Back to Blog
In 2014 the documentary film “Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret” exposed the linkages between the animal agriculture industry and greenhouse gas emissions. The film contributed to raise awareness on the need for behavioral changes of the population to reduce meat consumption in order to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and the risks of climate change. However, Cowspiracy received several criticisms due to its use of unreliable data and statistics. In this respect, it has been argued that the documentary presents an overly biased view on the topic that does more harm than help. The aim of this article is to analyze the linkages between livestock and greenhouse gas emissions by deconstructing the main statistics presented by the documentary film and analyzing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports and other reports with scientific data on those linkages.
The article first reviews the concept of climate change and its causes according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the IPCC reports. It then examines how IPCC reports address the contribution of livestock to greenhouse gas emissions. As presented in the IPCC reports, the analysis will focus on livestock as a category of land use. After this analysis, the article identifies the main statistics and sources presented by the documentary film Cowspiracy on the influence of livestock in greenhouse gas emissions, and the arguments to encourage a plant-based diet. The article confronts the data provided by the documentary film with the scientific data released by the IPCC reports and concludes with an analysis on the influence of dietary choices in greenhouse gas emissions as well as other measures that have being identified to decrease such emissions.
The article reveals how the IPCC reports have refined their approach to the analysis of the contribution of livestock to the increase of greenhouse gas emissions, and argues that such differentiated approach may contribute to create more awareness on those linkages.
1. Sara Pabian et al, Ninety Minutes to Reduce One's Intention to Eat Meat: A Preliminary Experimental Investigation on the Effect of Watching the Cowspiracy Documentary on Intention to Reduce Meat Consumption Front. Commun. 5:69. 2020. doi: 10.3389/fcomm.2020.00069
2. Nicholas Blundell, A Critique of Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret Food. In Nicholas Blundell et al, Food, Fiber, and Fashion Quarterly. https://iu.pressbooks.pub/foodfiberfashionfa19/chapter/a-critique-of-cowspiracy-the-sustainability-secret/
Universidad Externado de Colombia