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 really is.
“Have you 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 meat.
“What is this horrible
place?” Leo asks.
“Places like this
are where most eggs, milk and meat come from.” Moopheus
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
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
“Take the 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 the industry.”
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?”
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
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 for consumers.
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.”