Movie Review: Cowspiracy (2014)


Cowspiracy is a documentary with an agenda: uncover the biggest cause of pollution on the planet, and find a solution for Mother Earth to thrive. As a rabid closet environmentalist, I wasn't entirely surprised at what the filmmakers found: that animal agriculture is the devil. From their website:

Animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, water consumption and pollution, is responsible for more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry, and is a primary driver of rainforest destruction, species extinction, habitat loss, topsoil erosion, ocean “dead zones,” and virtually every other environmental ill.

Let me back it up.

The film begins with director Kip Anderson describing his reaction to seeing Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth: he did everything he could to save water, reduce his contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, recycle, et cetera. But when he reviewed the literature, he realized that environmental scientists were pointing to an entirely different culprit: meat and dairy consumption.

To really boil it down:

1) Land and water use: Cows need a lot of pasture, so forests are cleared for their grazing, leading to habitat loss and species extinction. They also drink a whole bunch of water, which could be used for better things, like a golf course. (cries)

2) Waste products: Yes, cow farts are pretty deadly, but also, all that cow poop is not processed in sewage facilities, so they end up in the ocean and cause dead zones.

The film uses excellent, clear graphics to underline these points. Paired with the silence of environmental groups like Greenpeace on the issue, it adds to Anderson's subtext that there's a conspiracy -- a "cowspiracy," if you will -- to maintain the status quo. For instance, in the US, animal rights activists are high on the FBI watch list, while in Brazil, they just straight up kill you if you get in the way of the rancheros.

Not content to stomp all over hamburgers, Anderson also notes that our eating bacon, eggs, and fish is similarly unsustainable. He shows this through graphics, footage, and interviews with prominent authors and educators. What really stayed in my head was something Dr. Michael Klaper said, which was essentially, "The purpose of cow's milk is to transform a calf into a 1,200-pound cow as rapidly as possible." And I went, "HMMMM THAT MAKES SENSE, DOCTOR KILLJOY. WHAT ELSE CAN I NOT CONSUME ANYMORE?"

As it turns out, pretty much everything that isn't plant-based. "You can't be an environmentalist and eat animal products," says Howard Lyman, a former cattle rancher.

Overall, this is a tough film to watch because of the message, and I wish the filmmakers had spent more time with alternative eating habits. But perhaps that is a lure to their website, where under the "Take Action" tab, you can choose to be a vegan for 30 days "for free!" Which immediately made me go, "NO THANK YOU," because a 30-day free trial is inevitably followed by badgering emails and unauthorized credit card charges, just ask my mom.

TL;DR: Eating livestock = killing the planet. :(

This post brought to you by okonomiyaki bread! Okonomiyaki bread: available only in Chinese bakeries and my darkest nightmares!