Ten Square Miles

An Environmental Activism Resource

Category: Cowspiracy

Cowspiracy Response

This is an interesting look at the effect of animal agriculture on the environment and its massive impact on how we live. Cowspiracy followed Kip Andersun as he investigates the lack of discussion around animal agriculture as a detrimental cause of climate change. He tries to interview many people from major environmental groups such as Greenpeace, but many downplay the topic or in the case of Greenpeace, refuse to talk to him at all. He learns that the amount of costs and land it takes to run the current industrial livestock model will not sustain itself and there will not be enough room for cattle farming in the future. The amount of food that goes towards feeding livestock also contributes to the starvation of so many people across the globe. Throughout the film, as he learns that even grass fed beef and so called “sustainable” farming practices are not really sustainable, he embarks on a decision to become vegan.

It was really intriguing to see so many of the main environmental organizations not considering animal agriculture as a big contributor to climate change. The documentary seemed to show that irresponsible corporations and their donations could control even these groups. There were a few problems I had with this film however. The director of the film becomes very involved in the narrative in the film, and while that has worked for films like Gasland, in this film it comes across as a tad self-involved. There are multiple shots of just him contemplating in front of a beautiful natural background. I want to see more about the issue and less about how this director feels. I also don’t feel very connected to him as an individual because him even sharing his personal story felt artificial. The film also ignores the classism surrounding vegan discourse, and especially the ability to become vegan. One of the people interviewed in the film even said that cutting out meat comes at no cost, but that is not true. For people from low-income backgrounds who do not have access to fresh food, it is very difficult to maintain a vegan lifestyle, especially if they’re just trying to find just a bit of food to feed their children.

The style of the documentary was interesting. It was mostly intense depth of field interviews with typical wide shots in documentary style. The editing sometimes felt a bit bumpy in order to create a feeling that the people being interviewed were guilty in their secrecy towards the issue. There would be a cut in the interview that would cut quickly to black at an awkward moment in the interview when the interviewee would become flummoxed. This was an interesting tool but it could also come off as bit unprofessional at certain times, as if the editor accidentally left space in between shots.

Overall this was really a great introspective look at the animal agriculture industry and how much it is destroying the planet. I wish it took more consideration into the cost of veganism for the average person, especially people below the poverty line. I also feel like if it focused more on the issues and less on the filmmaker, I would appreciate it more. However, this brings up a really important issue that should be addressed within the environmental community.

Cowspiracy Review

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Released in 2014, Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret is a documentary that sheds light on the world’s main cause of climate change: livestock farming. The film was written and directed by Keegan Kuhn and Kip Andersen as well as produced by actor Leonardo DiCaprio. The film follows Kip Andersen, an environmentalist who was confused why big groups like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club weren’t talking more about agriculture farming and its effects on the environment. He goes on to explore the climate change that it has caused and found that over half of the world’s pollution comes from livestock farming. The film is largely statistical and many infographics are used to show things like water consumption, meat consumption, etc.

Because the film consisted of many statistics, I found that there was much strength to this approach to filmmaking. Andersen spoke with almost all sides of the environmental problem. In the beginning he tried to speak with the Sierra Club and Greenpeace. He spoke with environmental experts at different universities and those who have done educational studies. He juxtaposed these interviews by spending time at the sustainable farm. In almost all of the interviews the audience was given new information in order to help put together what seemed like one big puzzle.

Regarding the cinematography, there were moments where shots were too overexposed and it became distracting. The amount of rack focuses used was also excessive and I felt that this film was too far away from an art film for it to focus so much on cinematography as it seemed to do at some points. Another small weakness was the focus on Kip Andersen. Although the film is focusing on his journey, I felt that there were many interviews where Kip didn’t need to be seen. I thought the film was particularly strong in its resources for alternative food consumption. The film provided numerous solutions with its outcomes for the audience. In fact, I felt as though unlike some films we’ve watched in the past classes, this film’s purpose was for the audience to make a change. Andersen and his experts provide numerous benefits of eating a meat free diet including reducing your carbon footprint by over fifty percent.

As a vegan of two years and a vegetarian for 8, I have spent a good amount of time educating myself on this particular subject. After watching the film, I felt even more concerned about meat production than I did before (if that’s even possible). There were numerous facts that I had never heard and I sat through the film appalled at most of them. I think the film overall did a good job of relaying this information and giving the audience a solid foundation in which they can make a decision about eating meat. I found it interesting that this film didn’t talk much about the slaughter of animals. I originally thought that was what the film was about. I feel like its difficult to talk about slaughterhouses without talking about what they do to animals, but this documentary stayed on focus with the environment. I think its good they chose to focus on one subject because tackling both issues in one documentary would have been too much. Overall, I found the documentary to be insightful and motivating.

