Skip to main content

This article may contain affiliate links. If you purchase via the links provided, I may earn a small commission (this is at no cost to you!).
Read more.

Most people see what they expect to see, what they want to see, what they’ve been told to see, what conventional wisdom tells them to see – not what is right in front of them in its pristine condition.

Vincent Bugliosi

It’s no secret that I’m a passionate advocate for a vegan lifestyle. But I haven’t always been.

In fact, I grew up in a meat and dairy-eating household and never truthfully gave it much thought until my early thirties. I had a vaguely romantic and idyllic vision of the countryside and ancient farming practices, with happy free-range hens and sheep grazing in their luscious pastures. In other words, I was blissfully ignorant.

The point in my life that really sticks out as a time of huge growth and mindset shift is watching vegan documentaries. I can honestly say that they completely cemented my feelings towards veganism without a shadow of a doubt, and I’ve never looked back since.

So if you’re interested in learning more about veganism or are a new vegan wanting to pin down your ‘why’, these powerful films are a must-watch in your plant-based transition!

My Top Picks

What the Health

Here are the best vegan documentaries for 2024

Rather than binging another mindless Netflix series, why not make an effort to educate yourself on veganism and challenge your normalised ways of thinking? Or even watch 1 documentary from each of the 3 sections below. That’s just a few hours to understand more about:

  • The mistreatment of animals in the food, clothing and entertainment industries
  • Troubling systems of production like factory farming
  • The environmental impact of animal agriculture
  • How animal agriculture compares to the transport industry in terms of contributing to climate change and global warming
  • The health benefits of a plant-based diet
  • How eating animal products can put you at risk of chronic diseases

#1 Earthlings (2005)

Since we all inhabit the earth, we are all considered earthlings. There is no sexism, racism, or speciesism in the term ‘earthling’.

Duration: 1hr 35mins
Availability: YouTube

If you’re going to choose just one film from this article – make it Earthlings. Trigger warning: I bawled my eyes out. Joaquin Phoenix presents this 2005 American film, which unflinchingly moves through five chapters of animal exploitation:

  • Food
  • Pets
  • Clothing
  • Entertainment
  • Scientific research

It also gives you an overview of the term ‘speciesism’, which if you consider yourself anti-racist and pro-women’s rights, will challenge you to also consider being an advocate for animal rights.

If you’re like me and always thought that cutting out meat was enough – think again! Until I watched this film, I assumed that milk and eggs were just by-products and that no animals were harmed in these industries. Have a watch to understand why I couldn’t have been any more wrong.

#2 Dominion (2018)

We take their children, we take their freedom, we take their lives, sending them healthy and whole to a slaughterhouse to come out as packaged pieces on the other side. And we tell ourselves that somehow along the way, something humane and ethical happened.

  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Availability: Youtube

Earthlings will always have a special place in my heart, because it’s the film that turned me vegan. But in truth, you could just as easily substitute it for Dominion for a comprehensive ethical perspective.

Filmed over 10 years later by the creators of Earthlings, Dominion is an Australian documentary that exposes the dark side of modern animal agriculture. But don’t worry if you’re not Australian, because what you witness sadly occurs as standard practice across factory farming in the Western world.

Using hidden cameras and drones, the film sheds light on the inhumane practices and moral implications of our dominion over animals, including:

  • Farmed animals raised for food
  • Wild animals that are hunted
  • Companion animals subjected to unethical breeding practices
  • Animals used in entertainment
  • Animals farmed or trapped for their fur
  • The use of lab animals in scientific research

It also extends the conversation beyond factory farming, encouraging a deeper conversation on animal rights.

#3 Land of Hope & Glory (2017)

It is ignorance that allows us to consume and purchase without considering the industries which we are supporting… From this moment on, you can no longer say that you didn’t know.

With the tragic irony of its patriotic title and theme tune, Land of Hope and Glory will open your eyes to the unsavoury and hidden aspects of the British meat industry.

This was the UK answer to Earthlings that I had always felt was missing. Everything I had read suggested that British animal welfare was some of the best in the world. But watching this short documentary film confirmed all my worst suspicions.

