Cowspiracy – The Sustainability Secret
When Cowspiracy burst onto the scene in 2014, few people could have predicted how much of an impact it would have!
Although it only began as an ambitious crowdfunding project on IndieGoGo, it more than doubled its initial fundraising target and stormed into the public conversation about eating habits.
It sparked a wave of vegan and anti-meat industry documentaries which would come out in the years afterwards. The addition of an updated version of the documentary on Netflix on September 15, 2015, only helped to push it further into the public’s awareness.
Whilst many people were discussing veganism and plant-based lifestyles before the film’s release, it certainly became a more prominent topic in the years afterwards. This transition was only further fuelled by the numerous documentaries that followed in its footsteps.
However, what sets Cowspiracy apart from its successor is the way in which it paints the meat industry and its various arms.
Whilst it does discuss the animal welfare and health issues more than any other documentary, it also seeks to highlight the complexity and depth of the operation to keep the environmental aspect of diet obscured from public knowledge.
In many ways, it can feel like a thriller when watching the documentary at times. A story is expertly crafted throughout in which the presenter/protagonist finds himself increasingly perplexed by the lack of answers he gets from organisations claiming to defend the environment.
Whilst many of them are keen to offer solutions relating to transport and burning fossil fuels, his insistence on the impact of the meat industry on the environment seems to be constantly dismissed, denied and avoided.
Whilst the documentary had an undeniably large influence, it was also met with a fair dollop of criticism.
Some viewers have problems with what they perceived as the manipulation of statistics and the cherry-picking of studies in order to support the film’s viewpoint and to provide a level of sensationalism.
Indeed, some leading scientific and environmental institutions went as far as issuing public statements about certain details made during the documentary.
However, if the film’s primary intent was to get people to discuss veganism and potentially get some people to look into it for themselves and possibly change their eating habits, then there’s no doubt that it did its job!
Whether you’re vegan or not, it is a film that is worth checking out. It has something for everyone in it, from political intrigue to discussions about health and the environment as well as explorations of animal welfare and the plurality of how we relate to animals.
The documentary won numerous awards including the Audience choice award at the 2015 South African eco-film Festival as well as the best foreign film award at the 12th annual Festival de films de Portneuf sur l’environnement.
The films creator cited Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth as a crucial influence. Kip Anderson, who presents the film and played a large part in its organisation says that it encouraged and completely changed his lifestyle and led to him also becoming healthier.
In this piece, we are going to look at many aspects of this notorious documentary, why we should watch it and what we can all learn from it.
What is the message in Cowspiracy?
Cowspiracy’s message on the most foundational level, is one in favour of helping the environment and more specifically what can be done to help the environment through living a life free from animal products.
It also aims to highlight just how far the meat industry is willing to go to prevent people from understanding the impact of their eating habits and how organisations that we may not usually think of as linked to the meat industry, such as environmental charities, are involved with it in ways that wouldn’t be immediately obvious otherwise.
The presenter and producer Kip Andersen was clearly influenced by Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth. The documentary created by the former presidential candidate who controversially lost to George Bush is often credited with encouraging huge swathes of people to start taking climate change more seriously and taking steps to reduce their impacts on the earth’s environment.
However, the debate still continues on what the best way to do this is. There are differing views on what the biggest causes of climate change are and some people on the edges of the discussion even question the very existence of climate change.
Kip says the film inspired him initially to take steps such as showering as infrequently and quickly as reasonably possible, recycling everything he could get his hands on and obsessively turning lights off.
However, as he began to hear about the effects of his diet on the earth’s wellbeing, he started to realise how large his footprint was in comparison to what it could be.
Cowspiracy is a documentary on how perplexing the current system is in its depth and sophistication in encouraging people to continue eating meat.
It is not just one large crazy movie about a global conspiracy to make you eat burgers though. In fact, throughout the film, it tackles veganism from many different angles.
