I have mixed feelings about James Cameron’s powerful movie the Game Changers, which I watched yesterday. It makes a convincing case for athletes to switch to a plant-based diet, to benefit their sporting results, general health, and even sexual performance.
It follows James Wilks, a US military instructor and former UFC fighter, as he recovers from a serious injury that left him unable to train for six months. He finds a recent study that concludes that, contrary to accepted wisdom, Roman gladiators ate little to no meat.
He flies to Austria to meet the researchers, and starts a longer quest to discover the views of dozens of the world’s strongest, fastest, and toughest athletes, as well as leading experts on athletics, nutrition, cardiology, haematology, genetics, anthropology, and forensic pathology.
The athletes he talks to include former bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger, Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton, US national cycling champion Dotsie Bausch, Australian 400m champion Morgan Mitchell, tennis champion Novak Djokovic, and world-record-holding strongman Patrick Babouman.
The movie’s website gamechangersmovie.com provides extra resources. A section on food covers core principles, protein, and plant-based recipes. A section on benefits covers maximising performance, optimising health, and the bigger picture.
Will the Game Changers cause some people to stop eating meat? Yes, it will, if its target market sees it, and that will be a good thing. The movie dismantles many myths about humans needing meat for protein, and shows how eating meat can actually be bad for us.
Here comes the “but…”
But beyond our personal benefit, the movie’s only other message was that if we eat less meat, it would be good for the environment. There was almost no reference to the ethics of humans killing trillions of sentient beings every year for the convenience of our taste buds.
The main exception was Damien Mander, a former Australian Royal Navy Clearance Diver and Special Operations Military Sniper who now serves as Founder and CEO of the International Anti-Poaching Foundation.
Damien revealed that he finally saw the ethical contradiction between spending his days saving endangered wild animals from being killed by poachers, then going home in the evening and eating other animals for his dinner.
The movie’s website does not even reference this. Its section on the Bigger Picture merely addresses land use, water use, contamination, and air quality and emissions. It refers to animals as “livestock” and “middlemen” of protein, who are “consumed” with no mention of the injustice of killing them on an industrial scale.
The makers of the movie clearly chose to take this approach. Executive producer James Cameron is a vegan, so he understands the issues. Maybe they felt that it would be counterproductive to focus on the ethics, by potentially alienating people who might be convinced by other reasons.
But to me, it felt like a powerful lecture to slave owners in the nineteenth century, explaining how their plantations could run more efficiently and profitably without slaves, but with only passing reference to the injustice of owning slaves in the first place.