Planet Earth’s rapidly declining resources, atmosphere, and ecosystems are often attributed to carbon emissions from human machinery, factories, and waste of resources. However, the 2014 film COWspiracy: the Sustainability Secret, directed by Kip Anderson and Keegan Kuhn, seeks to expose the real biggest factor of greenhouse gas emissions that no one wants to talk about:
It all started when co-director Kip Anderson saw a startling Facebook post. A United Nations study suggested that animal agriculture is responsible for more devastating greenhouse gas emissions than any other source. Andersen realized that taking shorter showers, composting, and biking instead of driving contributed very little to aiding Earth’s sustainability in comparison with the emissions of greenhouse gases, methane, and CO2 as a result of animal agriculture. This includes clearing forests for pastures, feeding the animals, and the animal waste itself. So why didn’t he hear about this before, from some of his favorite environmentalist organizations?
For much of the documentary, Kip Anderson is filmed interviewing various CEOs and directors of organizations such as Oceana and Sierra Club. When he asks them about the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, they never answer with animal agriculture. They avoid the question awkwardly, often glancing away from the camera or declining to comment. The supposed environmentalist giant Greenpeace refused to be interviewed for the production. After repeated refusals, Anderson knew they were keeping a secret, perhaps that meat and dairy giants financially supported Greenpeace and other companies like it.
The filmmakers visited Howard Lyman, a former Cattle Rancher who spent 45 years in the animal agriculture field. He was sued for speaking out about the effects of animal agriculture on the Oprah Winfrey Show years ago. At that time, the Food Disparagement Law banned people from saying anything about a perishable commodity they knew to be false. He stated, “If I was to go on the Oprah Show today and say exactly the same thing I said back then, I would be guilty…You can go today and tell the truth and you will be guilty because if you cause a disruption in the profits of the animal industry, you’re guilty under the Patriot Act.” By making this documentary, Lyman told Anderson that he was “putting his neck on the chopping block.”
If this wasn’t enough evidence to show that the government is hiding the dangers of animal agriculture, the film shows a backer of COWspiracy calling Anderson, saying she would have to drop funding due to the controversial subject matter of the film.
Will Potter, a journalist and author of Green is the New Red, stated that, “Animal rights and environmental activists are the number one domestic terrorism threat according to the FBI.” They directly threaten corporate profits of industries that try to keep people in the dark about the biggest environmental impact. Potter was able to uncover through the Freedom of Information Act that the counter-terrorism unit of the FBI is monitoring Potter’s media, lectures, and interviews. Potter also warned Andersen that by making the film, he was going up against people with massive legal resources whose main tactic was fear.
After these three events, Andersen was tempted to walk away from the project, fearing that the FBI could target him next. Thankfully, he “realized that this issue was way bigger than any personal concern I could ever have for myself. This was about all life on Earth hanging in the balance of our actions. Now you either live for something, or die for nothing. And I actually had no choice all along. I decided then to surrender not to fear from the secret, but rather to a cause towards truth.” He could not fall victim to the same cowardice of the environmental organizations who refused to speak.
The rest of the film focuses on alternatives to eating meat and shows experts explaining how veganism can really change the world. “We make more than enough food to feed the world. Worldwide, 50% of the grain and legumes we’re growing is going to animals,” says Dr. Will Tuttle, author of The World Peace Diet. Children are starving in countries where food is being fed to animals, who are then killed and sold to people with enough money to buy that meat. It is a common misconception to think think that human population is the biggest issue, because it’s really “a human-eating-animal population issue.” Dr. Tuttle adds, “If we reduced meat consumption, then the forests could grow back and become ecosystems and habitats again.”
Andersen takes us to the backyard farm of a man who breeds ducks, where we witness the graphic slaughter of a helpless bird. After calculating the cost to feed these ducks, Andersen concludes that there is no sustainable way to kill animals, not even backyard farming.
Before making this film, Andersen viewed eating meat as “disconnected” and “abstract.” When he realized that each animal killed was a living, breathing creature, the situation struck a personal chord. He decided he could never eat meat again, but was concerned about getting enough nutrition in a vegan diet.
He consulted Dr. Michael A Klaper, M.D., a 32-year vegan, who says he feels healthy and fit. He runs several miles every day, goes biking, feels comfortable in his trim body, and has lots of energy despite working long days.
“All the nutrients are there in the plant kingdom,” to live a vegan lifestyle, Klaper says.
Vegan soil and methods of farming were also explored in the last quarter of the film. Vegetables can be produced much quicker, and on less land than meat. Feeding an average American on a plant-based vegan diet only requires one-sixth of an acre of land. Whereas feeding someone who consumes a typical American diet with meat, eggs, and dairy requires 18 times that amount of land! Vegan diets also produce half as much CO2 and an eleventh the amount of fossil fuels, and one-thirteenth the amount of water as an American omnivore.
Demosthenes Maratos, of the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College, says, veganism is “the most powerful thing someone can do for the environment. No other lifestyle choice has a farther reaching and more profoundly positive impact on the planet and all life on Earth than choosing to stop consuming animals and live a vegan lifestyle.”
Josh Tetrick, of Beyond Eggs, a plant-based eggs company, says, “When you take the animal out, you also take the greenhouse gas issue out. But one thing that’s amazing is, I think you put our values back in. You put values like compassion and integrity and kindness, values that are natural to human beings…you build that back into the story of our food.”
The government chooses to hide the harmful effects of animal agriculture from the American public, but this film exposes their lies. COWspiracy is an eye-opening film for anyone who wants to help save the world by changing his or her lifestyle.
75% of Americans consider themselves to be environmentalists. People who claim to be environmentalist but still eat animal products are not living what they profess.
What about you? Are you an environmentalist?
By Jessica Santulli, Ramapo College Intern to Karen Ranzi, M.A.