Cowspiracy purports to be a documentary film released in 2014, created by directors Kip Anderson and Keegan Kuhn and later backed by actor Leonardo Di Caprio.
According to Wikipedia, the film…
explores the impact of animal agriculture on the environment, and investigates the policies of environmental organizations on this issue
While Cowspiracy is often put forward as an accurate representation of the world (usually by those who want to see an end to animal agriculture), many people involved on the ground in regenerative agriculture have argued that many of its claims simply don’t stand up to the science.
For example check out…
- Sheldon Frith’s collection of rebuttals to Cowspiracy and other anti-animal agriculture propaganda.
- “Regenerative Agriculture and the Truth About Cowspiracy”: interview with Doniga Markegard on Daniel Vitalis’s postcast. (Doniga was featured in Cowspiracy, in which she claims she was seriously misrepresented.)
- A comprehensive Quora response by EOM’s Karin Lindquist to “How Accurate is the Movie Cowspiracy?“
- And this excellent response by farmer Garth Brown from Cairncrest Farm
Now, in a shocking U-turn, the film’s makers have been forced to retract one of its most fundamental and damning claims: that animal agriculture is responsible for an incredible 51% of greenhouse gas emissions (a figure that has always been criticized as wildly inaccurate by scientists, including the Union of Concerned Scientists).
In a tweet from the @Cowspiracy account earlier this year, Andersen and Kuhn have now quietly revised the 51% claim down to 18%, which, while closer to the truth, is still probably much higher than the real figure.
Animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation.
Source: https://t.co/dwq5GFoqe5 pic.twitter.com/DggGsIl4hd
— Cowspiracy (@Cowspiracy) May 10, 2018
Clearly, this is not a full and honest retraction. They’re not putting their hands up and saying, “Guys, we were wrong and we’re sorry for misleading you.” However, it does clearly tell us that the filmmakers now acknowledge the real impact of animal ag on the climate is at least 60% lower than the film claims.
What are the facts?
Based on data from 2000, the World Resources Institute estimated the greenhouse gas contribution of all agriculture at just 13.8%, of which “livestock and manure” contribute only 5.1% (based on CO2 equivalent calculations). That’s ONE TENTH of Cowspiracy’s original claim!
For more information, see Frank Mitloehner’s post on his GHG Guru blog. As Professor and Air Quality Specialist in Cooperative Extension in the Department of Animal Science at the University of California-Davis, Frank knows more about the real links between agriculture and climate than almost anyone on the planet.
Not only does he show how the makers of Cowspiracy “cherry-picked an inflated number from a single, flawed source”, in his blog post Frank also says the 18% figure is known to be an exaggeration…
Incidentally, the 18 percent figure is still not accurate, having come from the FAO study “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” which has since been revised by its authors to 14.5 percent (FAO “Tackling Climate Through Livestock,”), but at least it is far less misleading than 51 percent. Perhaps reluctant to dial back the statistic, they seemingly couldn’t resist stating that even at 18 percent, it is more than “the combined exhaust of all transportation,” using a life cycle (direct and indirect) assessment for animals and a mere tailpipe emission (direct only) for transportation, an assertion Mottet and Steinfeld debunked in their article noted above.
It is now clearer than ever that the makers of the film set out not to report the scientific facts, but to make the case for a future vision of the world that excludes farming animals. Even assuming that they acted with the best intentions in the way they believed was correct, deliberately skewing the data in this way destroys the credibility of the so-called documentary.
A better future
What’s more, because propaganda like Cowspiracy sets out to discredit all uses of animals in agriculture, it risks tarring regenerative agriculture with the same brush as intensive factory farming.
There is now an overwhelming amount of evidence from all over the world that herds of animals grazing on land is not just sustainable, but can build soil, enrich ecosystems, support biodiversity, and sequester massive amounts of atmospheric carbon into the soil, which in fact is probably the best tool we have for rapidly reversing climate change.
Time is running out, and we don’t need propaganda. Instead, check out the positive work that real farmers and ranchers are doing literally on the ground to make a real, positive difference. (This and other movies are available at http://www.soilcarboncowboys.com/)
Meat (including offal) provides the most complete and nutrient-dense food for humans. Some people believe you can be healthy without consuming any animal products, but the long-term health prospects do not seem good, at least for the majority.
Absolute nonsense. Only vitamin B12 cannot be got from anywhere else. Every other nutrient can.
B12 is all that really needs to be said. Thanks for proving our point.
Your livestock nutrition knowledge is abysmal. Ruminants get supplements in the form of COBALT to get their B12. Ruminants have the rumen microbes to take COBALT and convert it into B12. That research paper didn’t even support your statement. But nice try. Here’s an article that did 100x more research than you could ever do. https://bovinepracticum.com/ruminations/is-it-true-that-cows-need-supplemental-vitamin-b12
Yoy might find thise nutrients in plants but some people have so poor digestion that they cannot be absorbed efficiently.
No. You don’t need any meat at all. In fact, all meats are relatively unhealthy compared to whole-food plant sources of protein, fats, and complex carbohydrates (see NutritionFacts.org). No serious person disputes the fact that animal agriculture is a major contributor to greenhouse-gas emissions. The less meat, fish, and dairy we all consume the better.
We ONLY need meat. Plant food is indigestible, cruel, wasteful, inferior, unbioavailable nutrients, unsustainable and requires jet fuel and third world poverty and child labour to keep it afloat. Animal foods when raised regeneratively is the opposite of all of the above. Eat local, seasonal and regenerative if you actually give a shit.
Dude, that NutritionFacts website is biased because it is owned by Michael Greger, who was featured in the widely debunked documentary “What the Health”. The documentary “The Game Changers” was also universally criticized for being full of scientific inaccuracies too. And just so you know, pretty much any health organization with the word “dietetics” in it, is set up at least in part by the Seventh Day Adventist Church, which has a vested interest in promoting plant-based diets. Those organizations are also notorious for endorsing processed foods being marketed to children, and just causing many of their patients to get sick in general. Plus, doesn’t the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, particularly, receive funding from McDonald’s and The Sugar Association anyway? Just saying.
Also, humans are not herbivores, as stated in the following article (which was ironically written by a vegan biologist):
Moreover, heme-iron is exclusively found in meat, while carnitine and carnosine are exclusively found in meat and dairy/eggs/honey too. Yes, protein is not as naturally deficient in plant products as a lot of people make it out to be, but it is still found much more frequently and also superior in animal products. There are also several other nutrients that are found much more frequently in animal products than in plant products too (and this is ESPECIALLY true for Vitamin B-12), and vice-versa.
Yes, dietary cholesterol is also exclusively found in animal products as well, and while it doesn’t really have any upside, it is still not necessarily bad for you if only consumed in moderation. Sure, overconsumption of processed meat increases risk of colon cancer, and overconsumption of seafood increases risk of mercury poisoning. But we could also argue that too much of pretty much ANYTHING is bad for you, you know? The only reasons why veg[etari]ans, on average, live a bit longer than most other people do, is because they also tend to exercise more and do fewer drugs as well. Correlation is not causation.
While the majority of people nowadays can survive on a vegetarian or vegan diet, neither one is still the absolute 100% healthiest diet. Even so, there are still a few people out there who can’t even survive health-wise on a vegetarian or vegan diet, no matter what (including some of the people who created this website, in the first place). This is NOT to say that consuming too many, or the wrong kind of, animal products is any healthier either though.
