Last night I went to a screening of the film Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret. Madison, a softmore in high school who organized the screening, had to sell at least 75 tickets in three days in order to be able to show the film – she succeeded in 24 hours. As we walked into the theater we were provided with vegan cookies that Madison made with her grandmother, which were delicious! Thank goodness this committed high school girl brought this movie to Broomfield, Colorado. It was one of the best documentary films I have seen (and I’ve watched a lot of them). This environmental documentary follows Kip Andersen as he seeks to uncover the most destructive industry facing the planet, and investigates why the world's leading environmental organizations are too afraid to talk about it.
As I watched, I experienced a range of emotions that are typical whenever I read, watch, or hear about the devastation caused by animal agriculture. I averted my eyes several times and shed a few tears as they showed the conditions of the animals and fish who are slaughtered by the billions to feed our habit of eating animals (the average American eats nine ounces of animal products per day as quoted by Michael Pollan in the film). Besides sadness, I also felt helpless as Andersen talked to organization after organization whose primary purpose is to support the environment, but most of whom would not admit to the main driver of the largest environmental issues. Why won’t these organizations focus on the issue that has the biggest impact on our planet? Because animal agriculture is a big industry with a lot of money and power. Also, membership organizations shy away from making their members uncomfortable by bringing their awareness to a behavior that many people don’t want to change - eating animals.
I was especially devastated and appalled when Andersen learned that 1,100 activists have been murdered in Brazil alone in the past 20 years for speaking out, and that animal activists are at the top of the FBI watch list. When one of the film backers called to let Andersen know they were withdrawing their support due to the controversial nature of the film, he contemplated abandoning his work. But he decided to press on because he realized that “you either live for something or die for nothing.” I’m thankful that he continued the journey; because this is a movie that everyone needs to see.
The facts shared in the film about the impact of animal agriculture on the Earth are eye-opening. Here are just some examples to give you an idea of how big this issue is for the health of our planet from global warming, to water consumption, to rainforest destruction, and ocean dead zones. Many more facts are available on the website.
Animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than all transportation combined
Livestock is responsible for 65% of all emissions of nitrous oxide – a greenhouse gas 296x more destructive than carbon dioxide and which stays in the atmosphere for 150 years
Animal agriculture use ranges from 34-76 trillion gallons of water annually
2,500 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 pound of beef
Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution [iv], and habitat destruction
For every 1 pound of fish caught, an average of 5 pounds of unintended marine species are caught and discarded as by-kill [viii]
Animal agriculture is responsible for 91% of Amazon destruction
Andersen goes on to explore the question of whether there is a sustainable way to raise animals for food. He discovers the bottom line is that the best thing that you and I can do for the environment is to eat a plant-based diet. A person “who follows a vegan diet uses 50% less carbon dioxide, 1/11th oil, 1/13th water, and 1/18th land compared to a meat-eater.” A meat eater requires 18 times as much land to eat for one year than a vegan, who can be fed from 1/6th of an acre. To put this in perspective “each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 sq ft of forested land, 20 lbs CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life [xiv].”
Consider how much more significant impact a plant-based diet has than replacing light bulbs, reducing water consumption in the home and commuting by bicycle. If you are truly concerned about the environment and the future of our planet, I highly encourage you to see this film, share it with others, and make the lifestyle change to a plant-based diet.