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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You might also enjoy:

MEAT THE TRUTH

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

DEADLY ENVIRONMENT: The Dramatic Rise in Killings of Eco-Activists (The Global Witness Report 2014)

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DEADLY ENVIRONMENT

Urgent action required to challenge impunity of perpetrators, protect citizens and address root causes of environmental crisis

Killings of people protecting the environment and rights to land increased sharply between 2002 and 2013 as competition for natural resources intensifies, a new report from Global Witness reveals. In the most comprehensive global analysis of the problem on record, the campaign group has found that at least 908 people are known to have died in this time. Disputes over industrial logging, mining and land rights the key drivers, and Latin America and Asia-Pacific particularly hard hit.

Released in the year of the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Brazilian rubber tapper and environmental activist Chico Mendes, Deadly Environment highlights a severe shortage of information or monitoring of this problem. This means the total is likely to be higher than the report documents, but even the known scale of violence is on a par with the more high profile incidence of journalists killed in the same period (1). This lack of attention to crimes against environment and land defenders is feeding endemic levels of impunity, with just over one per cent of the perpetrators known to have been convicted.

Chico Mendes

Chico Mendes (1944-1988), Brazilian trade union leader and environmentalist, murdered in 1988. Wikipedia.

“This shows it has never been more important to protect the environment, and it has never been more deadly,” said Oliver Courtney of Global Witness. “There can be few starker or more obvious symptoms of the global environmental crisis than a dramatic upturn in killings of ordinary people defending rights to their land or environment. Yet this rapidly worsening problem is going largely unnoticed, and those responsible almost always get away with it. We hope our findings will act as the wake-up call that national governments and the international community clearly need.”

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The key findings in Deadly Environment are as follows:

  •  At least 908 people were killed in 35 countries protecting rights to land and the environment between 2002 and 2013, with the death rate rising in the last four years to an average of two activists a week.
  •  2012 was the worst year so far to be an environmental defender, with 147 killings – nearly three times more than in 2002.
  •  Impunity for these crimes is rife: only 10 perpetrators are known to have been convicted between 2002 and 2013 – just over one per cent of the overall incidence of killings.
  •  The problem is particularly acute in Latin America and South East Asia. Brazil is the most dangerous place to defend rights to land and the environment, with 448 killings, followed by Honduras (109) and the Philippines (67).

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The problem is exacerbated by a lack of systematic monitoring or information. Where cases are recorded, they are often seen in isolation or treated as a subset of other human rights or environmental issues. The victims themselves often do not know their rights or are unable to assert them because of lack of resources in their often remote and risky circumstances.

John Knox, UN Independent Expert on Human Rights and the Environment said:

“Human rights only have meaning if people are able to exercise them. Environmental human rights defenders work to ensure that we live in an environment that enables us to enjoy our basic rights, including rights to life and health. The international community must do more to protect them from the violence and harassment they face as a result.”

Indigenous communities are particularly hard hit. In many cases, their land rights are not recognized by law or in practice, leaving them open to exploitation by powerful economic interests who brand them as ‘anti-development’. Often, the first they know of a deal that goes against their interests is when the bulldozers arrive in their farms and forests.

Land rights form the backdrop to most of the known killings, as companies and governments routinely strike secretive deals for large chunks of land and forests to grow cash crops like rubber, palm oil and soya. At least 661 – over two-thirds – of the killings took place in the context of conflicts over the ownership, control and use of land, in combination with other factors. The report focuses in detail on the situation in Brazil, where land disputes and industrial logging are key drivers, and the Philippines, where violence appears closely linked to the mining sector.

This week, a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is expected to issue a stark warning that governments are failing to reduce carbon emissions(2). It is likely to show the world is on course to miss the targets required to stay within the accepted 2C temperature increase that is generally considered a line that must not be crossed to avoid climatic upheaval. Global Witness’ research suggests that as well as failing to reduce their emissions, governments are failing to protect the activists and ordinary citizens who find themselves on the frontline of this problem.

“This rapidly worsening situation appears to be hidden in plain sight, and that has to change. 2012, the year of the last Rio Summit, was the deadliest on record. Delegates gathering for climate talks in Peru this year must heed this warning – protection of the environment is now a key battleground for human rights. While governments quibble over the text of new global agreements, at the local level more people than ever around the world are already putting their lives on the line to protect the environment,” said Andrew Simms of Global Witness, “At the very least, to start making good on official promises to stop climate change, governments should protect and support those personally taking a stand.”

The report also underlines that rising fatalities are the most acute and measurable end of a range of threats including intimidation, violence, stigmatization and criminalization. The number of deaths points to a much greater level of non-lethal violence and intimidation, which the research did not document but requires urgent and effective action.

Global Witness is calling for a more coordinated and concerted effort to monitor and tackle this crisis, starting with a resolution from the UN’s Human Rights Council specifically addressing the heightened threat posed to environmental and land defenders. Similarly, regional human rights bodies and national governments need to properly monitor abuses against and killings of activists, and ensure that those responsible are brought to justice. Companies must carry out effective checks on their operations and supply chains to make sure they do no harm.

Chico Mendes with his children. 25 years ago, th Brazilian activist was murdered and one of the Voices of the Amazon brutally silenced.

Chico Mendes with his children. 25 years ago, in 1988, the Brazilian activist was murdered and one of the Voices of the Amazon was brutally silenced.

READ THE FULL GLOBAL WITNESS REPORT

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You might also be interested in:
THEY KILLED SISTER DOROTHY (2008, FULL DOCUMENTARY)

VOICE OF THE AMAZON (FULL DOCUMENTARY)

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Read also:

  • THE GUARDIAN: Investigation by Global Witness reveals there were nearly three times as many deaths in 2012 than 10 years previously.
  • HUFFINGTON POST:  More Than 900 Environmental Advocates Slain In A Decade As Concern For The Planet Grows.