Cowspiracy Debunked

by Daniel Bailey
(Michigan, United States)

Official Movie Poster for Cowspiracy

Official Movie Poster for Cowspiracy

Official Movie Poster for Cowspiracy
Cowspiracy Meme

Regarding Cowspiracy:

"Cowspiracy is about spreading propaganda to further an agenda and not an in depth or real discussion on what needs to be done or can be done to reduce global emissions."


the film fails to refer to the more recent 2013 revisions to that report from the FAO that lower the prior report's livestock emission numbers, and that also states that agricultural emissions can be cut an additional 30% with better management practices. So essentially the movie starts with an often quoted, but still, false premise. The movie doesn't also recognize that the intent of the authors of the 2006 FAO report was to provide an argument for "intensification" i.e. more factory farms, and not less meat consumption.


Cowspiracy provides a lot of graphics with numerical statistics but doesn't really explain how any of these numbers were calculated...figures lie, and liars (especially a certain dentist) figure or, at least, spin data and "facts" to reinforce their biases. The modus operandi? Repeat the spin often enough so, even if it is a lie, it becomes the truth.


"Cowspiracy provides a facile solution, dressed up with shoddy numbers, and in its effort to push a predetermined agenda it doesn’t begin to answer the questions a person should ask when deciding what to eat."

"Cowspiracy...uses "facts" and talking heads to further the filmmaker’s particular agenda. Under the guise of concern for climate change"


It is obviously to someone’s benefit to make meat eating and livestock raising an easily attacked straw man (with the enthusiastic help of vegetarian groups) in order to cover up the singular contribution of the only new sources of carbon — burning the stored carbon in fossil fuels and to a small extent making cement (both of which release carbon from long term storage) — as the reason for increased greenhouse gasses in the modern era.


If cattle flatulence on a natural grazing diet were a problem, heat would have been trapped a 1000 years ago when, for example, there were 70 million buffalo in North America not to mention innumerable deer, antelope, moose, elk, caribou, and so on all eating vegetation and in turn being eaten by native Americans, wolves, mountain lions, etc.


Targeting livestock as a smoke screen in the climate change controversy is a very mistaken path to take since it results in hiding our inability to deal with the real causes. When people are fooled into ignorantly condemning the straw man of meat eating, who I suspect has been set up for them by the fossil fuel industry, I am appalled by how easily human beings allow themselves to be deluded by their corporate masters.

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Dec 19, 2015
Shitty job of debunking
by: Anonymous

I am a meat eater and have an AG back ground. It is obvious that you fell asleep during the video if you think cow farts and methane and CO2 is the issue. Start following this page Your debunk is, unfortunately, pretty worthless.

Dec 10, 2015
by: MarilynLive

Reducing meat consumption and calorie consumption in the developed world must be a priority. Factory farming is a huge culprit when the use of feedlot grains plus the effluent created which should be treated is taken into consideration. You cannot compare this kind of intensive animal agriculture with what happened in pre-history. Obviously not everyone will become vegetarian or even vegan but people need to be aware of the costs of their consumption. Consumption which is pushed on them by advertising constantly. We won't solve climate change by only partially tackling the problem, obviously fossil fuels are the main problem but it is also fueled by over population and over consumption of food and other consumables.

Dec 07, 2015
by: Daniel Bailey

While it's important to eat as healthy as one can and while eating less meat is certainly healthier than eating more meat, the dietary CO2 consumption from meat to that of meat-free is not at all very different, per the linked sources cited.

Per the EPA, total GHG contributions from agriculture, which includes all emissions from meat production, represent but 8.7% of the total (with transportation totaling 27.3% and electricity generation totaling 30.8%):

"Food systems contribute 19%–29% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, releasing 9,800–16,900 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) in 2008. Agricultural production, including indirect emissions associated with land-cover change, contributes 80%–86% of total food system emissions, with significant regional variation."

Going vegetarian could cut out perhaps 25 per cent of your diet-related emissions.

It is likely that reductions in meat consumption would lead to reductions in dietary GHG emissions.

Per scientist Ken Caldeira, direct emissions from beef is roughly 10 times worse that pork, chicken, etc. (If you include emissions from cutting down forests to raise meat, the ratio could go down to 5).

FYI, the FAO uses an undocumented accounting methodology to support its claims, as compared to those of the EPA, which is documented. As such, the onus is on the FAO to resolve the discrepancies between its claims and those publicly documented by the EPA.

Gavin at RC gives much the same summary in his responses to Geoff Bacon (comment 79) and Joseph O'Sullivan (comment 81), here:

"[Response: the worldwatch report is the one with the problems. This came up a few years ago when it was published, and the errors involve double counting, including things that are actually carbon neutral, and some large over-estimates of individual terms. But in any attribution excercise, there are many different ways of slicing things and many of the comparisons that are made are down using inconsistent accountings (ie using full life cycle analysis vs not), and so many of the headlines are a little misleading at face value. - gavin]"

Regarding deforestation claims, given that the IPCC cites the EPA, here's the EPA numbers:

"Land Use, Land-Use Change, and Forestry (17% of 2004 global greenhouse gas emissions) - Greenhouse gas emissions from this sector primarily include carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from deforestation, land clearing for agriculture, and fires or decay of peat soils. This estimate does not include the CO2 that ecosystems remove from the atmosphere. The amount of CO2 that is removed is subject to large uncertainty, although recent estimates indicate that on a global scale, ecosystems on land remove about twice as much CO2 as is lost by deforestation."


"Transportation (13% of 2004 global greenhouse gas emissions) - Greenhouse gas emissions from this sector primarily involve fossil fuels burned for road, rail, air, and marine transportation. Almost all (95%) of the world's transportation energy comes from petroleum-based fuels, largely gasoline and diesel."

So, factoring in regrowth, the land-based ecosystems serve as a net SINK, not a source, of CO2. Curious, the accounting procedures that leave out this inconvenient figure.
Here's even more current data, from the UCUSA (data through 2010/2012):

"The most reasonable current estimate for the percentage of emissions that come from tropical deforestation is 10 percent."

So actually less than transportation. And still not reflecting the uptake (sink) factors due to regrowth mentioned above.

Dec 06, 2015
by: Anonymous

I agree with Not Convinced

Nov 22, 2015
Not Convinced
by: Anonymous

I am not convinced by this collection if other people's critiques. I still think we all need to eat less meat for environmental reasons and will need a better analysis to change my mind.

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