Keegan Kuhn & Kip Andersen, Cowspiracy


Keegan Kuhn & Kip Andersen, Cowspiracy

keegan-kuhnKeegan Kuhn is an award winning documentary filmmaker, video producer and professional musician based in the San Francisco bay area of CA. He runs First Spark Media, a video production company tailored to creating videos and films for non-profit organizations and conscientious companies. He is the director of “Turlock: the documentary”, “Something To Be Thankful For” and co-director of the groundbreaking environmental film “Cowspiracy: the sustainability secret”.

kip-andersenKip Andersen is the executive director of Animals United Movement. A non-profit dedicated to producing films and media promoting sustainable, compassionate and peaceful living. He is the co-director of the groundbreaking documentary film “Cowspiracy: the sustainability secret”


Caryn Hartglass: Hey everybody, I’m back. This is Caryn Hartglass, and it’s time for the second part of It’s All About Food here on the 13th of May, 2014. Before we get to the main part of the second part of this program, I want to direct you to my nonprofit website, On the lower right-hand side of the website, I’ve added a couple of things. One is, if you remember—I think it was a month or two ago when we had Mississippi College professor Elizabeth Brandon and her student Bilal Qizilbash talking about kale research. Well, we know have a kale research update subscription. You could go to our website,, go to the bottom right-hand side and sign up, and any time there’s an update on their wonderful kale research, you will hear about it first. So you can visit that. The other thing I just added is, you know we’ve got hundreds of delicious vegan recipes on our website, right? I’ve compiled my personal favorites, the ones that we make over and over again in our family. If you go, again, to the homepage, right-hand side, you’ll see Real Favorites, and that’s a list of all of our real favorite recipes. Just so you know, you might want to try some of those if you haven’t already. All we want to do is make this world a beautiful delicious place with healthy, plant-based food. But. Some people make it hard. And difficult. We’re going to now talk to Keegan Kuhn and Kip Andersen, the co-directors of a new documentary: COWSPIRACY. Welcome to It’s All About Food, Keegan and Kip!

Keegan Kuhn: Thank you!

Kip Andersen: Thanks so much for having us.

Caryn: Okay, now how am I going to know the difference between Keegan and Kip? Keegan, say hello.

Keegan: Hello, this is Keegan.

Caryn: And Kip, say hello.

Kip: Hello, this is Kip.

Caryn: Okay, I think Kip is a little higher-pitched maybe. We’ll see what happens. But you both sound great, you look great on the website! Let’s hear about this film. It’s scary!

Keegan: Yeah, it’s a big film. It’s a big, scary issue. The film is an environmental documentary following my co-director Kip Andersen on a journey, finding out what is the leading cause of environmental destruction around the world, and the truth is that it’s animal agriculture, raising animals for food. We go to the world’s largest environmental organizations, because if animal agriculture is really responsible for the leading cause of rainforest destruction, water pollution, ocean dead zones, topsoil erosion, and virtually every other environmental degradation that’s happening, why wouldn’t the world’s largest environmental organizations be talking about it? So we pose a question to them, and the responses that we get are… If it wasn’t such a deadly, serious issue, they’d be very funny.

Caryn: Well, we’ve been saying this for a long time, that why aren’t the major environmental organizations talking about animal agribusiness? One of the reasons I thought was just because they all like meat and they don’t want to give it up. But I think we’re going to learn through this film it’s bigger than that.

Kip: Yup. That’s definitely part of the reason, internal habits within their own offices all the way up to the very executive directors of many of these, that’s a big part. Also, a huge part is that they are businesses and what is their priority? Is their priority making a profit or saving the planet? That’s where the kind of blurred line is that we explore in the film.

Caryn: Now, you’ve implied in the trailer that you had some funding that was taken away.

Kip: Yes, we had some funding… It’s definitely a bit of a controversial subject, and we did have some funding dropped. They don’t want to be mentioned who they are, it’s part of a reason why they wanted to be dropped, but we basically had to finance this a hundred percent on our own, that’s why we started a Indiegogo campaign to get the funding so we can release this properly, so everybody can see it.

Caryn: Okay, we can’t give away everything that’s in the film obviously, but were you surprised with some of the things you learned? Or was everything the way you expected it to be?

