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Like many of us, Kip Anderson was inspired by Al Gore’s 2006 documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. An environmentalist at heart, Kip was quick to incorporate the film’s suggestions in an effort to reduce his carbon footprint. But he wanted to do more so he could have more of a meaningful impact and that’s when he discovered that the single greatest contributor to water and air pollution, resource depletion, biodiversity loss, and global warming was animal agriculture — and no one was talking about it.
How could such an important fact not be common knowledge? Kip, joined by friend and fellow filmmaker Keegan Kuhn, began to ask why the biggest environmental groups — Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Greenpeace, Amazon Watch, Surfrider, and Oceana — were not utilizing their resources and influence to target this critical issue in their campaigns. Their research and revelations can now be seen in the enthralling new documentary, Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret.
This stunning film — with absolutely astounding visual effects — boasts a smart and witty narrative, as well as a deep dive into the range of ecological issues affected by animal agriculture. Kip and Keegan even discuss overpopulation, backyard farming, the external costs of eating meat, “ag-gag” legislation, plant-based food innovation, and veganic farming. All in 90 minutes! The transitions are seamless, and the story moves fluidly as told by Kip, our earnest and compelling protagonist.
Cowspiracy’s talented filmmakers deftly balance education with entertainment, and humor with poignancy — pay special attention around the 70 and 75 minute marks for particularly moving moments. Best of all, Kip and Keegan show no fear. Despite the dangers that come with speaking out (a point driven home in the film when we learn how Big Ag tries to silence activists), these intrepid reporters put themselves on the line to ask the tough questions to which we deserve the answers.
We sat down with Kip and Keegan to learn more about the making of this incredible movie:
COK: Tell us about you — where are you from and what led you to vegan eating?
Kip: I live in San Francisco and I was brought to a vegan diet by looking at all the horrors this industry is inflicting on the planet, animals, and even our own health.
COK: What inspired you to make this movie? What’s your background as filmmakers?
Kip: I considered myself an environmentalist, but when I found out about the environmental destruction caused by animal agriculture I realized that I wasn’t the only one who had been mislead by large environmental organizations. I knew that I needed to do something to get this truth out there.
Keegan: I have been making films and videos for a number of years on animal-related issues, including the award-winning documentary Turlock, which chronicles the largest farmed animal rescue operation in history. I teamed up with Kip to work on this film because it combines a number of issues that are very close to my heart.
COK: In the film you call out the most prominent environmental groups for avoiding addressing the impact of animal agriculture in their campaigns. What prompted you to take this unique approach?
Kip: When I found out that animal agriculture was the leading cause of climate change, deforestation, ocean dead-zones, species extinction, and virtually every other form of environmental degradation, I thought that the big environmental groups would have this information on their websites, but after searching I found virtually nothing talking about the benefits of adopting a vegan lifestyle. I tried contacting the organizations for months and got no response, so I teamed up with Keegan and we took cameras into their offices. The responses we got would have been hilarious if it weren’t such a deadly serious issue. I will say, though, that the film does have a good bit of humor in it.
Q: Did anyone’s particular response surprise you? Did you experience other surprises during production?
Keegan: We were really surprised with a lot of the responses we got from interviews. Sometimes groups would seem completely clueless about animal agriculture’s impact on the planet, even though it is their job to know this stuff, and other times they would be so clearly evasive of our questions.
Kip: Finding out about how livestock grazing affects wild animals such as wolves was the most shocking thing for me. We all have seen “save the wolves” campaigns and yet no one had ever mentioned to me that wolves are being hunted because they are seen as a threat to the livestock industry and that their habitat is being destroyed primarily for cattle grazing.
COK: What’s your best advice for a vegan-to-be, or someone just getting started on a vegan diet?
Keegan: I think the important thing to remember is that we are making dietary changes not for us, but for the planet and the animals. Anytime you may feel that it is difficult to be vegan, just think of all the animals and ecosystems that have been killed or destroyed so that people can eat meat, dairy, and eggs. Keep the victims of animal agriculture in your mind and you will never feel like a victim for giving up animal products.
While the San Francisco and Los Angeles premieres sold out (!), you can attend a screening with the directors at the Animal Rights National Conference in Los Angeles on Friday, July 11 at 9:30pm, or get tickets for a screening near you! The film will also be available on DVD, Netflix, and iTunes in the future. Can’t wait? Watch the trailer now!