The first time I watched the documentary Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret I was in tears. True story. How could I be in the world of climate advocacy and not have a full understanding of animal agriculture's leading role in the destruction of our environment?
Cowspiracy is a documentary that will leave you forever changed. I don’t personally know anyone who has walked away from this without at least becoming a vegetarian or questioning their eating habits, myself included.
The film follows the journey of filmmaker Kip Andersen as he uncovers what he argues to be the most destructive industry facing our planet: animal agriculture.
What I found to be most disturbing about the film was that his investigation shed light on the fact that even the world’s leading environmental organizations were too afraid to talk about animal agriculture's role in climate change.
The film educates viewers about how animal agriculture is the leading cause of “deforestation, water consumption and pollution, is responsible for more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation industry, is a primary driver of rainforest destruction, species extinction, habitat loss, topsoil erosion, ocean ‘dead zones,’ and virtually every other environmental ill. Yet it goes on, almost entirely unchallenged.”
I asked a colleague of mine who has been vegan for a number of years to share his perspective on choosing this lifestyle and his thoughts about animal agriculture and the environmental movement. Here is what he had to say:
"In the wake of the landmark climate accord signed in Paris, it bears reflecting on what we as individuals can do to mitigate the effects of climate change. One of the big things that we can do, as individuals, is be more responsible about our choices as consumers and think about the impacts of the supply chains of these choices. The notion of tackling climate change can be daunting, but our day in and day out food consumption patterns are inextricably linked and provide a way for us, as individuals, to have a huge impact on the environment.
As a decades-long meat-eater, it was not something I thought much of: meat tastes good, so why not eat it? As I began to think about the very real, tangible environmental problems that are increasingly in our face -- extreme drought, climate change, intense storms -- one begins to see the sense of urgency in addressing these issues and changing personal behaviors. I have made a career out of environmental conservation and have seen many collaborative successes in the attempt to conserve the environment, however the collective march towards a 2*C warming of the earth carries on.
While multilateral agreements like what happened in Paris are critical, it requires us all to make changes on the individual scale too -- to be responsible citizens. One of the most effective things we can do is to change to a plant-based diet. The carbon and methane emissions, water consumption and environmental destruction across the board (oceans, rainforests, etc) are significantly reduced by this action. These issues are largely demand driven, so when we reduce our collective desire for meat, the demand is shifted elsewhere.
So, while not a panacea to solving the environmental crisis, shifting to a plant-based diet is an incredibly effective part of the solution. When you tie in the economic effectiveness, health benefits and animal rights issues, etc it is a choice that makes sense on a number of fronts." -Peter Mach, Assistant Director of Stand For Trees
For those of you who haven’t seen this film yet, I highly recommend you take the time. Ignorance is bliss.. but if you truly care about doing your part to protect the environment, this isn’t something you can ignore.
Here are some ways you can take action once you’ve seen the film (which is available on Netflix):
1. Take on the 30 day Vegan Challenge
2. Share this film with your friends & family
Check out the trailer below.