Cowspiracy- the Sustainability Secret, a documentary ostensibly exploring the effects of livestock on the environment was released seven months ago. Somehow, perhaps due to being an expatriate, I missed the hoopla it generated.
Reviews normally have a short shelf life. After the initial furor has subsided, the public generally moves on to the next hot topic. Recognizing this reality, but still wanting to share my thoughts on the film and its themes, I have opted to write a detailed response rather than a review.
Cowspiracy is more than just a documentary seeking to break the silence of environmental organizations on these issues. The conclusion of the film has nothing to do with reforming these membership-driven organizations. Instead, a panacea is offered: global adoption of a vegan lifestyle as "the only way to sustainably and ethically live on this planet with 7 billion other people." [-Kip Anderson 1:26:551 Emphasis added]
While the film's prime objective to reveal an unspoken masking of information about "animal agriculture" by well-known environmental NGO's is laudable, I was disheartened by the effort to build a case for vegan absolutism and the abandonment of focus on the "cowspiracy."
The film's absolutist position runs roughshod over nuance, presenting an exclusionary world-view as the only viable option. I believe that absolutism is almost always detrimental to public discourse. Over the years, I have made a conscious effort to temper my positions- not to meet in the middle- but to work with people who may not see eye to eye, but do share common cause.
That Cowspiracy would sink to absolutism, to the point where an interviewee, Mr. Howard Lyman, could state without a hint of objection: “You can’t be an environmentalist and eat animal products [...] don’t call yourself an environmentalist [-Howard Lyman 1:16:42 Emphasis added]" hammered the final nail in the coffin of objectivity. This statement, taken in tandem with Mr. Andersen's closing remark, are the essence of barefaced absolutism.
For the sake of this diary, "vegan absolutism" is defined as the belief that veganism is "the only way to sustainably and ethically live on this planet."
1. Timestamps refer to my closest approximation of when the quotation appears in the film for those who wish double check my interpretation.