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Environmental Sustainability – Truths and Myths

August 27, 2021 | By

Source: Cowspiracy (A Netflix Documentary) by Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn

This is a simplified text extract from a Video Documentary – Cowspiracy – by Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn available on Netflix . Kip himself is playing the lead in this documentary which is based on fact findings about the concept of environmental sustainability and the truth about the mammoth organizations and other torch bearers dedicated to the cause. Most of the facts and figures are taken from this documentary with annotations wherever required.

Kip Anderson

The documentary starts with the quote of Martin Luther King Jr., “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Real life of Kip Andersen, as an environmentalist, starts when he once watches a movie named, “An Inconvenient Truth”. A documentary on Former US Vice President Al Gore about his campaign on global warming. It shook him from inside so much that he became ready to do whatever he could to do. Like most of the environmentalists do, he started keeping separately – trash and recycling, composting, changing light bulbs, taking short showers, turning water off while brushing his teeth, turning off lights while leaving the room, riding bicycle instead of driving and whole sort of everything an environmental aspirant do and what Al Gore told about doing in his documentary. Nut-shell he, as in his own words, became an OCE – Obsessive Compulsive Environmentalist.

Years passed by and things kept on getting worse and then the obvious question popped up to him, “Was this really gonna be enough to save the world?” While he was still in search of an answer to this question, one of his friend’s posts changed everything. That post was about a report published by the UN which states that raising livestock produces more greenhouse gasses than the emissions of the entire transport sector.

Methane production from cows and other livestock’s flatulence is a major contributor. The waste they produce is 130 times more than the entire human population. As a matter of fact, Methane gas from livestock is 86 times more destructive than carbon dioxide from vehicles. In case you have read it wrong, it’s 130 times and not 130% and 86 times and not 86%. Then began his quest and search for the truth. To his shock there was nothing about animal agriculture on the websites of any of the largest environmental organizations of the nation.

An average Californian uses 1500 gallons of water per day and half of it accounts to meat and dairy products. Animals use grains that are very water intensive. To understand it more by comparative study – one quarter-pound hamburger required 660 gallons of water which is equivalent to showering for the entire two months. Domestic water usage is 5% and for animal agriculture it accounts to 55%. Kip said that if he fully adheres to all the water saving guidelines of the Government’s Department of Water Resources he could save 47 gallons a day at max. Now compare this to 660 gallons of hamburger.

Unbelievable, one pound of beef is 2500 gallons of water, eggs is 477 gallons of water and cheese is 900 gallons of water. (to ease these calculations – a pound is less than half the kilogram and a gallon is a quarter less than four litres – that way, it comes out to be more than 3400 litres of water for less than half a kilogram of cheese). Unbelievable indeed.

On the path to truth about this nightmare he started moving circles from one environment organization to another and from one environmentalist to another. Every new fact was more astonishing than the last one and every new figure was more disturbing. About agribusiness, Leila Salazar Lopez, Program Director of Amazon Watch says, “Unfortunately one of the biggest causes of deforestation, um, definitely in the Brazalian Amazon, is agribusiness. Cattle grazing and soy production in particular.” Soybean, “king of beans”, is widely used as feed for animals.

It’s not like that nothing was done by anybody, but those on it had to pay heavily. Like, in Brazil, a lot of people were killed, who were speaking of it. These were the people who were saying that the cattle ranching is destroying the Amazon. Sister Dorothy Stang, a US born nun, living in the heart of Brazilian rainforest was brutally gunned down at point blank range by a hired gun from the cattle industry. Over 1100 activists have been killed in the last 20 years in Brazil.

The gravity of this issue is so that Kip received a phone call from the sponsors saying that they are no longer able to fund his film project due to growing controversial subject matter. Howard Lyman, a cattle rancher was once sued by cattlemen simply for speaking the truth about animal agriculture on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Lyman, holder of degree in agriculture from Montana State University, having 10000 acre of crop, 7000 head of cattle and an employee team of 30, on The Oprah Winfrey Show declared food disparagement law as unconstitutional and ended up with 5 years of harassment and hundreds of thousands of dollars for getting himself extricated from suits from cattle industry. He was firm that if he had to say the same thing again, he would be guilty. Further, he suggested to Kip that if he wanted to go and tell the truth, he would also be guilty. “Disruptions in the profits of the animal industry can hold you guilty under the Patriot Act”, he added.

According to Will Potter, Journalist and author of Green Is The New Red adds, “The animal agriculture industry is one of the most powerful industries on the planet.” and “Most people would be shocked to learn that animal rights and environmental activists are the number one domestic terrorism threat according to FBI.” He also says that information facts on pollution caused by animal agribusiness is exempted either under national security terms or public safety or trademark issues.

When Will told Kip that he is being tracked by the FBI as confirmed from the documents fetched by him under Freedom of Information Act, he was worried. Killing of activists in Brazil, his fundings dropped, journalists being targeted by the industry and the FBI, all were not so good signs. He was on the verge of a point where he had to decide if he wanted to continue with it in spite of all odds or surrender to the forces and put down the camera and walk away. George S Patton came to his rescue with his words striking his mind, “Now you either live for something, or die for nothing.” He decided to stand up and continue on.

