I recently watched a documentary called Cowspiracy. It’s serious vegan propaganda, from the presentation to the statistics. The ultimate goal of the film is to make people aware of how badly large scale meat consumption is destroying the planet. It’s an outlandish film, full of left-wing conspiracy nuts and clearly dubious facts.
On a completely separate note, due to unrelated and hard-to-explain reasons, I have decided to become vegan for a while.
Yes. Cowspiracy is one of those films. I call it ‘The Cowspiracy Effect’ because after watching the film and rushing to the internet to see what other people thought, I witnessed the kind of mass conversion usually reserved for those who listen to Jesus talk near mountains. This film was making vegans left and right, at least in an anecdotal way because I have no desire or method of checking the conversion rate of people pre- and post-Cowspiracy. There’s no doubt the film is effective though, and I’m the proof.
If the facts of Cowspiracy are embellished, if there are white lies, or if half of what is reported in the film is true, it’s enough. I can’t justifiably be a vegetarian anymore. I can’t see myself eating fish or eggs in light of what’s presented in Cowspiracy.
I’ve had issues with eating meat and dairy in the past, but usually let the status quo carry me because my convictions were never strong enough to matter. I decided to go vegetarian earlier this year after watching a cat devour a rabbit, head first. The backstory here is that I work on the grounds of a retreat center. We have four cats who roam what amounts to a nature preserve. They decimate the local mouse and chipmunk population (literally as I’d guess they kill about 10% of all the rodents running around). They also chase rabbits, which seems more difficult, but is likely more satisfying for them.
I was walking along one of the wooded paths earlier in the summer, and I found Clio, the resident black, long-haired feline, crouched over an adolescent bunny with only its legs visible. I should have left things alone, but I think I had plans to chase the cat away from the rabbit on the off chance that the critter was still alive. It wasn’t, as I quickly learned. The legs I’d seen from behind were all that was left of the poor creature, its head and a majority of its torso having been devoured already.
Sadly, this wasn’t the first time I’d witnessed one of the cats butchering a rodent. I don’t blame them, they’re genetically wired to hunt, but it made me think about my own consumption habits more. My knee-jerk reaction was that these were well fed cats, and that they didn’t need to hunt. It made me angry, their murder of innocent creatures, even knowing that they had an instinctual need to hunt. I turned that thought towards myself, and wondered why it was that I felt justified in eating meat when I clearly had no need. I could be eating a purely vegetarian diet, drinking milk and eggs of course because those were by-products and didn’t directly harm the animals, and have all my nutritional requirements met. That was roughly seven months ago, and I haven’t eaten any meat, aside from fish (more on this later), since.
I’ve also felt weird about milk in the past. A few years ago, I started thinking about how humans consume the milk of another creature. Sure, no animal is that genetically far from another, but it still seemed odd to me. Why don’t we drink the milk of monkeys or dolphins (do dolphins produce milk?)? That seems weird, right? What makes cows unique, aside from the fact that we’ve engineered their development to produce more of this substance we like? I managed to avoid deeply questioning myself along these lines, but then this scene from Cowspiracy came along and made me feel uncomfortable again.
Two things: yes this is just one doctor talking, and he gives no detailed science regarding the process of drinking milk. Regardless, what he said resonated with me. Do I have man-boobs? Not really, and even if I did, I don’t think that would make be a bad person. But what if he’s right? What if milk, this growth hormone for cows, is messing with the development of human beings? I’ve heard, again anecdotally, that young women are developing faster than ever because of dairy consumption, and this doctor’s claims seem to line up with that. What if milk is also causing cancer? It doesn’t seem far-fetched at all, even if it sometimes seems like everything causes one cancer or another. If milk is speeding up the growth of cells, it stands to reason that it might be creating an easier environment for a cancer to form.
So I’m giving up milk, and cheese, and butter. This has already had more far-reaching consequences than I’d foreseen. I can’t really eat cookies anymore unless I know they were made without butter or eggs. My morning coffee has taken on a new taste due to the soy-based creamer I’m now using. Thanksgiving was an entirely new experience for me. I’ll admit, I didn’t completely avoid consuming eggs, which leads me to my next dilemma.
Eggs are a tricky conversation, and I’m not entirely convinced that they’re a bad thing to eat. The film talks about chickens some, but doesn’t delve into egg consumption much, aside from some interviews done with alternative-egg producers. My only reason for avoiding them right now is that they seem to be part of a larger necessity on consuming animal products, and I’m not sure I want to be part of that any longer. At the same time, I may not feel terribly guilty should I happen to eat something with eggs in it, as long as I know they’re local and free-range.
Fish is another weird area. I don’t know how I ever thought I was justified in eating fish but not meat. Fish aren’t as cute as cows, at least by and large. I love sushi, and that’s probably the main reason I let myself eat fish. It’s honestly the greatest thing I’ve ever eaten, and I’ve not had a decent vegetarian roll (yet). But I can’t be this hypocritical anymore. It doesn’t really make sense. Fish are alive. They are obviously alive, and I don’t think factoring in their cuteness or brain-power is justification for consuming them. They still bleed, have guts, and look horrible when killed. Goodbye sashimi. Maybe if I’m willing to kill the fish myself, and know it comes from a good, sustainable source, I could consider eating it. Again, though, why bother?
As shown by the infographic here, the film makes some outlandish claims. If what they say is true, we could all drive hummers around and hairspray our heads for days. I’d always heard soft claims about cows and their methane production being a problem for the environment, but I assumed it was one of those unavoidable issues. We needed to eat, right? It made more sense to look at other areas for greenhouse gas reduction. I don’t like vehicles, so it was always easy to demonize cars, particularly the big ones that consume more than they should ever need, often merely for luxury purposes. However, the truth is that it would be easier, in this day and age, to eat less meat than it would be to stop driving. I’ve thought about this quite a bit. I’ve often wondered what it would be like if we all stopped driving and went back to simpler methods of transportation, and it’s always mystified me. We live such different lives than people did when horses and legs were the only means of conveyance. We are a globally connected society. Clearly we need to use less fossil fuels, for the simple reason that they might and are running out, but to envision a society that no longer uses high speed transportation is kind of impossible. But eating less meat? That is not only completely possibly, but would make the entire population healthier. I can see zero downsides to this issue, and it doesn’t set us back technologically or socially. It likely boosts us forward in both cases. Meaning our only reason for consuming meat, and creating a situation where we are destroying the planet, is because it tastes good.
I’m not trying to evangelize here, though I do encourage people to watch this film and perhaps lessen their consumption of meat. This wasn’t even much of a review of the film, so much as it was a story about how one meat-eating American made the gradual change to a vegan life (albeit a fresh and un-tested one). It’s good to know the statistics, and Cowspiracy conveys them in an entertaining and thought-provoking way. It’s on Netflix. Give it a shot.