Cowspiracy Now on Netflix: Satyagraha Lives
Dr. Will Tuttle
The controversial film documentary Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret has just launched stage two in its remarkable journey to present a taboo message to the highly resistant mind, heart, and belly of our omnivorous culture. After a year of spreading rapidly through the U.S. and international vegan networks, and even penetrating some bastions of environmentalism and social justice, Cowspiracy is now available on Netflix, a beckoning doorway to the hitherto oblivious masses, thanks in part to the assistance of Leonardo DiCaprio. This is causing an increasing amount of squirming and hand wringing from the industries involved, and especially from certain environmentalists and progressives.
Cowspiracy deftly pulls back the curtain of cultural denial, and exposes not just the utterly devastating consequences of animal agriculture to every aspect of our Earth’s ecosystems. It also shows how both governmental and media forces hide these truths from us, and beyond this, how even trusted environmental organizations such as Greenpeace, 350.org, Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network, and others are also willfully ignoring and covering up the massive destruction caused by meat, dairy, and egg production. Cowspiracy exposes the fear at the heart of our culture: the lurking fear we all have that our culturally-mandated meals are actually demonic rituals that torture billions of animals to death, lay waste our abundant Earth, ravage our relationships and society, reduce our inherent intelligence, empathy, and self-esteem, and corrupt our values and the inner landscape of both our bodies and our minds.
Kip Andersen tells his story of awakening out of the cultural trance of official narratives propagated by the media, and he also shows that it isn’t just factory farming (which provides us with 95-99% of the meat, dairy, and eggs in our stores) that is the hidden culprit. Cowspiracy dares to expose the latest fad foods: the “free-range,” “grass-fed,” and “organic” animal foods that are similarly—and in some ways more—devastating to our Earth and animals.
We are seeing the response to Cowspiracy gradually changing. First there was mainly silence and hoping that the message would pass quietly into oblivion after it saturated the vegan choir. Now we see more people self-righteously condemning the film for being inaccurate. Some, like beef farmer Garth Brown have tried to attack the film on the grounds that the facts and figures are incorrect. This is doomed to failure and only exposes their lack of familiarity with the extensive body of recognized and respected research that clearly documents the devastation to water, soil, forests, oceans, habitat, and climate caused by animal agriculture. Of course, industries habitually pay scientists to create studies that support their interests, and we saw Big Tobacco stonewalling for decades this way. Big Food is no different, but Cowspiracy’s statistics are well documented and are on the conservative side, if anything. Most people are understandably shocked to learn of the huge ecofootprint of meat and dairy, including free-range operations. This is because it is a lot easier to see the water poured into swimming pools than to see the vastly larger amounts of water poured into irrigation systems to grow grain to feed livestock. It’s much easier to see the gas we pour into our cars than the much larger amounts of petroleum and natural gas poured into fertilizer and pesticides, and into running the enormous machinery of irrigation, transport, slaughter, and refrigeration for our hot dogs, fish sticks, and cheeseburgers.
There are some other critics who dismiss Cowspiracy as being mere “vegan propaganda.” This is more insidious. The film tells the true story of Kip Andersen’s awakening to the devastating consequences of our cultural food habits. Far from being propaganda, Cowspiracy is a sobering and empowering appeal that provides a healing glimpse into the realities underlying our food system, and of the powerful organizational forces working to keep everything hidden.
This resistance to the message of Cowspiracy is immense, both from the petroleum, chemical, agricultural, pharmaceutical, medical, pesticide, fast food, grocery, and fishing industries, as well as from the financial, media, government, and environmental advocacy forces lurking in the background. At a more personal level, there are the millions of us who nourish and propel all these destructive industries and institutions by regularly voting for meat and dairy products as consumers. We also tend to resist the message because it causes uncomfortable cognitive and affective dissonance and would make us question our self-image and habits in a way that most of us are loathe to do.
Just as it seemed easy to dismiss Uncle Tom’s Cabin as “abolitionist propaganda” in the slave-owning South 175 years ago, it seems easy to dismiss Cowspiracy in our animal-enslaving culture of today. But truth and justice beckon, and they don’t go away. Some of us are ripe enough to hear the call and for those of us who are ready, Cowspiracy offers a crucial insight into how we can all, right now, most effectively contribute to the healing of our world.
Cowspiracy is clearly an advocacy film, created to raise awareness about the consequences of our daily actions. While some might argue that the film would be stronger if it included more articulate and respected voices in favor of animal agriculture (though I can’t think of any that actually exist, other than Michael Pollan who is featured in the film), I feel the film’s strength comes from its honesty. Mahatma Gandhi rightly emphasized that the foundation of positive change is satyagraha, or “truth force” and this is the strength of Cowspiracy: it reveals the hidden truth at the core of our society. It forthrightly portrays not just Kip’s adventure of discovery, but shows us the actual nature of our meals, exposes our abuse of animals and of our limited resources, and provides an accurate picture so we can understand our situation in a way that the mendacious mass media and corporate-controlled institutions in our society would never normally allow.
Please be sure to view Cowspiracy on Netflix and rate and review it so that more people will have the opportunity to view it. We owe Kip and Keegan a heart-felt thank-you for courageously creating this film, and gratitude also to the thousands more who are helping to build this into a critical grassroots movement of positive personal and cultural transformation.