I’m a vegetarian (but not a full vegan) myself, and I wholeheartedly support the Ethical Omnivore Movement just as I support the Friendly & Pragmatic Vegetarian/Vegan Activists too. Yes, the “factory farm paradigm” that comprises the vast majority of livestock farming today (especially in the Western hemisphere) causes more harm to animals and the environment than any plant-based ag ever does. But to say that ALL animal-based ag causes more harm to animals and the environment than ALL plant-base ag does, is just downright ridiculous (hence the reason this article is debunking the documentary “Cowspiracy”, in the first place). Large-scale veganic farming is more cruel and destructive than small-scale livestock farming and hunting or fishing in moderation are. And veganic farming in general (regardless of whether it is small-scale or large-scale) is still never “100% cruelty-free” either.
Hunting or fishing in moderation can also help to prevent wildlife overpopulation as well. And most livestock animals on small-scale “pasture farms” have better and longer lives than most wild prey animals do too. So, long story short, I have a problem with both “factory farm carnivores” and “militant/extremist/abolitionist vegans” alike, as do most other people on this website too.
Very US centric comments.. World iş not US only. Amozon deforestation do have a link to world meat market..
It did not need however. There is PLENTY of Brazilian territory that is NOT covered by the Amazon. Extensive huge areas of fields (Pampas and Campos de Cima da Serra) as well as savannah (Cerrado) or even more desertic areas in the northeast, which could very well be better used for agriculture and cattle raising, but are not.
What drives deforastation of the Amazon is simply greed… as the lands are very cheap compared to lands in the Cerrado or other southern areas.
You CAN stop deforastation of the Amazon and at the same time increase by ten fold brazilian agricultural and cattle production.
Dear Francesca, this is probably shocking for you but if you don’t want animals to be killed for your food, you can’t eat anything at all. Animals are killed for everything we eat, even vegetables. Plant food production actually kills much more animals than animal food production: https://farmingtruth.weebly.com/blog/how-many-die-for-your-food-calculating-the-death-toll-of-crop-production-vs-livestock-production . Universal veganism wouldn’t even end world hunger: http://veganzinga.com/going-vegan-wont-end-world-hunger/ .
Hi Ben, I´m from Guatemala and my family is also in the agriculture business, most of it is cattle. When i watched Cowspiracy for the first time I knew something had to be wrong, specially because I´m kind of a fan when it comes to environment issues. I really enjoy the way you show solutions and the time you take to respond the questions….
Im reading the website of soilcarboncowboys and I was thinking that… well its only a question but I was thinking that maybe the Cannabis crop might be really useful. By cannabis I mean hemp and not marijuana.
I dont know if you have made your reseach about it, specially because people think that hemp is the same as marijuana, but is not. Hemp regenerates the soil, gives nutrients, and literally doesn’t need much resources or care… at the end is a weed. I don´t smoke weed or anything but to be honest I have seen that places where hemp grows the soil gets better and stronger. I would like to know if you have ever think about this.
Thank you so much and sorry if have any grammar mistakes.
Your comment makes the assertion that no CAFO can apply regenerative agriculture practices. I know for a fact that your assertion is a fallacy. Sad that you have drunk the Kool-Aid. I’m disappointed that you’re playing into the divide and conquer strategy. I expected more from you. Just because a farm has more than a certain number of animals or crops, (can anyone tell me where the line is drawn? I didn’t think so) does not automatically mean it’s BAD. I’ve seen worse things on small family farms than on well managed CAFOs. Many many times.
Okay, sure, but are you referring much more in terms of animal welfare, or actually pursuing regenerative agriculture practices that improve the soil and utilizes animals in such a way that gets them out of the barns and onto the land; so that the reliance on fossil fuels and machinery to sow and harvest the crops and to feed the animals and move the manure away from such operations is significantly reduced? Doesn’t regenerative agriculture encourage a much more integral plant-animal relationship on the landscape (which means the animals are there to do the harvesting and the fertilizing and the trampling and the seeding themselves, with the assistance of our management skills and equipment to effectively move them around from place to place), and discourage such a separation of animals from the land and therefore a distinct gap between the natural plant-animal interaction?
