This is an interesting look at the effect of animal agriculture on the environment and its massive impact on how we live. Cowspiracy followed Kip Andersun as he investigates the lack of discussion around animal agriculture as a detrimental cause of climate change. He tries to interview many people from major environmental groups such as Greenpeace, but many downplay the topic or in the case of Greenpeace, refuse to talk to him at all. He learns that the amount of costs and land it takes to run the current industrial livestock model will not sustain itself and there will not be enough room for cattle farming in the future. The amount of food that goes towards feeding livestock also contributes to the starvation of so many people across the globe. Throughout the film, as he learns that even grass fed beef and so called “sustainable” farming practices are not really sustainable, he embarks on a decision to become vegan.
It was really intriguing to see so many of the main environmental organizations not considering animal agriculture as a big contributor to climate change. The documentary seemed to show that irresponsible corporations and their donations could control even these groups. There were a few problems I had with this film however. The director of the film becomes very involved in the narrative in the film, and while that has worked for films like Gasland, in this film it comes across as a tad self-involved. There are multiple shots of just him contemplating in front of a beautiful natural background. I want to see more about the issue and less about how this director feels. I also don’t feel very connected to him as an individual because him even sharing his personal story felt artificial. The film also ignores the classism surrounding vegan discourse, and especially the ability to become vegan. One of the people interviewed in the film even said that cutting out meat comes at no cost, but that is not true. For people from low-income backgrounds who do not have access to fresh food, it is very difficult to maintain a vegan lifestyle, especially if they’re just trying to find just a bit of food to feed their children.
The style of the documentary was interesting. It was mostly intense depth of field interviews with typical wide shots in documentary style. The editing sometimes felt a bit bumpy in order to create a feeling that the people being interviewed were guilty in their secrecy towards the issue. There would be a cut in the interview that would cut quickly to black at an awkward moment in the interview when the interviewee would become flummoxed. This was an interesting tool but it could also come off as bit unprofessional at certain times, as if the editor accidentally left space in between shots.
Overall this was really a great introspective look at the animal agriculture industry and how much it is destroying the planet. I wish it took more consideration into the cost of veganism for the average person, especially people below the poverty line. I also feel like if it focused more on the issues and less on the filmmaker, I would appreciate it more. However, this brings up a really important issue that should be addressed within the environmental community.
Written by Jessica Saideman