Narrator and director Ed Winters (aka vegan educator Earthling Ed) exposes the sheer scale of the meat and dairy industries, with never-before-seen undercover footage. Whilst it’s easy to assume that what you’re seeing are isolated cases, the film features a hundred different factory farming facilities during recent years. There are 5 distinct sections focusing on:

  • Pigs
  • Cows
  • Birds
  • Eggs
  • Sheep

#4 Pignorant (2024)

If I’m not willing to risk my life to expose what’s happening to them, then I don’t really care about it enough.

Pignorant is hot off the press for 2024! Directed by prominent animal activist Joey Carbstrong, the film follows him on a gripping undercover investigation into the UK’s pork industry, specifically focusing on the horrific use of CO2 gas chambers for stunning and killing pigs. This is a method of killing which is commonplace in British farming, despite being universally acknowledged as inhumane.

The film shows Joey’s brave and terrifying mission to install and recover secret cameras in the cages of a Manchester facility, shedding light on an industry which no one wants us to see.

This is a graphic yet necessary film that challenges trusted food labels and charity organisations, and ultimately calls into question whether the slaughter of animals – by whatever means – can ever be humane.

#5 Eating Animals (2017)

There’s inherent cruelty in that system. I look back on it now and I say, ‘How could I not see that?’

Based on the 2009 bestselling book by Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals was co-written by the author himself and narrated by Natalie Portman, who was apparently so inspired by the book that she took to vegan activism.

A disturbing but necessary glimpse into a multi-billion dollar industry, filmmaker Christopher Quinn incorporates footage of factory farms, labs, interviews and archive material.

In your quest for cheap and convenient food products, you come to understand how you play your part in driving economic demand for greater productivity in factory farming methods. This results in ever crueller conditions for the animals themselves, who are treated more and more like commodities or things than sentient beings.

Gripping and delivered with passion, your attitude towards food is unlikely to remain unchanged after watching this film.

#6 Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (2014)

You can’t be an environmentalist and eat animal products. Period!

  • Duration: 1hr 31mins
  • Availability: Netflix

I remember when Cowspiracy was released, and everyone from work colleagues to family members was telling me that their attitude towards meat-eating had completely changed. I instantly knew I had to take a look for myself!

Produced and directed by Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn, the film explores the effects of animal agriculture on the environment, examining issues like climate change, deforestation and ocean dead zones. It is particularly gripping to watch Andersen try to contact leading environmental organisations, who are reluctant to discuss this controversial subject.

We naturally assume that well-respected charities like Green Peace are leading voices that we can trust, but it’s amazing how quickly they can be silenced.

For a different perspective compared to the first five films on this list, give this revelatory documentary a watch. I can guarantee you’ll be clicking on Seaspiracy as soon as the credits start to roll!

#7 Seaspiracy (2011)

Not long into starting the project, this romantic vision that I always had of the ocean completely changed.

  • Duration: 1hr 29mins
  • Availability: Netflix

Seaspiracy opened our eyes to the impact of commercial fishing on our oceans and marine life.

With much the same feel as Cowspiracy (and produced again by filmmaker Kip Anderson), director and narrator Ali Tabrizi uses hidden camera techniques to explore the environmental issues affecting our oceans. This includes plastic pollution from fishing gear, ghost nets and overfishing. Whilst it’s easy to overlook fishing as a form of animal agriculture, the film makes it clear that we need to make a change.

Marine ecosystems are being devastated by the commercial fishing industry, with criticism levelled at marine conservation organisations like the Dolphin Safe Label (which essentially doesn’t mean anything and is regulated by the industry itself!).

For the most comprehensive insight into why you should cut fish out of your diet, look no further.

#8 A Life on our Planet (2020)

This is not about saving our planet, it’s about saving ourselves. The truth is, with or without us, the natural world will rebuild.

  • Duration: 1hr 23mins
  • Availability: Netflix

You probably associate David Attenborough with softly spoken, ASMR-inducing wildlife documentaries. But this ‘witness statement’ is much more urgent than anything I’ve ever seen from him.

