to grow the grain to feed them, which means the use of much fossil fuel bringing out CO2 emissions, greenhouse gasses, and climate change. It uses a lot of water. In addition to all of that, the animals produce methane gas as a byproduct of digestion, and that is a very vicious greenhouse gas. Finally, these creatures are given antibiotics just to keep them alive, not literally because they are sick, and the bacteria are building up resistance and as we destroy the forests and other habitats it means that we are actually stealing the future of our children because we are part of the natural world; we need the natural world and we are destroying it so fast that unless we all get together now, it will be too late.
The 20th-century utilitarian argument for a plant-based diet was set out in the book Animal Liberation by philosophy Professor Peter Singer.
Captain Paul Watson, the founder of founded the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, famously said, “If you want to know where you would have stood on slavery before the Civil War, don’t look at where you stand on slavery today, look at where you stand on animal rights.”
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