Kip: Oh no, absolutely surprised. I think that’s the thing. We’ve done some small test runs of all walks of life that have seen this and even people who think they’re very well-informed on the subject are blown away. Things that you just can’t believe about wildlife and the ocean dead zones—we have a big section on the ocean. And then just about the nonprofits, when we go visit them. It’s shocking yet humorous, their reactions, and so it’s a fun journey no matter where you are on the scale of education on the subject. It’s a real entertaining and educational journey.

Caryn: Okay, I don’t want to pick on any organization in particular, but I was remembering a few times I would visit the Rainforest Action Network, just as an example. I remember years ago that they had some campaigns against animal agriculture because it was affecting the forest, the rainforest, and they were talking about destroying forests to grow soy to feed animals and also the destruction of forests to graze animals. I noticed that the focus changed to palm oil. I had to dig to find some old material on the animals.

Kip: That was a big, again, almost comical if it wasn’t so serious, in particular Rainforest Action Network. There’s a couple that definitely stand out. We will go into the destruction that palm causes on rainforests and where, but a lot of this documentary focuses on comparisons. We acknowledge fracking is a huge issue, we acknowledge palm is, then we compare it to animal agriculture and there’s just absolutely, virtually almost no comparison. Then you start talking and addressing this to these people like Rainforest Action Network, and they just simply do not want to talk about it.

Keegan: When we look at the numbers for palm oil. It’s incredibly destructive, what it’s doing to the Indonesian rainforests. The devastation is undeniable. But when we look at that globally, palm oil is responsible for about 26 million acres of rainforests cleared every year. Or actually today, I’m sorry, 26 million acres. But then you compare that to animal agriculture, and we’re looking at 136 million acres. We’re looking at this astronomical impact to our rainforests—which are the planet’s lung, they produce about half the planet’s oxygen—they’re being destroyed for cattle and to grow their feed crops, and yet all we hear about from the rainforest groups is palm oil.

Caryn: Right. Just a little bit more on palm oil. What are the main uses for palm oil?

Keegan: Palm oil—if you pay attention to anything that these groups are going to be saying—is used in snack foods. But a huge part of where palm oil goes is actually for animal feed crops. A very large percent is fed to the livestock.

Caryn: I thought I was leading to that answer. It’s a really important point, because a lot of times I read these really angry posts and articles on palm oil that are targeted towards vegans because we happen to have our vegan butter, like Earth Balance products that are made with palm oil. Earth Balance, just one little company, is really trying to please its customer base and working towards sustainable palm and all of that, but the focus is in the wrong place.

Kip: Definitely. It’s the same thing. A lot of people, especially who don’t have much knowledge on the subject, they do the same thing with soy. They say, “These vegetarians eating all this soy, that’s what’s causing the rainforests…” Like, no, no…

Keegan: When ninety percent of the Brazilian soy is fed to livestock, and livestock mostly in Europe actually.

Caryn: Right. Whew. Okay, so you have an Indiegogo project and you’ve raised, you met your goal. And now you’ve stretched your goal. What can people expect and what would you like people to do?

Keegan: We would love for people to continue to support the campaign. We reached our initial goal of $54,000 in six days, which was just phenomenal. We couldn’t have imagined there would’ve been such an outpouring of support. But we realize with more money, we can reach more people and we can actually do more with the film. So we created a stretch goal of $108,000. Right now we’re at about $85,000, which again is just phenomenal. We have about, I think, 22 days left on the campaign. If we can reach that $108,000 goal, we’ll be able to translate the film into ten or more languages. We want to create a dubbed version in German, Spanish, and potentially Mandarin. We want to make the film as accessible as possible. Part of that is creating a 50-minute educational edit of the film which educators around the world, from elementary school to universities, can use to educate students about the impact of this industry. That edit will be shorter, be more concise, it’ll have some new animations and graphs in it just so that it’s less of a story and more just the facts. And then that, hopefully again if we can reach our goal, will also come with a lesson plan. And again, just to make it as accessible as possible.

Caryn: Alright. You made it sound in the trailer that people don’t want this information to get out. So when the film does come out and when your educational version comes out, is there going to be trouble?

