‘Okja’ begins with the mercenary Lucy Mirando announcing, ‘The world’s [human] population is 7 billion. 805 million humans struggle with hunger every day, including 30 million right here in the United States. The world is running out of food, and we are not talking about it. We needed a miracle. And then we got one.’ Her ‘solution’? A secretly genetically engineered ‘miracle pig’ species arrived at after much animal experimentation and competitive breeding, with the star super pig being Okja.
Okja’s kind is supposed to consume less feed, yet grow bigger, with less excretion. However, if we are all to consume a plant-based (vegan) diet like Okja, there will be no need to breed his kind at all, with enough plant foods to end starvation. This is how we can make truly minimal carbon footprints. After all, animal agriculture accounts for 51% of all greenhouse gases, more than that emitted by land, air and sea vehicles combined! The reality check is that there is truly no Okja, which means such pollution continues as we speak.
What is Okja the gentle giant like? He looks like part pig, dog, cow, hippo, elephant… Like a hybrid of all, the fictitious Okja who seems familiar yet foreign at the same time is an ingenious placeholder for all bullied livestock animals. With the protagonist girl Mija’s deeply affectionate bonding with Okja in the mountains, the movie makes the audience question the forced ‘fate’ of animals designated to become meat. Why have we forgotten that animals can be good friends; not food, that none of them wish to be killed for us?
It is incredibly short-sighted to envision a better world only for humans, as ‘masters’ who lord over the lives and deaths of fellow non-human co-citizens of the planet. Industrialised slavery, exploitation, torture and slaughter of animals is about as inhumane as we can get? Ironically, having grown the best, Okja was the ‘super-est’ of the super pigs because he was allowed to live and run freely, not like those pseudo ‘free-range’ farm animals, who are merely given slightly more space for slightly longer durations before their last days.
The film also exposes real life factory farms’ kill floors without excess gore. It explains why the likes of Animal Liberation Front’s (ALF) activists take risks to secretly attain video footage of the atrocities animals are put through, such as forced mating, to shatter the illusion that animals lead full and happy lives before facing the knife. Okja’s plight is every livestock animal’s. While ALF and Mija managed to save Okja, poignant is the truth that all other animals remain captive, to be treated like meat and produce machines.