The first of these is, of course, the environmental impact of people’s dietary habits. Particularly interesting areas looked at include the water intensity of animal husbandry and the amount of cholesterol and other unhealthy substances in many animal products.
Interestingly, he found government organisations consistently encourage people to make small changes to their lifestyles, such as shorter showers and efficient washing-up techniques, but rarely saw them discuss meat consumption or the overall effect of the meat industry. On top of this is an inspection of the health benefits (or lack of) of eating animal products.
This area has some of the documentary’s most memorable products where a dietician describes milk as “baby cow growth fluid” which is designed specifically to turn a small calf into a huge 300kg cow. It’s hard not to question what such a drink may be doing to our hormones when we drink and eat it and its dairy offshoots with such regularity.
The movie also discusses the dire situation of our oceans.
It highlights the low expectations of many charities and organisations that were set up to protect the oceans which are in fact still only campaigning for goals that slightly reduce the speed at which we’re destroying the oceans, rather than prevent the destruction.
Many people, who tend to be more well off, argue that meat just needs to come from free-ranged sources to make it environmentally friendly. In one of the most surprising parts of the documentary, a few old-school farmers with acres of wide-open empty land for their cattle to enjoy are interviewed to find out more about the impact of this style of raising animal products.
In fact, it is in many ways even more impactful on the environment than the more often demonized industrial methods of raising livestock, as the documentary points out.
For a lot of people, however, the most memorable part of Cowspiracy will be the inspection of large organisations that claim to be working in favour of the environment.
As the film progresses, groups that are initially cooperative and open for discussions, grow colder and harder to reach, as the questions become more difficult on what their funding sources are and why they’re often so reluctant to talk about the environmental and health effects of the meat industry and people’s participation in it.
There are some very large names that will blow people’s minds when it’s laid out which other organisations, they’re in bed with and what things are out there that stop them from discussing the issue in its entirety.
Who financed Cowspiracy?
Cowspiracy’s initial funding was nothing short of spectacular. It all started off on IndieGoGo, a website like GoFundMe, which is used to crowdfund people’s ideas. Initially, the production team’s aim was just $54,000, but in the end, they raised over $117,000 from almost 1500 backers.
This kind of success doesn’t happen accidentally and actually involved lots of planning. An initial investment was made to get a small PR team on board, which helped get things moving.
The animal rights community was already fairly large and there weren’t a huge number of films out there dealing with the issue in the same way Cowspiracy does, although lots of animal gore videos have always been accessible.
This demographic was undoubtedly out there and was always likely to be receptive to the idea, but they just needed to be reached.
It was a massive help that the PR team that was selected was already a part of this community, so they knew the best ways to appeal to other animal rights enthusiasts and could make sure everything was on-message. The Cowspiracy team credits this as a huge part of getting the film initially funded.
More generic films don’t have ways they can so easily zone in on certain sections of the population, but with a topic like this, it became much easier to make an emotional appeal to the target community and get as many people on board as possible.
The number $54,000 may seem like a fairly random goal, and it is! It was chosen because 108 is always the number of mala beads when you do a mantra. $108,000 was deemed too steep a starting goal and so $54,000 – one half – was chosen instead.
In fact, $24,000 was almost chosen to keep things safe but IndieGoGo unlike other similar sites such as Kickstarter, allow the project to keep the funding even if the goal isn’t reached, allowing for people to be more optimistic.
It turned out that even $108,000 was a reasonable goal which was surpassed!
IndieGoGo works on a rewards basis, where funders get little prizes for their contribution to the project. The
Cowspiracy team mainly worked out how they’d determine backer rewards by just scrolling through other successful projects and copying their ideas, with a few tweaks made to suit the animal rights demographic. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it!
The production team has praised the crowdfunding process as one that also helped to build a community around the film. Whilst it started as just two guys, by the end of the fundraising process there was a whole team of support, and people who’d given money were also incentivized in promoting the film.
Once the film was initially met with success, it could use big names like Leonardo Di Caprio, who became executive producer, to make the necessary pushes to get the film updated and ready for adding to Netflix.