This chain goes like that. You stop eating animals, you stop breeding them, you stop breeding them and you stop feeding them and we wouldn’t have to devote all this land to grow grains and legumes for them. Forest could come back. Wildlife could come back. The Oceans could come back. The rivers would run clean again. The air would come back. Our health would return.

Moving to renewable energy infrastructure needs at least 20 years and $18 trillion minimally to develop. It costs nothing if we stop eating animals.

Contrary you do not stop eating animals and there is nothing you can do about the environment.

Myths and Doubts: Being healthy and not eating animals:

Dr Michael A Klapner, MD, Physician, True North Health Center answers it as yes. According to him all the nutrients are there in the plant kingdom to do this all. There is more to it. Going further, to the similar question on dairy, he has unbelievable answers when he declares cow milk as baby calf growth fluid. He further adds that whether you pour it on your cereal as a liquid, whether you clot it into yogurt, whether you ferment it into cheese, whether you freeze it into ice cream, it’s baby calf growth fluid. To end this up, “…there’s nothing in it people need.”, he concludes.

Buzz word – Organic:

There is much fuss about this word, Organic, these days and this word is a sort of chant for environment aspirants. To understand this Kip takes an example of an organic farm of 4500 acres, he visited and where it was only one cow or a cow and a calf per every 10 acres of land and roughly 10 pigs every 50 acres. To compare industrial usage for similar agribusiness is as low as 2 to 2.5 acres per cow and that too not as lush as this one. After this comparison Kip shoots a question to that organic farm owner if it is possible and it is practical for the whole world to have grass fed cattle? Like 80% of the rainforest in Brazil is destroyed for cattle. His answer was as simple as, “They shouldn’t be eating beef…”, but the solution is not as simple as this answer especially when a fully grown industry is on it.

Let us for a moment consider this organic model to be not having any carbon footprint as claimed by the owner of the “Organic” farm. Still this model is impractical as proved by Kip using some figures like an average meat consumption of an American, cattle required to cater to that need and land and water resources required to feed that livestock. There is another aspect also, that is yet absent in this calculation. “It takes 23 months for a grass fed animal to grow to the point, to the size and age that it’s slaughtered, whereas a grain fed takes 15 months.”, as explained by Demosthenes Maratos of The Sustainability Institute at Molloy College. Point of concern here is, another eight months of water and land usage for Organic one and hence more consumption of resources as compared to the grain fed animals. The conclusion to this is that in no way can enough animals be raised sustainably to feed the world’s current demand on meat. Same is the view of Marcus Benedetti, President of Clover-Stornetta Dairy, “I think it’s maybe too much to expect that the world can be fed with dairy in a sustainable way.”

Similar calculations on an average consumption of a cow are even more shocking. In the words of John Taylor of Bivalve Organic Diary, “Typically, a cow will eat 140 to 150 pounds of feed a day.” and “…she’s also gonna drink between 30 and 40 gallons of water.” According to him, the demand for dairy based protein in the world is only going to increase and there is not enough land on the planet to do this type of dairying around the world.


Apart from visible effects there are some invisible implications like there are costs that the animal food producers don’t actually bear themselves. These are hidden costs or externalized costs that they impose on society. These costs in the form of subsidies are estimated to be $414 billion and this obviously is borne by the taxpayers. So no matter if you are a herbivore or an omnivore you are bearing a part of this cost. You are paying that cost, whether you eat meat or not. In the words of Wenonah Hauter of Food and Water Watch, “…once they become so large and wealthy, then they can dictate the federal policies around producing food because they have so much political power.”

Backyard farming:

Similar to Organic fuss, backyard farming is also a myth. This is also explained very well with the example of Bill Phillips, a backyard farmer. It’s not presented here for the sake of preventing this text from getting too long. The figures and calculations as usual are presented here too.


With the human population drinking 5.2 billion gallons of water every day and eating 21 billion pounds of food as compared to that of cows alone (I reiterate cows alone) drinking 45 billion gallons of water and eating 135 billion pounds of food, it isn’t a human population issue. It’s a human eating animal population issue. Dr Will Tuttle adds to the gravity of this issue when he says that we have roughly a billion people starving every single day. 50% of grains and legumes that we’re growing are for feeding the animals. And in the US it’s closer to 70%, 80%, depending on which grain it is. About 90% of soybeans.

Eighty two percent of the world’s starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals in the livestock system that are killed and eaten by more well off individuals in developed countries, such as the US, UK and in Europe.

In Howard Lyman’s words, “You can’t be an environmentalist and eat animal products, period. Kid yourself if you want, if you want to feed your addiction, so be it. But don’t call yourself an environmentalist.”

Now is the time to have a look at the role of various stakeholders of environmental concern. Beg your pardon, exceptions are always there.


