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Cows on the meadow off Stanley Turner looking toward Mt Caburn, Lewes, Susssex
This is an agenda-drive, single-answer to the world’s problem, California and US centric production.
There are problems with its presentation, the production techniques and approach and the choice of and use of evidence, and the ethics of how they treat those interviewed.
This is not a BBC Horizon or Panorama, or a BBC / Open University production. In GB we are used to the highest production standards. Ask yourself if the BBC would broadcast this.
Cowspiracy is the TV equivalent of the News of the World.
The story telling technique and style is to use exaggeration, scaremongering, a pastiche of the Hollywood storyline template, and exploiting tropes and clichés of the investigative documentary genre.
- People and organisations that do not wish to take part are assumed to be guilty of a cover up just because they do not wish to respond to emails or the presenter doorstepping their offices..
- Doorstepping and gratuitous use of ‘hidden camera’ angles suggests that those approached have something to hide – that is not proven; they just cannot respond to every nutter who presents themselves at their door waving a camera.
- Using emotive scenes where animals are killed or culled.
- Unnecessary and gratuitous lingering on a duck as it goes under the chop then cutting later to the presenter puffing up his cheeks and shaking his head. Yet this was an example of small-scale backyard farming that in reality is one of the answers to decreasing industrial-scaled meat production.
- The presenter playing the role of Jesus in the wilderness. ‘Someone like us’ – not a journalist, or academic, just a member of the public making his enquiries. He claims to be going on a learning journey but follows a singular path to prove his hypothesis.
- Scaremongering by making unqualified claims about potential mass extensions of species and lines such as ‘we’ve stolen the world from free living animals’.
- The death of an activist.
- Shot choice and cliches: tuna fishing, animal culling.
- By the end of the film, with lingering shots of California trees there is a distinct ‘hug a tree’ atmosphere.
- Cutting away to the presenter and his easy to read body language and facial expressions.
- Emotive, exaggerated animated graphics that are unrepresentative of the evidence they purport to come from making naive scaled-up calculations to illustrate the problem and make projections.
- Inadequate introduction to those interviewed i.e. their context and stance relating to the argument.
- No interviews with the people who wrote the reports, news paper, magazine articles the ‘evidence’ was selected from.
- The quality of the research is weak. The sources poor, biased, limited and often of no value.
- The assumption that ‘peer reviewed papers’ were read and used throughout, when in fact only three are given on the website as ‘facts/
- Failure to adequately cross-reference and corroborate the ‘evidence’ uses.
The Ethics and Legality of some of the interviews
- Setting up an interviewee to be mocked/humiliated on camera then putting this online.
- Recording before and after the interview to get the person off guard then using this. It must be assumed that a ‘release form’ of some kind was used, yet did these people know that the material would be used in this way?
- Showing and naming children on a sustainable farm who were indirectly mocked. If I was the parent of this farm I would have taken legal action against the producers.
- Using access to a sustainable farm and a backyard farm to mock them and in the case of the sustainable farm probably doing significant damage to their reputation and trade. Implying that what they were doing is worse than industrial farming was ludicrous and revealed the presenter and the programme makers to be unscrupulous activists not documentary filmmakers.
A single issue mockumentary aimed at animal activist vegan supporters.
More like a recruitment video for a movement or cult produced for believers to support their preconceptions.
The US is the guiltiest party, with by far the greatest consumption of meat per head in the world.
Abuse of selected evidence too often using newspaper and magazine journalists as the supposed ‘expert’ sources. (See the website).
Causality is complex but the presenter wants to reduce it to one thing
Do Your Own Research. Draw Your Own Conclusions
Go to a reputable source such as the Oxford School of Geography and the Environment and find and use only peer reviewed papers in reputable journals. Take nothing for granted, check the papers cited in these papers and construct your own understanding of the issues.
Use Google Scholar if you don’t have access to a university library.
Don’t just read the relevant papers. Follow up the lines of argument and researched cited by these papers too.
Don’t buy the DVD or T-shirt.
My habit when travelling is to take at least my own pillow, even a duvet and a mattress cover; this because of asthma and rhinitis and a fairly severe allergy to house mite dust (their faeces). I have on long stays ended up sleeping in bathrooms, on balconies, even in a tent in the garden. Most frustraingly with two more nights to go on what is otherwise turning into a transformstive, even pivital writing experience, it feels as if I have had a rubber tube shoved up my left nostril and a sack of sand liberally sprinkled with pepper, had been poured into my head then packed into place with the handle of a wooden spoon. I’ve been stuffed. The result is miserable, a face that aches, earache, a,igraine lije headache and a left eyeball that feels as if it is swimming in chillies.
The swollen soft membranes of my mouth and sinuses, even if I evacuated to the sea, may take anything from a few days to a few weeks to clear; work is severely compromised and my mood has sunk. A shame as the lessons and experiences I am having with my writing are hugely promising.
Fig.1 My nemesis: a feather duvet
Abandoning a feather filled duvet in the B&B ‘retreat’ in Devon for health reasons (asthma) I find my feet tucked, contained and strapped into place like it was the 1960s and I’m eight years old and sleeping over at my Granny’s house. (Every effort was made to accommodate my allergy including putting a barrier sheet on the mattress). I ought to have come armed with a few items: a handheld zapper mini-vacuum that draws the pesky house-dust mite into its bag while killing any that may remain).
Fig. 2. Raycop
Meanwhile, the efforts to learn how to write a novel are thus far proving highly productive: one 3000 word scene written, substantial plotting, seven further scenes conceived with another two reaching the 1000 word mark, two key characters established with a third making his presence felt.
Unpicking three decades of going about it the wrong way. Its hard when you’ve taught to play the piano with your feet and your dick that you have to use your hands and your brain instead.
I swim out to the bathing zone marker buoy 200 or 300 m offshore. I go in gingerly wearing windsurfing boots over the shingle and a ‘shortie’ wetsuit. I have latex bungs in my ears and a swimming cap. It is cooler already than a week ago; I let myself in gently, not repeating the mistake I made a week ago setting off in a Triathlon by leaping in dry and racing off for the first marker as I were the sprint swimmer in a water polo pack determined and used to getting to the ball first mid-way up the pool. I let the wetsuit keep me buoyant and I set off my head high, only lowering it further into the water to tip my eight forwards after a few dozen strokes. I rested up a couple of times too, my excuse was the water in my goggles, my excuse was I did a half hour pool training session this morning, my excuse was the swell coming in from the South East that could fill my lungs and belly; I made that mistake last week too, taking several mouthfuls of sea-water within minutes of setting off. Not today.
The sun sets, the beach is quiet
It could be the Mediterranean in March, Cannes in November. I rest at the buoy, threading my feet around the rope that anchors it to the seabed. Rested I head back, this time without a break, a steady, relentless swim, head down for six strokes, checking my way forward on the seventh. It’s easier with the swell coming over my right shoulder as I find breathing to the left less forced. Once used to the water I breathe bilaterally for a stretch, not for long, just to see if it can be done in the sea. I’ll bring a football out next and swim with it, water-polo style, head up; that’ll work the shoulders more and prepare me for the more upright position that is sometimes required when swimming in the open sea.
I would never have expected to sunbathe in mid-September and feel flushed; I would never expect to swim in the sea, but I did.