Documentary Review: Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (2014)

Release: 26 June 2014
Release: 26 June 2014

This last weekend I had the disappointment of watching the documentary Cowspiracy. I first heard about the documentary on Reddit, where users referred to how intriguing, horrifying and life changing the documentary was. Leonardo DiCaprio took it upon himself to help get the message of Cowspiracy out, and came on as a producer and helped to got the documentary featured on Netflix. This act alone will allow thousands of more people to see Cowspiracy and really think about their lifestyle. With its arrival on Netflix I was left with no choice but to give it a watch.

A skeptic mind is something that is highly recommended when viewing any documentary. This one just like so many others are simply works of propaganda, presenting information in such a way as to shape the viewers opinion. Cowspiracy isn’t exactly different, just unbelievably convincing. The films tackles the livestock industry and how that impacts society with regards to climate change, population growth, water consumption and more generally sustainability. These issues are pretty much uncontroversially regarded as some of the most important on the planet and if it came out that I could quite simply do my own part to help, of course I would. One thing that I wouldn’t have been as eager to support is one of the documentary’s primary messages, that people should give up eating meat. If you would have told me that a documentary would make me consider this or at least cutting back on meat, I would have laughed at you. No way any documentary could be that convincing.

I might argue that Cowspiracy is one of the most compelling documentaries I have ever seen. A problem arises with documentaries though, if I watch one that brings up points that I don’t agree with I can always claim it is just propaganda and ignore it. It won’t really cause any harm would it. Usually this is fine. Usually no harm will come from ignoring a documentary. Watching Cowspiracy I assumed I could do the same, but with each and every objection I could think of Kip Anderson and Keegan Kuhn (the directors) brought up another point I couldn’t ignore.

The film makers painted a haunting picture of world in danger, and while I would normally say it is just sensationalism, something about this was different. These were issues that are almost universally thought of as dire and requiring immediate attention. Their picture may present it as more immediate than it is in fact, the problem is this issue is one best suited by a “no time like the present” attitude. My next assumption is that I could look up the facts, look up what details they present and find sources that debunk their claims, but I couldn’t. I looked at different aspects of many of their claims and tried to find some sources that told me they were false, but the best I could do is find sources that said the data might be off by a few points here or there. That could be a problem with some of these studies, there will be some variation from study to study. It gets better though, if you don’t want to take the time to do your own research, you can go to the Cowspiracy website, where they list all their sources. This might seem like a red flag, and again you might argue that they have selectively chosen sources to fit their message. You are right they did, but that doesn’t make the facts they present any less true. Look for alternative sources and you will find many that say the same thing, or often you will stumble onto the same sources they used. The entire documentary is thought provoking and well resourced, which much to my disappointment only makes it more compelling.

For many people the documentary might not be enough to convince them to cut meat out of their diet. I can see this point of view, it would be hard to completely lose meat from your diet, but cutting back on quantity shouldn’t be a problem for anyone. Watch the documentary, formulate your own opinion and do your own independent research. I think, much like me, you will surprise yourself and end up seriously re-thinking you meat consumption. I’m ready to make some sacrifices and cut back on mine; and hopefully if more people do the same, a real difference can be made. I give it 5 out of 5 stars, incredibly compelling and motivating; it inspires me to make life changes that I wouldn’t normally want to make.


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