Jordi Casamitjana, the author of the book Ethical Vegan, reviews the soon-to-be-premiered documentary Christspiracy, the latest instalment of the inspiring spiracy series   

I approached it with some trepidation.

Most of the world had not seen it yet, but many people were already talking about it with great passion. We had the posters, we had the trailers, and we had the interviews, but the film had not officially been released yet. That would happen on 20th March 2024, when the theatrical version would be premiered simultaneously in several countries, and hundreds of cinemas in the USA.

From that day on, the world would be able to learn about “the biggest cover-up in 2,000 years”, as the poster reads. And who better to open the eyes of people than Kip Andersen, the founder of AUM Films and acclaimed creator of milestone documentary features such as Cowspiracy, What the Health, and Seaspiracy, which have the honourable reputation for having made many meat-eaters, vegetarians, and pescatarians abandon their animal consumption habits. His anticipated fourth documentary, “Christspiracy: The Spirituality Secret”, had a tall order to achieve if it had to be added to this collection of eye-opening gems. Now I had the chance to check it myself and make a judgement on that.  

Christspiracy was co-directed by Kip Andersen and Kameron Waters, and, as the title suggests, it’s about religion and spirituality, and how different faiths — but mostly Christianity — deal with the exploitation of animals. It features interviews with Oxford University doctors, American priests, and religious leaders from Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and other spiritual groups.

I was privileged to be invited to the Christspiracy red-carpet premiere in London on 7th March, so I was able to watch it with an audience. That was quite exceptional for Andersen’s documentaries as this is the first one that has been released in theatres worldwide as opposed to online via stream services such as Netflix — more later on that.  

But as I said, I approached it with some trepidation. Why? For three reasons. Firstly, one of the things that triggers me the most is conspiracy theories. As a zoologist and the rational person I am, it drives me crazy how many ridiculous conspiracy theories are still circulating and taken seriously by far too many people. The second reason is that I am an Atheist who grew up being Catholic, and as many ex-Catholic atheists may tell you, we tend to distance ourselves from Christianity as much as we can (and that includes passing on watching films about it). The third reason is that, despite being non-religious, I do not like when religions are bashed too hard without any consideration of how this may hurt people’s feelings, or when films are too careless in characterising religions from other cultures, so I was not sure whether or not this documentary would take that route.

Trepidation or not, I was glad to join many vegans (several of whom quite well-known, such as Dr Sailesh Rao, Ed Winters, of Juliet Gellatley) at London’s red-carpet premiere event that was held at the Tate Modern, and experience watching Christspiracy among them.

Now I can reveal if my trepidations were well founded.

Revelations Un-Revealed    

Kim Walters and Kip Andersen being interviewed in the Londons Christspiracy -red-carpet- (c)Jordi-Casamitjana

When you are asked to review a film about a potential conspiracy and at the same time not reveal what the conspiracy is before the film has been released — so as not to spoil the viewers’ experience of discovering it — that may be a problem. I now understand why the producers asked this because one of the best things about Christspiracy is “discovering” the revelations it delivers while watching it, not before. So, in this review, I will honour the request, and not spoil the revelations.

What I can say, though, is that although I did know a bit about them as I had researched the issue of religions and veganism for my book Ethical Vegan, some aspects were definitively new to me. I expect that most people will find the revelations truly revelatory, and as such the film is certainly worth watching if only because of that — in a world of thousands of films available to everyone, is nice to be surprised from time to time as audiences have learnt to predict plots more accurately. That’s why I recommend watching it first before reading too much about it (you can read this article though…I will not spoil your experience).

What I am allowed to say is that Christspiracy begins with the question: “Is there an ethical or spiritual way to kill an animal?” This is not a rhetorical question, but a literal question the main “characters” of the film ask many faith experts. I am saying “characters” because, although is a documentary, all of Andersen’s documentaries have a main character who takes the audience through a journey with a dramatic arc like what you find in fiction movies — and this is why they work very well as feature-length films (this one is 103 minutes long). In this case, I would say the main character is Kameron Waters, one of the co-directors. Kip Andersen is the other main character, but although he drives the journey in Cowspiracy and What the Health (he only produced Seaspiracy, he did not direct it) by co-directing and starring, in this one both Kip and Kam drive the story, although I belief Kam has more of a dramatic arc as he is the first one who asks the question “Is there an ethical or spiritual way to kill an animal?”  to Kip when meeting him for the first time during a Cowspiracy’s screening at L.A. VegFest. You see, Kam is a Christian who genuinely wants to know the answer to this question, and Kip has described himself as a Quasi-spiritual-Buddhist-Yogi who starts the film with little knowledge of Christianity (even doubting that Jesus Christ ever existed). 

