I’ve considered myself an environmentalist for decades; a tree, forest and animal lover all my life. But a new documentary film, “Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret” focuses on the environmental effects of eating meat. It has me looking in the mirror and seeing, painfully, my own hypocrisy, avoidance, and denial.
I knew SOME of the many facts this film presents but I did NOT comprehend The Big Picture. Maybe that’s partly because it’s a paradigm shift to accept it, but it’s also partly because some semi-conscious part of me didn’t want to know — because then I’d have to make some big changes and break old habits.
This Big Picture includes:
READ The United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization’s article, “Livestock’s Role in Deforestation”: CLICK HERE
And the 2nd hard-to-digest fact:
B) All the world’s cars, buses, planes, trains, ships and buses COMBINED produce FEWER greenhouse gases than what is generated by raising billions of animals for human consumption, aka, “industrial animal farming.” I know that’s hard to believe, but it’s true. Some of this is because animal production creates so much methane and nitrous oxide, both greenhouse gases respectively 20 and 300 times more harmful to the atmosphere than carbon emissions from cars, trucks, planes, etc. (“the transportation sector”).
Please don’t take my word for all this. Because the implications are so staggering, I don’t expect you’ll take my word for it. I wouldn’t take yours. This is all easily verifiable. These paradigm-shifting revelations are only now beginning to trickle into mainstream media via government and institutional reports, despite the inertia of our society and culture to change something this big in our lives. But we must. If we don’t, we will continue our civilization’s lemmings course over the climate change cliff.
READ MORE ARTICLES:
1) Scientific American (introductory) article: “How Meat Contributes to Global Warming”: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-greenhouse-hamburger
2) United Nations Environment Program GEAS (Global Environmental Alert Service) PDF: http://www.unep.org/pdf/unep-geas_oct_2012.pdf
3) United Nations News Centre: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?newsID=20772#.VI-qCtZbxE0
4) Dec. 2014 Chatham House research paper: http://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/files/chathamhouse/field/field_document/20141203LivestockClimateChangeBaileyFroggattWellesley.pdf?dm_i=1TY5,30JL0,BHZILT,AUGSP,1
5) Worldwatch Institute report (w. link to full PDF document): http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6294
7) Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) of The United Nations (2006) report, since revised a few % points: http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e00.htm
All this was a huge shock to me, and embarrasing because I’m “the (naked) tree guy” and I should have known it. It’s also astonishing in its implications. “Transporation sector” emissions matter very much of course; emissions from filthy coal plants and fracking operations and nuclear power plant accidents matter very much. But I didn’t until recently fully grok a PETA (People for The Ethical Treatment of Animals) flyer I saw years ago, with the headline, “Think you can be a meat-eating environmentalist? Think again.” Meaning: what we eat is as important, arguably more important, to cleaning up our collective environmental mess, than what we drive and how our nation produces energy.
There is also GOOD NEWS in all this, friends. If you live beyond the reach of mass transit (as I do), can’t afford a Tesla or Nissan Leaf, or even a Prius, and your dwelling doesn’t get enough sun to justify solar panels, you still CAN do something with arguably greater impact — watch what you eat. Learn that what you buy and literally consume, thus encouraging production of, matters immensely. Especially since we are social creatures and our behavior and thinking and choices can affect others. Could you have imagined 20 years how much the culture of cigarette smoking would change in this country?
And you don’t have to give up eating all meat forever. Just begin your continuing education (it’s what I’m doing) and consider eating less of it. I grew up eating meat 2-3 times daily, and brainwashed, like everyone else in America, to think meat’s the only way to get enough protein in my diet. It’s a lie. One of many. In fact, for most people eating a typical American diet, especially if you don’t get enough exercise, eating less meat will improve your health.
Being an ex adman (copywriter), I’m especially wrankled to learn I’ve been eating a steady diet of misinformation. One of a dozen examples, and this from my childhood: a color poster in P.S. 116, my NYC grade school cafeteria, showing 3 tall, yummy glasses of milk. The poster explained cow’s milk is a great way for us young non-bovines to get Vitamin D and calcium. (There are lower fat, less processed plant foods that do this more efficiently and effectively.)
• over 800 gallons of water are used produce 1 gallon of cow’s milk (raising/watering the cow, processing, bottling)
• over 600 gallons of water to produce 1 (1/3-lb.) hamburger
• over 80% of Amazon rainforest destruction is to clear land for raising cattle, and growing GMO crops that feed them
This is a huge, behavior challenging topic; a big, brutal can of worms.
What to do about it? How to start? If like me, you enjoy digesting documentary films, try these, and in this order:
3) “Food, Inc.” – great primer featuring Michael Pollan (author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “In Defense of Food”) on the unhealthiness of modern processed foods which have quietly crept into, and taken over, the American supermarket — and gourmet markets too. Trailer HERE.
You don’t have to take all this on at once, just get started. You’ll be glad you did, I promise. You’ll become part of the solution, our collective human solution to our collective human-caused problem. Especially if you have children, or if you love wild animals, or if you love domesticated animals, or if you love this planet’s ecosystem and its countless creatures. And even if you don’t, and you’re just focused on what will keep us humans alive, what other reasonable choice do we have?
We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man.
In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.
- Henry Beston, The Outermost House: A Year of Life On The Great Beach of Cape Cod
Think dairy is kinder, gentler and less environmentally destructive than making steaks? This video by Erin Janus reveals the industry’s hidden ugly truths — in just 5 minutes: