If you’ve been a devoted reader of my blog (for which I’m eternally grateful) then you know I’m a fan of the phrase “You have to start somewhere.” I’ve said that changing a little is better than no change at all, and that every societal paradigm shift in history started out small. But every so often I come across something, an article, a documentary, a book, that makes me feel like the little change just isn’t enough. This time it was Cowspiracy, a documentary about the environmental impact of animal agriculture, which you should all go watch on Netflix right now. The film begins with the narrator and “protagonist” for lack of a better word, Kip Andersen, retelling his discovery of a U.N. report that said that animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhose gas emissions than all forms of transportation combined. Andersen soon learned that his previous attempts at environmentalism — taking shorter showers, composting, conserving electricity, riding his bike — were basically insignificant in terms of saving resources and reducing his carbon footprint compared to the resource drain and carbon footprint of animal agriculture.
Now, none of the startling truths Andersen uncovers in the documentary was really news to me, exactly. You may remember I wrote about this over a year ago. And I stopped eating animal products regularly a while ago, but the film definitely made me feel like I should be eating less than I do now. Most of all, it made me pretty appalled at the amount of meat, dairy, and eggs I see being served everywhere, all over campus and at restaurants. And it made me laugh darkly at the hypocrisy of the “water saving” flush mechanism on the toilets in some of the buildings on campus, because to get one hamburger’s worth of meat takes enough water for two months of showers.
Contrary to what you might be thinking, I actually didn’t want to make this post about hammering you with statistics to guilt you into becoming a vegan. I want to ask the question: why, when we learn that our food system doesn’t align with the values we profess to uphold, do we not change our behavior or demand change from the industries growing and manufacturing our food?
Is it that we don’t actually value things like conserving natural resources, treating people and animals humanely, lower health care costs, and a nourished population of children and workers?
I hope that’s not it.
Is it that we don’t really believe that animal agriculture is the number one cause of ecological disruption and climate change? Do we not believe that millions of chickens, cows, pigs, and other livestock, not to mention farmworkers and restaurant workers, are abused every hour of every day? That we are about to run out of fish any damn second? Are we in denial?
That’s a bit more likely. It’s certainly true that plenty of people are still blissfully unaware.
Or is it that it is simply too difficult for us to prioritize the future above the present? Is it that we cannot, without repeated education and effort (and often that’s not enough), grasp that the long term costs of eating the rib-eye steak right now far outweigh the carnal satisfaction?
Ding ding ding! I think we have a winner.
Most everyone wants to be kind. Most everyone wants this planet to thrive for future generations. Definitely everyone wants the foresight to be able to save themselves from having to pay in the future for their choices in the present. Well here, I’m giving it to you.
If you value health, kindness, and a sustainable future, and more importantly, if you eat food, you have so much power at your disposal to turn the tide.
If you are unconvinced, if you need motivation, if you’re a skeptical soda-drinking carnivore but you really do want to do your part, reach out to me and I’ll give you some ideas. Also please check out the Cowspiracy facts page.