Greenwashing the Animal-Industrial Complex: Sustainable Intensification and Happy Meat

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 11:15
Location: Prominentenzimmer (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Livia BOSCARDIN, University of Basel, Switzerland
While organic, local, or community supported agriculture are important steps towards a de-industrialized, more ecological and just agricultural system, these initiatives per se do not tackle the most destructive form of food production: animal agriculture. Besides killing more than 60 billion nonhuman land animals every year, animal agriculture, or the animal-industrial complex, is the main driver of climate change, ocean acidification, biodiversity loss, and of the crossing of almost every other planetary boundary, as well.

This presentation firstly portrays the animal-industrial complex and its ecological and social repercussions from the perspective of Critical animal studies, hereby positing the commodification of nonhuman animals as a political problem.

Secondly, current green trends within the animal industry are examined: on the one hand, we have sustainable intensification, which should enable the sector to double production by 2050. This increase is called the “livestock revolution” and can, according to the FAO, be attributed to a growing demand for animal products in the Global South. However, a more critical account states that international lobbies and Western corporations are trying to capture new markets in view of stagnating turnovers in the industrialized part of the world.

On the other hand, we have novel products like “happy meat” or “organic milk.” Not only do they not fulfill their ecological pledge, and thus instrumentalize their green label for generating profits, they also reform, naturalize, and legitimize animal exploitation. Furthermore, they foster questionable reactionary worldviews.

Both trends have their common denominator in the continuing marketization of life and nature, albeit in a green, “sustainable” way. While ecological modernization discourses mainly sustain profitability, anthropocentric counter-movements maintain the oppression of countless sentient individuals and the environmental crisis. In the age of the Capitalocene, we need new sociological approaches to sustainability that confront both green capitalism and the animal-industrial complex.