Such was the plight of the Government Water Resource Department that all they could suggest was mending of broken sprinklers, using of low-flow showerheads, low-flow faucets, efficient toilets, blah blah blah… And when asked about water usage in animal agriculture and eating less meat they felt helpless for the reason the way the government is set up there. The departments have to work with both hands tied and Governments have their own vested interests so not much can be expected from their side.

Environment researchers:

Allan Savory in his research on grass fed livestock claims that the best way to reverse this desertification is to actually graze more animals. Kip says that this reminded him of Oceana saying, “The best way to help fish is to eat fish.” In our context (of Punjab) of depleting underground water it is somewhat similar to our environmental laureates suggesting, “Best way to save underground water is to recklessly bring out as much water as you can.”

In some other such miracle, a research office in Zimbabwe during the 1950’s suggested mass killing of elephants as they were the reason behind desertification, according to him. Acting on his expert advice 40000 elephants were killed and after 14 years of relentless slaughter and conditions only got worse. This was the same man who suggested the fish eating theory mentioned above.

There is a similar story of a similar experiment with wild horses narrated by Denize Bolbol of American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign.

Environmental Organizations:
…they are membership organizations… (Michael Pollan – Environment and Food, author)
…they’re businesses. (Dr Will Tuttle – Environmental and Ethics, author)

Not doing much other than suggesting lifestyle changes… It’s better for their fundraising and better for their profile to create a victim-and-perpetrator sort of plotline. (Demosthenes Maratos)

Think, there is not much left on it after these quotes.

Environmentalists (Established):

“It’s hard enough to get people to think about CO2. Don’t confuse them.” – Al Gore to Kirk R. Smith (MPH, PhD, University of California Berkeley, Professor of Global Environmental Health) on raising Methane arguments by the latter. Either they know the truth or are over confident and firm, to feed their ego, on whatever incomplete knowledge they have.

Negative Facts:

“Animal agriculture produces 65% of nitrous oxide, a gas with global warming potential 296 times greater than CO2 per pound.”

“Energy related CO2 is expected to increase 20% by the year 2040 and emissions from agriculture are predicted to increase 80% by 2050.”

“Animal agriculture is supposed to be responsible for 51% of human-caused climate change, 30% of water consumption and 45% of earth’s land and with 91% Brazilian Amazon destruction, species extinction, ocean dead zones and habitat destruction, a separate issue.”

“Rain forests are being cut down at the rate of an acre a second with 91% for raising livestock.”

“Livestock operations on land has caused, or created, more than 500 nitrogen-flooded dead zones around the world in our oceans, comprise more than 95000 square miles of areas completely devoid of life.”

“…every day, close to 100 plant, animal, and insect species are lost due to rainforest destruction.”

“Amazon rainforest itself could be gone in the matter of next 10 years.” (Leila Salazar Lopez – Amazon Watch, Program Director)

“Wordwatch reported that livestock causes 51% of greenhouse gas emission, and transportation’s around 13%.” (All the transportations put together – 18% to 30% – UN)

Positive Facts:

“If we reduce methane emissions, its level in the environment goes down fairly with decades as opposed to no signal for 100 years or so of doing the same with CO2 emissions.”

“We can produce, on an average, 15 times more protein from plant based sources that from meat on any given area of land.”

“To feed a person on an all plant based vegan diet for a year required just one sixth of an acre of land.”

“37000 pounds of vegetables grow on one and a half acre of land as compared to 375 pounds of meat on that same plot of land.”

“A high consuming, meat eating Californian can save 1.4 tons of CO2 equivalent per year by just removing beef from his diet.”

“A vegan diet produces half as much CO2 as an American omnivore, uses one eleventh the amount of fossil fuels, one thirteenth the amount of water, and and eighteenth of the amount of land. In figures it means one has a choice every single day to save 1100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 square feet of forested land, the equivalent of 10 pounds of CO2, and one animal’s life. Every single day.”

Panjab (in contrast):

If you feel like a bit of an environmentalist in you and the figures above sound disturbing to you, the situation here in our own homeland, Panjab, the land of five rivers is not less worse. Some serious root cause analysis needs to be done and an action plan needs to be laid for all of us to act upon. The problem here with us is not with cattle or anything else but with rapidly depleting and polluting ground water with the crops promoted to be grown here and with uncontrolled, unmanaged and reckless water usage and wastes from the industry.


India was the top beef exporter in the world a couple of years back (Source: and is still retaining its position among the top ones. All this sounds contradictory to the fact that cows are considered sacred here and worshiped by many. The reasons for this contradiction needs in depth study as to why this country is depleting its resources to the needs of some other populace. It’s politics and the money that’s playing dirty here. The same reasons will pop up to the issue of paddy being the main crop in Punjab depleting its precious underground water to the needs of some other populace, I am sure. Of course, there might be some other reasons for it. A similar catastrophe seems to be going on here and is in wait for some Kip to come out forward to bring into light, this ‘Cowspiracy’.

The documentary beautifully ends with the words of Howard Lyman, “You can change the world. You must change the world.”

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