The Right Side of History

A self-confessed “cheesaholic” he “never in a million years” thought he could go vegetarian, let alone vegan.

A Conversation with Cowspiracy Director, Kip Andersen

I must admit – and I think, perhaps, Kip Andersen, director of game changing feature documentary, ‘Cowspiracy’, might have been slightly bemused by my admission - that I only watched his award winning film the night before our call, not for any reason other than the misconception that I would be confronted by horrific images of animal abuse and slaughter. The film, however, is the antithesis of extreme advocacy, taking a route that is compelling to watch and delivering, arguably, the most important message of the twenty first century. In the four years since its release, Kip has become an inadvertent trailblazer; a devoted hero of environmentalists, health fanatics, animal rights activists and even some farmers.

A typical meat and dairy diet sums up Kip’s upbringing and early existence as an archetypal American. A self-confessed “cheesaholic” he “never in a million years” thought he could go vegetarian, let alone vegan. But, unlike most of us who tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to thinking about what is on our plates and where it comes from, Kip’s chosen journey, to investigate animal agriculture and its impact on the planet, opened a Pandora’s Box of time sensitive tragedy and doom.

Citing the abusive nature of our modern day relationship with meat and dairy, “Meat”, he says, “was easy (to give up)” but the horror of the dairy industry was what struck Kip as both tragic and well hidden behind decades of powerful marketing messages and government supported industry.

A quick awakening ensued and, despite the doom and gloom of his initial discoveries, a wonderful thing arose, something which Kip insists is experienced by everyone who follows the plant based route; “You start feeling authentic about who you are”.

Rowdy Ranchers A couple of years ago, Kip came across a blog, ‘Vegan Journal of a Rancher’s Wife’, which not only moved him but struck him as an incredibly brave effort and a powerful message to the world. He decided to find out more, and contacted Renee and Tommy Sonnen who lived on their ranch in the heart of Texas and who had been fully immersed in cattle herding tradition until their own awakening.

Like many others who encounter Renee and Tommy, Rowdy Girl Sanctuary touched Kip’s heart and he joined the Board of Directors.

Despite his lifestyle, Kip is extremely empathetic and sympathetic towards the farming community, “It’s such a tough industry regardless of what they do (you know, the killing of animals). In the US, hardly any of them are making money - there are quite a few farmers now starting to transition [into other avenues] - growing organic vegetables, putting in fruit trees - really looking to the future because the future does not involve raising and killing animals.”

He continues, ‘It’s going to be a tough transition for the next generation [of farmers] but it’s important to look 10/20 years ahead and to prepare for it now by collaborating with people who already doing it’.

Veganic agriculture presents one of the many growing opportunities for farmers and consists of using vegetable based compost rather than animal waste, ensuring that the compost going back into the earth is more sustainable and ‘clean’ i.e. there are no nasty bi-products, like the antibiotics and steroids pumped into cows, lurking. And it’s not just independent farmers who are making the leap, Tyson Foods, one of America’s biggest meat producers, has recently invested in plant-based food tech business, Beyond Meat.

But industry input is one thing; to truly instigate change and ensure that we have a sustainable planet for the next generation (yes, it really is that critical) and beyond, Kip thinks that the key to all of our futures lies in us, global citizens.

People power is critical in driving demand, in influencing and lobbying governments and in simply refusing to put up with unethical systems and environmental disasters. “One person can make a big difference” says Kip, “ ‘Cowspiracy’ and ‘What the Health’ were made by 2 people and those two people didn’t go to film school”. A powerful message indeed, and in today’s fast moving, social media obsessed society, one person really can make a difference. Kip’s advice to all of us is to, “Just start doing it…and collaborate with other people…make your one person twenty people…you can do a lot”.

And to the meat eaters who are still in denial that it’s their problem and their responsibility, he states, “It is their responsibility, they’re choosing or not choosing to take part not only in killing an animal but in killing the planet”.

He points out that we are completely in control of our lives and that doing one positive thing, however minor, is both empowering and is a step in the right direction; “Every day we wake up, you choose to take a path of destruction or a path of compassion and integrity, and of living your truth.”

When asked about the future and how he would like to look back on his life, Kip declares, “It’s about being on the right side of history. Whether it’s 5 years, 50 years or 500 years, any time of any generation you always have a choice as to whether you’re going to be on the right or the wrong side of history… I want to know that we were some of the first people to start this journey that was on the right side, and that we did we could.”

Meanwhile, Kip’s journey on the right side of history continues with the development of his next film, ‘Seaspiracy’ and I, for one, will be watching it the moment it is released.

Blog by Rachel McClelland, The Beautiful Life

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