What does ppm stand for in Cowspiracy?
PPM stands for parts per million. This is in reference to things such as the number of pollutants in the air we breathe or the water we drink. Both of these things are heavily polluted by the meat industry.
Perhaps the most famous way in which this happens is the release of methane – cow and other animal’s, ahem, farts – which is a greenhouse gas that intensely contributes to the heating of the planet.
Although this greenhouse does not linger in the air and therefore contribute to global warming for as long as carbon dioxide does, the same amount of it will have a larger immediate heating effect than carbon dioxide.
The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is also hugely increased by the meat industry too.
The biggest means of this is the rapid deforestation that particularly takes place in the Amazon rainforest in South America which is justified by the industry as necessary to make room for animal husbandry and to grow the food that feeds the cattle.
When trees are cut down, they release their stored carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and the tree that was previously collecting the greenhouse gas, is no longer providing positive assistance.
Pollutant ppm in our air only continues to increase through the meat industry. The same is true for water.
Freshwater is regularly devastated by the disposal of animal waste and the run-off of pesticides which cannot realistically be stored anywhere else.
Even if we were to reduce the number of animals we ate, managing a way to hygienically and safely dispose of this waste still seems like an extremely long way off. The number of pollutants in our water only increases every day that we continue to follow our unsustainable dietary habits.
PPM is an important measure that we can use just exactly how fast our rates of pollution are increasing. There are always going to be some impurities in our air and water whatever diet we follow but our society’s excessive meat consumption means these rates have gone through the roof and our putting much of our natural wildlife, our planet and us at great risk.
It’s helpful to know these terms as they allow us individuals to inspect the information presented to us and draw our own conclusions. With these tools, we are less susceptible to manipulation from special interests such as the meat industry which rely on people’s lack of knowledge to spread unscrupulous and exploitative information.
Coming to terms with basic measures like these doesn’t necessarily make us full-on scientists but it does mean we know where to look and can ask questions that allow us to understand the practices and effects of the meat industry a lot better.
PPM is a good starting point and we can use it to compare amounts of pollution at two different points in time, such as before a cattle ranch opened next to a freshwater lake, and ten years after. Being able to understand exactly how this might affect the local water and air helps us to make better dietary decisions and even struggle against the meat industry’s practices.
Who narrates Cowspiracy?
Cowspiracy is narrated by its co-creator Kip Andersen. He is an American producer, writer, entrepreneur and, of course, filmmaker.
He founded the Animals United Movement or A.U.M. which is an organisation that has a primary role of promoting awareness on animal rights issues and pushing for equality between all forms of life, human or not.
Cowspiracy is his most famous movie but he is also well-known for its follow-up Seaspiracy as well as What the Health, all of which are available on Netflix.
Kip studied at the California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. One important section of his Animal United Movement organisation is A.U.M. films.
This non-profit is primarily aimed at making films and other forms of media that encourage people to think about how they can contribute to positive ways of living and show compassion for all forms of life and to help them thrive.
After the making of Cowspiracy, he became a very sought-after name. In fact, the European Parliament invited him to come as a speaker after the film’s release.
It undoubtedly had already had a large impact on how people thought about their diet and the forces that currently influence public discussion on things like animal welfare, climate change, and the role of large organisations in these aspects of life.
He plays the role of narrator well, where his voiceover matches his production skills to create a thrilling sense of mystery and investigation throughout the documentary. The personalisation of the story as the discovery of one ecowarrior on a journey helps to make other aspects of the film such as facts on pollution more relatable and watchable.
In a film such as this which is packed with complex accusations and detailed discussions, the role of a human face is crucial in making the documentary more accessible and therefore hugely furthering its impact.
Kip Andersen deserves credit therefore not just for his enthusiasm for helping the environment and animal welfare but also for his skill to craft a piece that is both captivating and convincing.
Andersen links many of his beliefs to his spirituality and he is a certified Kundalini and Jivamukti yoga teacher.
