Changing the Game: An Uphill Battle

On October 1, 2019 a documentary called The Game Changers, presented by James Cameron, James Wilks, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, was made available for viewing worldwide. The film is about vegan athletes and their stories of success. It also shows the health benefits of plant-based diets and delves into the environmental impacts of animal agriculture.

Coincidentally or not, the day before its release a group of researchers published a series of papers concluding that red meat is not as bad as previously believed. They even went as far as recommending its consumption.

The publication received sharp criticism by the American Heart Association, among others, but the pro-meat claims were vehemently defended by Dr. David Allison from the Indiana University of Public Health, who has also received funding by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

Meanwhile, Dr. Walter Willet, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health, called the research “the most egregious abuse of data I’ve ever seen.” 

Studies that dilute scientific consensus on the harmful effects of certain industries are nothing new. For decades, tobacco and fossil fuel companies have paid scientists to conduct studies, release articles and write books promoting their industries, while downplaying their negative effects on human health and the environment.

The Game Changers poses a threat to the entire animal agriculture industry, and the tsunami of anger and pushback was to be expected. Skeptics claim Arnold Schwarzenegger is simply trying to cash in on his fame. Quite an odd move for a man whose net worth is over $400 million.  Others claim the film is funded by plant-based conglomerates bent on spreading misinformation for personal benefit. Indeed, there’s an organization called the Plant Based Food Association, the only one of its kind. It has invested $120,000 in lobbying efforts since its inception in 2017.

But compare that to the  National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, which has dished out about $7 million in the promotion of beef consumption since 1998. Add to that the millions of dollars spent by groups like the National Pork Producers Council, the Ranchers Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, the North American Meat Institute, among so many others that have been fighting to keep meat on the menu for nearly a century, and have ramped up their efforts in recent years. Most of these efforts are brought to life in the form of marketing campaigns.

Either way, lots of people around the world are ditching animal products for ethicalenvironmental and health reasons.

The World Health Organization has put red and processed meats in the category of Group 2A and Group 1 carcinogens, respectively. The world’s leading nutrition organizations have publicly stated the benefits of well-balanced vegan and vegetarian diets for all stages of life, and the number of plant-based athletes continues to grow.

There’s no doubt The Game Changers will inspire people of all walks of life to change their habits. But considering the power the meat industry wields, how marketing shapes perceptions more than science, and the simple fact that old habits die hard, this game changer may need superhuman strength to change the world.

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Roberto Guerra

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