Directed by Bong Joon-ho, Okja is the brilliant movie that follows the bittersweet bond between a little girl and her beloved companion pet that is destined to be on your dinner plate. This 5/5 star movie pulls at all the right heart strings. It is a tale of the childhood innocence being confronted by the greed of a corrupt corporation. The real gut wrench is that this evil corporation is too enabled by the cognitively dissonant public.
The movie opens with the extravagant PR event of Mirando Corporations’s new Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton), revealing about their plans to breed a super pig they have created. The year is 2007. She says that 26 off-springs will be sent to locations around the world, and 10 years later, one will be crowned the ‘winner’. Her closing sentence is “..and it better fucking taste good” which implies the fate of this super pig ‘winner’.
10 years later in South Korea, a young girl named Mija (Ahn Seo-hyun) lives in the countryside with her grandfather (Byun Hee-bong) who is a local farmer and the super pig, Okja. Mija has asked her grandfather to buy Okja from Mirando Corporation so that Okja doesn’t have to go back to New York.
One day Mija and her grandfather are visited by Mirando spokesperson and zoologist Dr. Johnny Wilcox (Jake Gyllenhaal), who declares Okja is the best super pig and she will go back to New York. Mija who doesn’t speak English doesn’t understand what is happening. Mija’s grandfather coaxes her to visit the graves of her parents. There he gives her a solid gold pig and tells her that he couldn’t buy Okja so he bought her the gold pig instead. Feeling betrayed, Mija runs back home only to find that Okja has already been taken away.
That evening Mija she runs sets out on a mission to find Okja. She goes to the Korean office of Mirando and finds Okja being loaded onto a truck headed to the airport. Mija manages to chase down the truck which is eventually intercepted by an Animal Liberation Front (ALF) truck.
In the resulting chaos Mija and Okja run away causing chaos though an underground mall. They are eventually saved by the ALF. Jay (Paul Dano) the lead ALF member, tells her about their plan to put a hidden camera in Okja’s ear and return Okja to Mirando Corporation. Through the hidden camera footage they want to expose the animal cruelty at Mirando Corporation. Jay asks Mija’s permission to use Okja for their plan. Mija tells them no but the translator, K (Steven Yeun), lies so the group believe Mija has consented. Okja is recaptured by Mirando and sent to New York.
Meanwhile, footage of Okja and Mija running through mall has gone viral on youtube. In order to do damage control, Lucy pays for Mija to come to New York to be reunited onstage with her Okja at a mega PR event. Dr. Wilcox doesn’t like this idea and gets upset with Lucy for trying to overshadow his fame.
Okja is taken to the laboratory where Dr. Wilcox tries to forcibly breed her with another super pig. Dr. Wilcox is drunk and says “I am suppose to be an animal lover” while he extracts bits of meat from Okja for a taste test. Members of the ALF are watching the whole ordeal through the hidden camera in Okja’s ear. K feels guilty and tells the group he lied about Mija’s consent to use Okja. Jay gets upset, punches K and bans K from ALF.
Devastated Mija arrives in New York with Mirando representatives. She learns bits of English to avoid being betrayed by a translator again. She was told to get ready for her stage appearance. When she goes into her room, Jay comes out from behind the curtain. He apologises to and say they are planning to rescue Okja.
Mija is reunited with Okja on stage. The hidden camera footage of animal cruelty is played on the big screen for the public to see. Mija and the ALF attempt to escape with Okja, but Lucy’s twin sister Nancy (also Tilda Swinton) is back from London and takes over the Mirando Corporation and keeps Okja with Mirando Coporating. The ALF members were beaten and arrested by the police. However Jay is assisted by K to escape the arrest. Jay, K and Mija go to the Mirando’s slaughterhouse to find Okja who was next to be killed.
Mija runs up to the slaughter-man and show a photograph of herself with baby Okja. The man seems moved, but Nancy arrives and tells to keep the production line going. Before the slaughter-man continue, Mija offers the golden pig to Nancy in exchange for Okja’s life. Nancy agrees to the deal. Jay was finally arrested.