Many of his ideas stem from the Al Gore film An Inconvenient Truth. Whilst he wasn’t completely unengaged in these topics before he saw the film, he cites it as a huge influence that made him change his lifestyle and pursue a journey of finding out how he could become more environmentally ethical.
Some of the things this included are habit changes such as showering less to conserve water, being extra-vigilant about turning off lights, recycling as often as possible and avoiding driving a vehicle in favour of riding a bicycle.
His realization that this alone wasn’t enough to reduce his environmental impact significantly if he wasn’t also to change his eating habits to a more plant-based lifestyle was a core driver of his desire to make Cowspiracy.
He also wrote the prologue to the book What The Health. In it, he discusses his family’s historical health struggles and how the research this led him on also encouraged him to look into the negative effects of meat consumption on health and further pushed him towards veganism and the creation of the documentary.
Is Cowspiracy suitable for children?
Many parents will be perfectly comfortable with their children watching Cowspiracy. It’s informative, intriguing and tackles a very important issue that many people care about at a young age.
It is rather restrained in terms of animal gore compared to other movies about the meat industry but many people are already of the belief that if you can’t handle the process through which it is made then you shouldn’t be eating meat anyway.
The main graphic imagery comes from a section about one individual who raises a small number of his own animals for personal use, which for many believers in animal rights will be by far the most (un)palatable form of animal slaughter regardless.
In terms of how enjoyable it will be for children; this will probably depend on an individual’s interests and what sort of things they normally enjoy. Many kids do indeed sympathise with animals and their plight and so in this respect, the animal welfare side should appeal to them.
However, environmental issues and political intrigue may be slighter harder to grasp for younger audiences or be captivated by so you may just have to decide whether these are themes they’re likely to sit through.
Having said that, these topics are explored in a very accessible way and just because these things are covered in the film shouldn’t by itself enough to pass on watching it if children will be with you.
These are important issues and learning about them early in life can help form healthy sustainable habits that result in less internal conflict in adulthood.
It’s not uncommon to find adults who express frustration they were never presented with more information at a younger age about the effect these things have on the world they live in.
The health aspect of the film may also be compelling to some children, especially if they are interested in sports or keeping fit in general.
Adults are clearly okay with presenting children with the health dangers of smoking, drinking alcohol etc. and at the very least it is good to provide the information on some of the negative health effects of meat consumption to children so they can make informed decisions about looking after their bodies.
Perhaps what makes it all most accessible to children is the personal story woven throughout coupled with compelling narration which means the documentary isn’t just plodding from one point to another.
Having a human face to these kinds of topics makes things much more relatable and therefore makes it a good opportunity for children to learn about the topic too.
Overall, some people may well have problems with the scenes of animal cruelty, but these are always very restrained. The movie covers an important topic and is made in a way that most children will be able to understand and keep up with. However, ultimately it’s down to individual choice.
Cowspiracy facts debunked
When Cowspiracy came out, it was initially met with widespread acclaim. As time went on, however, some pushback did begin to build up about some of the claims made throughout the video.
The backbone argument, that meat consumption is the leading cause of climate change, is brought up at the very beginning of the movie and the citation for it is provided on the film’s website.
However, the scientific community seems to universally disagree with this fact, and the report that the statistic was originally pulled from was not conducted by scientists, nor was it peer-reviewed or published in an academic journal.
That’s not to say the film’s makers have just come up with a magical number in some back room and put it on screen, it’s from a credible institution. It’s just that that report is a rather large anomaly in terms of its conclusion on the size of the meat industry’s role.
What there is universal agreement on, however, is that if everyone switched to a plant-based lifestyle, then that would massively help our fight against climate change. It just wouldn’t help to the extent that Cowspiracy claims.
When The Union of Concerned Scientists reviewed the movie, they brought this discrepancy up. Most estimates from the scientific community say that if everyone was to switch to a meat-free and plant-based lifestyle then our impact on global warming would drop around 20-30%. This is still huge! It’s just a fair bit less than the 50%+ that the film claims.
