I know it’s not a Tuesday, but I couldn’t wait to write about this (and I really like alliteration okay).
Upon my vegan travels, I have of course encountered lots of compelling reading material advocating the benefits of the lifestyle. Books, films, blogs, BuzzFeeds… I’ve covered quite a bit of ground over the last year.
However, nothing is quite as game-changing as the truthbomb that is “Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret”. It’s a feature-length documentary that explores the global environmental impact of animal agriculture, executive produced by Leonardo DiCaprio. While every 90’s schoolgirl crush may not be in the business of winning Oscars (yet… hang in there Leo!), he has done something pretty amazing and managed to bring the film to Netflix and its 30m subscriber base. *Worship hands emoji*.
Make no mistake, this is not one to stream during your next Netflix ‘n’ Chill. Described as the next Blackfish, this is a wake-up call to the world. And we all know what happened to SeaWorld profits post-Blackfish…
I can see why this might be off-putting already to the casual meat eater. No one wants to be told their way of life is wrong, or destroying the Earth that we hold so dear (but should probably hold dearer). Plus we all know that mass-scale industrial farming is not great for the environment – thanks, GCSE Geography.
But the sheer scale of devastation caused by raising animals for food is not common knowledge because nobody is talking about it. A few soundbites…
- There are 7 billion people on the planet and 70 billion animals used for food.
- At 51%, animal agriculture is the leading cause of all greenhouse gases.
- Animal agriculture is directly responsible for 91% of all Amazon rainforest destruction.
- It takes 2,500 litres of water to make one quarterpound beef burger.
Maybe these are not new statistics, and maybe they aren’t going to change your feelings overnight. But I really think we owe it to ourselves, our future selves and our very adorable chubby offspring to at least be educated on the broader consequences of our actions.
Following one guy’s personal journey, the film does a good job of pulling together a lot of information on the subject; yet crucially never feels pushy, moralistic or judgemental. Not only that, but it’s beautifully-crafted, the narrative pulls you right in and the guy in question can best be described as “a really decent chap”.
A few of the inquiry lines within the film could be deemed sensationalist and unsubstantiated–most notably the insinuation that certain environmental charities get black money from the meat and dairy industry. Whilst I wouldn’t actually be surprised if something like this were true (please name an industry that isn’t swimming with corruption in this day and age), the film doesn’t suggest this explicitly. The icy silence and complete lack of engagement from the likes of Greanpeace et. al. lead the viewer towards this conclusion.*
Aside from this slight ambiguity, one cannot ignore the prominence of cold-hard-fucking-facts the rest of the film is built on. And even if the film’s critics (who are, lo and behold, members of the meat and dairy industry! 😉 ) may dispute some of the data points, the general themes and sentiments can’t really be argued. Our current consumption levels of meat and dairy just aren’t sustainable in the long term. Not for ourselves, the animals, our land mass, our biodiversity, our rainforests, our environment… you get the picture.
Of course I am going to tell you to watch the documentary yourself, but if you really cannot spare 85minutes away from binge-watching Breaking Bad, then at least watch this 1.5minute video (and please forgive the ‘click bait’ title):
Yes, both pieces do land on a vegan lifestyle being the ‘answer’: “You can’t call yourself an environmentalist and eat meat,” ex-dairy rancher Howard Lyman concludes. But for me, awareness and education is the more important piece right now; so we can make better informed choices and that doesn’t necessarily have to mean going cold-Turkey on your regular diet. Although a small word of warning that that you might just want to once you see the film!
*For what it’s worth, I think it’s more likely that major charities play down the environmental impact of animal agriculture because they know it will rub their regular donors up the wrong way. So instead, they focus on promoting less-‘offensive’ behaviour change, like taking fewer showers and guzzling less gas. Greenpeace also recently broke their silence on the topic with a PR blog post. Too little, too late if you ask me :).