COWSPIRACY – THE SUSTAINABILITY SECRET (The Connections Between Animal Agriculture and Global Warming)

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Cows don’t conspire, that’s for sure. But they’re involved in a conspiracy of silence and misinformation, created by humans, which aims to hide from public knowledge the real impacts of our eating habits. When it comes to Meat, most of us are living inside the Matrix. By that I mean that most of us, of course, don’t care that much about knowing where the meat in our Big Macs or chicken nuggets came from. We doesn’t establish the connection between bacon and slaughtered pigs, or between the milk in our breafast table and cows who are forcibly separated from their offspring. We prefer not even remembering that a living and sentient creature had to be killed and cut into pieces in order for us to enjoy our fleshy repasts inside a McDonalds or a Burger Kings. Most of us enjoy living “comfortably unaware”, to quote R. Oppenlander.

Corporate media also refuses to share proper information that would damage the reputations of junk-food mega-corporations, which make huge profits selling slices of dead animals who have been turned into hamburgers and sausages. What none of these established powers wants us to know is that animal agriculture is guilty of more environmental destruction and greenhouse gas emissions than the whole transportation sector, for example.  Cowspiracy, highly provocative and welll-informed documentary by Kip Andersen and Keegan Kohn, builds a strong case in defense of veganism as an essential and urgent component of the struggles to overcome our current environmental crisis.

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It turns out that, according to a World Watch Report called Livestock and Climate Change, 51% of greenhouse gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture. I can already hear some of you, dear readers, giggling in skepticism: “cow farts can’t possibly be that nasty!” Well, think again: we’re not talking only about farts, but about massive deforestations of rainforests; huge amounts of water consumption; and an ocean of excremental matter making its way into our rivers and oceans.

Let’s start with the funny part: farts. At least 5 times more toxic than CO2, the methane gas that result from the digestive process of cows is in fact a massive factor causing Global Warming. Some people would argue that one of Earth’s main problems is certainly not the cows and what comes out of their asses, but instead over-population: after all, we went from being  1 billion homo sapiens in 1800 to the current astonishing number of 7 billion. It’s in fact an awesome explosion of human population in a couple of centuries. However, there’s another over-population problem which is highly underestimated, almost never even mentioned: the Earth nowadays has a population of 70 billion farm animals, worldwide. This is how deeply and vastly Humankind has shaped the planet in order to suit its own desires.

Of course that, in order to make way for 70 billion animals, enslaved by Humankind so they can provide us with eggs and milk and meat, a lot of forests had to be cut down. The Amazon rainforest, for instance, has been wiped out in huge proportions in order to reach a clean slate of land in which the animal agribusiness can thrive. Picture this: the rate of deforestation of rainforests in our planet is equivalent to one football field per second. Absolutely fundamental to the balance of global ecosystems, the Amazon Rainforest, also known as The Lungs of the World, is a giant air-purifying machine: it breathes CO2 in, it breathes oxygen out. Our Civilization is in such a suicidal path, in such a self-destructive neurosis, that this essential key to our survival is being ravaged and annihilated in a terrifying pace.

Of course there are activists and organizations who rise up to defend the Amazon rainforest against the advancement of bulldozers and cattle ranchers and agribusiness megafarms. But the sad news is: in Brazil alone, more than 1.100 activists have been murdered in the last 20 years by trying to protect the Amazon and its indigenous populations from destruction. Chico Mendes and Dorothy Stang are only two of the most well-known people who lost their lives in this struggle. I strongly recommend you reading the Global Witness 2014 report, which provides a comprehensive overview of all the murders perpetrated against eco-activists in recent years. “Urgent action required to challenge impunity of perpetrators, protect citizens and address root causes of environmental crisis!”

Another serious issue concerning animal agriculture is, of course, a simple fact: 70 billion animals need to drink and to eat. To produce one single hamburger, it takes 660 gallons of water. Imagine the huge quantity of water that is required for our global production of meat and dairy. In a planet where almost 1 billion people suffer from hunger – thousands die every day because of conditions related to food insecurity and malnutrition – in many countries there’s no shortage of food to feed the animals. In the poorest countries in the world, human beings are dying of hunger while cows and pigs are being fed in order to be slaughtered and then eaten, mostly by consumers in the so-called “First World”. Isn’t this obscene?

And I’m not even gonna start on the theme of Animal Rights and Animal Liberation discourse – those interested in knowing more about the life conditions of these creatures can watch the impressive documentary Earthlings or read Peter Singer’s books. Cowspiracy isn’t interested in shocking people with footage from slaughterhouses or factory farms; instead, it provides an excellent analysis of how animal agriculture is guilty of massive ecological destruction. The film is bold enough to denounce that even environmental organizations – such as Greenpeace or Sierra Club – don’t have the guts to confront the powerful meat-industry.

Fossil fuels is obviously a huge problem, but shouldn’t we widely recognize also the destructive impact of large-scale meat-production and meat-consumption? Isn’t it obvious that urgent and massive action needs to be undertaken in order for us to overcome our current eating habits, which have proven so disastrous to Earth’s ecosystems? Veganism, after all, is increasingly being perceived not only as an individual choice by a bunch of hippies and animal-loving-freaks, but as an essential part of the alter-world we’re aiming to build, in which values such as sustainability, empathy and compassion can reign over individualism, competitiveness and anthropocentrism.

Vegetarianism is an ethical doctrine with spans milleniums of Human History – it has been a part of India’s civilization for thousands of years, and it goes much deeper than deeming the cow a Holy Animal; it also has influenced Western thought profoundly ever since Pythagoras in ancient Greece. A wonderful book about the history of vegetarianism is Tristram Stuart’s The Bloodless Revolution – A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Timesin which this English historian explores several different vegetarian doctrines from the last centuries, including remarks about some of History’s most significant vegans such as the Percy Shelley and Gandhi. After reading it, I got the strong impression that vegetarianism has enough historical force and deeply planted roots, and it can regain massive support in our contemporary world, especially considering the worsening of the climate crisis we will be experiencing in the next decades. Vegetarianism, hopefully, will be increasingly perceived as part of the solution for many of our present troubles. I don’t presume to have a direct connection to Miss Gaia, but I strongly suspect that she would love if humans turned vegan.

Design by Whitney Tudor
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Blogged by Awestruck Wanderer from the Media Center of Peoples Social Forum, Ottawa,  23/08/14.

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