Like the majority of non-vegans or non-vegetarians, I often avoid watching documentaries on the meat industry, partially for wanting to remain in denial, and partly because, and I’m sure you will all agree, watching an animal getting slaughtered is just plain horrible. But this is where Cowspiracy is different. Through this vegan month I have noticed most people obtain the attitude of ‘I know killing animals isn’t great, but just one person can’t make a difference’ or ‘The animals will still be getting slaughtered, even if I don’t eat them’ or simply ‘I just love meat though’. Others have also voiced their view that they are 100% okay with the concept of an animal being reared, slaughtered and served for food. On the basis they are aware of the goings-on in the slaughter-houses, the latter viewpoint is completely fair. Until you’ve watch Cowspiracy, that is.
What Cowspiracy does is avoid the horror show of the abattoir, which the majority of us are already aware of, and shines a light on the much larger and pressing issue: the environmental consequences of the agricultural industry. Many people assume veganism is to do solely with the welfare of animals, which for the majority of cases is true, however, there is also a MASSIVE problem concerning actions outside of the slaughterhouse. Deemed as ‘eye-opening as Blackfish’, Cowspiracy informs us that 51% of Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions are due to the production and maintenance of livestock and their byproducts, compared to just 13% from transport (road, rail, air and marine) – the latter being most commonly attributed to the rise in greenhouse gases. I even remember watching a Blue Peter programme about how to save water in the household, and how this can make a huge difference on the environment. Yet, in the USA, only 5% of the nation’s water use is used up in domestic homes, whereas agriculture uses 55% of the country’s water. From this realisation, Cowspiracy’s film-maker, Kip Anderson, then asserted that the water usage to make one regular hamburger is 660 gallons of water, equivalent to showering for 2 months.
But why is agriculture so environmentally damaging? The problem lies with the fact that we are adding an extra chain in our food process. By rearing up animals for the means of consumption, we need to feed them, which means we need land and resources in order to do so. And animals eat A LOT. Additionally, these acres upon acres of land are then ultimately destroyed by the animals grazing with 1/3 of land being deserted and unusable due to livestock. The main reason for the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest is actually mainly due to the land being needed for agricultural purposes. And the worst part? If we used all the food that we give to the animals, and feed people instead, you could feed everyone on earth a healthy and sustainable diet. It would end starvation across the world.
Throughout the documentary, there seems to be so many issues regarding the environment that all come down to the agricultural industry. However, as Anderson discovers, no one wants to talk about it. CEOs of major companies and environmental charities are either unaware or have simply chosen to ignore the facts stated by the UN, that the main cause of global warming is not the burning of fossil fuels but actually the devastation caused from our desire for meat and dairy. And I think this is what Anderson was trying to achieve in this documentary, and partly why I started this blog: to create awareness. This issue is a big one, but no one is discussing it, no one seems to be addressing it. The moral debate around the rearing of animals for meat and dairy production is one thing, but the destruction of our planet and the starvation of millions is another. And that is why, even if you are the most devoted meat-eater, I urge you to watch Cowspiracy.