The documentary delivers, and answers this question in the end, transforming both characters whose eyes are now more open and have become wiser through their journey. However, although the answer to the question that triggers the story is interesting, that is not the main revelation the film produces. We vegans already know the answer to the initial question, but I guarantee most would not know the “revelations”. I used the plural because I think there are several (at least about a historical event that happened in Jesus’ life, about probably the most ritualised aspect of Christian liturgy, and about what is at the root of all faiths), including revelations that may surprise some Westerners as they will dispel some of the myths about Eastern religions. If you want to know about these revelations you need to watch the film, as it is well-crafted so you will see your mind genuinely opening and experience one of those “now things make more sense” very satisfying feelings. 

This makes this documentary a good piece of entertainment that will certainly take you to places that you have not visited before, and create emotions not from reactions to the stimuli you have been bombarded with, but from learning a different perspective of things you already knew that makes you look at them quite differently — in this regard, it reminds me of Daniel Quinn’s novel Ishmael, as it exposed how several widely accepted assumptions of modern society could be seen from a new revealing angle.

Is Christspiracy about a Conspiracy Theory?

Prof. Andrew Linzey 2 at Oxford Uni. in Christspiracy

I will go ahead and dare answer this question straight away. Despite the publicity, I don’t think Christspiracy is about a “Conspiracy Theory”, as I don’t think any of Andersen’s documentaries actually are. I believe they are about something different. They are about a new concept that could well be termed “spiracy” in honour of their clever titles. 

Most conspiracy theories are so outlandish because they require an impossible level of coordinated secrecy that humans have never been able to achieve. Most of them are based on fantastical secret elites controlling the world from the shadows as they have unmatching imagined powers ordinary people cannot rival. 

However, I don’t think Andersen’s documentaries are about that. They all follow a very specific conspiracy-type narrative, but they do not “reveal” to the audience terrible secrets kept by superior powerful humans or institutions, but rather expose humanity’s lack of questioning, the tendency to corruption, and tolerance of incompetency. 

The secrets his documentaries reveal are not really actual secrets as the information is out there for those who want to find it (they do not really require whistleblowers), but instead, most people ignore them or do not want to know about them for convenience — so they have only become kind of secrets not by elaborate conspiratorial cover-ups but by wishful ignorance, unquestioning compliance, and lazy acceptance of the lies those interested in keeping the status quo are bound to give us. We know that in our societies advertisers will always cover up the wrongs of their products and exaggerate their rights, but this PR attitude extends beyond commerce into any other aspect of society, including the environment, health, and religion. 

Andersen’s documentaries challenge people and organisations who should know better and not fall for this constant deformation of reality by the PR machines of our socio-political systems, and make them feel uncomfortable because it exposes something about their incompetence — and even corruption — most people did not know. For instance, Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret”, produced and directed by Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn in 2014, is about the impact of animal agriculture on the environment. In this one, the baddie is not a secret organisation but simply the animal agriculture industry, which through lobbying unduly influences governments (no secret there, that is what big industries always do), but the revelation is that the environmental non-governmental organisations that should know better and deal with the issue are as corrupted and incompetent as governments and equally vulnerable to such lobbying. 

In What the Health, also produced and directed by Andersen and Kuhn three years later, which is about the negative health effects of the consumption of animal products, the baddies are the food and pharmaceutical industries and the naïve incompetent corruptible exposed organisations are Health NGOs. In Seaspiracy, this time directed by British filmmaker Ali Tabrizi but produced by Andersen in 2021, we see as baddies the destructive fishing industry and as the corrupted organisations the marine NGOs which should supposedly be effective in protecting the oceans. 

This “spiracy” genre, then, is quite unique, as rather than revealing secrets kept by powerful shady elites makes people open their eyes and see the truth that was there in front of them, but they either never noticed or wanted to look at it for being too inconvenient (I would class the 2006 Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth the first one of this genre, which is precisely the documentary that inspired Andersen to become a filmmaker). 

Christspiracy falls very much under the structure of this genre. It does not really reveal a millenarian conspiracy theory perpetrated by powerful Da-Vinci-Code-style hidden religious elites, but rather it opens people’s eyes to a reality that was in front of them but kind of ignored, because it was covered up by everyone indoctrinated under the prevailing ideology that dominates all current human cultures in the planet, and therefore by everyone who has been following such ideology through the centuries (which is most people) with lazy lack of scrutiny and criticism. 