Mija and Okja leave the slaughterhouse passing the feedlot with thousands of super pigs awaiting slaughter and some were forced into the slaughter ramp. A pair of super pigs push their baby through the fence. Okja hides it within her mouth to take it away.
The movie ends with the final scene back in Korea with Mija, her grandfather, Okja & the baby pig living their pre-existing life.
In a post-credits scene, Jay is released from prison and gets on a bus with K and the other members of ALF, who reveals that they are attending a major meeting involving all of the Mirando shareholders. Then, they all put on their ski masks.
This brilliantly produced movie questions the morality within us all. The most powerful scene is its second last scene when Mija and Okja leave the slaughterhouse passing the feedlot packed with other super pigs. The gravity of the atrocities inflicted toward animals slaughtered in the name of food hits home. That was just pigs – super pigs. Imagine the sheer number of smaller animals, like chickens, that are killed in the name of ‘food’. And we have the audacity to call ourselves “animal lovers”…
The movie covers a very relevant topic, and it does so, so brilliantly. It makes us question how everyday people like us view ‘food’ that once lived. It exposes the standard lies fed to the public. Eco-friendly, non-GMO, carbon-neutral – these are all phrases that are thrown around carelessly and constantly to promote various consumer products, especially food. But in a world where anything goes, how do you know that you are not lied to?
Another aspect of the movie is that it brings attention to the important work animal activists, ALF or any other organisations do to exposes these lies. If you live in any first world country like the US, Australia or many countries in Europe, you’d know the extent the governments and agricultural industries (‘corporations’) are going to stop these activists. Labelling them as “terrorists” and making up laws to criminalise even the most mundane activities like leafleting – ag-gag laws anyone? The activists risk their lives and their freedom to end cruelty. So next time you see the media demonise the activists, ask yourself: who is the real demon here? Is it the person who wants others (human & non-human) to live in peace, is it the corporation trying to maximise their profits, is the government, or is it you – the consumer who create the type of demand that corporations and governments profit off?
The plot is not the only good thing about this movie. The cinematography, especially the lush green scenery of South Koreao is breathtaking. The scenes at the slaughterhouse and the Mirando laboratory eerily terrifying and raises the hair on your back. My favourite though, is the acting because it is done oh-so wonderfully! Tilda’s portray of eccentric Lucy is praiseworthy. Jake Gyllenhall did very well being whimsical Dr. Wilcox and Ahn did such an incredible job of playing Mija. Ahn takes us on a journey filled with raw emotions and true genuineness. We could relate to her feelings as she uncovers the cold truth of the ‘real’ world of which she had been shielded from until now.
Ok, don’t worry. The movie is not all doom and gloom. There is plenty of sarcastic humour embedded within the film. From the very first scene of Lucy’s PR extravaganza it sets the scene for its dark humour which follows throughout the movie. Even the role of the local truck driver is humorous.
In summary, I was very impressed with all aspects of the movie and I highly recommend you watch it if you haven’t done so already.
This is just a quick snapshot of my holiday to Hong Kong and a bit of a memoir of my experiences.
Day 1: The Day of Arrival. After dropping off my bags at the hotel, I spent the day wondering around the little lane ways in Wan Chai. This part of the town was less developed than the CBD. I realised that I underestimated the language barrier. The lane ways were covered in small stores and outlets. There was no order to how the shops are situated. For example, there were meat stores shoulder to shoulder with ladies lingerie shops.
Day 2: Less disoriented after a decent night’s sleep. This is when I noticed how ridiculously busy this town is! Seriously, it seems like people are in such a hurry. Aside from when riding the escalators I have not many positive social etiquette from people here. There is no concept of “giving way” to others when walking. I have been impressed with the city’s transport network however. The train network, which is almost identical to London’s underground metro, is efficient and fast. Oh and their Octopus card, which is like the ‘go card’ in Australia, can be used not only for transport but also as an eftpos card in general. I thought this was super cool 😎
Day 3: I visited the Victoria Peak, which is probably one of the top 3 tourists attractions of the city (the other 2 in my opinion are Disneyland & Macau). The highlight of the day was riding the Peak Tram. The tram has been operating since 1988 and has a maximum slope of nearly 45 degrees (48% gradient). Tram ride is a MUST in my opinion.
