Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret

Cowspiracy Summary
Cowspiracy Summary

Cowspiracy Summary By Kip Anderson And Keegan Kuhn


For young Kip Anderson, watching An Inconvenient Truth (former Vice President Al Gore’s first climate-change documentary) was a life-changing experience. It immediately transformed him into an “OCE” — a composting, recycling, bicycling obsessive-compulsive environmentalist.

Kip did everything he could think of to reduce his greenhouse emissions. That is, until a friend passed along the link to a 2006 article about a United Nations report naming cattle growers as the greatest contributors to greenhouse emissions.

Al Gore hadn’t said anything about cattle causing climate change, so Kip did some digging. What he uncovered shocked him: The greatest reason for the environmental crises affecting planet Earth, including:

  • greenhouse gas emissions

  • deforestation

  • pollution from waste

  • species extinction

and inequitable water and land use isn’t our addiction to fossil fuels. It’s our addiction to eating animal-based foods.

Why, Kip wondered, hadn’t he heard this critical message from his favorite environmental groups? He’d worked so hard to follow all their recommendations for reducing his carbon footprint!

But the usefulness of every step he’d taken paled in comparison to the effectiveness of following a plant-based diet. Feeling betrayed, he asked himself why Gore hadn’t addressed the issue:

“Was this truth just too inconvenient for even him? I felt let down by the man who inspired me on this entire path.”

First, his poster of the former Vice President came off the wall. Then Kip set out to learn why his environmental heroes and the major environmental organizations were ignoring animal agriculture’s assault on the planet they were sworn to protect.

In 2014, he released the results of his investigation as the documentary Cowspiracy. During filming, he interviewed the representatives of:

  • The Sierra Club

  • The Rain Forest Action Network


  • Oceana

  • Amazon Watch

but was unable to speak with Greenpeace. The stonewalling he experienced in many encounters is sometimes humorous — and sometimes difficult — to watch.

The Amazon Watch program director, however, gave Kip one of the real reasons no one would blame deforestation on animal agriculture: Self-preservation:

“There’s people who were putting themselves out there and saying cattle ranching is destroying the Amazon… Look at Dorothy Stang, the nun who lived out in Para… who was killed. A lot of people will speak up, but a lot of people just keep their mouths shut ‘cause they don’t wanna be the next one with the bullet to their head.”

Cowspiracy follows this statement with a photo of Dorothy’s lifeless body sprawled on the rainforest floor, accompanied by a cryptic epitaph:

Sister Dorothy Stang [1931-2005]

U.S. American-born nun killed for speaking out against cattle ranching. 

An alarmed Kip began wondering if filming Conspiracy was putting his own life in danger. So he asked cattle-rancher-turned-vegan Howard Lyman. In the mid 1990s, Howard and Oprah Winfrey were co-defendants in a defamation lawsuit brought by the cattle-growing industry.

Lyman’s answer,delivered while clearing his throat?

Of course. If you don’t realize right now that you’re putting your neck on the chopping block you better take that camera and throw it away.” 

Those chilling words left Kip “beyond frightened to imagine what could possibly happen if I pursued this subject any further.” But he accepted the reality that the issue was far more important than his personal wellbeing:

“I couldn’t be like these environmental organizations and sit silently while the planet was being eaten alive in front of our eyes. I had to stand up and continue on.”

With Howard Lyman’s “You can’t be an environmentalist and eat animal products, period,” ringing in his ears, Kip completed and released Cowspiracy.

The film’s impact cannot be overstated. Just ask everyone responsible for the 318 thousand likes on its Facebook page, many of whom have gone plant-based and embraced true environmentalism!

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