ROOFTOP TALKS WITH COWSPIRACY’S KEEGAN KUHN
November 19, 2016
Name: Keegan Kuhn
Homebase: San Francisco
Co-Director of Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, filmmaker Keegan Kuhn is dedicated to finding real solutions to the world’s most severe environmental issues. His films are meant to shed light and raise awareness on the untold stories that are negatively affecting our planet. Cowspiracy uncovers the impact of large-scale factory farming—conjuring up feelings of shock and inspiration, similar to those felt from documentaries such as Blackfish and An Inconvenient Truth. Yet, rather than simply revealing the devastating effects, Kuhn and his co-director Kip Anderson offer steps to take to move towards global sustainability.
Perched high above the Waikiki skyline inside the Surfjack’s penthouse, we chatted with Kuhn about Cowspiracy, his upcoming film What The Health, and the major benefits of a plant-based diet.
Why was it important to you to make this film?
My co-director Kip Anderson had been working on the film for several years and he’d be emailing these organizations for years trying to get answers. He finally realized the only way they were going to respond is if we took a camera in. So, from the time we met until the time we started shooting, it was less than a month and we just went in full steam ahead. We knew this information had to be out there.
What was one of your favorite moments of the filming process?
My favorite part was probably an unintended moment: We saved a chicken’s life. We were filming backyard slaughters to see if that was a sustainable option for raising meat—ultimately it’s not—and we ended up saving a chicken. The chicken went to a sanctuary called Animal Place, who has over 400 resident animals. That was definitely a highlight.
However, since making the film, my favorite part has been hearing from people from all over the world who have changed their lifestyle because of the film. It’s really inspiring to know that people are moved enough by the film to make dietary changes to live more sustainably.
What are a few things that we can do in our every day lives to make a positive effect on the planet?
The biggest thing we can do by far—more than changing light bulbs, driving hybrid cars, turning the water off or taking shorter showers—is change our diet. No other lifestyle choice has a bigger impact. We can cut our emissions from our diet in half by removing animal products and just eating plant-based foods. We can save 1,100 gallons of water and 30 pounds of carbon dioxide. I mean, the impact is just massive.
Your diet is really the biggest thing you can change and it’s the simplest thing to change, because it doesn’t require you to do more. When you ask people to drive less, it means they might have to ride their bike and that can be an inconvenience, but asking people to change their diet is just asking them to stop doing something, instead of asking them to do something more.
If we wanted to switch to entirely green energy it would cost trillions, but changing our diet costs nothing. In fact, plant-based foods are the cheapest foods on the planet, so it’s accessible to the vast majority of the human population.
Which environmental organizations do you think deserve more attention and support?
That’s a great question. Center for Biological Diversity is one of the few organizations that are actually talking about animal agriculture. They have a whole campaign called “Take Extinction of Your Plate,” which suggests people reduce or elimate animal products from their diet—not only to help biodiversity, but to curb climate change, to preserve water quality, etc. I could go on and on, I mean, the benefits [of a plant-based diet] are massive.
The Sea Sherpherd Conservation Society is amazing. They do a tremendous amount for the oceans and they advocate for a plant-based diet as well. And then there’s A.U.M Films & Media, which is the non-profit that produced Cowspiracy. It’s a 501(3)(c) non-profit and is producing even more films along the same lines.
As a vegan, what are some plant-based foods you can recommend for people who are curious about the lifestyle, but not really sure how to begin?
I have a super simple diet. I eat a lot of rice and beans, and a ton of fruit, just because that’s what feels good to me. It’s easy and accessible. We have a 30-day vegan challenge on our website, where people can sign up for free and essentially get their hand held through a whole course to learn how to switch over to a plant-based diet. It’s an awesome resource, and we’ve had close to 50,000 people sign up in the last year. About 80 percent of the people who sign up for the course stick with the diet in some respect—whether they stay 100 percent plant-based, they eliminate one type of animal product from their lifestyle or they just eat less meat.
What other plant-based items do you recommend to get protein other than beans?
There’s a ton of plant-based meats out there now that are using things like soy products and wheat-gluten and they’re really good. Tofu and soy products are awesome. The funny thing is there’s this misnomer that soy is bad for us, but if you look at the Asian population, for example, they have the highest consumption of soy in the world and also some of the lowest cancer rates, and live really long lives. The anti-soy stuff has been mostly funded by the meat industry. We have a film coming out called What The Health that covers a lot of these issues about the counterinformation that the animal agriculture industry promotes in order to dissuade people from adopting a plant-based diet.
Tell us more about your upcoming film What The Health…
What The Health picks up right where Cowspiracy left off. It follows my co-director Kip Anderson on a journey, finding out about the true impacts that animal-based diets have on our health—not only the effects on our personal health, but the health of our societies. It’s this huge, totally encapsulating film that touches virtually every aspect of animal agriculture. Ultimately, it’s really uplifting because it talks about how we can take back our health and we can reverse issues like heart disease, cancer and diabetes, simply by removing animal products from our diet.
For more information and statistics, check out Cowspiracy.com