My travel tips for Hong Kong based on my first 3 days here are:
- Be prepared to battle the crowd.
- Be prepared for a language barrier.
- Be prepared for confronting scenes of animals in meat stores (dead & alive), especially if visiting areas outside of the CBD.
- Enjoy the efficient transport network.
- Eating out is not as cheap as I thought it would be.
- Very limited vegan options (at least any that is clearly marked), slightly less limited for vegetarians but an abundance of exotic food to try if you eat meat (snake meat anyone?)
I hope you enjoyed this post and maybe find it useful if you are planning to travel to Hong Kong. Please share your own experience if you’ve travelled to Hong Kong ❤️
Those who follow my blog know that I am passionate about veganism. Wikipedia defines veganism as “both the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, and an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals.”
I became vegan 3 years ago, at the end of 2014. Before then I followed a vegetarian diet (I didn’t eat meat but still consumed dairy & eggs). You can read a summarised version of my vegan journey here.
Since I’ve become vegan I have discovered so many health benefits that I’d like to share.
Improved Mental Health
I am not claiming that a vegan diet would cure mental illness however, I found that since aligning my actions with my core values of kindness and compassion, I am fundamentally happier. This is because I see the world through a different lens – a lens without the ‘invisibility cloak’.
Carnism is the invisible belief system, or ideology, that conditions people to eat certain animals. Carnism is essentially the opposite of veganism, as “carn” means “flesh” or “of the flesh” and “ism” refers to a belief system.
Once I shifted my belief system from Carnism to Veganism, I felt a weight shift off my chest. I felt at ease with myself in a way that I had never felt before. I no longer participated in unnecessary violence toward other sentient beings, and that felt better than eating any type of animal product ever did!
Better Food Choices
Once I made the conscious decision to become vegan, I had to shift my mentality about food. Food I previously consumed became no longer food. Rather I saw those as body parts of dead sentient beings, and products of cruelty and injustice.
I learnt about alternatives to meat and diary. I made my diet entirely plant based. This is also referred to as a vegan diet, or simply ‘vegan’ (although being vegan is more than a diet – see end of the article). My simple google research revealed how much nutrition can be obtained from a plant based diet. Vegan Easy is an excellent source for loads of vegan recipes and other resources about plant based eating.
Also check out Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. This is the national guideline in Australia for a healthy diet! Look at the five good groups.
The entirety of the Grains, Vegetables and Fruit categories are already vegan. These 3 groups alone make up more than two thirds of the circle!
Then there is the “Dairy” category for calcium and “Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds” category for protein. These are the only categories with animal products. As the name suggests protein can be obtained from tofu, nuts and seeds. Meat, poultry, fish and eggs can easily be replaced with other plant based sources of protein such as lentils, quinoa, tempeh, beans, grains, and broccoli.
Dairy is the other concern many people have when considering a vegan diet. Most people believe that dairy is the only source of calcium. Calcium is important for strong and healthy bones but there are many plant based sources of calcium. These include leafy greens (e.g. kale), collards, broccoli, okra, figs, oranges, almonds, pistachio nuts, hazelnuts, flaxseed, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, soybeans, chickpeas, navy beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, lentils, tempeh, tofu, fortified non-dairy milks, fortified soy products, fortified breakfast cereals, and fortified orange juice. Visit Vegan Easy for loads more information about healthy plant based diets.
While I didn’t suddenly become invincible to illnesses, my sinuses became less frequent and my blood results showed that my overall health has improved over the last 3 years. My vitamins, protein and cholesterol levels are well within the healthy ranges. Before I became vegan, before I was even vegetarian, I was often anaemic. Since I changed my diet my iron levels have consistently been in the healthy range.
