On a sweltering afternoon in July 2004, I found myself sweating through my shirt as I walked across midtown Manhattan carrying an enormous cardboard box. Six months earlier, I’d taken a job at GRACE, which had recently released The Meatrix, a four-minute parody of the Matrix films created to educate viewers about the problems caused by factory farms. Released pre-Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or smartphones, our distribution opportunities were limited; the unwieldy cardboard box I hauled across town was filled with copies of The Meatrix on VHS and CD-ROM - and I was headed to the post office.
Yet The Meatrix was an overwhelming success, ultimately viewed by millions of fans across the globe who shared the movie via email, word of mouth and, of course, on all the VHS tapes and CD-ROMs I mailed.
The response was remarkable given the decidedly unsavory subject of The Meatrix; factory farms are among the grosser topics one can explore – especially since these squalid facilities produce the vast majority of the meat, eggs and dairy products that Americans consume every day. But unlike the factory farm documentaries that had come before (think disturbing undercover footage of animal abuse and repulsive imagery of million-gallon manure cesspools), The Meatrix presented the ills of industrial livestock production in a manner that viewers could stomach.
Same Fight, New Fronts
On a sweltering afternoon in July 2014, I found myself sweating through my shirt again, this time as I sat at a conference table discussing plans for releasing the ten-year-anniversary version of The Meatrix. As GRACE’s founder pointed out, this particular anniversary would not be cause for celebration; although The Meatrix successfully educated millions of people about factory farms, in many ways, the problem had grown worse; over the past decade, factory farms had grown larger and more numerous, consolidation within the livestock sector had increased and industry had redoubled its efforts to lobby Congress and to confuse the American consumer. Sadly, every point made in the original Meatrix was still completely accurate – factory farms continue to pollute the environment, threaten public health, abuse antibiotics, devastate rural communities and compromise animal welfare.
GRACE is releasing the ten-year-anniversary version of The Meatrix not as a self-congratulatory retrospective, but as an urgent call to action. While great strides have been made by sustainable food system advocates, factory farms remain a lamentable reality. Nonetheless, as Moopheus notes in the movie, there is a resistance, and it continues to grow.
To mark this new chapter of The Meatrix, we’ve partnered with advocacy organizations around the country to add monthly actions to our website to empower Meatrix viewers to change the food system. The first group we're featuring is Food Policy Action, which has created a Scorecard that provides objective, factual information about how members of Congress are voting on the most important food legislation.
Over the course of the next year, we’ll continue to highlight the good work of our friends at Meatless Monday and Animal Welfare Approved (the gold standard in sustainably produced meat labels), encouraging Meatrix fans to eat less – but better – meat, and to join us in each month’s featured action. Can we harness all the enthusiasm the films have generated over the years to push for a food system that is fair to farmers, healthy for consumers, humane for animals and good for the planet? We hope so.
Whether you heard our message back in 2003, or are just catching up, please watch and share The Meatrix: Relaunched. Stream the movie at The Meatrix.com, or contact us and I’ll mail you a DVD.