As a firm believer in sustainable, plant-based eating, Cowspiracy has been on my radar for quite some time. From Forks Over Knives to Food Inc., I have definitely spent more than a few hours staring at talking heads spouting information about clean living, sustainable eating, and the struggles of our modern food system. The vast majority of these films have one thing in common, they are trying to encourage the widespread re-evaluation of our modern diet. At their core, they are demonstrations of how you can improve your life and improve our planet through your dietary choices.
While their purpose may be similar, each documentary manages their content and message in a slightly different way. This is where Cowspiracy begins to separate itself from the pack. Where Forks over Knives gently demonstrates the benefits of a plant-based, whole food diet, Cowspiracy attacks the framework of political support and subterfuge that protects animal agriculture. Cowspiracy does not present moderation as an option. Either you are killing our animals and killing our planet, or you are a vegan saint. Reality? I think not.
How does Cowspiracy achieve such a polarized presentation? Questionable interview tactics, a dishonest narrative framework, and an endless cascade of “worst case scenario”-style statistics that have either been inflated, or designed to confuse the viewer. Statistics can be used to convince you of just about anything and they are definitely taken advantage of in this documentary. Even though they’ve been geared towards promoting a good cause, it still calls into question the validity of the argument as a whole. Cowspiracy leaves you thinking that any meat is bad meat. While I am not entirely opposed to that argument, it must be discussed in a reasonable and fair manner.
When watched with a wary eye, you can definitely learn from this documentary. You can learn about the art of storytelling, the politics of profit, and sustainability (duh). The latter is of most importance to me and is what drew me to the film. Cowspiracy does succeed on some fronts when it comes to this topic. It makes potentially difficult topics like greenhouse gases and the water cycle simple and visual, which is helpful for your average film viewer. That being said, I do not think that this film will ever be widespread. Its viewers will be those who seek it out. It will not be advertised, it will not be hosted on Netflix. It will be that somewhat obscure, extremist film on animal agriculture that is worth seeing and worth picking apart.
The real question is whether cowspiracy is simply another form of conspiracy…