About Emma Berry

Junior at CofC. Communication major & Environmental and Sustainability Studies minor. Volunteer DJ at CisternYard Radio.

Cowspiracy Documentary

I attended the screening of the documentary Cowspiracy. A month or two prior one of my friends told me she was considering becoming a vegan. She has been a vegetarian for over a year for environmental and health reasons, but after watching Cowspiracy she realized cutting out only meat wasn’t enough. To be honest I thought she was a little crazy. I’ve mostly been a vegetarian for the past few months, but to cut out cheese? And eggs? What about milk and yogurt? How can someone survive without such key parts of our diet? These questions ran through my head while talking to her. However after watching Cowspiracy for myself I can see what inspired my friend to make the change.

Cowspiracy is a documentary made by Keegan Kuhn and Kip Anderson. The film begins when Anderson discovers that animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than all transportation admissions combined. Not to mention the meat and dairy industries combined use nearly ⅓ of all fresh water in the world today. Anderson found this information from an article posted by the United Nations, but wondered why the big environmental agencies like Greenpeace and the Sierra Nevada Club were silent on the matter. The documentary follows Anderson as he searches to uncover the truth. I was surprised by all of the governmental and environmental agencies reluctant to admit the impact of agriculture farming on the environment. The deeper Anderson dug the more shocking it was. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction. So why would environmental organizations not be speaking out about it? Or willing to admit it in an interview?  One possibility is that by telling people that the only way to save the planet is to stop eating meat and cheese, they may lose support and members.

At one point in the film Anderson met a farmer who raises about 30 ducks in his backyard. In the film he picks two ducks and beheads them on camera. It was almost unbearable to watch as the duck squirmed helplessly as his neck was hacked apart. Almost even as horrible to watch was the body still squirming after the head was detached. Behind the farmer a man held the other duck who watched his soon to be fate. After this scene Anderson is very shaken up and he states that if he cannot kill an animal for food he cannot justify another person doing it for him. This idea has been something I have been thinking about for a while. Pigs are very intelligent animals and act almost like dogs do. Mama cows cry when their babies are taken away from them. These animals may not have the same level of consciousness as humans, but they still have a sense of community for one another. I could never harm one of these creatures, but by eating them am I not still the cause of their death? It has become something I can no longer justify.

I thought not eating meat was enough. But watching Cowspiracy I don’t think it is. Two days after a calf is born they are taken from their mother and given a new home in a space hardly bigger than they are. The film footage showed lumps all over the stomachs of cows as they were shuffled from their small enclosures into the area where they would be milked. Chickens are fed so many hormones that their bodies grow bigger than their legs can support. Chickens raised in the industry can barely walk more than one or two steps. To take away an animals ability to walk is not right. 

Howard Lyman, a former cattle rancher, was interviewed and he had some very bold statements. He
said that if you are not a vegan than you are not an environmentalist. While this seems really harsh the facts show that the number one way to lower our impact on the environment is to cut out meat and dairy products completely. Each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water 45 pounds of grain, 30 square feet of forested land, 20 pounds of CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life. Each day we have the opportunity to make a real difference, it comes down to whether we care enough about our environment to do so.