The hidden face of animal agriculture

2014. Despite being warned of the perilous implications of filming a documentary on a controversial subject matter, Kip Anderson was determined to uncover the truth behind one of the largest industries on the planet: livestock agriculture. He became increasingly concern about the environment and the impacts of global warming, caused by humans’ demands on the Earth, after watching Al Gore’s film “The Inconvenient Truth“.

“Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret” denounces environmental groups for not addressing the degradation caused by this industry: “it is an environmental disaster that is being ignored by the very people who should be championing[1]. Animal agriculture is largely responsible for climate change, water depletion, deforestation among other major environmental problems. It is intruding on primary forests and grassland, its levels of water use are reaching a crisis point, and the concerning amount of waste produced daily eventually finds its way into the waterways and oceans creating dead zones. Raising livestock for meat and dairy products generates 14.5% of global greenhouse emissions, principally by emitting clouds of methane. According to the UN, it is responsible for releasing more gases than the entire transportation industry and, disturbingly enough, production is projected to increase in the upcoming years. The facts in the documentary also reveal that the industry is responsible for 91% of amazon destruction, one-third of the planet’s land desertification, and one-third of the Earth’s fresh water use.

While in search of this information, I realised the same shocking truth mentioned by the producer: there is little to no information available. How is this possible?

The industry causing a devastation on the planet and on the oceans is also feeding the world’s growing population. However, is this the only dilemma? The crops grown in developing countries are given to the animals that will feed the wealthy population instead of being given to those who are the most deprived and in need, increasing the malnutrition gap: “while a child dies from hunger every six seconds, the global weight-loss industry generates $200 billion in revenue every year” (WBCSD).

2017. A brighter future? WBCSD is currently aiming to transform the global food system. It is meeting the challenge through its Water-smart Agriculture project, with the aim to meet increasing food demand and improving availability for all while providing water and energy efficiency. The partnership announced on the second day of the conference between WBCSD, Robobank and UN environment to finance sustainable agriculture shows the collaborative efforts to achieve long-term stability of the planet’s resources.

Reconsidering our diet and becoming more aware of its cost to our environment will offer hope for the future of the planet. If no action is taken, we will damage our ability to nourish ourselves while also causing permanent stress on the planet. Although frightening findings exposing the climate crisis are inspiring more people to develop conservation habits (e.g. recycling, saving water while showering, riding a bike instead of driving), the need for further action is urgent. With the United States, one of the countries with the largest agricultural emissions, recently retreating from the Paris Agreement, the future is alarming. We need to actively challenge ourselves if we are to achieve our climate goals.

Daniela Solis

[1] Quote retrieved from the documentary’s official trailer

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