Film Review: Cowspiracy

Film Review: Cowspiracy
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I bartend in a Welsh pub.  Not one to push my opinions (to each his own), especially in that context (chicken wings, anyone?), I mention my newfound vegan status minimally.

A few weeks ago a middle-aged man in a dark jacket came into the bar.  I set down his Stella, and out of the blue: ‘I watched Cowspiracy last night,’ he said.  ‘Have you seen it?’  ‘No,’ I answered.  ‘But I know the premise.  Isn’t it like Food Inc.?’

Actually, I was leery of the movie.  There’s inherent blame in the word ‘conspiracy,’ that unproductive us-and-them stance, so although I’m generally interested in that sort of thing I’d avoided watching Cowspiracy because of its title.  The man at the bar started to get worked up.  “How is it that no one knows about this?”  he wondered, loudly.  “About industrial animal production?” I asked.  “I think it’s because people don’t want to know.”

I mention this in the aftermath of my mother’s prime rib Easter dinner for which I’d packed a cooler bag of stuff to feed myself, quinoa tabouleh, lentil dahl, brown rice, the almond and chia energy bites I posted awhile back, and my buffet contribution, a green salad with a sweet, lemony vinaigrette.  In an ironic twist, my mother’s oven broke and she had to serve cold ham and grocery-roasted chicken.  But my mother, in her prime-rib-loving defence, is very supportive in a sea of others who think I’m a vegan nutcase.

I’ve since watched Cowspiracy, delving with filmmaker Kip Anderson into the depths of, arguably, the most destructive industry facing this planet today (well, actually the planet will survive human extinction).  And it’s not just like Food Inc.

Even though one of its widely shared statistics about agricultural greenhouse gas emissions is up for debate, the film is chock full of revelatory information that people eating meat and dairy everyday should probably know.

As it screams conspiracy–even though I believe it’s more a matter of self-interest: animal agriculture doesn’t financially benefit from telling the world about it’s practices, big organizations like Greenpeace have big boardrooms filled with big business, and people don’t want to give up eating meat and cheese–my own self-interest is pretty obvious too.  I post a vegan blog on Friday afternoons, so I’m unabashed about giving the bullied vegan (in the shadow of a meat-centered long weekend) a little fortification in the face of many, many naysayers and a deeply ingrained cultural norm. Like I said, people love eating meat and cheese.

So what the eff do we do about this? …

And this?


What if we switched to eating just grass-fed livestock?   That’s sustainable, right?

Well, according to Cowspiracy, …not really.

If all the ranchers in the United States switched to pasture-fed cattle (just cattle; this doesn’t include chickens and other livestock), they would need nearly 4 billion acres of land to replace the present demand for meat. That means we would need to convert the entire United States, including it’s mountain ranges, large portions of Canada, all of Central America, and a huge portion of South America into pasture land in order to swap factory-farmed beef with pasture-raised.  And that’s just to supply the United States.

Film Review: Cowspiracy
screenshot from Cowspiracy

I’m fully aware that I’m either preaching to the choir here, or I’m annoying, like the smoker who just quit and harps on about how great it is, how easy.

Now I’m that guy in the bar in the dark jacket, asking that question out of the blue. Because if you don’t already know this, I think you should:

  • Animal agriculture produces 130 times more waste than human beings, and it goes directly into our rivers and streams.  Where the Mississippi empties into the Gulf of Mexico, for instance, there is a huge dead zone caused by animal waste.
  • Home water use makes up 5% of all water used.  Animal agriculture makes up 55%. Natural gas fracking uses 100 billion gallons of water per year.  Animal agriculture uses 340 times as much as fracking.
  • 91% of Amazonian rainforest destruction is attributed to animal agriculture (mostly for growing soya, which is then fed to livestock in North America and Europe).  As a result, 110 animal and insect species are lost every single day.
  • 7 billion people eat 21 billion pounds of food each day.  1.5 billion cattle eat 135 billion pounds of food each day.  Food that could be given to the poorer people on this planet is being fed to farm animals so that the wealthier people can eat meat and cheese.

I asked my husband to read this over before I post.

‘Are you leaving it like that?’ he said.  ‘With the bullet points at the end?  It’s like a punch in the head.  What will people do with that?’

“Well I can’t tell everyone to go vegan,” I said. (This is filmmaker Kip Anderson’s solution and, subsequently, he has kickstarted a small movement.)

‘It’s a massive problem,’ said my husband.  ‘But it’s just a ton of bricks, when people don’t even know how to cook.  You can’t end it like that.’

‘If nothing else, tell them to cook,’ he said. ‘Even meat.  Get off fast food, get into the kitchen, and cook.  Maybe then, once people take control of their food, they’ll think….do I really need to eat that much meat?  Do I need to eat it every day?‘  

Being the helpful husband he is, he also reasserted the falsehood of what is likely the most widespread load of crap out there: There is absolutely NO DIFFERENCE between animal and plant proteins.  THIS IS A MYTH.  Bodybuilders and competitive athletes of all kinds are vegan.  Animal proteins and plant proteins CHEMICALLY are the same.

IRONMAN Patrick McGilvray puts it this way:

Man people want to know how it’s possible to get enough protein to train for an IRONMAN on a plant-based diet.  Not only is it possible, but in my opinion, it’s optimal.  You can get all the protein you need from a well-balanced diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, dark, leafy greens, grains, oats, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds–all of which are high in fibre, nutrient-dense, and contain zero cholesterol.  In contrast, the proteins found in animal products can be very high in fat and cholesterol, contain no dietary fibre, and have been linked to a myriad of diseases including the accelerated growth of cancer cells.  It’s less about ‘how much’ protein you’re getting in your diet and more about getting the ‘right kind’ of protein.

I’m not entirely satisfied with this ending either.  But Kip Anderson (and videographer Keegan Kuhn), your conspiracy theories and hard work are making some headway.

Stream Cowspiracy on Netflix, or download it for ($4.95 US $) on




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