Is saving earth really that easy? Jordan Henderson

In the modern world, with the human population growing exponentially, it has been proven that our vast numbers have put a toll on the environment. The most common acknowledgment of this is pollution, whether it is the trash we create or carbon dioxide output from transportation. These forms of pollution are a popular topic but are they the most degrading form of pollution? In the film COWSPIRACY, they bring up a highly-ignored topic: the pollution effect that comes from the practice of raising livestock animals and the green house gases they produce. In the documentary, how the effects of methane gas output from cattle, the amount of water consumed per pound of beef and how the amount of land that is taken up for livestock effects the environment is explained.

The Unique Approach

The introduction of the film expresses the main goal of COWSPIRACY- why isn’t anyone expressing the importance of the pollution caused from livestock? Kip Anderson, the director and main character of the documentary, approached the question directly. He pursued interviews with environmental conservation companies such as Greenpeace, Surfrider, Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network, National Resources Defense Council, and the California Water Resources Control Board. During the interviews, each company was quick to give facts and ideas on environmental aspects from greenhouse gases to water usage. However, when questioned about the environmental effects of livestock, their responses were varied. The environmentalist either claimed to not know of any negative effects, chose to ignore the effects or made no comment. While the directors have a solid argument, it is possible they are slightly biased and unreasonable in their approach.

“Environmental pollution is not only humanity’s treason to humanity but also a treason to all other living creatures on earth!”

― Mehmet Murat ildan

The goal of COWSPIRACY was to approach the question of why environmentalist groups weren’t confronting the issue. Instead of showing the overall lack of acknowledgement on the subject, they targeted specific groups that did not cover this specific issue. After conducting research on livestock pollution, it is realized that this happens to be the case and not everyone is ignoring this subject. For example, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, an organization highly known mostly for combating pet cruelty, combats the idea of utilizing animals as food and uses negative environmental effects of livestock to fuel their argument. On their website, they have a page specifically focused toward the environmental impact of livestock stating “Raising animals for food requires massive amounts of land, food, energy, and water and causes immense animal suffering” and continues to explain the effects on the environment.

Facts on Top of Facts

A pivotal moment of the film is the manner chosen to display their facts compared to how they display the film. For instance, the film utilize facts like “Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51 percent of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions” and “Transportation exhaust is responsible for 13 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions” (FAO 2017) without any intention to argue the actual truth of these facts but do the facts correspond with how the main issues are portrayed. The point is how the entire film is a documentation based on American livestock habits, whether it’s in California or South Dakota, with only a few parts of the film having really anything to do with these factors outside of America. Yet all the facts are global based statistics, not nationally. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency or EPA “In 2014, greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture accounted for approximately 9 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions”. This is a big difference compared to the 51 percent worldwide statistic used in the film. The film attacks the idea of American lifestyle in regard to this subject but fails to display the difference between the global and national statistics expressed. This provides not only unfairness to the viewer but proves that the directors are completely biased on the subject at hand.

Did It Work?

As with addressing any issue, it’s almost pointless to do such without being able to give a possible prevention plan or a way to fix the problem at hand. So how would you think the directors would go about doing this? Well with no surprise they direct the whole film toward turning Vegan, basically stating that it is the best way to cure this issue, giving no remorse to the idea of eating meat. So, what change does this outlook have on the direction and purpose on the film? For starters “The number of vegans has almost doubled since 2009, reaching 6 million” (Bresnahan 2016) yet the world’s population is over 7 billion (Census 2017). So, is this reasonable? To approach a problem giving these facts which provide mind blowing statistics and then standing up professionals in their field and making them look less intelligent. I feel the focus of the film was to persuade a population to convert to be vegan or vegetarian. The films expectation was for people to stop doing something they have done since the beginning of their existence and give no other solutions but to be vegan or vegetarian. This is completely unreasonable simply due to the population that currently bases their diet off the meat gained from livestock and the fact they don’t suggest any other solutions to this growing issue makes you wonder what type impact the film really had on society.

Work Cited

"Livestock's long shadow." Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. FAO of the UN, n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2017.

"Meat and the Environment." PETA. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2017.

"Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions." EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, 14 Feb. 2017. Web. 21 Mar. 2017.

Bresnahan, Mary, et al. "Why Is the Vegan Line in the Dining Hall Always the Shortest? Understanding Vegan Stigma." Stigma and Health, vol. 1, no. 1, Feb. 2016, pp. 3-15. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1037/sah0000011.

"U.S. and World Population Clock Tell us what you think." Population Clock. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2017.

"The Sustainability Secret." COWSPIRACY. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2017.

Hamilton, Calvin J. "Earth Introduction." Earth Introduction. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2017.

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. "Methane." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., 13 May 2016. Web. 21 Mar. 2017.

"AFRI Dairy Cow Fertility." AFRI Dairy Cow Fertility. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2017.

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/features/the-best-steak-in-the-world-what-is-it-about-steak-that-makes-people-want-to-eat-so-much-of-it-a6727696.html

Reflective Memo

For this digital essay my main goal was to find a documentary that had a main point that it wanted to achieve in a reasonable manner. My reason for this was because most documentary that gave this goal always have bias tendencies. With this being a rhetoric analysis I knew this type of documentary would create a great paper. In my web essay I believe i achieved my main goal because I explained in detail the films purpose but broke it down explaining the examples of bias and unfairness to the viewer. The least successful part of this essay is based on opinion. The reason why I say this, is because the film I chose it ends up pushing toward the idea of being a vegan, with this in mind it is used as a type of bias for the films direction but it is nearly impossible to argue this point without being biased as the examiner of the film. This is one downfall of choosing this film for the essay. I still believe this is a great film and highly suggest it.

Credits:

Created with images by skeeze - "world earth planet"

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