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I recently watched a documentary on Netflix called “Cowspiracy” that was produced by Leonardo DiCaprio in 2014. DiCaprio is well known for his work on behalf of conservation efforts. So, I naturally decided to trust the information that was presented.

The film highlights the damages that the animal agriculture industry is having on the environment. It rightly shows how meat and dairy production are large sources of water depletion, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and habitat destruction. However, the film widely uses the statistic "51 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are due to animal agriculture." This seemed very high to me. I looked into the studies the film’s webpage cited and found that the statistic came from a 2009 article that had not been peer-reviewed by fellow scientists and had been refuted by a peer-reviewed study in 2011.

The actual GHG contribution of livestock rearing is about 18 percent of the worldwide total. This got me wondering about the overall credibility of the film and, during a second viewing of "Cowspiracy," found even more instances of misdirection and telling of half-truths. This made me mad. Environmental efforts are already plagued by skeptics and misleading well-meaning viewers is a fantastic way to alienate people already sympathetic to the cause. Consumption of meat and dairy products is a significant contributor to environmental degradation and there are a number of common sense ways that individuals can address it including switching from beef to pork and chicken, eating meats you hunted yourself, and, most importantly, consuming much less meat and dairy.

However, if those of us who are concerned about conservation misrepresent the facts in an attempt to further our agenda, we risk losing all credibility and will not be able to convince people to change their lifestyles.

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Niall Clancy