Documentary Review: Cowspiracy

Cowspiracy is one of my favourite documentaries surrounding a reason to quit eating meat. The premise doesn’t centre around graphic images of factory farming like you would expect from the title, but rather the disappointing truth of what animal agriculture is doing to the planet.

The documentary, executive produced by Leonardo DiCaprio by the way, covers the effects animal agriculture has on water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, forest depletion, species extinction, water pollution, and ocean dead-zones. Don’t believe me? Turn on your Netflix and give it a watch right now.

Cowspiracy is the type of documentary that once you watch it you immediately think to yourself wow, why didn’t I ever think of this? The problem is so dead obvious that once it’s pointed out to you, you can’t help but shake your head.

If you are feeling skeptical because you’ve never heard of this before, this is your opportunity to realize how much power a trillion dollar industry really has over you. Take the chance to expand your understanding.

Cowspriacy Facts

The facts covered in the film can be found neatly organised on the official website. I will cover some of the big ones here, so if you don’t have time to watch the documentary you can continue reading or go to the Cowspiracy facts page. Now, no excuses!

Let’s begin with water. The documentary shows you how if you are really concerned with reducing your water consumption, the answer is not to run the tap less. It’s to cut down your meat consumption. Let’s use cows as an example. Consider the amount of water it takes to grow grain. Then, consider the amount of grain and drinking water a cow will consume in its lifetime before becoming meat. This works out to a conservative estimate of 2,500 gallons of water used to create only 1 lb of beef. The same works for 1 lb of eggs (approx. 477 gallons), 1 lb of cheese (approx. 900 gallons) or 1 gallon of milk (approx. 1,000 gallons). Compare this to the average American 17.2 gallon shower (Source: Home Water Works).

Have you ever considered how much land the meat industry takes up? It’s a whopping 1/3 of the planet’s ice-free land. And that’s just livestock and feed, once you bring into consideration the 7,000,000 lbs of livestock fecal matter produced every minute in the US alone, you can’t help but wonder where it all goes.

Which brings us to my absolute favourite quote of the film that sums everything up into a simple, easy to understand sentence:

“Each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 sq. ft. of forested land, 20 lbs CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life.”

If that sentence alone doesn’t bring you to consider rethinking your personal meat consumption, I don’t know what will.

background of fresh berries

The Turning Point

The Turning Point to Becoming a Vegetarian

There are countless reasons why someone would choose to make the change towards becoming a vegetarian or vegan. Whether it be the animals, health, environmental, or otherwise. For me, I couldn’t handle the harsh reality of animal cruelty any longer, and I broke down feeling completely helpless.

How was I truly going to make a difference?

How was I going to cause a change in the world?

Where do I start?

I then called my mom who had already been a vegetarian for many years. I told her why I was upset and she proceeded to explain to me why and how she became a vegetarian.

Turns out she had found herself in a similar situation – like mother, like daughter – and decided the best thing that she could do at the time was to stop eating meat. She chose to cut out one type of animal at a time in yearly intervals in order to ease her body and lifestyle out of it. I like to call this the slow and steady vegetarian method.

I remember when she was becoming a vegetarian pretty clearly – cutting out meats periodically while still making me and my sister meat dishes as she didn’t make us change with her.

It felt like only weeks between each animal but it turns out that it was quite a few years at a time. At the time I didn’t think much of it and it never occurred to me that I would, or could, do it myself. But in that distraught moment of my breaking point I knew it was the exact change that I needed to take.

I chose a date, and an animal, and started to prepare.

Beef was first off the chopping block (heh). I’d like to say it was for some profound reason, but it really could have been a luck of the draw. I just chose one and stuck to my choice.

How to Prepare

I would advise when choosing your first animal to quit eating to choose one that either you don’t eat that much to begin with or that you feel especially bad for. You can come up with your own other reason too – remember, it’s your journey.

What do I mean by prepare? Well, if you’re going to make this last then you’re likely going to need a last hurrah with that meat. Such as a last steak, last burger, last roast. Finish off what you have left of it in the freezer. Have your favourite dish one last time.

Remember, you need to make this change last. You need to think about the long run. If you can make a commitment to a date and be so ready that when it’s time to flip the switch you never look back you’re saving more lives in the long term.

Another way to prepare is to do some experimenting with your new lifestyle. What will be your new favourite recipes? Where will be your new favourite take-out places? Try to do this before and not after. If you can slowly work these changes into your routine before the big day you will have an even smoother transition than if you did not.

So Let’s Have a Recap, Shall We?

  1. Define your reason. Why are you doing this? Why is it important to you? Keep this in your pocket because it’s going to come in very handy later on.
  2. Choose a date. The first of the upcoming month is usually the best because it’s as if you are turning over a new leaf.
  3. Choose an animal. This will be the first one you cut out of your diet.
  4. Have a last hurrah, empty that freezer, start trying new things that don’t involve that meat. Get an idea of what it will be like.
  5. This is it, there is no going back. You are a strong person with a big heart. You can handle this change.

At a later date I will go into more detail about what happens after you cut out a meat. How you feel, how you commit, how you change. I will also go into more detail about what you should do when you mess up. And by messing up I mean giving in and eating a meat you already cut out. Yes, I know what this is like – but more on that later.

ingredients for cooking

How To Beat The Cravings

There’s no doubt that you will miss your favourite meals shortly after you cut a meat out of your diet. The smell of it will be enough to turn any respectable person back. It’s the same as if you suddenly cut out your favourite unhealthy sugary or salty snack. Even though it’s not necessarily good for you, your body is trained to want and enjoy it. The good news is that these cravings will eventually disappear with time. The trick is being able to get through the storm.

