‘Cowspiracy’ documentary attacks beef production

Beef Central, 23/07/2014

CowspiracyA new documentary about to screen in the United States paints beef cattle production as the “one single industry destroying the planet more than any other”.

“Cowspiracy – The Sustainability Secret” has been produced by an organisation called the AUM, or the “Animals United Movement”.

In a promotional trailer the film’s producers insinuate that the livestock industry is so powerful and evil that they have endured significant personal risk by making the film.

They also tell viewers that the beef industry’s environmental impact is a problem the world’s leading environmental organisations are “too afraid to talk about”.

“We need you to help us tell the truth about the absolutely devastating environmental impact large-scale factory farming has on our planet,” the film makers say in appealing for donations on a crowd-funding website.

“No other industry compares to the destruction caused by industrialized animal agriculture, yet it goes on, almost entirely unchallenged.

“We as a community of conscientious people cannot allow the Earth’s ecosystems to be ravaged by this industry’s insatiable appetite for resources.

“We must take a stand against this massive environmental destruction, even if the large environmental organizations are too afraid to do so themselves.

“Together we aren’t just creating a movie, we are creating a movement!”

They add that “this shocking yet humorous documentary” will be as eye-opening as “Blackfish” and as inspiring as “An Inconvenient Truth”.

US cattle industry journalist Amanda Radke writes on the Beef Magazine website that many of the “facts” provided on Cowspiracy’s documentary’s website appear to be regurgitating common myths the US beef industry has been working hard to correct in recent years.

“For example, the Cowspiracy website claims it takes 660 gallons of water to make one hamburger, or the equivalent of two months’ worth of showers,” she writes.

“However, according to Facts About Beef, “In reality, it takes 441 gallons of water to produce one pound of boneless beef. Farmers and ranchers are committed to water conservation and have reduced the amount of water used to raise beef by 12pc compared to 30 years ago. In comparison, 441 gals. of water is a fraction of what is used to produce other everyday items. It takes over 713 gals. of water to produce one cotton t-shirt; 39,090 gals. to manufacture a new car; and 36 million gals./day is leaked from the New York City water supply system.

“So if we really care about water conservation, we should stop wearing clothes, driving cars and using water altogether in our homes and businesses.”

The documentary follows similar negative claims about the environmental impact of beef production by entrepreneur and global airline owner Sir Richard Branson.

While a number of mainstream media reviews praise Cowspiracy for uncovering beef’s “environmental secrets”, not all have accepted its message, with the San Franciso Weekly describing the film as a “pile of self-indulgent, vegan propaganda”.

For more information on the sustainability of Australia’s beef cattle industry, visit Meat & Livestock Australia’s Target 100 website here



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  1. Phil Stephens, 08/01/2015

    The University of California studied water usage for growing crops and for raising meat. Their findings were that it takes 5200 gallons of water to make a pound of beef. That amount is double what Cowspiracy reported. I doubt they have some hidden agenda other than trying to find a way to prevent Ca from becoming a desert.

  2. Christina H, 28/08/2014

    While it may take more water to produce a cotton t-shirt, a shirt can be worn again and again. A piece of meat can only be eaten once. I have a t-shirt that is almost ten years old, which equates it to using 71.3 gallons per year when broken down. If a person were to only eat one pound of beef per day for one year, using the water numbers given in this article, that would equate to 160,965 gallons. Not even remotely the same. Even if a person were to only have the t-shirt for one year, it still uses approximately 160,252 less gallons of water per year than consuming one pound of beef per day per year.

    I work in the car business, and on average we see a turnover (when it comes to NEW cars, but most of our sales are actually pre-owned) of buying a new car once every 5 years. That means that means a usage of 7,818 gallons of water per year, again, according to the numbers listed in this article. That is yet again far less than consuming beef.

    The UN itself has statistics, given by the numbers *reported by these industries themselves*, showing that animal agriculture is worse on our environment than driving a car. Again, these were numbers reported by the industries themselves, so there is no room to say that it is made up propaganda.

    I have yet to see Cowspiracy, but already being well educated on the subject from both sides…I’m sure that it’s much less full of propaganda than all the ads I see promoting meat as healthy for human consumption.

    I understand that it’s the livelihood for the people reading this. I’m not against making a living for yourself and supporting your family. I just don’t feel it is ever a person’s right to take a sentient life.

  3. Henry Goodall, 28/07/2014

    The world runs on ‘decomposible biomass’ (oil, animal protein, vegetable protein etc.) and one of the most effective ways to decompose this biomass is for it to pass through a herbivore. It’s a very effective first stage in the decomposition process.

    I fully understand that ‘airing’ this topic has potential educational benefits to readers/producers and also hopefully gives an insight into how well active, organised, sensational and one-sided some anti ag’ lobby-groups can be. Whereas the Farm/Ag lobby (in Australia) has never used it’s influence to effectively negotiate it’s own requirements – it has no chance against such militancy.

    So this begs the question: “How many good news stories selling the benefits of agriculture get airtime on the ‘Animals United Movement’ website?”

    All press is good press and people believe what they hear/see in the media.

  4. Colin, 23/07/2014

    The water is not lost. It just passes through one more system on its way back to sea.

  5. Graybull, 23/07/2014

    Once you start accepting bogus “facts” and narratives about your business………..which seems to be the route the so called “leaders” in the beef industry have chosen………you will continue to have to fight these types of battles.

    It amazes me that our industry and leaders just accept these thinly veiled attempts to demonize animal agriculture and beef production specifically.

    Call ALL these attempts………..”sustainability”, climate, resource use, etc for what they are……..lies, propaganda and misinformation. NO entity should engage ANY of these radical elements in dialoge.

  6. Bruce, 23/07/2014

    You do us a dis-service by referring to this nonsense as a documentary. Documentaries are factual. The flawed arguments just keep coming from these Fifth Columnists. e.g.Much of the water used in cattle production is natural water. Even artesian water comes from a rechargable source. Cattle drink it, excrete it and it either goes back into ground water or evaporates – the same as if it kept running down a creek or river. No doubt the ABC will run this in prime time.

  7. JanelleW, 23/07/2014

    No doubt our industry does consume a lot of water, but comparing water use for a pound of ground beef to a car is not entirely helpful either. We don’t buy a car every week, or even a new T-shirt for that matter.

    What a shame the debate can’t be held without sensationalism and irrelevant cimparisons. Discussions about the sustainability of beef should not exclude its role in providing hard-to-match levels of protein and should take into account regional differences in production and distribution.

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