Cowspiracy: ‘The film that environmental organisations don’t want you to see’

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret is a groundbreaking feature-length environmental documentary produced and directed by Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn. It follows the intrepid filmmakers as they uncover the real impact of the livestock industry. The film investigates why the world’s leading environmental organizations, including Greenpeace and Rainforest Action Network, are afraid to talk about it.

COWSPIRACY FACTS – View infographic which compiles all the key facts mentioned in the film

Cowspiracy: Facts and Review

Emily Cole, A Different Perspective

Like the majority of non-vegans or non-vegetarians, I often avoid watching documentaries on the meat industry, partially for wanting to remain in denial, and partly because, and I’m sure you will all agree, watching an animal getting slaughtered is just plain horrible. But this is where Cowspiracy is different. Through this vegan month I have noticed most people obtain the attitude of ‘I know killing animals isn’t great, but just one person can’t make a difference’ or ‘The animals will still be getting slaughtered, even if I don’t eat them’ or simply ‘I just love meat though’.  Others have also voiced their view that they are 100% okay with the concept of an animal being reared, slaughtered and served for food.  On the basis they are aware of the goings-on in the slaughter-houses, the latter viewpoint is completely fair. Until you’ve watch Cowspiracy, that is.

What Cowspiracy does is avoid the horror show of the abattoir, which the majority of us are already aware of, and shines a light on the much larger and pressing issue: the environmental consequences of the agricultural industry. Many people assume veganism is to do solely with the welfare of animals, which for the majority of cases is true, however, there is also a MASSIVE problem concerning actions outside of the slaughterhouse. Deemed as ‘eye-opening as Blackfish’, Cowspiracy informs us that 51% of Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions are due to the production and maintenance of livestock and their byproducts, compared to just 13% from transport (road, rail, air and marine) – the latter being most commonly attributed to the rise in greenhouse gases. I even remember watching a Blue Peter programme about how to save water in the household, and how this can make a huge difference on the environment. Yet, in the USA, only 5% of the nation’s water use is used up in domestic homes, whereas agriculture uses 55% of the country’s water. From this realisation, Cowspiracy’s film-maker, Kip Anderson, then asserted that the water usage to make one regular hamburger is 660 gallons of water, equivalent to showering for 2 months.

But why is agriculture so environmentally damaging? The problem lies with the fact that we are adding an extra chain in our food process. By rearing up animals for the means of consumption, we need to feed them, which means we need land and resources in order to do so. And animals eat A LOT. Additionally, these acres upon acres of land are then ultimately destroyed by the animals grazing with 1/3 of land being deserted and unusable due to livestock. The main reason for the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest is actually mainly due to the land being needed for agricultural purposes. And the worst part? If we used all the food that we give to the animals, and feed people instead, you could feed everyone on earth a healthy and sustainable diet. It would end starvation across the world.

Throughout the documentary, there seems to be so many issues regarding the environment that all come down to the agricultural industry. However, as Anderson discovers, no one wants to talk about it. CEOs of major companies and environmental charities are either unaware or have simply chosen to ignore the facts stated by the UN, that the main cause of global warming is not the burning of fossil fuels but actually the devastation caused from our desire for meat and dairy. And I think this is what Anderson was trying to achieve in this documentary, and partly why I started this blog: to create awareness. This issue is a big one, but no one is discussing it, no one seems to be addressing it. The moral debate around the rearing of animals for meat and dairy production is one thing,  but the destruction of our planet and the starvation of millions is another. And that is why, even if you are the most devoted meat-eater, I urge you to watch Cowspiracy.

COWSPIRACY FACTS – View infographic which compiles all the key facts mentioned in the film


Cowspiracy: stampeding in the wrong direction?
Danny Chivers, New Internationalist
I spotted the headline statistic from the documentary – ‘animal agriculture is responsible for 51 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions’ – emblazoned on at least one placard or banner at most of the protests I attended in Paris. There’s only one problem with this eye-grabbing stat: it’s a load of manure. Emissions from livestock agriculture – including the methane from animals’ digestive systems, deforestation, land use change and energy use – make up around 15 per cent of global emissions, not 51 per cent. I’ve been vegan for 14 years and if meat and dairy really were the biggest cause of global climate change I’d be trumpeting that statistic myself every chance I got.

Cowspiracy & The Building Blocks of an Absolutist Position
Finch J, Daily Kos
Cowspiracy is more than just a documentary seeking to break the silence of environmental organizations on these issues. The conclusion of the film has nothing to do with reforming these membership-driven organizations. Instead, a panacea is offered: global adoption of a vegan lifestyle as “the only way to sustainably and ethically live on this planet with 7 billion other people.” While the film’s prime objective to reveal an unspoken masking of information about “animal agriculture” by well-known environmental NGO’s is laudable, I was disheartened by the effort to build a case for vegan absolutism and the abandonment of focus on the “cowspiracy.”

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1 thought on “Cowspiracy: ‘The film that environmental organisations don’t want you to see’

  1. The film does not tell anything new. Anyone like me, who has been in the ecology movement for over three decades – as participant, reader, writer or simply observer – knew all these facts. Also many TV-broadcasts dealt with them. (But known things must also be repeated for newcomers in the area.) We also knew that Green Peace and other big NGOs do not like to hear such things. But why?
    It is in the nature of big environmental NGOs and established Green Parties, whose elder members do know all these things, not to talk about them. They follow an ancient Indian wisdom: “Tell the truth, tell pleasant truths, but never tell unpleasant truths” (in Sanskrit: Satyam badah, pryam badah, ma badah apryam satyam.).
    Why? Because they are big, they need a lot of donations and the Green and Left parties need a lot of votes. They can get that if they only blame the big impersonal culprits who reject/prevent all necessary reforms – capitalism, imperialism, corporations, agro-industry, governments and the ruling parties –for all the environmental destructions and exonerate the ordinary people, especially the well-to-do global middle class. For the same reason they only tell pleasant untruths: that there are technological fixes for all environmental problems, that we can have all the energy we need, 100 percent, from renewable sources, that we can have a green-new-deal economic policy that will make green growth possible, that there is therefore no need to sacrifice any comfort, that we need not even give up private motor cars because soon cars will run with electricity that can come from water (liquid hydrogen), that capitalism can be reformed into a vegetarian tiger (public-welfare capitalism) etc. etc. etc.
    At the same time they avoid telling anything that could offend the poor and the downtrodden and the minorities or offend the feelings of any religious group. Thus it is a taboo for them to even mention the overpopulation problem.
    Coming back to the question of meat eating: Even two million years ago, when the first human beings appeared on the earth, we lived as hunter-gatherers. Our closest relatives, the chimpanzees are also hunter-gatherers. They too eat meat when they succeed in their hunting efforts (killing mostly a smaller monkey). We are not vegetarians (let alone vegans) by nature. We can of course become vegetarians. But what will you then tell e.g. the Inuits?
    As for policy or strategy, is it not enough to reduce meat-eating, drastically in Europe and America and a little in the rest of the world? Must we give forgoing meat the top place in our strategy-priority-list, thus alienating many? I think, the main question is not what?, but how much? After all, we haven’t yet succeeded in our efforts to persuade ourselves not to kill fellow humans!

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