Sequoia West

Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Senior Honors Thesis

Department or School

Communication, Media and Theatre Arts

First Advisor

Jamie Ward

Second Advisor

Kathleen H. Stacey


This thesis investigates three documentaries (Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, The Milk System, and What the Health?) on the topic of the dairy industry and animal agriculture. A thematic analysis was conducted by using Erving Goffman’s Framing Theory to examine how dairy consumption has been framed over the past decade by the media, and how three documentaries contributed to a shift in the public’s perception and an overall decline of the dairy industry. The analysis consists of primary data (three documentaries) and secondary textual data from 45 social media posts culled from Reddit, Twitter, and Facebook. A consistent theme found on social media was an adoption of a plant-based diet after viewing at least one of the films discussed in this thesis. The main arguments made by the documentarians are that the dairy industry and animal agriculture cause immense harm to the environment, to animal welfare, and to the health of humans. The news frames and corresponding sources outlined in Meyers and Abrams’s study, Feeding the Debate: A Qualitative Framing Analysis of Organic Food News Media Coverage (2010), were utilized by the documentary filmmakers. Further research is recommended to retrieve standardized, quantitative data on the perception of the dairy industry.

Included in

Communication Commons