People have also had problems with how some of the stats are arrived at regarding water usage by the meat industry. Whilst rainwater that falls on the land cattle feed is grown on can technically be counted towards water usage, most people will feel this has helped manipulate a statistic when we’re told one hamburger costs two months showering worth of water.
What Cowspiracy doesn’t get wrong is the overall argument. If people switched to veganism, they would hugely reduce their footprint and be taking a big step in helping the fight against environmental degradation.
The industry does indeed use obscene amounts of water, destroys wildlife habitats, pollutes our air and freshwater, damages our health, and contributes hugely to man-made global warming. It’s just that it doesn’t do it always to quite the extent that is claimed in Cowspiracy. Whilst it gets some of the details wrong, there’s no doubt it gets the big-picture stuff right.
Cowspiracy fact check
Vegan diets, the meat industry and how best to look after one’s own health are all large topics that have been debated for many years and are unlikely to be settled any time soon.
Arguably, we are reaching an increasing consensus, or at least the public discourse has greatly shifted from, say, the 1980s. Whilst even climate change itself used to be disputed, it is now widely regarded as fact.
There has also been a huge shift in how we view meat. A few decades ago, it was presented as an invaluable part of building strength and marketing often portrayed it as essential to a man’s masculinity. In the modern-day we see an increasing number of athletes push boundaries in their sports whilst following plant-based diets.
Whilst the overall discourse may be shifting, there’s no doubt that the details are still rigorously inspected and all points of view are still up for contention. Within the scope of climate change, there is still much debate about what the main causes are and the best ways to reverse them which is one of the key reasons that so little has been done to combat it.
There’s increasing consensus that the meat industry plays a role but exactly how much isn’t yet agreed on by everyone, with many people swayed by their predetermined views on their own preferred diets and lifestyle.
Whilst Cowspiracy undoubtedly played an important role in shifting the public view in a healthy direction toward a more sustainable and plant-based life, it has come under much criticism for doing so in a way that is just as manipulative as the tactics employed by the meat industry.
The first fact that the documentary kicks off with is that “Livestock and their by-products actually account for at least 32,000 million tons of CO₂ per year or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.” This claim, which is then used as an axiom throughout the rest of the film, is now widely regarded as false.
It is pulled from a Worldwatch report titled Livestock and Climate Change: What if the Key Actors in Climate Change Were Pigs, Chickens and Cows? The problem with this report is that the study was not conducted by a member of the scientific community and was never published in an academic journal, or peer-reviewed.
In fact, a 2018 peer-reviewed meta-analysis found that a “no animal products” change would result in a 28% reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors of the economy. This falls far short of the film’s claim but still is a number that can’t be ignored and makes a reduction in meat consumption an invaluable tool in any ecowarrior’s weaponry.
Doug Boucher reviewed the film for the Union of Concerned Scientists and pointed out this in discrepancy as the main problem. If one’s goal is to truly tackle climate change then it is okay, to be honest about the problem we face and all of its aspects of it, rather than blowing it out of proportion.
Cowspiracy repeatedly makes the right points with the wrong facts. However, the right facts are out there supporting the same points, even if they do so with less sensationalism.
The film should be credited for at least pushing people to turn their attention in the right direction. If an individual is passionate about finding out the details, then the Cowspiracy website does include references to the statistics from the film that can be looked through, and it’s always possible to look up what scientific data there is out there to back up the claims to varying extents.
Some of the claims, such as those on water usage by the meat industry, aren’t technically incorrect but are somewhat manipulated. One part of the film claims that 2 months of showers worth of water goes into making the meat for one hamburger.
However, this is calculated in a very wide-scoping way and includes the rainwater (which would be falling anyway) on the land the animal feed and its fertilizer are made on.
There’s no doubt the film can help to shape your point of view and probably push it in the right direction, but it may give some of the more unaware viewers a blown-out perspective on the matter, however important the cause is.