I’m not sure what “Kool-Aid” you’ve expressed that I’ve drank, as it seems to me that your assertion that I’ve created some sort of fallacy seems to stem from your erroneous assumption that I’m talking about something that I’m not actually talking about, and that you’ve incorrectly misinterpreted. Am I right? I don’t wish to further insult you by assuming that you don’t know anything about regenerative agriculture because you could make a similar assumption about me knowing nothing about animal husbandry and welfare practices in CAFOs which couldn’t be further from the truth (and you may know more about regenerative agriculture than I could ever surmise from a simple comment from a total stranger). However, it just seemed to me that, from the way you worded your comment, that you have indeed misinterpreted what I said and are reacting in such a manner, which is forgivable.
That said, my comment in making such an assertion is partly justified; while you’re right in that CAFOs can certainly take on certain regenerative agricultural practices (such as more diverse crop rotations and implementing the use of catch polyculture crops in with crop rotations) to help out with healing the soil and sequestering carbon, it’s the animal part that I’m not entirely sure of, hence my rhetorical questions posed above. (And I don’t believe I mentioned anything about farm size, and how that’s “bad” versus small = “good”; again, that may have been more of an incorrectly implied assumption you made which, again, is forgivable.)
I am positive that you’ve seen worse things on small family farms, I don’t doubt that. So have I. But again, is this more in the context of poor animal husbandry and poor management practices, or are you actually legitimately referring to Regenerative Agriculture in such statements? I believe it’s safe to make the assumption that it’s definitely not the latter.
Thank you for your comment.
GHG’s are not the only problem in focus for environmental sustainability. Land and habitat use is a major negative of domestic cattle farming. While the figures for emissions may not have been accurately portrayed in the documentary, the land used for livestock farming is far, far beyond sustainable. This bears in mind the fact that human populations are increasing exponentially and show no sign of slowing. Sequestering atmospheric carbon into the soil using livestock is not a long-term sustainable solution by any means, as it would demand more and more land for livestock to compete with the demand for the exponentially rising population (unless of course the livestock was intentionally used for this purpose and not human consumption as well). That means an increased amount natural habitat converted to suit livestock globally, and doesn’t take into account the negation of oxygen production by felled trees and cleared vegetation. And on a personal note, I do enjoy the presence of the naturally occurring plant and animal species that exist in environments that would be converted to livestock land. They are unequivocally essential for the survival and future of this planet as an ecosystem. Ultimately, this is not a single-tone issue. Green house gasses are not the only, or even greatest issue presented by global livestock rearing. Any extensive future for sustainable human life on this planet requires decisive lifestyle changes and a more critical look at the scope of this issue.
Who said anything about converting land for livestock? The only land that needs to be converted is the vast number of acres that are currently in annual crop production; and those acres should get converted to grassland (and savannah, if the environment supports it) that supports BOTH livestock AND wildlife habitat. Why must it be one or the other? The answer is that it doesn’t have to be. Livestock can be grazed more than well enough and help sequester carbon and promote biodiversity and help prevent fires and so on and so forth without this “need” to convert any land–especially land that’s already wildlife habitat and except land that should never have been put into annual crop production in the first place–to, as you put it, “suit livestock globally.” I’m sorry and no offence but I really don’t agree and think such a sentiment is completely ridiculous.
“Simply” having land with perennial vegetation that is adapted for having grazing animals–which constitutes over 2/3’s of the Earth’s land surface, mind you–and which is managed a whole lot better than it has been in the past (which has lead to problems like overgrazing and overresting) is a far better deal and a far better means to promote and maintain the presence of these so-called “naturally occurring plant and animal species” (or do you mean native rangelands and native wildlife) using a highly useful proxy such as the domesticated herbivore. When you see it THAT way you can really begin to appreciate and realize that land and habitat use as a “major negative” of domestic cattle farming isn’t that at all; as a matter of fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Do you know what a MAJOR negative of conventional agriculture and the kind of dietary recommendations that try to convince us is “better” for the planet? Annual cropland farming. This kind of agriculture destroys soil and wildlife habitat, pollutes waterways with fertilizer runoff and sediment, and kills a lot of life with the use of pesticides. Do you honestly believe that THAT kind of farming is better for the planet than grazing livestock?