Kip: No, we get asked that question a lot. Our goal is people are going to be inspired. People, when you find out something, when you find out the truth, sure you might be shocked and initially scared, but it supersedes it by just being inspired of things that we have to do right now. A big part of the film that was really important when we were making this is that the end ends on a very positive, all solution-based, we can do this. Real actions, real companies that are doing things, transforming the planet as we speak today, like big time, funded by people like Bill Gates and big funders and we explore…

Caryn: Beyond Meat and Beyond Eggs.

Kip: Yeah, so all these new companies sprouting out and thriving. It’s basically jumping onto something that’s already happened. Are you going to be left behind, as well as the planet? I’d like to think it’s more inspiring than…

Caryn: Right. You say that you have some actions and solutions at the end of the film, and we know that there are some businesses doing incredible things. I love the message behind Beyond Meat and Beyond Eggs because they’re creating the same products. They’re just removing the animal from the equation, which is genius. It’s cheaper, using plant-based ingredients. What other solutions are out there, not that I want to give away the ending of your film?

Keegan: We focus on a couple different options and different things that people can do on a personal level. After the film comes out, we’ll see what these organizations do and how they respond. It’ll be a call to action involving how we get these large environmental organizations to start addressing it. But that’ll be… We’ll see how things play out with the release of the film.

Caryn: Well you know it all comes down to money, unfortunately. These organizations don’t want to bite off the hand that feeds ‘em.

Kip: That’s the thing what happened with Blackfish in such a quick amount of time. It does come down to money. With this, we’ve said we’re not only making a movie, but starting a movement that they can be successful. These nonprofits can be successful. They’ll get a lot of support by doing these things of switching focus to things that are really, really important. They can be successful.

Keegan: The thing is too, though, is that their focus—you look at their mission statement is about helping the planet. First and foremost, whether it’s a popular opinion or not, we need to be addressing animal agriculture. To go after these massive industries, like the fossil fuel industry, and try and put regulations on them, like that’s all very important. It’s absolutely essential we get control over the fossil fuel industry. But let’s look at what we all can do today on a personal level and regardless of how sensitive of a topic it is or how unpopular of a topic it is, it absolutely needs to be addressed.

Caryn: Well, sometimes it just seems so impossible when you have the Koch brothers wanting to support coal and mining and squash the solar industry by putting some exorbitant taxes on them. It just all comes down to money, and it seems so hard. But. There are little pockets of hope everywhere, and I hope COWSPIRACY really makes a big change. Now you guys are young. When did you get the message? When did you get this vision of how to make the world a better place?

Kip: Well it happened a few years ago and really just a simple Google… Well, it first started with a Facebook post and that’s what’s fun about the movie, kinda follows my journey of really what happened. I saw a post about the Livestock’s Long Shadow report in 2006 and I found I was blown away ‘cause at that time I thought I was doing everything, riding my bike and…hours, yadda yadda. And then once I found this out, I really explored this and the thing was, it was an easy Google search. This wasn’t like some detective sleuth. It kinda popped up quite quickly and I was blown away, one thing after another, and I said, “Wow, if this really is true and not some propaganda, then these environmental groups that I’ve supported my whole life – Green Peace, Sierra Club – they must be screaming about this.” And then I went on their websites and I was shocked—there was nothing. That’s kinda when it started. I started emailing them, calling them, like what’s going on? They just would not reply to me. If I wanted to give money, sure they’ll talk to me, but they would not talk. Eventually I’m teamed up with Keegan and with a camera eventually kinda just have to knock on their door and go in person because they didn’t want to talk about it. It’s a film about sustainability, which it is. They’ll talk about that all day, but once you start mentioning the animal agriculture, then it gets a little funny.

Caryn: I was very excited when that Livestock’s Long Shadow report came out in 2006, as were many, many other people because it was the first time that animal agribusiness kind of was seen for what it was, something that was a big polluter and affected our climate in a negative way. But unfortunately, the people that make those reports have changed their tune quite a bit since people jumped on that one statistic that 18% of human-induced greenhouse gases are caused by animal agriculture, and they’ve dropped that number, in more recent reports to 4.5%. I was recently on a panel with Frank Mitloehner, who is a professor at UC Davis, and he’s been working with the Food and Agriculture Organization on this. He is a big believer in animal agriculture intensification, talks about how efficient we are here in the United States, and how we’re doing such a great job using far less water and putting out less greenhouse gas emissions making cattle than the rest of the world, and the rest of the world needs to learn to do what we’re doing. The government’s behind him, and it is scary.