When the idea for Cowspiracy first came into existence, it was funded through IndieGoGo. This is a website similar to GoFundMe which appeals to people in certain demographics to invest their own money in a project they care about.
Some people end up investing just because they think it’s a good idea whilst sometimes there are rewards and stakes available to those who contribute, with bigger contributions often meaning better rewards.
The first cut of the film was made without the support of any big names like Netflix and ended up being a much easier process than was initially imagined when over double the target goal was raised through crowdfunding.
This allowed for more flexibility in the production process and meant there was no need for corners to be cut or any aspects of the film to suffer from financial restraints.
This inevitably resulted in the film receiving acclaim for viewers and critics and a documentary making such an impact was always going to end up making the jump from independent production up to a platform from which more people would be able to view it.
It was Netflix that ended up picking the documentary up and this only helped to catapult Cowspiracy’s success and viewership to a wider audience.
Executive producer Leonardo Di Caprio, who has a history of working with environmental projects such as this one played an important role in connecting together some influential names from the industry and in the end.
Cowspiracy benefited from not only being uploaded to Netflix but also receiving a polished update that made it an even better viewing experience.
Netflix clearly thought that bringing the documentary onto the platform was a successful move as they ended up backing the production of Seaspiracy.
This quasi-sequel looked more specifically at the fishing industry and how damaging the practice in its current form is to the environment and just how precarious the state of our planet’s oceans is at the moment.
What the Health is another documentary made by the same team that tackles similar issues and arguably has the best production value out of the three, even if it lacks the same intrigue and tension as its predecessor.
There’s no doubt that since Cowspiracy has been uploaded to Netflix, there has been a continued push for media that covers these sorts of topics and they have all contributed to a growing conversation about the sustainability of meat-heavy diets and why plant-based lifestyles might be better for us, the planet and the animals.
It’s likely that in the coming years you’ll see more pieces on Netflix that cover vegan diets and lifestyles and why people follow them.
People’s appetite for media on the topic is at an all-time high and people who are already plant-based enjoy seeing films that address their concerns and support their beliefs. Whilst those who still consume a lot of meat are there to be persuaded and at the very least be provided food for thought. Cowspiracy is on Netflix and soon there may be many more like it too!
Cowspiracy Leonardo di Caprio
Leonardo di Caprio is one of the biggest names in modern films, earning recognition in many films such as Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street, Calvin Candie in Django Unchained and Jack Dawson in Titanic.
As his career has gone on and he’s received more and more acclaim he’s also, luckily, become more and more enthusiastic about environmental concerns and increasingly regularly lent his hand and resources to these causes.
He founded Appian Way Productions, which is a production company that has produced numerous films and one documentary series titled Greensburg, which was about rebuilding one town in a sustainable way after disaster struck.
He also founded the Leonard di Caprio Foundation, which is a non-profit organisation that’s focused on promoting environmental awareness and advocating for steps to be taken to prevent the environment against human-by made destruction.
As his stature has grown, he’s increasingly supported numerous charitable causes and has been involved with the production of many documentaries on the environment such as Cowspiracy. He actually played a crucial role in getting the independent film uploaded onto Netflix, which was invaluable in expanding its audience and increasing its reach.
One of the film’s directors Keegan Kuhn said that was Leonardo Di Caprio caught wind of the film, he immediately asked the directors for a screening. They said yes to the request but still assumed it was a prank since such a large Hollywood name had popped out of nowhere.
Di Caprio’s producing partner Jennifer Davidson contacted the pair to tell them that the Romeo and Juliet star was ‘obsessed’ with the documentary and that it was ‘all he was talking about’.
Unsurprisingly, the film’s creators had plenty of praise to give to the film star, with Kuhn saying that he was a ‘true environmentalist’ and that the experience of having him come on board to help give the film a better platform was ‘unbelievable’.
