Response to Criticism of Cowspiracy Facts

Cowspiracy co-director Keegan Kuhn responds to criticisms given to the film. 

"The experts interviewed in the film seem to be vegan and have little knowledge or understanding of agriculture or the environment, especially with regards to raising cattle. The film is not unbiased."

Dr. Richard Oppenlander has been studying and researching agriculture for close to 40 years. He has written two highly acclaimed and award-winning books on the subject. He is absolutely an expert in the field of agriculture. 

Howard Lyman is a fourth generation cattle rancher. He spent the first 40 years of his life involved in animal husbandry. There are few people in the world better suited to discuss the honest implications of raising livestock on the planet.

David Simon, is an attorney and Will Tuttle is a writer who make no claim to be experts in agriculture.

The simple fact that their dietary choices would be used against their credibility is laughable. I would not consider them credible if they didn't respond to their research and experiences and make the necessary changes for living more sustainably.

"There is erroneous data regarding the Food Agriculture Organization's (FAO) Livestock's Long Shadow report. The figure that says that animal agriculture is responsible for 18 % of Greenhouse Gases (GHG), but the FAO has since corrected their calculations to 14.5 % "

The updated version of the film on Netflix does not use the 18% or 14.5% figure. It simply states that animal agriculture produces more GHGs than the combined exhaust of all the world's vehicles.

On our website we have a lengthy explanation written by Dr. Oppenlander about the difference between the 18% and 14.5% reports:

"The most astonishing number in the film – 51 % of the GHGs are created by livestock – comes from a non-peer-reviewed article (Goodland and Anhang, 2009). Why did you use this report without mentioning the criticism against it?"

The Goodland/Anhang analysis was peer-reviewed. In order for employees of the World Bank to do any press or have articles published they must have it cleared by the World Bank first. Goodland and Anhang used the global standard for measuring GHGs, something that the FAO report did not even do.

"Goodland and Anhang did not acknowledge the mitigation-factors of the natural cycles of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen, etc. They also includes respiration from livestock which usually is not included. "

Goodland and Anhang used the global standard for measuring GHGs:, something that the FAO report did not. Goodland/Anhang responded to criticism of their analysis here: which explains their methodology.

"What was your purpose of the film?"

The purpose of the film was to raise awareness of the single most destructive industry facing the planet today: animal agriculture. Regardless of whether animal agriculture is responsible for 14.5% of GHGs or 51%, it is still a primary driver of climate change. But almost even more important, it is the leading cause of deforestation, desertification, ocean dead-zones, species extinction, habitat destruction, water use, water pollution, top soil erosion, etc. The fact that the entire environmental movement is focused on fossil fuels and not animal agriculture is to the detriment of true sustainability.

"Do you believe that the problems with climate change will really be solved if we all became vegan?"

A global shift to a vegan lifestyle will do more to repair the damage done to the earth than a global abandonment of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels absolutely must be addressed and movement towards renewable energy is essential. 

According to a forthcoming publication from Dr. Sailesh Rao and Atul K. Jain (University of Illinois professor of Atmospheric Sciences), if we removed livestock from grasslands that were previously forested and allowed the land to re-forest we would be able to sequester 265 GtC, which is greater than the 240 GtC that we have added to the atmosphere in the entire industrial era.

A global shift away from animal based foods is absolutely an essential key in saving the planet and not just from climate change.

"The energy sector is still responsible for much more emissions of GHGs than agriculture. Aren't you worried that people might think it´s enough to just stop eating meat and the climate problem will be solved? That we don´t need to stop the use of fossil fuels?"

We absolutely need to stop producing and using fossil fuels, but given the timeline we are on, even if we stopped burning all fossil fuels, we would not see a mark in the atmosphere for close to 100 years. If we stopped producing methane from livestock, we would see effects within a decade because methane has a global warming potential 86 times greater than CO2 but a lifespan of only about 25 years. 

"Livestock is often blamed for emissions of methane – but their methane-emissions are part of a natural cycle – which we cannot say about the greater methane-emissions from fossil fuels."

If livestock, like wild animals, lived in a natural balance with an ecosystem this would be true, but the reality is that because of agriculture livestock exceed natural carrying capacities of ecosystems globally by a factor of 7. There are vastly too many farmed animals breathing, defecating, and belching for plants to sequester the amount of carbon they are producing. Eventually an equilibrium might be achieved, but by that time the planet will have heated up too much to support much vegetative life.

"Mostly militant vegans are fans of the film while the research-community is critical – and along with them the media - due to what they call obvious flaws in the film."

No one has challenged the validity of any of the other facts in the film. The focus and debate around animal agriculture's GHG emissions is a distractive tool used to try and create an atmosphere of doubt. The water use, land use, water pollution, deforestation, habitat loss, species extinction, etc. all stand unchallenged and are undeniable. The criticism the film has received has largely been from individuals and organizations who have an invested interest in the livestock industry. They are trying to create doubt in the same way that the fossil fuel industry tries to create doubt around human induced climate change.

"If you were to make Cowspiracy today – would you change some of the content or would the documentary turn out to be the same?"

We will continually update Cowspiracy as new research comes out. We would like to expose the NGO's funding, the blanket corruption of governments from this industry and the cultural taboo of speaking about personal change.

Final Thoughts:

I think when people put their personal habits and desires aside they can see the reality of what we are doing to the planet and the necessary changes needed to live sustainably with 7.2 billion other humans. Critics of the film are not providing a viable solution for planetary sustainability.