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A blistering critique of Cowspiracy ft aggressive vegans and the white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
A blistering critique of Cowspiracy ft aggressive vegans and the white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy

 

The other night I netflix & chilled by watching the hottest new environmental catastrophe doc, Cowspiracy. When I first watched the trailer on filmsforaction.org a few months ago, my immediate reaction was that this was a deliberate distraction from the narrative that fossil fuel companies are responsible for climate change. The movie claims that big animal agriculture makes an exceedingly bigger contribution to climate change than the fossil fuel industry does. (This isn't even being talked about at COP21 eeeep!) What is appallingly absent from the narrative is that both business models are deep, sick manifestations of the neoliberal capitalist hetero-patriarchal world we live in. To compare fossil fuel emissions and the process of turning a cow into a burger as if they are separate will further delay effective action to slow climate change by masking capitalism’s central role.

I knew I'd have beef with this movie from the very first scene, which was, to my surprise, a very intimate close up of a seemingly able-bodied, cis-gendered white dude from the Sierra Club (blistering critique of the ENGO industrial complex coming soon) explaining the terrifying facts of climate change science. We ARE the sixth extinction!!!!!

Then, Kip, the sustainability-loving environmentalist dude who mostly made the film, told us his story about growing up in your average middle class 'mercan family, and concluded with,

"Life was simple. Not a care in the world," *said every other cis white middle class american dude about growing up at the top of the privilege hierarchy*

Then he talked about his call to take action on climate change, which was sparked by well known cis white enviro dude Al Gore in his movie An Inconvenient Truth, followed by a series of more men explaining climate change. As per usual, this overrepresentation and normalization of the white supremacist heteropatriarchy made me feel sick, enraged, devastated, numb....I lost a lot of trust in what was being presented in the movie because of how much of it was mansplained. As if the environmental/climate movement doesn't have enough able bodied cis white dudes telling people what to do. I kept watching though because I was fascinated by how the climate movement's focus on fossil fuels ignores animal agriculture's massive role in contributing GHGs to the atmosphere, as well as deforestation, creating dead zones in the ocean, polluting river systems, using massive amounts of water and running on a business model that requires the entire life of beings to be excruciating suffering.

I've been a vegetarian/on-and-off-vegan for six years, and my original reason for deciding to not eat meat came from watching the meat video. (http://www.meat.org/)

Not going to get too into it but where burgers and most meat comes from is the fucking worst. The whole life of factory farm animals is suffering, from being ripped from their mothers at a young age, fed hormones so they grow to unnaturally large sizes to be more profitable, can’t physically move much for most of their lives, are often beaten by workers and then killed in the most economic (which is so far from ethical) way. It's overwhelming to think about the scale this is being done at, as well as how much it will grow if we continue to ignore capitalism’s starring role in both animal agribusiness and fossil fuel exploitation.

Lots of parts of the movie had beautiful shots of Earth and animals, which was nice. The visuals explaining factory farms’ impact on climate and water usage were really effective in getting across the point that we live on a beautiful planet and are destroying it. But #its2015 so excellent visuals are kinda expected.

The movie ended with the weakest call to action, telling/shaming everyone to start eating vegan. Going vegan isn't going to stop the climate from burning. Neoliberalism wants us to think that our individual actions will save us from environmental calamity, but, just like the whole system, that’s a dangerous lie. The dominant vegan narrative feels aggressive and is often constructed by people who don't experience or consider the intersecting nature of oppression. Here's PETA telling folks in Detroit that the organization will pay their water bills if they go vegan for a month. (http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/peta-detroit-go-vegan-month-well-pay-your-water-bill-n168896).

More aggression perpetuated by people soaking in privilege is not what the movement to save the world and its people, animals, plants, and water needs. Comparing and contrasting two violent expressions of neoliberal capitalism is exactly what those who benefit from this systemic oppression want us to do, instead of seeing the whole picture.

The very last scene also ends with an old white guy telling the viewer what to do. He says. "You can change the world. You MUST change the world." Yes I know I can change the world and thank you for again making this about individual, not collective, action and telling me what to do and that I must do it.  A huge part of me wants to not take action as a way of resisting the cis white-supremacist capitalist hetero-patriarchy. But 'changing the world' doesn't really hold meaning any more.

So in a nutshell, to me this movie is capitalism complaining about the effects capitalism is having on the world without talking about capitalism. It uses shame tactics to try to stop animal and climate exploitation without actually addressing the root causes. I'd probably only watch it again to learn more about Big Agra but only if I felt that I could handle two hours of white dude mansplaining, and I'm pretty confident that will never happen.

 

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