The official Cowspiracy website lists references aimed at supporting the arguments and conclusions proposed in the film on its “Facts” page. The page of supporting documents has 9 categories, including Ocean, Wildlife, Land, Waste, Water, Greenhouse Gases, Rainforest, and Humanity. The documents listed in the Rainforest facts section describe the importance of rainforest ecosystems and demonstrate the effect that poor land use – such as monoculture farming, cattle ranching, conversion deforestation and development – have on rainforest ecosystems. We’ve devised a terse summation of the curated Cowspiracy texts with the hope of illustrating the ecological costs associated with land misuse.
Rainforest ecosystems are inhabited by more plant and animal species than any other terrestrial ecosystem. The Cowspiracy Facts page states in one of its Rainforest subtitles that “the leading cause of rainforest destruction are livestock and feed crops”. Clearing forests to make way for land pastures and agriculture feed plots is done in Costa Rica, Honduras, and El Salvador to meet the demand for American beef. Cattle ranching is a low cost, low maintenance operation to run in the tropics. Cattle ranching generates profit for land owners, farmers and distributors.
Nonetheless, livestock feeding plots require sections of forests and other vegetation to be cleared first to make space for pastures and animal crops. Clearing vegetation can increases risks to various processes that rainforest vegetation help carry out, including enhanced water absorption into soils, sequestration of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, summoning rainfall, providing nutrients to plant-consuming species and serving as habitats for arboreal species. These are examples of ecosystem services provided to rainforest environments and the species within them. Services like these emerge from the biological, chemical and physical functions in rainforest environments.
“What Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret” Says About Rainforests
The growth of human populations has driven our demand for food and textiles to rise, which has ramped up animal agriculture in tropical forests. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), agriculture approximately 15% of the Amazon forest has been removed due to agricultural practices since 1960s. Of the land being used by humans, 80% of it is dedicated to grazing areas for horses, cattle, sheep, or pigs. Put another way, cattle ranching for agriculture is the central use of land in the Amazon basin, which includes Brazil, Peru and Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Guyana, Surinam and French Guyana. These regions are subjected to slash and burn clearing before feeding pastures can be established. Therefore, cattle ranching is the leading cause of deforestation in the Amazon Basin. On top of that, animal agriculture contributes to methane emissions, ocean acidification and worsened air quality.
Save The Amazon
Savetheamazon.org refers to the plant and animal species of the Amazonian rainforests as its “wealth’. The site posits that up to 80% of developed nation’s diets are sourced from tropical rainforests. Our fruits, (avocados, coconuts, figs, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, pineapples, and tomatoes) vegetables (corn, potatoes and yams) spices, (cayenne, chocolate, cinnamon, ginger, sugar cane, turmeric) have their origins in tropical ecosystems.
Without these contributions, the diets of developed nations would be severely restricted. Equally as important, rainforests like the Amazon help abate flooding by storing tremendous amounts of rainwater in its plants and soils. However, the continued functionality of tropical rainforests depends on how sustainably we use the land. Harvesting from rainforests at rates faster than they are able to naturally replenish themselves may contribute to permanent changes of the ecological structures within rainforests.