Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret is a 2014 documentary film which explores the impact of animal agriculture on the environment, and investigates the policies of environmental organizations on this issue. The film looks at various environmental concerns, including global warming, water use, deforestation, and ocean dead zones, and suggests that animal agriculture is the primary source of environmental destruction.
The Union of Concerned Scientists has disputed the film's assertion, which runs counter to scientific consensus, that the majority of greenhouse gases driving climate change are produced by animal agriculture rather than fossil fuel emissions.
The documentary was directed by Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn, and explores the impact of animal agriculture on the environment, and investigates the policies of environmental organizations on this issue. Environmental organizations investigated in the film include Greenpeace, Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation, Rainforest Action Network, and many more.
The film was crowdfunded on IndieGoGo, with 1,449 contributors giving $117,092. This funding was 217% of their goal, and it allowed them to dub the film into Spanish and German and subtitle it into more than 10 other languages, including Chinese and Russian. Screenings are licensed through the distributor, as well as through Tugg Inc.
An updated version of the documentary, executive-produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, premiered globally on Netflix on September 15, 2015.
The 2017 documentary What the Health was written, produced, and directed by the same production team (Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn) as Cowspiracy.
The following individuals were featured in the film:Michael Klaper (physician, author, advisor)
Howard Lyman (former rancher, author, activist)
lauren Ornelas (Food Empowerment Project)
Michael Pollan (author, lecturer)
William Potter (journalist)
Kirk R. Smith (Environmental Health Sciences)
Josh Tetrick (founder of Hampton Creek)
Cowspiracy won the Audience Choice Award at the 2015 South African Eco Film Festival, as well as the Best Foreign Film Award at the 12th annual Festival de films de Portneuf sur l'environnement. It was also nominated for Cinema Politica’s 2015 Audience Choice Award.
Journalist Chris Hedges stated that this film led him to become a vegan. Television personality Porsha Williams also said that the film, along with its successor, What the Health, were what ended up convincing her to become vegan.
Doug Boucher, reviewing the film for the Union of Concerned Scientists, disputed the film's claim that 51% of global greenhouse gases are caused by animal agriculture. Boucher describes the 51% figure as being sourced from a 2009 Worldwatch Institute report by Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang, not from a peer-reviewed scientific paper. He asserts methodological flaws in Goodland and Anhang's logic, and claims that the scientific community has formed a consensus that global warming is primarily caused by humanity's burning of fossil fuels. Boucher states that the scientific consensus is that livestock contribute 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions - far lower than the 51% claimed by the film.
Boucher's review concludes: "Movies like Cowspiracy aren’t believable, not only because of how they twist the science, but also because of what they ask us to believe: that the fossil fuel industry—the ExxonMobils of the world—aren’t the main cause of global warming... and that thousands of scientists have covered up the truth about the most important environmental issue of our time."
Cowspiracy co-director Keegan Kuhn defended the 51% figure featured in the documentary, pointing to a 2012 article in the journal Animal Feed Science and Technology. In that article, Goodland and Anhang addressed criticism of their study, and explained their methodology.