Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (movie review)

by Bronwyn Slater

The movie is directed and narrated by Kip Andersen.  It opens with an interview with Bruce Hamilton, the Deputy Director of the Sierra Club (a major American environmental organisation) who warns us of the impending doom of climate change with warming temperatures, increased carbon dioxide levels, species extinction and wars resulting from increased temperatures, drought, famine and over-population.  Suddenly he is asked about the contribution of the animal agriculture industry to global warming and he appears completely stumped.   As the camera continues rolling Hamilton remains silent, and as we wait uncomfortably for an answer we realise that there isn’t going to be one.

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This film reminds me very much of the work of Michael Moore.  Moore is the type of guy who goes straight to the CEO of a corporation, points a camera directly in their face and asks them a series of uncomfortable questions.   The result is a lot of uncomfortable silences and bewildered looking interviewees.

Organisations featured in the movie include Greenpeace, Surfrider, the Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network, the National Resources Defence Council  and the California Water Resources Control Board.  As one head of organisation after another fails to satisfactorily answer Andersen’s questions we realise that there is an elephant in the room that no-one – not even the big environmental organisations – want to recognise or address.

Animal agriculture is a major contributor to the production of greenhouse gases, accounting for 18% of all GHG emissions, as opposed to only 13% for the entire transport system (ie. cars, planes, boats, ships and trains) put together.  Animal agriculture is also responsible for deforestation, rainforest destruction, species extinction, water pollution and drought.

So why is no one shouting about this?  Andersen can only speculate.  But the size and power of the meat and dairy industry is a big factor, as ex-cattle-rancher-turned-vegan Howard Lyman found to his cost when he spoke out about the meat industry on the Oprah Winfrey show in 1996.  One ten million dollar lawsuit later and he is somewhat more circumspect, though the interview with him towards the end of the movie is nonetheless chilling, as is the one with journalist Will Potter.

There are also interviews with Michael Pollan, Dr. Michael Klaper and Richard Oppenlander, among other well-known figures.

The movie ends with a powerful argument in favour of the vegan diet.  Going vegan is the single most powerful thing you can do if you want to lessen your environmental footprint.  Composting, recycling, taking a bike to work instead of a car, etc. are not going to have anything like the kind of environmental impact that switching to a plant-based diet will.

This movie is well worth a watch and should be mandatory viewing for everyone.  You can watch it online or order the DVD at: www.cowspiracy.com.

 

 

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