Sunday, October 4, 2015

Discussion of Cowspiracy Dismissals

JackOfShadows, an occasional commentator on this blog site (thanks!), has called into question some points I wrote on shaving because I encourage readers to view the movie, Cowspiracy. I appreciate his comments, which I'm sure were well intentioned. (Remember, too, that I'm the question-everything guy.) So his comments give me a reason to share more thoughts on the topic.

If he will forgive me this wayward thought, his questioning of my points on shaving in yesterday's article because of my promotion of Cowspiracy is exactly the same kind of absolutism that is rejected in his twice-cited article entitled "Cowspiracy & The Building Blocks of an Absolutist Position", which can be read at

I have read articles criticizing Cowspiracy, and I have read rebuttal articles criticizing the criticism. The cited article against absolutism actually only rejects the notion suggested by the movie that one can't be an environmentalist unless he is a vegan. And the writer is correct in that statement; it is a bit extreme. A more defensible statement might be that one can't be an environmentalist unless she has become more of a vegetarian and encourages others to adopt more of a vegetarian diet. Okay???!!!

Yep, this movie has a viewpoint. And yep, this movie may not have some of its facts exactly right. However... the main points that it makes are essentially correct, which is that large-scale industrialized animal farming (as opposed to  someone's homestead having a pet cow, Bessie, a chicken, Cluckie, and a pig, Annabel, which all eventually end up on the dinner table) does the following:
  • Significant contribution to water waste (If the 110-gallon figure cited as a more accurate amount needed to raise the meat in your quarter pounder instead of the 660-gallon figure cited in the movie leads one to dismiss the fact that this is a horrific waste of water to make 1/4 pound of protein food, it isn't MY thinking that's a problem.)
  • Significant contribution to climate change (And if animal-food production isn't a larger contributor to climate change than all transportation put together, but is merely a second or third leading contributor, does that render the larger point insignificant? I think not.)
  • Is leading to the destruction of the Amazon rain forest, which is literally the lungs of Earth, in which much carbon dioxide is converted back to oxygen (NO ONE disputes this.)
  • Encourages overall land usage that may not be the wisest and most efficient in the long term
The idea proposed by the movie, Cowspiracy, is not new. In the 1970s there was a book published entitled Diet for a Small Planet, and a sequel entitled Recipes for a Small Planet, which encouraged vegetarianism to support a sustainable world-wide food supply. Although these books did not cause me to convert to vegetarianism, they were not wrong and were merely ahead of their time.

As a university-trained registered dietitian-nutritionist and university instructor, I can say that most folk in the western world (now also in the westernizing, developing world) eat WAAAAYYYY more protein than is needed. If everyone learned new ways of preparing plant-based foods -- especially plant-based protein -- rather than consuming our standard western diet, we could save some money, be healthier individually, and support a healthier planet.

Unfortunately, when someone comes along and challenges our favorite beliefs (whether that's our beloved animal-protein-rich diet or the idea that all Merkur DE razor heads have the same shaving characteristics, which they do not!) we tend to react in exactly the same absolutist manner that the article (cited by JackOfShadows) opposes. We say, "Well, that idiot got this fact and that fact wrong, so obviously I can ignore his entire point." Many tend to react this way especially when their familiar eating habits are called into question.

The same thing happened when the movie, "Forks Over Knives", was released. There was a small storm of criticism, critiquing the rigor of the science. In fact the critics were both right and yet missed the forest for the trees. Yes, the causal link in the science behind this movie and its point of view is vague. However, the ultimate conclusions are indisputable: if you exclusively eat a low-fat, plant-based, whole-food diet, your existing artery disease will stop and, over the long term, may actually improve! This is known and proven, yet critics will dismiss the movie because it hasn't laid out an air-tight and complete explanation of the process of this health improvement. Are there other ways to get the same result? Maybe, but we don't know what they are. If you were sent home to get your final affairs in order after your doctor says that your artery disease has progressed beyond the fixes of modern medicine, would you consider the one remaining PROVEN alternative? Or would you dismiss it because a critic doesn't like the way one of the scientists has drawn certain conclusions when viewing epidemiological data? Duh! In fact, that's exactly what happened to some folks in the Cleveland Clinic experiment by Dr. Esselstyn: they were literally given months to live, and, those who fully complied with the diet, were still kicking nearly two decades later!

The significant reason to view Cowspiracy is to open a dialogue, a conversation -- and your mind -- to the greater risks of the standard American diet. The movie should get you thinking, not cause you to stop thinking in a reactionary pique. 

Okay, so don't give up your favorite filet mignon or whatever. Just eat it less frequently. Learn to prepare tasty meals using plant proteins rather than animal foods. You haven't given up your automobile, have you, even though we know that en masse, cars are contributing to the peril of the planet? I do hope you drive a smaller, more efficient car, and are more thoughtful about the driving that you still do, however. Same with diet: okay, don't become a vegan. Do eat smaller animal-food portions and less frequently. 

Again, your pocketbook, your arteries, and the rest of the planet as a whole may thank you.

Happy shaving!

No comments:

Post a Comment