I'm no psychic. But it doesn't take any ESP abilities to say that most of the people reading this ate meat today -- Christmas.
My wife and I didn't. Nor do we ever.
Which explains why we felt a pleasing sense of self-satisfaction when we watched "Cowspiracy" at the Salem Progressive Film Series last week, since the basic message of the documentary is that eating meat and fish is one of the most environmentally destructive actions a person can engage in.
The "spiracy" part of the title comes from the assertion that environmental organizations like the Sierra Club and Greenpeace have been deeply reluctant to publicize the connection between eating meat and destruction of our planet.
After all, as the movie says repeatedly, how we choose to feed ourselves is a highly personal question that's fraught with cultural implications.
Having been a vegetarian since 1970, my 45 years of abstaining from meat and fish have taught me how true this is. When my daughter, Celeste, was born in 1972, my uncle kept telling me that her health would suffer if raised vegetarian.
Her pediatrician also was skeptical. But now Celeste is a trim and fit 43. Her own daughter, Evelyn, also has been a vegetarian since birth and is doing fine at the age of eight.
So for most people there's no health reason to eat meat. And anyone who sees Cowspiracy will be exposed to lots of reasons why livestock and fish production is doing terrible things to Earth's ecosystems.
Here's what the movie's co-director, Kip Andersen, said in an interview:
Well, I thought I was doing everything I could to help the environment--driving less, riding a bike, taking short showers. And then I found out a UN report study that our diet and raising animals for food livestock creates more human-caused greenhouse gases than all the transportation put together.
And then that led me on a journey of discovering that not only that, but this one industry is the leading cause of rainforest destruction, water consumption, water pollution, ocean dead zones, and species extinction, and basically across the board, and then to find out that our world's leading environmental organizations--Greenpeace, Sierra Club, Oceana, all these groups, they don't mention this anywhere. And it seemed, if anything, they might have been covering it up.
Apparently because those groups don't want to irritate their meat-eating supporters. There's also a hint in the movie that livestock producers give money to environmental organizations with the understanding that the groups will downplay the negative effects of meat and fish production.
(It doesn't matter, by the way, if wild fish are being eaten; Cowspiracy says that catching wild fish leads to huge numbers of "unintended kills" and the consequent depletion of fish populations.)
Our local alternative paper, Salem Weekly, had a good writeup on the movie. But it included a bit of skepticism.
The movie ends with a note of optimism, perhaps required in such a pessimistic film, but which might be questioned by viewers shaken by the message. Also, some facts and figures come so fast and furious that the source of any particular assertion is not always clear – a problem when a film makes such strong claims.
Yes, it's true that strong claims are made. To their credit, the moviemakers devote a page on the Cowspiracy website to documenting the sources of facts presented in the film. I didn't see or hear anything that made me think this can't be right.
But since I've been a vegetarian for so long, and have read so much about the harmful effects of meat-eating, I wasn't shocked by how emphatically Cowspiracy calls upon people to give up eating meat and fish if they consider themselves environmentalists.
I do, though, still eat some dairy products. And the makers of Cowspiracy tout a vegan diet -- given how poorly cows are treated in the process of milk production, along with health and environmental reasons.
I typically eat yogurt every day. After seeing the movie, though, I got some soy yogurt and found that I liked it just as much as the regular variety. I doubt that I'll ever become a full-blown vegan, yet cutting down on the small amount of dairy products I eat (I drink soy milk) now is on my to-do list.
Interestingly -- could this be a sign from the Veggie Gods? -- the day after I saw Cowspiracy, I came across a bunch of links related to diet and the environment during my usual Internet browsing.
Take a look at these if you need more convincing that meat-eating is bad both for you and the planet.
Food and Climate Change (David Suzuki Foundation)
Agriculture Was Left Out of the Paris Deal, But That Won't Stop Countries From Taking It On (Climate Progress)
A New Year resolution that's good for you and the planet: stop eating meat (The Guardian)
Michael Pollan on how America got so screwed up about food (Vox)
Here's the Cowspiracy trailer, which focuses on the conspiracy aspect of the movie. The next You Tube video presents the facts in Cowspiracy.