Forks Over Knives

By Matt Prigge
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 3 | Posted May. 18, 2011

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Grade: C

Sorry, Ron Swanson, but at least according to Forks Over Knives, cows are the root of all evil. Unlike most people who try to steer you from consuming the flesh of other carbon-based lifeforms, documentarian Lee Fulkerson doesn’t attack from an animal rights angle. His film isn’t interested in humans harming other mammals; it’s interested in mammals harming other humans. Eating meat or dairy, his film argues, isn’t unethical—it’s unhealthy, the cause of hypertension, high cholesterol, various cancers and, of course, fatigue and physical grossness.

After an apocalyptic trip to the doctor, Fulkerson stumbled upon the combined research of nutrition academic T. Colin Campbell and surgeon Caldwell Esselton, whose cure is easy: no meat, no dairy, just a whole foods, plant-based diet. Meat’s reputation as a fount of protein is overrated, they claim, and is anyway swimming in cancer activators. In one of many chilling passages, it’s pointed out how Nazis robbed Norway of their red meat, leading to a sharp decrease in cardiovascular diseases. Soon as WWII ended, sickness spiked right back up.

“It sounds almost too good to be true,” Fulkerson rhapsodizes over Campbell and Esselton’s remedy. It sure does. Forks Over Knives is of a particularly bothersome breed of documentary: The questionably researched polemic that always sounds too good to be true. Fulkerson has assembled an organized assault on being a carnivore, buttressed by hair-raising (selective) evidence, cheap but simple graphics and an air of calm professionalism.

Its clean appearance masks a lack of rigorous research. Campbell and Esselton are not only barely questioned by their critics, they’re put on a pedestal and dubbed “pioneers.” This is not a skeptical or exploratory work, further evidenced by its use of junk science stooge Bill Maher as a voice of reason. Not for nothing does the opening text—clearly insisted on by legal counsel—claim that what follows is “opinion,” not “fact,” and to consult your doctor if you’ve been effectively swayed. This is documentary filmmaking as lazy journalism; after all, you need only amass 90-some minutes of facts and then you’re done.

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1. Al said... on May 18, 2011 at 11:15AM

“Talk about "lazy journalism." Go ahead and put up one contrary FACT against the 90 minutes worth they've amassed. They have peer-reviewed science and clinical histories showing a plant-based diet reversing heart disease. What you got that shows otherwise? Nada? Thought so.”

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2. Macropsychotic said... on May 18, 2011 at 04:33PM

“Veganism and vegetarianism are illnesses, rigid, exclusive. Macro will tell you how drastic diets have changed in the last 50 years, but deny that the dropping of meat from the human diet, occurring primarily in the last 50 years, is excluded from such otherwise extreme thinking. There's canines in your head for a reason. Eat more vegetables - no doubt. Drop sugar and processed food completely - absolutely. Avoid factory farming and meat, egg production - yes. Eat lacto fermented foods? Sure. Dairy is such nonsense its preposterous, especially when homogenized and pasteurized. So yes, change your diet away from the typical American diet, but for crying out loud don't go overboard and suggest that humans not eat any meat.”

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3. Jamie Roberts said... on May 21, 2011 at 05:40AM

“The filmmakers are stating not that cows are the root of all evil, but rather that the industry that forces them into a lifetime of standing in their own excrement, feeds them a diet so alien to ruminants that the animals need to be pumped with antibiotics to survive and hormones to make weight, then feed them to you is the root of all evil. The food industry has misled us into thinking meat is safe, even nutritious, because, like big tobacco, it values profit over the health of its consumers. This is not your grandparents', or even your parents' hamburger. The reviewer may not like this - that doesn't make it any less of a fact. Colin T. Campbell grew up on a farm and had no reason to steer people away from animal flesh and by-products had he not come to the conclusion that they were a health disaster. Sorry if this bad news upsets Mr. Prigge. It doesn't make it any less true.”

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