There is an excerpt in my favourite self-help book “How to be a Badass” by Jen Sincero that comes into play here. The concept was to look around the room and notice everything that is one colour, say the colour red. Try it. Done? Ok, now without looking up again, try and remember everything that you saw that was yellow. It’s likely that you won’t remember anything that was.

When we put so much focus in on one thing, we often look over the other obvious, and possibly much better, things. When I had first cut out eating cow I remember missing ground beef tacos the most. And Hamburger Helper, of all things. It was comfort food. I almost fell off the path a few times until I finally searched my mind for creative substitutions. I then realised such an obvious solution sitting right in front of my eyes that it was a bit embarrassing to admit. I could make the exact same meals but with ground turkey, chicken, pork, or even tofu. My mom used to do it for us when I was little. How could I forget?

Before you give up you owe it to yourself, and to your reason whatever that may be, to exhaust all options first. Here’s a list of all the methods that I used to hold back over the years:

  • Remember your reason. Mine was animal cruelty, so every time I felt like giving in I would think about who I’m trying to save and I’m automatically turned off.
  • Consider your alternatives. Can you make something similar but with one of the other meats you can still eat?
  • Ask if you can make substitutions to your favourite restaurant dish. Chances are the kitchen can figure something out.
  • Ask someone to prevent you from craving in. You have friends, family, co-workers, and even strangers surrounding you ready to help. They can help to remind you that you’re not allowed.
  • Come up with a phrase to recite whenever you need it. Mine is “Remember why you did this in the first place. It’s not worth it, you don’t need it.”
  • Count the days since you started. Whether it be 3 days, 30 days, or 3 months, they are all great accomplishments. How can you give up now?
  • Breathe through your mouth. I’m serious! Smells are my kryptonite. This helps me when walking through food courts or by McDonalds.
  • Breathe through your nose, a lot. Totally contradicts my previous point, but for some people satisfying one sense will lower the need to satisfy the others. I often do this with bacon…

If none of the above works and you do still cave in, don’t feel as though that’s the end. I’ve given in once or twice before but I made sure to not let that discourage me. You get back on track right after and don’t look back.

Like I mentioned in my previous post, The Vegetarian Method is a slow and steady change. Remind yourself that you are working for the long term. If that means caving once or twice along the way, so be it. As long as it means that eventually you will be there, eventually you will be a vegetarian or vegan for good, then it’s worth it.

House Plants

Helping Others Through Your Journey

Helping Others Through Your Journey

Everyone will handle your change in a different way. Some will be supportive and some won’t. A part of me feels as though most people start at the unsupportive stage and work their way up, all at one’s own pace. You can’t rush this kind of outlook. Everyone has a different and unique journey to take.

During my experience through The Vegetarian Method I’ve felt as though most people section into one of three groups. That being extra supportive to unsupportive, and everything in between. I’m going to go into more detail about the different types below and touch on the best ways, in my opinion, to talk to them about your lifestyle.

The Overly Supportive Type

To me, the most supportive people of my journey are my friends and family that are already vegan or vegetarian. Having vegetarian people in your life is the best! They are the ones to ask when you need advice or support because chances are they have been there and done that. Whether it’s sharing special recipes, the scoop on the best products, or even details on their personal method, these guys know what’s up and they are more than happy to fill you in.

I find people with really optimistic outlooks on life often also fit into this category as well. They love living life to the fullest and support any change you want to make in your own life in order to be happier. They check in on your progress, sincerely congratulate you on your milestones, and even help give you an extra push to keep on going when you need it.

Extra supportive people are genuinely excited for you and want nothing but to see you succeed. They are not ones you help guide through your own journey, but rather the ones that want to help you out instead.

The Neutral Type

Many people are neutral, or at least act like it. They could be someone that hasn’t put much thought into whether they want to be a vegetarian or not, or maybe they are someone who has been a vegetarian or vegan for some time in their life already but are not anymore.

The Not-So-Supportive Type

The unsupportive type basically have an opposite belief, which is usually a firm belief that humans have to eat meat in order to be healthy. Which is fair, animal agriculture is a trillion dollar industry. It’s no wonder people are trained to think so!

So in most cases there isn’t much you can say that will change their mind, at least not right away. I’m going to talk a bit more about beliefs around eating meat in another post later on.

I think that most people have been on the unsupportive side at some point in their lives. Heck, I even used to say “I could never stop eating meat” or “I could never be a vegetarian” and now look where I am. Everyone just needs a bit of time.

From my experience, the best thing that you can do to help someone understand is to remind them how happy and healthy you are whenever your diet comes up. Simply say “I couldn’t be happier, and I feel better than ever.” And then leave it at that.

If you want to help someone through their understanding the last thing that you want to do is push anything on them. Don’t try to teach them about the benefits or show them the information. And don’t try to put your reason on them especially if it’s for the animals. If someone wants to know more, they will ask you or do some research on their own! Allow their own curiosity to take its course and at its own pace.

Final Thoughts

Consider this. Would you rather someone remember you as the person that wouldn’t stop talking about their diet? Or do you want them to remember you as someone that seems peaceful, happy, and healthy?