Keegan: Yeah. We actually interviewed Animal Agriculture Alliance, and {16:55} sits on their board, largest animal agriculture lobby groups in the country. We asked him about that, about these studies and these statistics and about efficiency, and yet the truth is, is that if you want to raise animals, the most ecological and efficient way to do it is in extreme confinement. Pack as many animals as you can into as tight a spot as possible. Restrict their movement, prevent them from burning excess calories, and you’ll be able to conserve as much resources as possible. Clearly, that’s not beneficial for the animals. If you care about animal welfare issues at all, it’s extremely detrimental so it leaves you one option.

Caryn: Plants.

Kip: Yup. That’s what’s interesting about the film too, is we cover the whole spectrum. We get into the whole grass-fed, we get into the organic. There’s some surprising, surprising results of a lot of these foodies who think they’re doing the right thing and in fact, maybe for the animals, but for the environment it’s actually the opposite. It’s just a weird situation.

Caryn: Yeah. People don’t realize that grass-fed, “humane” raising of animals for food is not good for the environment. It’s worse for the environment than animal intensification and the only choice, the only choice for all the reasons is raising plants to feed people directly. It’s so obvious. Okay. So where do you guys live?

Keegan: We’re in the San Francisco area, Berkeley-San Francisco.

Caryn: Lots of good eating there.

Kip: Yes, there is. We’re fortunate, very fortunate.

Caryn: Very fortunate. What are some of your favorites?

Kip: Favorite restaurants?

Caryn: Yeah. I’m turning the tide here, I wanna lighten things up. I’m getting a little too depressed.

Kip: Yeah, some awesome stuff, and they all do so great. They do so well, like Café Gratitude, Gracias Madre, Source. There’s a few in LA, there’s way more than San Francisco, which is weird.

Caryn: Yeah, I heard LA is taking over New York City, which I always believed was a vegan kingdom, here in New York City.

Kip: Yeah, yeah, and it’s weird because the Bay Area, it’s easy, but nothing like LA or New York. This is so funny, that’s kinda exploring how successful these restaurants do. You can’t even get on if you’ve heard of Gracias Madre, it’s all vegan, organic—

Caryn: Yep. It’s always packed.

Kip: —Mexican restaurant. Yeah. When they started, it took a couple of months, but now you can’t get in at all. There can’t be enough of these hip plant-based restaurants.

Caryn: Right. Veggie Grill is doing great.

Keegan: There’s a little company, Cinnaholic, which is an all-vegan cinnamon roll company, and they’ve just done phenomenally well. They’re based here in Berkeley, and they just started franchising. These are growing businesses, and these are real business models where people are getting into this not just because of the environment or the animal or health benefits, but because it makes good business sense. That’s why you see people like Bill Gates and Biz Stone, who are—Biz Stone is actually vegan—but someone like Bill Gates is getting involved in plant-based companies because it makes good sense from a business point-of-view.

Caryn: Yes. Now I just have to interject here. I personally promote a healthy, plant-based, whole, minimally processed diet which is ideal for health and if people want to junk food themselves out, it’s entirely their choice, but if they’re going to do it, it should be from a compassionate point-of-view and from an environmentally sustainable point-of-view. If you want to sugar yourself out and fat yourself out and white flour yourself out, go for it. But companies like Cinnaholic are the way to do it. Meanwhile, I’m gonna stick with kale salad.

Keegan: That’s what’s exciting though can be depressing, especially when we’re doing all this research with the film, but we’re actually to walk away feeling really inspired. It just feels like this whole shift in evolution, whatever you want to call it, it’s already happened, it really has. It’s so fun to see. I believe it’s happening at an exponentially quantum-fast rate. It really is. That’s a big takeaway from all this. Just every day you see something new pop out in the store, a new restaurant opening, new things on the news, so it’s exciting times.

