Marc, who has been a vegan for the past 18 years, tells us why dropping animal-based foods and products from our lives is the need of the hour.
German filmmaker, Marc Pierschel’s cult documentary, which envisions the impact of a ‘post-meat’ world on the environment, is premiering in Mumbai today.
For those who love meat, the thought of getting off it can be highly unsettling. However, this shift did take place in Germany, a nation known to love its bratwurst and schnitzel, six years ago, when environment-conscious individuals started pushing for environment-friendly diets and lifestyles. It was this zeitgeist that inspired German documentary maker and author, Marc Pierschel to explore the effects of a ‘post-meat’ world on the environment and mankind. And this is exactly what he does in his cult documentary, The End of Meat.
“I was inspired to make the film when the idea of plant-based diets was starting to be discussed by the mainstream media about six years ago in Germany. The largest German meat companies were suddenly releasing vegan products and I wondered if this could be the start of a shift in the human-animal relationship,” reveals the filmmaker, who is also the man behind the feature documentary Live and Let Live.
Marc, who has been a vegan for the past 18 years, tells us why dropping animal-based foods and products from our lives is the need of the hour. “Meat and animal products are a huge problem. Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% greenhouse gas emissions, uses a third of all freshwater, occupies 45% of Earth’s total land, has destroyed 70% of the Amazon rainforest and is the greatest threat to biodiversity. We have to take meat off of our plates if we want to keep this planet alive for future generations,” he insists.
The End of Meat might seem like an exercise in wishful thinking, for it imagines what our world would look like if we stopped eating meat and animal products. “It covers a lot of different aspects such as ethics, health, ecology as well as questions around future foods such as ‘cultured meat’ and how we can coexist with animals in the future,” Marc adds. Since a lot of the film is based on speculation, researching for the film was difficult. However, scientists who have spent years researching this subject were relied upon for information. “We were lucky to find excellent scientists, like Dr Marco Springmann from the Oxford Martin School who has found that a global switch to a vegan diet would avert eight million deaths per year by 2050, cut greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector by two thirds and save $1.5 trillion in climate damages and healthcare-related expenditures,” he shares.
However, making a film based only on projections wouldn’t be convincing enough and so Marc met with pioneers leading the vegan movement in Germany to document the diverse, delectable vegan options available. This included interviewing Jan Bredack, ex-manager at Mercedes Benz who went on to becomes the owner of ‘Veganz’ - the first German vegan supermarket chain. Bernd Drosihn, the owner of Tofutown, the largest European tofu producer, as well as Sebastian Joy, the head of ProVeg, the largest food awareness organisation in Germany. “We also wanted to understand how veganism and vegan products became so popular. It turned out that it was not vegans or vegetarians that led to the growth, but ‘flexitarians’ — people who are actively reducing their meat consumption and are open to the idea of eating more vegan meals,” says the filmmaker.
Marc and his crew also visited Oregon State University to capture the ‘bacon from the sea’ they claimed to have found. “It is an algae, which is called Dulse, that tastes like bacon when deep-fried and is obviously a lot healthier than bacon. The university is now working on a couple of products with the algae and hope to turn this into a sustainable meat alternative in the future,” Marc informs us. The documentary also covers his visit to India’s only ‘vegetarian city’ and Esther the Wonder Pig, a pig known for her staggering social media following and for inspiring many to embrace veganism.
Marc believes that the time is right to switch to veganism for there isn’t a dearth of vegan-friendly options anymore. And this isn’t only in Germany, but worldwide. “Veganism is no longer a niché pursuit as vegan products are available to more and more people in regular supermarkets and restaurants. With established non-vegan brands now marketing their own vegan products, we see that consumers are beginning to be more open to the idea of veganism. But even this reduction in meat consumption already has a huge impact and we see that the vegan industry worldwide is increasing,” he says, but adds that the film isn’t only for those passionate about veganism as it is “for anyone who is interested in our relationship with farmed animals and to understand how our consumption patterns impact the planet, ourselves and of course, the animals.”
At Gold Cinema, Santacruz, 6.45 pm onwards