How Movies like 'Free Birds' Could Shape a New Generation of Plant-Based Eaters

This Friday, November 1, theaters across the country will debut “Free Birds,” a 3-D computer-animated kids film with voice talent from actors like Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson and Amy Poehler.

The basic premise of the film: two turkeys (Wilson and Harrelson) from “opposite sides of the tracks” work together, travel back in time to the first Thanksgiving, and work together to change Thanksgiving as we know it forever. The mission: “not to save 10 turkeys or even a 100, but all of them.” That’s right, kids, the turkeys in “Free Birds” fight to get turkeys (and thus themselves) off the “turkey day” menu.

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As many of us adults already know, turkey is really not a necessity at a Thanksgiving table anymore – but if you’ve never tried it, a plant-based dinner table is sure to still please everyone and it’s easier than you probably ever thought. In fact, it’s better for everyone involved in the process: check out PETA’s 10 reasons not to eat turkeys. Some of the information here might help any adults on the fence about their turkey consumption (or lack thereof) this holiday season.

While some of these sources may make sense to older children, it’s the fun stuff like movies, games and toys that will probably resonate more with them and influence their personal choice to eat less (or no) meat.

The discussion about parents shaping their children to become vegetarian (or vegan) is heavily debated. While some parents do all they can to make sure their children keep to their own meatless ideals, some parents want children to decide for themselves. If nothing else, films like “Free Birds” may spark something in a young person’s mind to perhaps reconsider that turkey on Thanksgiving and beyond. Movies that give voices to otherwise unheard animals could help shape children’s opinions about eating and caring for animals, resulting in a new crop of kids passing on meat by choice.

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“Free Birds” is not the first kid’s movie depicting animals fighting against their imminent death at the hands of humans. Take “Chicken Run,” a 2000 movie that depicted chickens rebelling against repression and their eventual certain death on a chicken farm. And the 2006 film version of Charlotte’s Web, based on the classic book, focuses on Wilbur the pig’s plan to escape his imminent place on the dinner table at the end of the season.

We can also look to older classic movies like 101 Dalmatians (1996), in which the main characters fight to make sure Dalmatian puppies aren’t used for one evil woman’s fur coat.

These movies, among others directed toward children with basic animal rights messages intact, are a helpful way to put animal rights on children’s maps. And, if kids do happen to make the choice to be vegan on their own, there are plenty of great examples and helpful tips for how to weather the situation in this very non-vegan world – take, for example, Ellen Green’s thoughtful and honest stories about “Being a Vegan Kid” and these ten tips for celebrating veganism with kids.

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While the true purpose of films that feature animals fighting for their lives is debatable (some would assume it’s really just about making another fun box office hit), the message behind “Free Birds” and other films humanizing animals and thus making animals’ “voices” more clear to children (and perhaps the adults watching, too) are a great step in the right direction of creating a more mindful generation of eaters.