sabato 31 ottobre 2015

Written by Eleonora Rizzo


Cowspiracy: the Sustainability secret” is a documentary directed and produced by filmmaker Kip Andersen and videographer Keegan Kuhn that aims at examining the secrets behind animal agriculture and the reasons why the allegedly leading cause of environmental destruction has been kept secret until now.

The statistics and data provided are quite impressing- to use an euphemism- and here are reported some of the key points that emerge from the film:

1. Greenhouse Gases

“Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.”

“Transportation exhaust is responsible for 13% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gas emissions from this sector primarily involve fossil fuels burned for road, rail, air, and marine transportation[1].” 

“Methane is 25-100 times more destructive than CO2 on a 20 year time frame[2].” 

“Cows produce 150 billion gallons of methane per day[3].”  

2. Water

“Animal agriculture water consumption ranges from 34-76 trillion gallons annually[4].” 

“Animal Agriculture is responsible for 20%-33% of all fresh water consumption in the world today.” 

“2,500 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 pound of beef[5].”  

3. Land

“Livestock covers 45% of the earth’s total land.”

“Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction.” 

Note: Animal agriculture contributes to species extinction in many ways. In addition to the monumental habitat destruction caused by clearing forests and converting land to grow feed crops and for animal grazing, predators and "competition" species are frequently targeted and hunted because of a perceived threat to livestock profits. The widespread use of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers used in the production of feed crops often interferes with the reproductive systems of animals and poison waterways. The overexploitation of wild species through commercial fishing, bush meat trade as well as animal agriculture’s impact on climate change, all contribute to global depletion of species and resources.



4. Waste

“Animals produce enough waste to cover SF, NYC, Tokyo, etc, (based off 1lb of waste per 1sqft at 1.4 billion tons.)”

5. Humanity

“82% of starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals, and the animals are eaten by western countries.”

“Land required to feed 1 person for 1 year:
-Vegan: 1/6th acre
-Vegetarian: 3x as much as a vegan
-Meat Eater: 18x as much as a vegan[6].” 
(Robbins, John. Diet for a New America, StillPoint Publishing, 1987, p. 352)

6. Oceans

“For every 1 pound of fish caught, up to 5 pounds of unintended marine species are caught and discarded as by-kill[7].” 

7. Rainforest

“Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon destruction.”

“1,100 Land activists have been killed in Brazil in the past 20 years.”

“136 million rainforest acres cleared for animal agriculture.”

Note: 26 million rainforest acres (10.8m hectares) have been cleared for palm oil production.

8. Wildlife

“Ten thousand years ago, 99% of biomass (i.e. zoomass) was wild animals. Today, humans and the animals that we raise as food make up 98% of the zoomass.”

The shocking statistics and the engaging plot have been able to raise the awareness of many people and truly address the issue, contrarily to the average slow-paced and fairly boring environmental documentary.
I admit I have found myself exploring the option of going vegan soon after watching it. 
However, the messianic way with which Anderson pursues its commitment to “save the planet” and the lack of references and comparisons to opposite theories has left me quite sceptic on some issues and willing to examine the argument more in depth.
For those of you who are interested, you can find all the related studies and data that support Anderson’s claims on the specific section of the official website.
The undisputable fact, and the point that neither the most combative anti-environmentalist could deny, is that our current Western-meat eating-diet is simply unsustainable.

We must dramatically reduce our meat consumption and animal products to hope for a future resolution of critical problems as deforestation, desertification, species extinction, water pollution and habitat destruction.



1 Some have challenged that the 18% of GHG emissions from animal ag cannot be compared to the 13% of GHG for transportation emissions because it does not take into consideration the full lifecycle analysis of the transportation industry. We have made it clear in the film that 13% of GHG emissions only accounts for the exhaust from the worlds vehicles.
2 A single cow can produce between 66-132 gallons of methane a day. The average US vehicle gas tank can hold about 16 gallons of gas.
3 Ross, Philip. “Cow farts have ‘larger greenhouse gas impact’ than previously thought; methane pushes climate change.” International Business Times. 2013.250-500 litres per cow per day, x 1.5 billion cows globally is 99 - 198.1 billion gallons. Rough average of 150 billion gallons CH4 globally per day.
4 An important distinction must be made between water "use" and "consumption". Hydroelectric power is one of the largest "users" of water in the US, but actually consumes very little water. The water is used to power turbines or for cooling and is almost always returned to the source immediately. Agriculture is the largest "consumer" of water because it pulls water from the source and locks it up in products, not returning it to the source immediately, if ever.
5 The amount of water used to produce 1lb. of beef vary greatly from 442 - 8000 gallons. We choose to use in the film the widely cited conservative number of 2500 gallons per pound of US beef from Dr. George Borgstrom, Chairman of Food Science and Human Nutrition Dept of College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Michigan State University, "Impacts on Demand for and Quality of land and Water." 
2500 gallons amount to 9463,529 litres of water.
6 On average, one acre of land of any level of fertility will be able to produce 15 to 18 times more protein from plant based sources than from animal products. Additionally, using any agricultural database regionally, nationally, or internationally, one can calculate that on average between 10 times and 100 times (in weight) more plant foods (vegetables, fruit, grain/nuts) on one acre of land than from animal products raised on that same acre of land, regardless of the level of fertility of that particular acre of land, presuming it is the same acre used for either product, animal or plant based.
7 On average, one acre of land of any level of fertility will be able to produce 15 to 18 times more protein from plant based sources than from animal products. Additionally, using any agricultural database regionally, nationally, or internationally, one can calculate that on average between 10 times and 100 times (in weight) more plant foods (vegetables, fruit, grain/nuts) on one acre of land than from animal products raised on that same acre of land, regardless of the level of fertility of that particular acre of land, presuming it is the same acre used for either product, animal or plant based.

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