I recently had the pleasure of seeing an early cut of Cowspiracy — an incredible new documentary that explores a plethora of environmental concerns.At the core of this fantastic film is one burning question: why are no major environmental groups talking about the leading cause of environmental destruction worldwide, animal agriculture?
We were lucky enough to catch up with the film’s directors, Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn, and talk to them about their important work.
1. What first inspired you to make this film and when did the process start?
Kip: I’ve cared about the environment for a long time, but when I learned of all the atrocities caused by the animal agriculture industry to our planet and realized that the environmental groups I had been supporting weren’t mentioning it anywhere, I became incensed. After emailing and calling them for months on end to no avail, we realized the only way to get through was going to be visiting them in person, along with a few cameras!
2. For readers who may not have made the connection, can you explain why animal agriculture is the leading cause of climate change?
Keegan: Animal agriculture plays a major role in climate change for a number of reasons. Cows, sheep, and other ruminants produce a great deal of methane through their digestion process. Methane gas from livestock has 86 times the greenhouse gas warming potential as CO2. There are an estimated 70 billion farmed animals on the planet, who all defecate, creating high levels of methane and nitrous oxide (which has 300 times the warming potential of CO2). They all breathe, creating 8.7 billion tons of CO2 annually, and all need land to either graze or have feed crops grown for them to eat.
The massive clearing of temperate and tropical rainforests to make room for livestock and their feed crops is a major source of methane and a huge loss of carbon sinks that would be otherwise pulling CO2 from our atmosphere and releasing oxygen. According to an analysis report from Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang, when you factor in all of these inputs, as well as others, animal agriculture is responsible for 51 percent of all greenhouse gases, compared to all transportation, which is only 13 percent.
3. Most experts featured in your film seem totally averse to discussing diet and how it relates to climate change. Why do you think the subject is so taboo?
Keegan: That is a major question of the film. Why are the people who we trust to be advocates for the global environment staying quiet on the issue of animal agriculture, when it is such a dire situation? We think there are a lot of factors at play.
4. There are quite a few shocking moments in your film. Which had the greatest effect on you?
Keegan: I knew the environmental destruction caused by animal agriculture was bad, but I didn’t quite understand how serious it truly is until we started doing more research for the film. We are living on the edge of desperate times. The predictions of climatologists and leaders in the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization point towards massive food and water shortages around the world unless we make radical changes in how we produce food. This information is readily available and yet it is shocking that the world’s leading environmental organizations don’t talk about it.
Kip: It was shocking to learn how the animal ag industry continually lobbies to create legislation criminalizing documenting and revealing the horrors of their industry. Learning about the ag-gag laws being passed and our interview with Howard Lyman, the former cattle rancher who had been sued by the beef industry for simply speaking out against it, was a very powerful experience. The thought that activists and journalists are being labeled as criminals for exposing this industry is extremely shocking.
5. What are some of the key things people can do to raise awareness of this issue?
Keegan: There are a lot of things people can do. First and foremost, they can take an honest look at how their personal lifestyle affects the planet and make necessary changes to reduce their environmental footprint. Secondly, they can put pressure on the environmental organizations to start addressing the true impacts of animal agriculture. Making animal agriculture the forefront issue of the environmental movement is absolutely the fastest way to reverse or slow the destruction to all the planet’s resources.
6. Are there any plans for the film’s release? How can people see it?
Keegan: We are finishing up the film now and plan on releasing it at some point this summer, but nothing has been set yet. We strongly urge anyone interested in the film and the subject to visit www.Cowspiracy.com to stay up-to-date on its progress and this growing movement. We want to get this film’s information out to as many people as possible, as quickly as we can, but we are going to need a lot of help to do that.