Honestly, this land-use argument is rather silly. It seems there’s a lot of confusion between grazing livestock, especially well-managed grazing of livestock that promotes all that I’ve already mentioned, and raising cattle in feedlots. Those are two VERY different things, are you not aware of that? Also, the deleterious effects of grazing livestock and this “not enough land” nonsense–which is implied, I get it–has FAR more to do with MANAGEMENT of the animals than the livestock themselves. Far too commonly cattle have been grazed in a set-stock continuous grazing system that is undoubtedly deleterious for the landscape and undoubtedly takes up more land than it should; also undoubtedly it completely undermines and heavily, heavily underutilizes the potential of a piece of land to grow a lot more forage (regardless if it’s labelled “native” or “tame”) to graze a lot more animals than previously thought. When animals are MANAGED DIFFERENTLY and mobbed up and rotated around in kind of a mimicry to how the old bison herds would move around in response to the presence of predators, I’ve personally known several ranchers who doubled–some even tripled–their stocking rate over what is considered the “norm” for the area.
Really, if this kind of management changed happened everywhere, that argument of “not enough land” would just be a source of knee-slapping jokes at the local grazier coffee shop.
Start thinking outside the box. I understand your concerns but not all are all that valid as others may have you to believe.
I’m a vegetarian and I’ve never actually seen this documentary before, but based on what I’ve heard about it (including websites like Wikipedia and other similar sources that say otherwise), I’m still a bit skeptical regarding its claim that animal agriculture is a bigger cause of climate change than fossil fuels are.
However, what do you think of the following article:
On the other hand, I have seen the documentary “What the Health”, and I do know for a fact that that is blatant vegan extremism propaganda.
Revise your website. Now that it is 2020, FAO is now saying the emissions from animal agriculture is 35-40% so obviously that is closer to the numbers that Cowspiracy provided than your measle 13%. The truth comes out in the end. Wait a year and it will be at their correct correlation of 50+% You all live in denial.
Hello and thanks for your comment.
I am very interested to know the precise source from which you have found such changes to be true, such as that directly from the FAO itself or a news source that is as recent as the year 2020.
The reason I ask is that, if you check out the two pertinent links in the article above, being the World Greenhouse Gas Emissions of the World Resources Institute, as well as Tackling Climate Change Through Livestock (directly from the FAO itself), such values being 13.8% and 14.5%, respectively, have remained unchanged since publication. Also, after doing a bit of digging thanks to Google, I have not found such updated values that you mentioned, neither from the FAO itself nor from a reliable news source. This leads me to wonder where you may have heard of such recent changes, and if I could see the source from where your allegation came from.
The only notable place which you may have been referring to is on page xii of the FAO document Tackling Climate Change Through Livestock, which reads, “[beef] and cattle milk production account for the majority of emissions, respectively contributing 41 and 20 percent of the sector’s emissions.” The way I read that quote is that the authors are specifically referring to solely the animal agricultural sector itself, not of all anthropogenic emissions.
The erroneous and highly dubious 51% value came from the Goodland & Anhang  World Watch Institute report; such a report was wholly rejected by the wider scientific community, largely because such a value was attained from looking at only half of the carbon cycle–the emissions half–including carbon emitted from the respiration of animals, waste production, and clear-cutting of forests. The other half of the carbon cycle, which is the mitigation half, was completely ignored by Goodland & Anhang in the writing of their report. I will mention again that this report by Goodland & Anhang was widely rejected by the scientific community as outrageous and downright asinine. This is why the producers of Cowspiracy publicly retracted the 51% value in the tweet quoted in this article.
Indeed, the truth certainly does come out in the end, especially when one takes the time to do the research and find the documents to back up their claims–and provide such documents in discussions such as this–rather than make some dastardly, outlandish claim and fail to provide the proof to back it up. I would assume that you are in a clear understanding of such a concept of debate?
