Serious fun: The Meatrix

A pig for Neo and a bull for Morpheus -- that's The Meatrix, a Flash animation based on the blockbuster sci-fi movie The Matrix. But that is where the similarity of the plot ends. The Meatrix is about reality, The Matrix is ultimately ameliorative fantasy. The creators of The Meatrix, Washington, usa-based Free Range Graphics, want you to believe both represent something pernicious -- the machines controlling lives in the film, and factory farms producing meat in the US

 
Published: Sunday 30 November 2003

The Meatrix (2minutes) Free Range Graphics, Washington DC, USA 2003

A pig for Neo and a bull for Morpheus -- that's The Meatrix, a Flash animation based on the blockbuster sci-fi movie The Matrix. But that is where the similarity of the plot ends. The Meatrix is about reality, The Matrix is ultimately ameliorative fantasy. The creators of The Meatrix, Washington, usa-based Free Range Graphics, want you to believe both represent something pernicious -- the machines controlling lives in the film, and factory farms producing meat in the us.

Neo the pig takes the red pill, accepting bull Moopheus' offer to see the ugly reality that since the 1950s has transformed the rural 'home farm' into mindlessly profitable factories in the us. Moopheus leads him through, showing the various problems that infect this system: how it is cruel to animals; how it wantonly uses antibiotics; how the 18,000 tonnes of animal waste it dumps into waterbodies annually causes illness; and how it destroys communities.

In this way, claims the animation, factory farming has brought us to the brink of a looming epidemic. The animation wants animal farming to become sustainable, humane and ecologically viable -- for sure, the strategic media's battle for the consumer's mind is being increasingly fought on new terrains. And so are the players who want to play a part in these battles.

In February of 2003, Free Range, a design company, invited hundreds of non-profit organisations to apply for free production of a Flash movie. After carefully reviewing more than 50 applications, the grant was awarded to grace (Global Resource Action Center for the Environment), that has a number of independent family farmers as its members. grace's agenda was close to the company's heart -- end the practices of factory farming and promote sustainable agriculture. The company as well as the organisation believes that reform of the farming industry would mean significant gains in many areas: health, food safety, economic justice, workers' rights, environmental integrity and animal rights.

While the animation is only a comment on the situation in us, what's worthwhile for the activist in the developing world, indeed worth learning, is how to wed mirth with technology and to reach an audience whose attention span is getting ever shorter. A serious issue does not need to be carried forward carrying placards saying "O, it's serious, you know".

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