Do you dream about being a pork chop sizzling on the grill and you can’t wait for your juices to be squeezed out by someone’s teeth? Do you dream about a handsome chef massaging a mixture of spices into all creases of your lean rump? Then you have to deal with the same issue as Dutch director Marijn Frank.
Marijn Frank likes meat. She likes it very much. When neuroscientists compared the reaction of Marijn’s amygdala to seeing a medium-rare sirloin beef with her reaction to seeing certain “raw” meaty parts of a man’s body, they reached the conclusion that Marijn likes meat much more than sex. However, Marijn wants to give up meat – she doesn’t want her two-year-old daughter to share the moral dilemma whether one should kill a living being for meat. For this reason, she doesn’t buy meat to take home very often and all she’s left with is instant gratification in the form of a sausage bought at the petrol station.
The suggestiveness of the last sentence is obvious. The whole film by Dutch director Marijn Frank Need for Meat is like that: suggestive and sensual at the same time. You will hardly find another serious documentary film in which the author owns up to wild fantasies described in the opening of this article. Marijn knows that she can’t give up meat. She craves it even though she has visited industrial slaughterhouses and battery cages as a TV director of films about consumer issues, so she has many reasons to be a vegetarian. But meat is too intimate a thing for her.
It is the journey to a personal experience of what it really means to have meat on one’s plate that leads Marijn to a situation in which she’s holding a captive bolt pistol and… But let us not anticipate. We can first talk to the spokesperson of a meat processing plant, a farmer of an endangered cattle breed and a chef in one, several elderly vegetarian hippies and finally we’ll go through a six-week course at a family organic slaughterhouse.
After that Marijn takes a captive bolt pistol, looks into the eyes of the meek cow she’s supposed to kill in the next instant and… Would you be able to do it? And can you buy a pound of beef in the supermarket?
You have seen the reality of industrial meat processing with your own eyes and it did nothing with your appetite for meat. What is your approach to industrially processed meat now after your experiences described in the film?
I hardly eat meat anymore, and if do, it’s organic meat. The way animals are kept and also how they are bred in the industrial meat production is really against my principles.
Many Czechs have been to a pig-slaughtering in the countryside where the butcher with the help of the local family slaughters and processes a pig. Many of us have a personal experience with the reality of an animal’s death. Is there such tradition or an option in Holland?
Totally not. Slaughterhouses are located in the countryside where no-one can see them. If you want to enter, you’re not allowed. How we kill animals is one of the best kept secrets in Holland. Maybe because Holland is so big in producing meat, also for export, I don’t know. I think we are the country that has the most pigs, but don’t want anyone to see it. Maybe that’s also part of the disturbed relationship that many people here, including myself, have with meat.
Need for Meat has a happy ending in which it seems your attitude to meat has been solved. Is it still true today, a year after it has been completed?
Yes, the conclusion of the film still stands. If anything, I might eat even less meat. Although I must admit, since I’m pregnant again, the craving for meat has been harder to resist.
We don’t want you to have to deal with another problematic issue in your life, but in a way we hope there will be a new problem – because we really enjoyed watching your film journey to meat. Have you got any ideas?
Haha, what a funny question. I have enough issues in my life I’m afraid, but at the moment I’m not willing to put them into a new documentary. I am working on two new short documentaries though, one is about the son of a butcher who wants to become a butcher himself. So I’m still not totally done in the slaughterhouse. I will for sure make another documentary with me in it someday, but please be patient