As a result of this quick research, the number provided on this website and the article to which you have commented will remain unchanged until you provide ample undeniable proof from the FAO itself that what you claim is legitimate.
Also, we will be happy to wait a year to see if your crystal ball analysis is indeed correct and to prove if we are indeed in denial. For now, the onus is on you to come up with the proof for your allegation.
I look forward to your response.
Yes, if You have a credible reference for the 35-40%, please do put a link or article title so others can follow up on the source. I too have not come across such figures, however data from Our World in Data shows that agriculture as a whole contributes 26% to global GHG emissions, but of that 26%, 53% is caused by livestock farming (when the livestock themselves, production of livestock feed and land use for livestock are all combined). So I assume (assuming that similar data was used by the FAO), that that 53% equates to 14.5% of emissions as a whole, as I have not seen any updated figures on the contribution to global emissions by livestock.
You can disregard my last comment here; I realized it was from a biased source, haha.
But anyway, I also know how a lot of “militant vegans” refer to this article all the time:
I also found this article too, which goes in the same general direction:
^^^ Are there any [non-profit] environmental scientists (as opposed to [profit-making] animal agriculture advocates) who have debunked these two articles? I’m really hoping that the answer is “yes”. I mean, we all know that local livestock farming does more damage to animals and the environment compared to local veganic farming, but LESS damage to animals and the environment compared to industrial veganic farming and ESPECIALLY industrial animal farming (a.k.a. “factory farming”). But obviously, most reputable scientists agree that it’s better for livestock animals to have GOOD lives instead of no lives at all (which is what would happen if everybody in the entire world permanently went vegan).
Moreover, I do know that hunting and fishing IN MODERATION has some animal welfare and environmental benefits as well. Also, Doris Lin is an interesting figure in my opinion; even though there are times when she advocates for “animal rights”, there are other times when she advocates for “animal welfare” instead. However, I do agree with her OVERALL that, in order to end the abomination that is the factory farming of livestock (or at least minimize it as much as possible), and to ALSO prevent over-hunting and over-fishing as well – people in general still need to significantly reduce their current consumption of animal products (without necessarily having to give them up completely, of course).
Regenerative agriculture may be better the doing nothing but it doesn’t seem to address the pollution agriculture causes to water ways, the destruction of the native plants and other native ecosystems and the trees that are cut down for grazing lands. I would be interested in how these wil also be solved. I haven’t eaten beef since 1983 and find it extremely easy.
Regenerative agriculture actually and most certainly does address all those issues. You must remember that it’s a shift in paradigm thinking, rather than sticking with the old, outdated methods still applied today in industrial agricultural practices, which undoubtedly contributes to all (and more) of what you mentioned here.
By healing the soil (done by increasing organic matter content, encouraging more soil biology [earthworms, mycorrhizal fungi, and other critters and microbes], improving soil aggregate structure, decreasing compaction, keeping soil covered with living and dead plant matter at all times, etc.) we then turn a non-effective water cycle into an effective water cycle. By non-effective I mean that water is running off and evaporating very quickly instead of soaking into the soil, quickly drying out the soil and causing “capping” which exacerbates more runoff and therefore pollution into waterways; on the other hand, an effective water cycle is where water soaks in and remains there for long term for plant roots to use when needed, and water is released with the natural cell respiration and photosynthesis of plants.
Regenerative practitioners improve the water cycle by using methods including no-till agriculture, utilizing diverse multi-species cover crops, grazing animals on these cover crops, improving grazing practices by mobbing up animals and moving them before they’ve eaten plants to the ground (they’re only allowed to eat some, trample and poop on the rest before being moved to the next paddock), allowing for sufficient rest to get plants to recover, and reducing or eliminating tillage. Use of fertilizers and pesticides are also reduced over the years to where they’re not needed anymore.
