I became vegan for the animals. Absolutely, 100% for the animals. However, over the past eleven months, I’ve been surprised to discover the other myriad benefits of living a vegan lifestyle. One of these extra perks is how much better a vegan diet is for the environment. “How much better?” you wonder. Laughably.

I know a lot of self-identified environmentalists. I do not know any self-identified environmentalists that are also vegan. This always shocks me considering that animal agriculture is responsible for devastating environmental degradation, but people always play the “I only eat from local, sustainable farms” card. As a vegan, you get used to people’s cognitive dissonance, and I did not know the appropriate metrics to question them.

Silence on the topic from environmental organizations seemed odd. Some even blatantly encourage meat consumption (looking at you, The Sierra Club…) to cater to their members, many of whom are hunters, ranchers, and other meat eaters who “love the outdoors.” I understand the need to raise money, but at what cost? Environmental groups won’t have a reason to exist if the very thing they’re intent on protecting is destroyed. How groups like Greenpeace, The Sierra Club, and Oceana, (among others), can COMPLETELY ignore animal agriculture in their quest to save the environment is the question that Kip Anderson, the producer of Cowspiracy, sets out to answer.

I’ve been wanting to watch Cowspiracy for a while now, but it was only available via screening or by purchasing the DVD… until now! A new cut of the film, executive produced by Leonardo DiCaprio (swoon), was released on Netflix yesterday. I queued it up as soon as I arrived home from work.

Although I had a hard time identifying with Anderson, I absolutely recommend watching the film. Seriously. Stop reading this post right now, fire up the ol’ Netflix, and watch this movie. Everyone, especially folks that claim to be environmentalists, need to confront the fact that the way we’re eating is literally destroying the planet. I wish I was exaggerating. That is not a hyperbole. Animal agriculture is the number one contributor to:

  • Climate change
  • Deforestation
  • Water usage
  • Species extinction (including in oceans)
  • Land use
  • and waste creation

Did you know that:

  • Consuming one hamburger uses as much water as two months of showers?
  • 7 million pounds of excrement are produced every minute by farmed animals in the US alone?
  • 1/3 of the earth’s land is “desertified” due to livestock?
  • 110 animals and insect species are lost daily from rain forest destruction to make room for animal grazing?

All of these statistics can be corroborated by UN reports and scientific, peer reviewed studies. Why don’t people know about this? Why don’t people care? Watching documentaries like Cowspiracy are so difficult because the solution is so simple, and yet people refuse to give it a chance. A plant based diet cuts your carbon footprint by 50%. To feed a  vegan for a year, you need 1/16 of an acre of land. A meat eater needs 18 times that.

Sometimes being a vegan means feeling trapped under the weight of all this knowledge. It means feeling like you’re crazy, like you’re the only person who realizes that we are ruining the only place in the universe where known life exists because we like eating chicken nuggets and hot dogs and pizza and steaks. But you know what? I’d rather carry that burden instead of ignore it. I’d rather wake up every morning and be able to look at myself in the mirror and be proud of how I’m living my life. And the best part? You can do it too, and you can do it with far less sacrificing than you think. I am so happy that documentaries like Cowspiracy are being made. They are shining a spotlight light on an abhorrent industry that has been, up to this point, so good at skulking in the darkness. Hopefully, they won’t be able to for much longer.

I want the world to be beautiful for my children. I want the great outdoors to still exist for my grand-babies. I don’t want there to be wars over access to water. I don’t want massive refugee populations to have to leave their homelands when sea levels rise. Every day, I can make decisions to help put the world in a better place. It’s absolutely worth it. Every one of us has the ability to change our planet. That knowledge is empowering. We just need to go out and do it! Your first step?

Go watch Cowspiracy.