‘Cowspiracy’ exposes truth behind water usage and animal agriculture

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Often when vegans are asked what inspired them to go vegan, they attribute their decision to a documentary film. For example, as stated in the Organic Liv blog post on celebrity vegans, the film “Earthlings” influenced Ellen DeGeneres’ decision to go vegan.

One of the most recent highly acclaimed vegan documentaries is “Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret,” which follows Kip Andersen as he discovers how animal agriculture impacts the planet.

Andersen first developed a concern for environmental impacts after viewing “An Inconvenient Truth,” a film created in 2006 during Al Gore’s campaign to inform U.S. citizens about global warming.

Gore addressed how climate change and human demands on the earth lead to acidification of the ocean (ongoing decrease of pH in seawater), wildfires, storms and more.

Andersen started composting, turning off lights and recycling along with every other remedy advised when someone longs to “save the planet!”

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Photo courtesy of Wikipedia: Flickr @Praytino

However, Andersen soon began to wonder if it was enough. He read a report by the United Nations that said, “Rearing cattle produces more greenhouse gas than driving cars.”

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Greenhouse gases are defined as gases that trap heat in the atmosphere, often resulting in global warming.

This brought Andersen to his “Cowspiracy,” and he began to research how animal agriculture greatly impacts resource consumption and environmental degradation.

One thing the film addresses well is the impact animal agriculture has on water.

Andersen discovered that raising livestock in the U.S. consumes 34 trillion gallons of water.

Over the course of the film, Andersen interviews several representatives from different agencies.

Water Program Co-Director from the Pacific Institute, Heather Cooley, attributed high water consumption to animal agriculture.

“The average Californian uses about 1,500 gallons per person per day. About half of that is related to the consumption of meat and dairy products…. because the animals are using very water-intensive grains,” said Cooley.”

Representatives from the California Department of Water explained to Andersen that citizens should take shorter showers, use low-flow showerheads and check sprinklers in order to conserve water.

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Waterfall at Cal Poly Pomona’s Rain and BioTrek Center. Photo taken by me.

When asked how animal agriculture impacts water usage and pollution, the representatives had no real scientific response.

“I think that the water footprint of animal husbandry is greater than other activities,” said Kamyar Guivetchi, statewide-integrated water management representative from the California Department of Water Resources.

Guivetchi did not agree with Andersen on the fact that people could be encouraged to eat less meat in order to conserve water.

According to Andersen, “One quarter-pound hamburger requires over 660 gallons of water to produce.”

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Livestock at Cal Poly Pomona. Photo taken by me.

Research for the film seems to be very balanced. Andersen interviews people in the agriculture industry and interviews those from environmental organizations.

Overall, Andersen and co-producer Keegan Kuhn argue that small ecofriendly changes do not lead to greater worldly changes.

They advocate that everyone needs to ban together to sustain the planet. And it starts with a decrease in animal agriculture.

“Cowspiracy” is very informational. However, when it comes to films such as this, it is still important to do your own research as Andersen did.

This film is perfect for anyone who is considering going vegan. It is also great for those who wish to learn more about the planet we inhabit.

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