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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Cowspiracy is a 2014 documentary addressing how animal agriculture is the largest cause of pollution worldwide and that none of the largest environmental groups are talking about it. There are some graphic scenes of animal death: Most disturbingly, a duck in a backyard farm is decapitated with a machete, and there also are scenes of elephants being shot and killed with rifles and a dead wolf sprawled over a barbed wire fence. In addition to confronting agribusiness and environmental groups, this documentary espouses that many of the planet's woes (water shortages, climate change, starvation, and poverty in the developing world) could end if more people switched to a vegan diet. For parents and older kids concerned about how our food choices are adversely affecting the environment, this is a must-see documentary and should provoke discussion and perhaps change in eating habits.
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What's the story?
After watching An Inconvenient Truth, COWSPIRACY director Kip Andersen tries to do everything he can in his personal life not to contribute to the pollution causing climate change -- he takes shorter showers, rides a bike instead of driving a car, recycles. But when he inadvertently stumbles across a friend's Facebook post about how much water and land is overused by animal agriculture, he wonders why no one is talking about this, especially the largest environmental groups in the world. In this documentary, Andersen seeks to find out why Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, and Oceana, among others, not only are failing to address the havoc wreaked by livestock methane, overfishing, and factory farms but also aren't even bringing it up. The statistics he uncovers are shocking: For instance, in a time of water shortages in California, it requires 660 gallons of water to make a quarter-pound hamburger. As he continues to make the movie even as the film's financial backers cut off funding due to perceived pressure from agribusiness and environmental groups, Petersen comes to the inevitable conclusion that the only way to stop climate change, the destruction of our rainforests, world poverty, and water shortages is to adopt a vegan diet.
Is it any good?
This is a provocative, unforgettable, and must-see documentary. Though it adheres to a common-enough documentary formula of David vs. Goliath (or Michael Moore vs. General Motors), what's most shocking is how the filmmaker, Kip Petersen, confronts so much silence from the largest environmental groups whom one would think would have the most to say about the environmental havoc wreaked by animal agriculture and the excessive consumption of meat and dairy products in North America and Europe. While such silence would be expected from, say, Monsanto, the stonewall treatment Petersen receives at the hands of Greenpeace is surprising.
Though many documentaries encourage consumers to adopt a vegan diet, Cowspiracy presents the facts and benefits of making such a switch in such a way that it seems like pretty much the only option we have if we want to save our environment. The facts and statistics throughout the film -- about how much water is used to feed cattle, how much land is used for grazing, how powerful the agribusiness lobbies in the United States and the world are -- are easy to understand. For families concerned about the environment, this should provoke discussion on how personal responsibility and lifestyle changes can save our world's most precious resources.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the statistics in Cowspiracy. How were they presented? Were they made easy to understand?
What might be some counterarguments made by those who disagree with the premises presented in the film?
This film also the filmmaker's attempts to talk with various environmental groups and his own awakening into personal change after learning about how personal choices affect the environment. Did his story help or hinder the overall message of the movie? What if his story wasn't in the film and, instead, the documentary focused more on the facts?
- On DVD or streaming: June 26, 2014
- Cast: Kip Andersen, Howard Lyman, Demosthenes Maratos
- Directors: Kip Andersen, Keegan Kuhn
- Studio: A.U.M. Films
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Great Boy Role Models, Horses and Farm Animals, Ocean Creatures, Science and Nature, Wild Animals
- Character strengths: Compassion, Courage, Curiosity
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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