This ideology has been named “Carnism”, a term coined by Dr Melany Joy (interviewed in the documentary), which is a human supremacy ideology that legitimises animal exploitation and dictates how animals should be exploited (for instance, which ones can be eaten under which cultures, which ones can be kept as pets, etc.). 

It’s carnism that makes us look the other way, that makes us not question the prevailing historical interpretation of our cultures, that makes us succumb to the influence of exploitation industries and not challenge them properly. Carnism is the ultimate villain of humanity’s story; a villain not created by any person, group, or institution, but by convenience, habit, and greed.

I believe Andersen’s Spiracy series is an exposé on carnism, this dominant ideology that seems hidden as it is not explicitly taught in schools as such, but is not hidden but manifested almost everywhere as it has permeated almost every aspect of society. It only looks hidden because it is so widespread that people do not notice they are following it, and they have been indoctrinated on it since infancy. Andersen’s documentaries shine a light on it allowing people to see it for the first time and therefore feel empowered to get rid of it. In this regard, I think Christspiracy is the most explicit instalment of this illumination, and it’s the one that made me finally realise that the spiracy series was about exposing carnism in an appealing format that indoctrinated carnists may be attracted to — and can then be enlightened and finally liberated.  

From Cowspiritual to Christspiracy 

Andersen and Walters after showing Christspiracy in London

It took a long time for Christspiracy to become a finished documentary, not only because it took more than six years to produce, but because its conception started a long time ago. It became the film about ethics Andersen always wanted to make when he started his career. This is what he said to Vegan FTA about its origins:

“It happened, in a way, a long time ago. Initially, probably like 15 or 16 years ago, when I started working on Cowspiracy, at that time Cowspiracy was supposed to be, interestingly enough, all three pillars in one film. It was supposed to be a film addressing the ethics, the environment, and the health impacts of raising and killing 70 to 80 billion land animals and trillions of sea animals, and at that time, when we were doing pre-screenings, we realized this film was three films because we were trying to scrunch everything in one. And so, from the three pillars, for me personally, the one that touches me the most and why I’m vegan and want to explore this topic, is the ethical conversation.”

Christspiracy will be released in cinemas in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Germany and Switzerland on March 20th 2024, and many theatres in the United States on March 20th & 24th, from Trafalgar Releasing as part of the film’s worldwide release. Tickets are available now at https://www.christspiracy.com/, and 50% of the filmmakers’ net proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to animal charities. It is therefore much better to watch it in a cinema because you may be helping animals in need while you are doing it. 

Several of the previous documentaries Andersen co-directed or co-produced were released as original Netflix features, but this one, although started this way, ended up being released in theatres as Kip and Kam decided to go in a different direction. Andersen said this to UnchaiendTV:

“Originally the film title was actually called Cowspiritual, and it was a film on ethics, but as we got deeper into this story of Jesus, the narrative story of uncovering these things, we had to go deeper into that thread line of that particular story of Jesus and the Nazarene movement at the time. As we started getting deeper that way, they felt they wanted to go a different way than we wanted to go. And there were some key things that they wanted to take out and we just wouldn’t, and we just wouldn’t budget.”

A Distinctive Voice for Documentaries

KIP, RESCUER of LAMB with KAM in Christspiracy

I am glad the directors decided not to water down the story because Christspiracy is produced with Andersen’s voice, which has become very clear and distinctive in all his documentaries, and a really winning formula for documentary making. Not only has the classical first-person anti-hero journey arc, the very real and not hidden corporate “baddies”, and the naïve and corruptible failed NGO’s stewards, but it is also full of interesting facts shown with very useful graphics and helpful analogies, many interviews of experts skilfully scattered through the story, several animations that help to change the texture, and some elements of jeopardy that help to build up the tension. 

You can also find in Christspiracy the classical follow-the-money tactics, visiting headquarters of silent organisations, “I could not believe what I was hearing” aloud thoughts, and finding the right translations from original sources, all characteristic of the spiracy genre.   

