Written and directed by sociologist and author Marc Pierschel, Live and Let Live is a beautiful examination of our relationships with animals — those we choose to love and those we choose to eat.
Interweaving six stories of people’s paths to vegan eating, the poignant documentary delves into the ethical, environmental, and health reasons for leaving animals off of our plates. Well-paced and well-rounded, the film even addresses the world hunger and public health issues associated with raising animals for food, and thoughtfully acknowledges that even farm workers are victims too.
But the focus is on the animals: their sentience, individual personalities, abilities, and more. Biologist Jonathan Balcombe expertly describes why we should consider other animals’ capacity for pain and emotional needs. The point is driven home with a story from sanctuary founders Jan and Karin. We won’t give it away, but we suggest you keep a tissue nearby.
Journalist Will Potter, philosopher Peter Singer and psychologist Melanie Joy also provide valuable insights such as “without awareness there is no free choice.” Joy reminds us of how “carnism” — a thought system so entrenched in our culture that allows us to continue harming animals while considering it the norm — plays into our interactions in society, and why it’s so challenging to open people’s eyes to the suffering of the animals we exploit. It’s an enlightening concept.
While Live and Let Live weaves all of the delicate issues surrounding factory farming very neatly together, the real highlight of the film is the variety of people who have chosen to eat vegan foods as a way to stand up for animals, and share their stories. Most compelling are the stories of reformation: a prior dairy-farming couple who have now created a farmed animal sanctuary, and, in another case, a foie-gras- and veal-serving butcher turned vegan chef. Of course, the documentary features the expected activists, but the film also highlights individuals like professional track cyclist Jack Lindquist, who has found his recovery time has decreased and energy increased since transitioning to a plant-based diet.
As dietitian Matt Ruscigno says in the film, “If an athlete can be vegan, then anyone can.”