Regenerative practitioners are also careful to manage their grazing animals on native rangelands so that they’re not overgrazing too much, and leaving the right kind of habitat for a multitude of bird and mammal species that need it for nesting, courting, feeding, and raising young. This is done by using similar grazing principles as I mentioned above, basically mimicking the old bison herds of yore but with cattle or sheep, and temporary electric fences or dogs and horses as tools for daily or weekly moves, depending on the environment, seasonal rainfall (which affects the amount of forage available to graze), etc.
No one in regenerative agriculture advocates for tree removal for making grazing lands. The only exception is in areas where trees and brush have become so ingrown and thick and full of dead material (or dead fall) that it becomes a serious fire hazard. Such areas need to be cleared out or managed so that they don’t become a worry for nearby businesses and homes when it’s fire season.
Also, there’s no need to clear trees to graze animals. Have you ever heard of silvopasturing? I suggest to look it up, as it’s one of the most praised practices of regenerative agriculture encouraged by the likes of Mark Shepard of Restoration Agriculture, and Paul Hawken of Drawdown.
Many of which you mentioned, and more, have already been solved by many regenerative farmers all over the globe. Brown’s Ranch in North Dakota manage grazing on thousands of acres of native rangeland for native plants and natural ecosystems. Blue Nest Beef (Russ Conser) is another ranch to check out, as they graze their animals with native birds and bird habitat in mind, especially since grassland songbirds are losing habitat at a far greater rate than most realize due to grasslands being plowed up to grow industrial monoculture corn, soybeans, wheat, and canola… all for cash cropping, and biofuel/oil (not necessarily CAFO animal feed, as they’re fed the waste products). Then there’s the Markegard’s, there’s the Dimbangombe ranch in Zimbabwe, Colin Seis’s farm in Australia, and many, many more.
It sounds like you have much to research and learn with regenerative agriculture. These are some suggestions here; I also highly, highly recommend to check out our list of resources (books, scientific research articles, and more) that we’ve compiled on here: https://www.ethicalomnivore.org/regenerative-agriculture-works-a-compilation-of-evidence/
I hope this answered your questions and has piqued your curiosity… or rather, heightened it even more so! If the latter, that’s awesome. (We’ve no issue with your dietary choice either, so don’t worry about that.)
All the best,
Just curious what do the cows eat in the winter?
Depends on the farmer. Most feed hay in a corral all winter, others will still continue to graze, but in a different manner than what you have in mind; i.e., bale grazing (putting hay bales out on a field for cows to eat, but not all at once, just select few at a time), swath grazing (similar to bale grazing except the crop is laid down with a swather and kept there until the cows are turned on to it, and controlled by electric fence), stockpile grazing (more similar to swath grazing, except pasture or crop is kept standing [can be perennial pasture, annual cocktail cover crop, or monoculture crop] and grazed by the cattle, which are usually controlled by electric fence) or corn grazing (very similar to stockpile grazing). Most farmers don’t just do one of these types of winter grazing, most will do a combination of two or more because there’s no telling how deep the snow will be or how crusted it will get, and other often-weather-related factors.
How long winter grazing lasts also depends on the location; some winters are mild and short, others long and drawn out, with green grass grazing not actually “beginning” until mid-May. So not only do farmers have to plan for winter, but also for what they’re going to do in the fall and in the spring.
Hope this answers your question.
You point out the misinformation in Cowspiracy regarding the GHO emissions of animal agriculture, that’s a fair point, and I would agree that the filmmakers should have been more careful about reporting such drastic figures. My issue is with the regenerative agriculture you propose as a solution.
The documentary itself raises a point that challenges this, suggesting that this method would require too much land to support the current consumer demands for meat. Sure — the documentary make their own (perhaps naive) calculations, but it really is just common sense. To provide enough meat for the world you’d have to turn a massive portion of the planet into grasslands for the cattle.