I am not saying that cutting off meat and dairy will miraculously make you immune to every disease. There are certainly naughty foods that are still vegan (100+ naughty vegan food) – fried chips or nice cream anybody? What I am saying is that it is entirely possible to live and thrive on a well balanced plant based diet. The only supplement that is universally recommended with a plant based diet is vitamin B12.
Still concerned about health impacts of a plant based diet? Consult a qualified dietitian! For those who live in Brisbane, Australia, ‘Human Herbivore‘ is a good website.
Apart from mental and physical health benefits at an individual level, there are also wider scale benefits from being vegan:
1) As vegans we would not only stop consuming animal products but we would also stop contributing to the suffering in clothing (e.g fur, leather & wool), entertainment (e.g. circus animals, aquariums & zoos), medicine/laboratory experimentation (e.g. cosmetic testing), and working animals (e.g. horse-drawn carriages). There are loads of vegan friendly alternatives to choose from.
2) We would significantly reduce the carbon footprint on our planet. I aim to write a post about the water consumption and land clearance associated with animal agriculture and non-animal agriculture.
3) Generally, we would develop an increased awareness toward other social justice issues in the world such as; poverty, child labor, sexism, LGBT rights, racism and all things in between. Dr. Melanie Joy explains why eating animals is a social justice issue because commodification of animals is a result of a widespread oppressive system just like racism, sexism, and heterosexism.
Ultimately, cultivating compassion and justice is not simply about changing behaviours; it is about changing consciousness so that no “others,” human or nonhuman, are victims of oppression. To bring about a more compassionate and just society, then, we must strive to include all forms of oppression in our awareness, including carnism. – Beyond Carnism
So what are you waiting for? Order a FREE vegetarian starter kit today!
If you haven’t already seen, you must watch Blackfish. It’s a documentary about orcas in captivity – in particular follows the story of one orca, Tilikum – and exposes the adverse impacts of killer whales (i.e orcas) in captivity.
The documentary adds an emotional anchor to keep the audience engaged as it tells how Tilikum was captured, torn away from his family at the tender age of 2 years (orcas have a similar life span to us), and ended up in Sea World. It is a heartbreaking story of his life as an unwilling performer at Sea World for over 25 years. Before Sea World, Tilikum spent some years during the 80s & early 90s at ‘Sealand’ which has since been shut down.
It highlights that the orca entertainment industry is destructive, not only to orcas but also to humans, by presenting 3 deaths of trainers, a near death experience and multiple unpublished incidents.
Following the OH&S legal trial in 2012, Sea World is no longer allowed to undertake interactive shows with orcas. This is good for the safety of the humans, but what about the orcas?
Orcas are mammals who have great intellectual capabilities. They have the biological capacity to have a sense of self. They are very close knit to their families. What must Tilikum’s life been like? In a concrete tank, completely isolated from his family, no (or minimal) enrichment, and ‘forced’ to turn tricks to survive. Just imagine…
Without any graphic footage, the movie Blackfish still pulls at your heartstrings.
On Friday 6th January 2017, at the age of 36 years and after spending 33 years of his life in captivity, Tilikum has died.
Rest in Peace at last.
Heart of Ganesh has launched a new Humane Tourism campaign #NotOnMyBucketList to raise awareness for elephant cruelty in tourism.
Tell travelers that elephant cruelty disguised as entertainment needs to be taken off the Bucket List!
Here is what you have to do:
1. WRITE #NotOnMyBucketList on your hand (or a paper hand) and take a picture.
2. Share your “hashtag hand” on social media with this message: “Elephant Cruelty is #NotOnMyBucketList! Join me in reaching your hand in Compassion for Elephants!”
3. TAG Heart of Ganesh in your post (@heartofganesh), and SHARE far and wide!
If you tag your location, Heart of Ganesh will post your hand to our map.
Learn more about #NotOnMyBucketList at Heart of Ganesh website.