There’s no doubt that without Leonardo di Caprio’s involvement in an executive producer role, Cowspiracy would’ve ended up reaching far fewer eyes and in the end therefore having a smaller impact.
Credit should still be given to the original team for putting the piece together from basically nothing and creating a community and funding pot from which they could piece together a documentary that would go on to have a huge cultural – and potentially environmental – impact.
Cowspiracy widely got good reviews on release and viewers, on the whole, absolutely loved the experience of watching it and thought it touched on some very important topics that at the time were being hugely under-discussed.
However, as time went on it was inevitable, with such an important topic, that some people (vested interests?) were going to end up pushing back.
One of the largest criticisms that some people had of the film was the fact that it got some of the smaller details of its argument wrong on multiple occasions.
The claim that the production and consumption of animal products is the world’s leading cause of climate change is now widely agreed as ‘incorrect’ by the scientific community, although they do agree that it’s a huge driver still.
The artistic use of lighting and camera angles to portray those who agree and disagree with the film’s message is also something that came under criticism.
Whilst many people argue that this is just good filmmaking, others will say that the use of such tactics to subconsciously alter people’s receptibility to the points being made is biased documentary making.
Arguably, if the points are convincing then those who agree with the film-maker’s points of view shouldn’t need to be given more personable camera angles and better brighter lighting during their interviews compared to the more sinister setups of those who disagree.
However, if one is to view the film as more than a documentary but also a piece that aims to create a sense of intrigue and excitement then these techniques undoubtedly contribute to that and make the viewing experience even more enjoyable. All filmmaking techniques have different pros and cons and most viewers were very happy with the choices made, even if it comes with a couple of drawbacks.
Problems with Cowspiracy
Cowspiracy’s main problems come with some of the smaller details it uses to paint bigger pictures. The initial statistic that it uses to kick off the movie is widely disagreed within the scientific community.
Whilst the consumption of animal products is indeed a significant chunk of man-made global warming, – and the scientific community agrees on this – it is not quite to the extent that the movie initially claims.
However, since this aspect was so rarely discussed before the movie, it still deserves to be defended for at least getting people to discuss this aspect so they can make more informed decisions about their eating habits.
If people are to cut down on animal products and move to a plant-based lifestyle as the movie recommends, then we will still see a huge reduction in our species’ ecological footprint – even if it’s not as large as the one initially stated in the movie.
Some critics have also raised concerns about how the cinematography is used to create uneven representations of interviewees depending on whether their stance is one of agreement or disagreement with the creators’ points of view.
Those who agree are given personable camera angles and warm lighting which helps them to subconsciously appear more trustable and compassionate.
Those with differing points of view are put just below the camera’s height and given colder lighting, however. This makes them seem less trustable and relatable.
However, this does help to create the atmosphere of mystery and discovery throughout the film so even if it doesn’t make for the most balanced documentary in terms of directions, there are still clear benefits to the chosen style.
The Cowspiracy trailer can be found on YouTube and the Cowspiracy website. The production team for this documentary certainly know how to create a buzz, with one of the most impressive aspects of its creation being the amazing crowdfunding success that started it all off, where they managed to double their initial goal of $54,000.
If you’re unsure about watching the movie, we definitely recommend that you check out the trailer as it does a good job of laying out the excitement that comes with the informative journey it takes you on.
Who directed Cowspiracy?
Duo Keegan Kuhn and Kip Andersen came together to create Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, both lending their hands as directors to create an atmospheric and intriguing thriller of a documentary.
These aren’t attributes easily assigned to the genre, so much credit is due to the pair.
The two manage to create a powerful sense of good versus evil throughout via the uses of lighting and camera angles to make some interviewees seem like ill-meaning villains whilst others come across as compassionate and personable.
In a documentary filled with so much information and covering so many topics, keeping the watcher engaged and entertained whilst still educating them is no easy task and the pair manage to do it well, constructing impressive graphics to match compelling points as well as weaving a personal story throughout which helps to keep the large issue it tackles to a relatable level.