Caryn: Now, did you primarily focus on environmental organizations in this film; did you talk to any people who were raising animals?

Kip: Yes, we did. We explored everything. We went to an organic daily farm, went to one of the nicest, most beautiful grass-fed beef down here on the coast. We’re fortunate. Where we live, all these farms are right here in the Bay Area, so we explored every part deeply. We want to leave no stone unturned so we did visit these places.

Keegan: And all the way down to backyard animal husbandry.

Caryn: Now, I know a lot of information is available online. We’re flooded with information, and if you really want to learn about how animals are raised, everything is online and some of it is really scary. I was just recently looking about how sperm is collected from bulls and how cows are artificially inseminated. It’s frightening, it’s almost pornographic, it’s obscene—I can’t believe these people do it. When you think about how animals are raised, every step of the way somebody’s had to figure these things out and they’re working towards making them more efficient, and when you see each step…it is profoundly creepy.

Keegan: We said earlier, it all comes down to money and how do you make something as efficiently as possible. If your concern is that bottom dollar, then you can let everything else fall by the wayside, whether that’s ethics or environmental degradation or health or worker’s safety, anything. If you’re concerned about making money, then that’s all you’re gonna focus on.

Caryn: Now do your actions and solutions, any of them include what these farmers and ranchers can do if they don’t raise animals?

Kip: Somewhat, yeah. We explore different types of farming: veganic farming…

Caryn: It’s funny. When I was on that panel with Frank Mitloehner, he didn’t seem to know anything about veganic agriculture, was surprised to hear you could grow plants without animal manure.

Kip: It’s funny too when I hear people say, “If the animal agriculture industry falls apart, there’s going to be so many jobs lost.” To actually go back so we don’t have to have these GMO industrial farms because we have GMOs to feed these millions and millions of animals, going back to this really grassroots level of organic farming, veganic farming, creates tons of jobs. Tons of jobs, rather than these huge, huge industrial farming pesticide compounds that only produce a few jobs. I feel the economy will be stimulated by the shift.

Caryn: Well, it’s all a shift and part of the shift is, efficiency is not necessarily the only parameter and is not necessarily the best goal. We could be a little less efficient, gentler on the planet, have more jobs for people, everybody’s happier. We’re not treating animals horrifically. We just need a little shift. And COWSPIRACY is gonna get us there.

Keegan: Thanks. That’s our hope, that’s our plan. We first and foremost need to get people informed. They have to be aware of the situation. For the most part, many people in our society aren’t aware of this at all. If you ask them, “What causes more climate change cars and trucks and boats and planes, or cows?” They’re gonna tell you cars, trucks, boats, and planes. But in fact, the livestock industry is responsible for more greenhouse gases than the transportation sector.

Caryn: Whether those numbers are true or not, and I’ve read a lot of science and it’s really complicated and very confusing, one thing is clear: the energy infrastructure we have today is not sustainable and absolutely needs to change and the problem is, it’s going to take a lot of time and a lot of money. In order to have a cushion and be able to get there without having some crazy tipping point where the world heats up and the game’s over, animal agriculture has to go away. That will mitigate climate warming.

Kip: It’s very important at the personal level too is to demand, whether emails or calls or whatever, to demand that these environmental groups—it’s not the animal agriculture industry, they’re not going to be the one to change, it’s the ones accountable that are doing the changes, they have the manpower, they have the actions and the practice of creating huge social change—to demand that Greenpeace, Sierra Club, and Rainforest Action Network, they address the situation immediately.

Caryn: Okay, we’ve got just a few seconds, so tell me when the movie’s coming out and where can we find out more about it?

Keegan: They can find out more information on, definitely want people to go there and check it out. We’ll be releasing the film, premiering in San Francisco on June 19 and then followed up by premieres all around the country we’ll be touring throughout the summer and then internationally as well.

Caryn: Great! Well, thank you so much for telling me about COWSPIRACY, for creating it and having the courage to do so, Keegan and Kip, all the best to you.

Keegan: Bye-bye.

Kip: Great, thank you so much.

Caryn: Okay, so that’s been another It’s All About Food show. Thank you for joining me, and have a delicious week.

Transcribed by JC, 7/23/2014

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