December 15, 2003: Critics may have shunned the latest
installment of The Matrix—a sci-fi thriller featuring
a human race snookered by a mechanized, super-computerized
society—but the animated parody The Meatrix,
is taking the Internet by storm. Word has spread like wildfire
about the clever spoof with an eat-sustainable message, which,
thanks to its widespread appeal, has transcended “the
choir” and hit the mainstream. From sustainable farming
list-serves all the way to the Arkansas Razorback's online
bulletin board, just about everyone is talking about The Meatrix.
Have you heard of The Meatrix?
The Meatrix opens with a sunny day on a bucolic country farm.
The chickens are pecking, the cows are mooing, and the pigs
are, well, eating slop. Just what you’d expect a farm
to look like. Just where you’d assume your food is coming
from. It is here where we meet Leo, a happy-go-lucky pig living
peacefully in a field by a big red barn.
But all is not as it seems. A deep-voiced, trench-coat-wearing
cow, Moopheus, appears from behind the barn door and ominously
informs Leo that the world he knows is not the world as it
heard of The Meatrix?” Moopheus asks. “It is
the story we tell ourselves about where our meat and animal
products come from. This family farm is a fantasy.”
Leo soon discovers the picture-perfect farm is but an illusion
as he spirals into the “real world” of pens too
small to move in, disease and stench—the world of the
Factory Farm—where most of our grocery stores get their
“What is this
horrible place?” Leo asks.
this are where most eggs, milk and meat come from.”
GRACE goes Free Range
The Meatrix is collaboration between GRACE (Global Resource
Action Center for the Environment) and Free Range, a cutting-edge
design company with a social conscience. It’s the mission
of GRACE to eliminate factory farming and to preach the message
that sustainable agriculture is both a better environmental
and economic choice for rural communities.
In February of 2003, Free Range developed the Free Range
Flash Activism Grant, offering the prize of a flash movie
production to forward the work of a worthy nonprofit. GRACE
was the first recipient, in recognition of its important work
on farm reform.
GRACE provided the goal—to promote sustainably-produced
meat—and Free Range provided the vehicle—The Meatrix.
Together, they have produced an educational site that receives
100,000 hits per day and had garnered an impressive two million
visits just three weeks after launch.
“We are reeling from the response we’ve had,”
says Diane Hatz, communications and marketing director for
GRACE. Initial response was so overwhelming and unexpected,
she says, that traffic crashed the site the very first day
it was up.
Getting the public to take the red pill
blue pill and stay here in the fantasy.
Take the red pill and I’ll show you the truth.”
--Moopheus, The Meatrix
The Meatrix message isn’t new, but the volume and diversity
of the audience it is reaching may be unprecedented. “The
point is to offer a choice,” said Hatz. “If people
are educated and understand what’s happening with the
meat industry, they will make educated choices. And demand
in the marketplace is what will bring about the change in
Consumer education is the key, but delivering a message that
deals with unpleasantries is not always easy. Scare tactics
tend to leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. And while
it may not be overly difficult to gain nods of approval when
talking up sustainable farming, getting the average Joe and
Jane to change their habits at the grocery store can be a
cow of a different color.
The Meatrix doesn’t take itself too seriously, even
when delivering data that can make your nose hairs curl.
“Eeiw, what’s that
smell?” says Leo
Moopheus holds his large bovine
nose and responds in a nasally voice, “12 million
pounds of excrement.”
This is just how GRACE wants it. “My goal is to reach
the unconverted,” said Hatz. And that is indeed the
audience she is reaching. From college football teams to concerned
citizens in Slovakia, people are taking notice and—whether
or not they even realize it—learning a thing or two
about factory farms and sustainable agriculture that just
may influence their eating habits.
Promotion of The Meatrix has been so far focused on US consumers,
but a Polish version is in the works with AWI (Animal Welfare
Institute) and scheduled for release in the near future. Other
possibilities? Hatz has received a few requests from teachers
for more educational materials related to the animated clip,
and more than a few requests have come in from the masses
for T-shirts, postcards, screensavers and other potential
message vehicles/revenue tools.
For now, GRACE is focused on completing the Eat Well Guide
with IATP (Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy). The
Guide is a database of sources for sustainably produced meats.
Data is still being gathered and guidelines drawn up to ensure
those listed meet the criteria of ethical producers and suppliers.
The Meatrix currently links to the Guide as an evolving resource
Breaking the meatrix
The Meatrix is leading the public by its funny bones to both
the Eat Well Guide and other resources for factory farm and
sustainable meat action and education. Even if half the viewers
are just there for a giggle, they can’t escape the facts.
As Moopheus explains to Leo, since 1950 more than two million
small family farms have disappeared. That’s more than
100 farms per day for 53 years.
not too late. There is a resistance.”
Support producers of sustainable meats, vegetables, eggs
and milk; champion small family farms; eat local and organic;
and fight against the factory farming industry. Join GRACE
and The New Farm® on the road to breaking “The Meatrix—the
lie we tell ourselves about where our food comes from.”