 

Cowspiracy: A Response

The 2014 documentary Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, Kip Anderson, an avid environmentalist, embarks on a mission to uncover the secret to truly sustainable living, in the process discovering the one thing no environmental organizations want to talk about, agro-industry. Making up about 50% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, cattle raising and the meat industry account for more carbon emissions than any other industry, but still most organizations refuse to address the issue, making it seem as though there is some sort of conspiracy in which everyone simply agreed to turn their heads to the growing issue of environmental sustainability when it relates to the agriculture industry. Because of the content of the documentary, the film’s original financial backer pulled out, leaving Anderson to crowfund the work. Despite its “controversial” nature, Anderson managed to surpass his fundraising expectations and deliver a poignant performative documentary condemning America’s unsustainable practices, specifically in relation to the agro-industry.

Early on in the film, Kip establishes himself as a strong environmentalist and a fan of Al Gore. His personal interest in the topic of environmental sustainability establishes his credibility and right to make the film. With Anderson as the center point of the film, it is easy for the audience to establish and emotional connection with a human entity. It is also an important persuasive element in the documentary and, in a sense, peer pressure. Because Kip Anderson is experiencing a transformation in thinking, the audience feels pressured to do so as well. As Anderson makes a resolution to become vegan, it persuades the audience to look into veganism as well.

The interviews with different organizations are one of the most affective elements of the work. Kip Anderson attempts to get interviews with as many major environmental organization as he can as well as pro-agriculture industry lobbyists. The interviews themselves as well as Kip’s inability to secure interviews with organizations such as Green Peace are interesting and surprising in that not a single organizations or spokesperson “felt comfortable” answering questions on the agro-industry, as if it was a secret, as if the human need for a cheeseburger is more important than the planet’s need to survive. Some people even went so far as to claim that a change in attitude towards consumerism in the agriculture industry was impossible for the American people despite the fact that the documentary is a testament of the opposite. While it’s impossible for a documentary to be completely objective, Kip does present as many viewpoints as he can while still persuading the audience against meat and of the importance of sustainability.

On a personal level, I was very moved by Cowspiracy. I had been considering vegetarianism for many years, but after watching the documentary finally decided to make the switch over with long term plans to become vegan. It’s difficult to watch that film and continue to consuming meat. It isn’t something I can do in good conscience any longer, not when it takes millions of gallons of water to produce one cheeseburger. The depletion of our natural resources is not worth that small amount of meat.

An impactful moment in the film was the slaughtering of the ducks in the man’s backyard as well as the scenes with the kids, saying that they can’t become too attached to the pigs. Not only was it difficult to watch a living creature get its head chopped off, but it was difficult to hear the children that couldn’t form an emotional connection with the very loving pigs that they raised. As a pet owner and someone that loves animals, it seems natural to form connections with animals and nearly impossible to avoid it. As someone who recently lost a pet, I couldn’t imagine watching animals die over and over again for the sake of a few bites of meat.

Eating meat is not sustainable, not with the amount of resources the cattle and livestock consume, not with the unsustainability of grass-fed cattle. There seems to be nothing at all sustainable about the industry, something to which even the farmers own. If it does anything, Cowspiracy makes it clear that humans must change their way of life. Humans must become sustainable. Humans must consider giving up meat and becoming vegan or risk losing our planet forever.

Cowspiracy

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret is a documentary by Kip Andersen that explores animal agriculture and its devastating effects on the environment and climate change. We find out that animal agriculture is the number one problem that humans should be attempting to fix when it comes to environmental destruction. Despite its significant impact, conservation groups such as Greenpeace and The Sierra Club do not seem to know anything about it, and if they do know something, they are hiding it for some reason. A lot of this film is participatory because it is focused a lot on Kip Andersen’s interaction and conversations with his subjects. He talks to several people on both sides of the argument such as a doctor who highly recommends a vegan lifestyle and cattle ranchers that don’t think what they do has a carbon footprint. A part of the film is also Kip’s personal journey into this subject. He sees an animal slaughter for the first time and frequently says during the film, “I still don’t know…”

The pros outweigh the cons in my opinion. The film offered facts and statistics as well as personal opinions and stories. We hear from both sides of the story as well. And while some might argue that both sides were not fairly represented, the film does not need both sides. The point of any film or documentary, whether implicitly or explicitly, is to have some kind of argument or opinion and Cowspiracy does that successfully. The film also did something that not a lot of films do which is follow the Aristotelian triangle. The triangle says that to have a cohesive and valuable argument you need, logic, ethics, and emotion. This documentary has all three, and it sells it.

