Katelyn Kelly

Annotation #8, Impact of Plastic Bags


Word Count: 1112

Title: The Plastic Cow

Director: Karuna Society for Animals

Release Year: 2012
What is the central argument or narrative of the film?
The central narrative of the film is how the cow in India has gone from a major religious icon to becoming abused and forgotten on the streets of third world India. It focuses on our dependency on plastic and how that has led to the questionably abusive behavior towards cows in India.
How is the argument or narrative made and sustained? How much scientific information is provided, for example? Does the film have emotional appeal?
The film’s main argument is made by defining the cow as a god in Indian culture. The cow in India is seen as a maternal and/or godmother-like figure. The film then cuts to present day cows wandering around in landfills eating plastic and basically stating that this is how these gods are being treated now. It goes on to state that our reliance on plastic products and plastic bags as humans is not only harmful to our environment, but also to animals, such as these cows, that can’t necessarily do anything to defend themselves from consuming the plastic.
Another major issue outlined by the film is the recent boom by larger dairies that have overrun small dairies and their dairy farmers. After “Operation Flood” which made the need for small dairies obsolete, overpowered and cut the space of urban dairies continuously. Eventually the farmers could no longer afford to keep their farms sanitary and operational due to lack of profit. They were forced to close their dairies and let the cows out on the streets to fend for themselves and thus sort through landfills and trash sites and thus eat plastic.
This abuse of cows has spurred on the acceptance among growing generations that it is common practice for a cow/god to roam the streets in search of food in the form of trash and plastic. Some cows are even taken off the street and processed for meat due to the lack of cultural awareness upon us today.
What sustainability problems does the film draw out? Political? Legal? Economic? Technological? Media and Informational? Organizational? Educational? Behavioral? Cultural? Ecological?
The film draws primarily on the behavioral and cultural aspects of the Indian population, however the film itself is being used as a Media and Informational tool as it is being used to bring awareness to the treatment of cows as a result of lack of self-awareness and is funded by a group focused on treating cows humanely and ending both the abuse of animals in India as well as the use of plastic bags so heavily.
What parts of the film did you find most persuasive and compelling? Why?
The largest part I found compelling was how children grow up with the idea or norm that cows, a god in Indian culture, are just normally patrolling and scavenging the streets and dumpsters for food. As the film puts it, the younger generations grow up with the conception that it is normal for gods to wander lost and to fend for themselves.
What parts of the film were you not compelled or convinced by? Why?
The part of the film that I was least convinced by was that there seemed to be an odd balance of focusing on the inhumane treatment of cows and not enough time spend on the solutions that could be proposed. In other words, the only solution that the general public were suggested to take was to reduce using plastic, but this is kind of unrealistic as this would involve on the lowest scale a change or shift in mind for an entire country. It felt like it was too big of a scheme or draw on one particular problem and could have been picked apart a little bit further solution-wise. At the least landfills could be fenced in in order to prevent cows from getting to them...
What audiences does the film best address? Why?
The film best addresses the average consumer, mainly in India as that is where the film takes place, or any person that relies on a major dairy provider or plastic. One of two solutions that was provided for the viewers was to decrease reliance on plastic bags in order to treat the cows better, which is basically evidence that this film is geared towards the average consumer.
What could have been added to this film to enhance its environmental educational value?
In order to enhance this film’s environmental educational value, the film could have stepped away from the emotional and cultural appeal and could have gone into more detail regarding how much plastic the average person consumes and could have provided a broader spectrum of the impact of plastic consumption on humans, how many cows are being affected, etc.
What kinds of action and points of intervention are suggested by the film? If the film itself does not suggest corrective action, describe actions that you can imagine being effective.
The film provided a lot of simple solutions that seem simple in theory but are difficult to get a movement going due to the sheer amount of force needed behind them. For example, before you use a plastic bag, consider where it goes first, this idea of awareness, in theory could stop the plastic dumping in third world countries. Secondly, the funding that was provided for the film came from an animal humane group. Therefore the second point of intervention was a kind of body in charge of animal control or protection for domestic animals that give animals rights, in this case the former owners of the cows, the dairy farmers, would have received citations for mistreating the cows. Furthermore, this committee would govern the exposure of animals to human waste.
The most interesting and proactive solutions were surgeries being performed on cows paid for by animal rights groups. These surgeries encompass taking the cows taken off the streets, removing the plastic in their stomachs that they are unable to digest and then release them into a protected environment. For the example used in the film, shredded plastic had been in the cow 6-10 years and had become entangled to form a kind of rock-hard ball; all in all, 53 kg of waste per one cow.
What additional information has this film compelled you to seek out? (Provide at least two supporting references.)
This film made me curious as to how much plastic is being consumed in the world and how much of it goes to landfills in third world countries, in other words, how much of an impact first world countries have on this situation.