Keegan Kuhn is a documentary filmmaker, producer, director and professional musician from the United States of America. He is best known for his work on Cowspiracy but is also widely recognised for another documentary titled What the Health which tackled many similar issues.
He also owns a digital film production company titled First Spark Media which is primarily focused on putting together movies that tackle social justice issues. These are usually done in tandem with non-profits and companies.
Another offshoot of First Spark is First Spark Gear, which is involved in the distribution of camera accessory products.
This line of work has taken him to all different sorts of places such as the Alaskan Wilderness and the bone-dry American West and he has done work on capturing the remaining US wild horses on film.
As well as animal welfare, Keegan also takes a keen interest in social issues like gender inequality and channels his interest in Buddhism into many of these causes. He’s also an enthusiast of endurance sports. He has been a vegan for decades.
Kip Andersen is also primarily known for his work on Cowspiracy but is also often recognised for his contributions to What the Health and Cowspiracy’s sequel, Seaspiracy.
He is the founder of the Animals United Movement or A.U.M. which mainly focuses on bringing awareness to animal rights issues and advocating for equality between human and non-human forms of life.
One arm of this organisation is A.U.M. films. This is primarily focused on creating media and particularly films that can reach a wide audience and further the social causes that A.U.M. fights for.
His work on Cowspiracy made him a very sought-after name and even resulted in him being invited by the European Parliament as a speaker after the release of the documentary.
The pair were responsible for shaping much of the public discussion on the impact of people’s diets and what special interests get up to in order to prevent people from eating in healthier and more sustainable ways.
He credits the Al Gore documentary An Inconvenient Truth for inspiring his environmental work and pushing him to make many lifestyle changes and eventually releasing his environmental documentaries.
As well as his crucial role in direction and production, Kip also narrates Cowspiracy and it is his story of discovery woven throughout the film. Both play a crucial role in the film through their directing and more.
Cowspiracy Summary and analysis
Cowspiracy is a documentary that started as an independent crowdfunded look into the meat industry’s effects on the planet and its people whilst highlighting the positive impact people could make by switching to a vegan and plant-based lifestyle.
Whilst things started small, there was so much hunger for such a film and its success quickly exploded, with it more than doubling it fundraising target before being given a polish and finding itself put on Netflix to be seen by millions of people.
It tackles many aspects of veganism. Much of it looks at the devastating effect the meat industry has on our environment through deforestation, water usage, pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
Before the documentary’s release, this was an aspect of climate change that people barely discussed. It is now a widely accepted part of the movement to save the planet.
It doesn’t just dismiss all forms of animal husbandry but takes the time to dissect some proposed alternatives to raising livestock and why these also aren’t feasible ways for us to maintain our current rates of meat consumption.
The health aspect of animal products are also discussed, and Cowspiracy highlights many interesting aspects of vegan lifestyles on people’s health that will be of great interest to anyone interested in keeping themselves in shape and looking after their bodies.
Animal welfare is looked at too, with alternative ways of raising animals touched on and whether these provide solutions to all the problems that animal products bring.
These are all inspected with the use of facts and statistics to support the points made and numerous experts are interviewed throughout to share their analyses on the matter.
However, it may be the interviews with people who defend the industry that make the film most interesting.
Throughout the movie is the personal story of Kip Anderson who narrates the movie. He is a lifelong environmental activist who discovers throughout the movie just how much of a difference cutting out animal products could make to his ecological footprint.
As he finds out more and more from various environmental organisations and charities, they become colder and less receptive to his calls and questions.
This creates a thriller-esque sense of mystery and ‘conspiracy theory’ which leaves the final piece as entertaining as it is informative.
Overall, this documentary is an invaluable educational piece for anyone that cares about environmental issues. Whilst it may not get all of the details right, it makes a great case for the bigger picture of a plant-based lifestyle.
Simultaneously, it entertains and thrills, making it a rare case of a documentary that can be enjoyed like a genre film.
It’s certainly not one to be missed!