There were a few cons with the film. One that stands out is the question of whether everyone can afford to have a sustainable lifestyle such as going vegan. A vegan diet is expensive and the film does not address that. If you or your family is struggling with finances, sometimes it is a lot easier to just get a burger off the dollar menu at Mcdonalds. That being said, however, if you have the financial capabilities and you have the will and the want to change the world, there should be no excuse for at least trying to eat differently. The film mentions “feeding your addiction” which is something I’ve never thought about before. We tend to not think of human beings being addicted to meat but we are to extent. We love to eat it and we are sold on the idea that it is the best way to get your protein. As aforementioned, it is sometimes the cheapest way to get your protein but hopefully one day we can get to a point where affordable plant-based food become the norm and are affordable to everybody.

I consider myself an impressionable person, but I like to think I’m impressionable on the right things. This film made an impression on me, and if making a sincere effort to eat vegetarian and someday vegan is something I can do for the environment, then I’m going to do it. One of my favorite foods is steak, but I think living a sustainable and green lifestyle is much more worth it in the end.

Cowspiracy Film Response

 

Cowspiracy, directed and produced by Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn, is a documentary that explores the most pressing environmental issue, which is largely unknown to and even purposefully overlooked by many. Released in June 2014, Cowspiracy investigates the underrepresented topic of animal agriculture and its incredibly damaging effects on the environment, including, but not limited to deforestation, pollution, and biodiversity destruction. Andersen, who appears on-screen more than his co-director, pursues the issue in an autobiographical style while identifying and assessing the various issues created by the practice, and seeking input from multiple contesting sources. All the while, Andersen is seen from beginning to end as his knowledge and personal opinion of the subject evolves, ultimately prompting him to choose a vegan lifestyle.

Cowspiracy’s primary aim is to educate the public (although perhaps not for younger viewers), and even those of the environmental movement, who are largely unaware of the significance of animal agriculture and its devastating repercussions. The film has a touch of humor that lightly eases an otherwise depressing subject matter, as the pair of men research and interview people who have something to say, or in some cases, nothing at all, about the unspoken issue. Despite the known risks of pursuing a topic that has a history of backfiring on its advocates, Andersen and Kuhn persist in their exploration, and eventual distribution of the film. The documentary encourages personal change by presenting a plethora of statistics and facts, which are meant to sway the viewer in his/her ultimate decision to continue eating meat or not. However, while the film provides plenty of direct and concrete evidence that support its argument, it leaves final evaluation and judgment up to the viewer, and their choice to pursue a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle after. It never explicitly says that one “should,” but rather implies and suggests.

Cowspiracy’s strength lies in its ability to present substantial facts that explained social, political, and economic components of the film’s focus. It gave detailed and specific support of its claims, such as the fact that 2,500 gallons of water are needed to produce one pound of beef, contributing to the overall water consumption concern. It touched on the habit of powerful institutions who mislead and lie about the subject in order to protect their profits. As unbelievable as some of these claims sounded, a full fact-check is available on the film’s website, with links to sources that the information came from. Another strength of this film is that it provided detailed solutions to alternative methods of food consumption. The directors also did very well in getting a number of different personal sources to speak on the topic, giving them the opportunity to explain the circumstances of certain viewpoints. That being said, I don’t think they presented it in quite as in an unbiased manner as If A Tree Falls, as there were instances where the interview was cut off in a way that could have misrepresented the speaker.

Cowspiracy relates to the idea, which is not only limited to the environmental movement as it is widely accepted by many philosophies, that everything is interconnected. What affects one, affects all; human or otherwise. The production of animals for consumption and manufacturing of their byproducts affects the environment and further exacerbates seemingly unrelated issues. These issues can range from greenhouse gas emissions, to rainforest destruction, to species extinction, to topsoil erosion, and even to ocean dead zones. This message is also demonstrated in the infographic that was created for the film, which depicts exactly what issues are created by animal agriculture, making it the most destructive industry in the world. These issues are all interconnected, and contribute to each other’s effects, such as how overfishing also results in an increase of by-kill, affecting other species.

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