I can see how it can be a partial solution — use the grasslands that are already available in this way to provide some of the world’s meat demands (but then natural/native predator control becomes rampant, so it really destroys these ecosystems in the process, but I guess we can live with that). Even then, we’d still need factory farming to keep up with the and all the problems that come with that (imported feed and the associated carbon/water footprint, disease/antibiotic resistance, effluent pollution, animal cruelty).
In a way, regenerative agriculture has advantages over factory farming, no doubt about it. But it is not a solution for everybody to embrace/take part in. It does not seem practical, I can only see it as a means of ethical justification for the farmers who are privileged enough to own/inherit large ranches. Please educate me, because I just don’t understand how this could work at a large scale.
The film was very naive with its regenerative agriculture claims. Regenerative agriculture looks to create closed systems like what is found in nature where plants feed animals and animals feed plants. It can be done on both large and small scales., but there is a wide variety of practices with some not as good as others. In some small scale permaculture/forest gardens you can produce 200x as much food as monocultures of grains or soy beans, but it comes at the expense of labor. It is a huge topic worth learning about especially with local farms and small scale people working within you climate/environment. I think it is the best shot we got even with the learning curve and labor needed. I own a small homestead that I saved up an bought in my 20s seeing food security a top priority for my family (If I could do it anyone could, it just takes will and imagination – rural land is cheap).
I was quite disappointed in the films representation of small scale agriculture. At one point they claimed 1/6 of an acer can provide a vegan family all the food they need and you would need 1.2 acers with animals to do the same thing. This was complete bunk for 3 reasons. First it depends greatly where you live and what your winters are like. Second the animals and plants you grow matter greatly, and if you are going to try to get all your food from that piece of land you need to know what the nutritional value of what you are growing is and what grows well together and what doesn’t. Third, and this is probably the most important issue, where are the plants getting the nutrients to grow? If you don’t have animals you are mining and the land/fossil fuel use jumps way up. Sure you can compost only plants from your plot for a time but you will find after a few seasons your soil will be depleted because you are eating the nutrients and pooping them out without returning them to the soil. Solve this by composting the human waste? You need a lot to get a compost to heat up enough to kill pathogens and human waste is a hot manure so needs years of rest before it can be safely used on plants you are going to eat If you don’t want the costs that come with mining or processing human waste, you need animals for their manure to keep you soil healthy and alive. Very specific animals like rabbits, sheep, goats, and horses that have cold manure and are simplest to work with. You can put it directly on plants to feed the soil without pathogens or chemicals in the manure burning the plants (hot manure). If you are working with rabbits and veggies you can easily produce all the food you need in less than an acre if you know what you are doing, but without the rabbits providing fertilizer your mini farm will quickly stop working. Plants are not vegan so any vegan solution will fail.
Up until the 1920s nearly everyone had a victory garden and a flock of chickens (or more likely a couple of rabbits – they were more commonly consumed than chicken because they breed like you know rabbits) because making your own food was part of the culture. That is no longer the case and the knowledge base is not there, so you are right at one level that this is not a large scale solution, but I would argue that it should be. We need kids to learn home economics, cooking, and basic food skills and then spread out from the cities so there is less of a point source for pollution since so many of these issues come from too many people/cows/industrial whatever concentrated in one place. Yes, this would not be as easy as we have it now and there would still need to be a solemn conversation about human population and planet wide carrying capacity , but would give us the tools to maybe save our planet.
[…] B. (2018). Cowspiracy Debunked. Retrieved from https://www.ethicalomnivore.org/cowspiracy-debunked/McDonald, K. (2019). UK Netflix, regulated only in the Netherlands, has never faced a complaint […]
Please you should get more information about nutrition! And in the meat and fish have in general a lot more concentration of toxic chemicals, hormones, micro-plastic, heavy metals antibiotics …
Too bad you aren’t addressing this silly comment to a conventional agriculture page like those vegans rely upon to feed them their industrial monoculture diet. This is a regenerative agriculture page. Please go get more informed about that before making a nincompoop of yourself
Don’t we need some meat though