Perhaps the most idiosyncratic of all Andersen’s documentaries’ DNA is the way he shows interviews. You can always hear the interviewer asking questions in the background (or in shot) but the magic of it is in the interviewees’ reactions, as they are not prepared for the last questions which take them by surprise. Those reactions are what make the documentary believable and reveal far more than what the words say. You can easily over-dramatize documentaries and script them in a far too lecturing way that would create a distance with the viewer now able to see through it, but these genuine reactions are what drive you closer to the narrative, and Andersen is a master of them. He and his co-directors have made an art of moving the plot through silences and rejection of interviews, which seem contra-intuitive. The lack of answers from an interviewee to the key questions, the subsequent research, the discovery of a revelation, and the putting of the new discoveries to the next interviewee, is a formula that definitively works to advance the story. 

He uses two types of interviewees, though. Those from our side (the main character’s side, and therefore the viewer’s side) who are often experts or people in similar journeys, and those from the other side, who often seem wilfully unaware of the effect of what they are saying will have in the audience, and are uncomfortably put on the spot at the end of their interviews — which I presume would make it more difficult for the filmmakers to get more interviews in the future. In Christspiracy, among the experts on our side, we see Professor James Tabor, Revd Professor Andrew Linzey, Dr Deborah Rooke, Michael B. Beckwith, Guru Singh, The 17th Karmapa, Carol, J Adams, and George Monbiot.

There are dramatic graphic images of animal abuse (although no actual instances of animal killing) and many images of dead animals, but also happy stories of animal rescues and heroic acts of animal liberation. Despite the gravity of the situation, the endings of Andersen’s documentaries are always uplifting (and the way music is used to get to that point is very effective), but I would venture to say that the ending of Christspiracy is even more. There were several occasions that I felt emotional (although that could be because I am an animal rights activist, and this documentary would definitively touch us more directly), and the happy ends of small side stories leave you with a very good feeling. It is not easy to end up feeling positive after seeing so much animal suffering, but this is what the magic of good editing can do.

The Perfect Partnership to Show the Truth 

Kameron Waters and Kip Andersen – Directors of Christspiracy at London Premiere – (c) Jordi Casamitjana

I think Kip and Kam sharing the narrative journey of this documentary was a good idea, as this is what evaporated my second reason for my trepidatious approach to watching the film. Kip’s non-Christian background helps non-religious viewers like me to relate to the story, allowing us to comfortably watch it from the outside. Equally, Kam’s challenge to religious Christian orthodoxy, and the fact a considerable proportion of the film is looking at other religions such as Hinduism, Judaism, and Buddhism, make it not only easier for an ex-Catholic like myself to watch but also very interesting too. In fact, this documentary would interest people from any faith, including spiritual people not attached to any major religion, as well as atheists and agnostics, and I guarantee that, no matter your background, you will learn something interesting from it — even if you are a long term vegan like myself who thought already knew everything about the foundations of this philosophy

As far as my fear of the documentary potentially unfairly bashing religious people,  this was also unfounded as I think it is quite respectful to all religions and it does not have an anti-religious message. If anything, it has a very spiritual message which does not ask people to move away from their religions but to dig deeper into them, ignore the carnist indoctrinations that have corrupted them, and find their true meaning. Kam’s journey guaranteed this approach, and that’s why I think Kip and Kam make a perfect directorial couple — as harmonious as their names suggest.   

In the Spiracy series, Kip and his companions are portrayed as carnists who, through several journeys, discover different aspects of carnism and how they had been indoctrinated into it, and finally free themselves from its blinding grasp and choose the alternative path which liberates them. Perhaps in Christspiracy, as the final chapter of the originally conceived trilogy when Andersen began working on Cowspiracy, the universal aspect of this liberation becomes more explicit, as are the emotional consequences of becoming free — which can be vividly felt in the powerful ending. Additionally, this documentary is less charged with cold data (which can always be challenged by someone else’s cold data) and more filled with warmer universal common sense and convincing re-interpretation of historical events, allowing for a wider acceptance and a deeper message that may have stronger positive socio-political consequences. Finally, as revelations go, I think that the latest ones are far more interesting and surprising.  Because of all this, I think Christspiracy is the best documentary Kip has made so far. 

The Spiracy documentaries are groundbreaking films made by great storytellers addressing important global problems all solved by the same universal solution: leaving carnism behind, as it has been clouding people’s eyes for far too long preventing them from seeing obvious truths that were in front of them all the time. Many were able to see them when the right light was illuminating them, and we now know that, millennia ago, despite any attempts to cover this up, there were already people and communities all over the world that could see them. Many humans today can see them too, and for those who are still blinded, we have these documentaries to help them. 

Please go to cinemas and watch Christpiracy with some friends, because if more people watch it, more can get free from carnism and its devastating effects on humans, other animals, and the planet.  

The truth is free for everyone to see.

“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.