Unlike the rest of the films on this list, A Life on our Planet isn’t so much an explicitly vegan-focused documentary. Nevertheless, it focuses on issues of animal agriculture and the long-term health of our planet.

Having filmed animals from the 1950s, Attenborough describes how humans have devastated natural environments. When half of the fertile land on Earth is now used for farming, and wild animal populations have halved on average, his chilling dystopian vision of a Chernoblyl-esque future by as early as 2080 may not be so far removed from reality:

Millions of people rendered homeless, and a sixth mass extinction event is well underway… We must change our diet. The planet can’t support billions of meat-eaters.

#9 What the Health (2017)

If I could deliver one message to the researchers who are looking for the cause of diabetes, and the cause of clogged arteries, and the cause of high blood pressure, and the cause of obesity, I would tell them, the answer’s in three words. It’s the food.

  • Duration: 1hr 37 mins
  • Availability: Netflix

If you’re interested in the health benefits of a vegan diet, then What the Health is one to add to the watch list.

Produced and directed by Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn, the film follows Andersen as he attempts to contact representatives of various health organisations (again, you guessed it… without very much success!).

The main message from the film is that rather than treating our major diseases with drugs, we could eliminate many of them at their source by eating a plant-based diet based on whole foods. The Standard American Diet, which relies on fast food and over-processed junk food, is linked to life-limiting diseases like diabetes and autoimmune disease. And the food industry suppresses vital knowledge in these areas.

In addition, this film features some of my favourite medical experts, including Michael Greger, Neal Barnard and Milton Mills (to name just a few!).

#10 The Game Changers (2018)

Somebody asked me, how can you get as strong as an ox without eating meat? And my answer was, have you ever seen an ox eating meat?

  • Duration: 1hr 52mins
  • Availability: Netflix

If you’ve ever fallen for the myth that you need to eat meat to get adequate protein, that vegetarians are weak and sickly, or that you can’t be an elite athlete on a vegan diet… then you need to watch The Game Changers ASAP!

Re-evaluating the relationship between health, fitness and a vegan diet, the documentary has a star-studded production crew, including the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rip Esselstyn, James Cameron and Jackie Chan. During the film, we follow Elite Special Forces trainer and martial artist James Wilks, who goes on a surprising quest to find answers about the optimal diet for human performance.

From an interview with plant-based Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton, to a memorable scene discussing erectile dysfunction in which 3 male athletes look at the effects of a plant-based diet on their ejaculate, this is a fascinating insight into how plant-based food can improve people’s health.

#11 Forks over Knives (2011)

You can be in control. And I stress this because there’s so many things going on in my life that I’m not in control of. And that’s my message. You can control your outcome of your body. Eat to live, and don’t live to eat.

The OG of plant-based health documentaries, the tagline of Forks over Knives always sticks with me: Warning: This Movie Could Save Your Life!

Examining the careers of American physician Caldwell Esselstyn and nutritional biochemist T. Colin Campbell, Forks over Knives puts diets comprised of animal products under the microscope, addressing the serious public health issues they cause. The film also goes into more detail about how the drug and pharmaceutical industries benefit from animal agriculture.

By rejecting animal products and overly processed foods, this eye-opening documentary suggests that we can stop, manage or potentially even reverse the chronic diseases that afflict our family members, including major killers like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

Over to You...

I am so excited for you to start your journey into whole-food, plant-based living. Whilst some of these documentaries may be shocking and challenge your inherited belief systems, I promise that they can’t help but change you for the better.

Whatever you decide is right for you upon evaluating the evidence presented in these documentaries, I hope that you are more informed and can make better individual choices moving forwards.

If you enjoyed this post and these documentaries have inspired you to take the vegan plunge, then check out these posts on how to transition to a vegan diet and create your easy vegan meal plan. And, for even more plant-based education, have a read of some of these fascinating books on veganism.

Pin This for Later

The vegan documentaries you need to see

Leave a Reply