Cowspiracy Summary: Wildlife Facts

two tucans in managed environment

The Cowspiracy film draws a cogent connection between animal agriculture and our climate change crisis. The film uses evidence-based research to support its claims about human activity across sectors, including how much land is being used and how humanity interacts with Earth’s animal populations and plant populations.

Cowspiracy’s references can be found on its official website under the “Facts” section. References for wildlife information include the The United States Bureau of Land Management, Predator Defense and a few individual opinion pieces. Most notably, a paper by author Vaclav Smil (2011), entitled “Harvesting the Biosphere: The Human Impact”. This document posits that human activities, primarily deforestation and ecosystem conversion, have demonstrably changed Earth’s biomass (both in its phytomass and its zoomass). For thousands of years, humans have used agriculture to help produce its resources. And because we’re omnivores, we have manipulated the plants around us as well as the use of certain animals in agriculture settings, such as cows, sheep, pigs, and poultry.

Benchmark Map of Forest Carbon Stocks In Tropical Regions Across Three Continents

The industrialization of agriculture production greatly enhanced the ability to raise livestock and grow specific crops. The conjunction of these activities has contributed to alterations in tropical forests, lakes and coral reefs ecosystems. The planet’s biomass, especially its phytomass, has paid a toll for excessive human use, according to Vaclav Smil.

Smil refers to observational data collected from Benchmark map of forest carbon stocks in tropical regions across three continents, and light detection and ranging, LIDAR, to reveal the vertical structure of forests (NASA 2010) as evidence to suggest that the global index of phytomass has decreased as human energy use has increased. Furthermore, as the populations of humans and domesticated animals have climbed in the most developed nations, zoomass of wild terrestrial animals has fallen. Earth’s total biomass then, is disproportionately made up of humans and domesticated animals relative to population sizes which preceded industrialization.

Bureau of Land Management and Predator Defense

Both the Bureau of Land Management and Predator Defense sources mention on Cowspiracy’s “Facts” page are short reads which share a common thread: the United States has authorized the killing of wild fauna. The Bureau of Land Management states that killing wildlife populations is aimed at reducing “overall herd growth rates”. The Wildlife Services on the other hand kills fauna to protect agriculture crops on both private and public lands. These methods go beyond wildlife management. Unfortunately, techniques that involve forcibly eliminating fauna further narrows the populations of animals that make up Earth’s total biomass, thereupon degrading biodiversity in favor of a limited selection of species.

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