Sustainable exploitation : the political ecology of the Livestock Revolution


Animal agriculture emits more greenhouse gases than the global transport sector, is the single largest driver of biodiversity loss, and contributes to the crossing of almost every other planetary boundary as well. The industrial exploitation of yearly more than 70 billion land animals and a trillion aquatic animals for profit is strongly linked to social injustice like hunger and colonialism. Nevertheless, international institutions anticipate a Livestock Revolution, an upsurge in the consumption of animal source foods of around 70 percent by 2050, increasing the number of slaughtered land animals to 120 billion via sustainable intensification. Despite its immense socioeconomic and ecological impact, the Livestock Revolution remains unexplored and uncontested, both in academia and politics. This thesis scrutinizes the discourses and structures fueling the Livestock Revolution, it interrogates its inevitability and its consequences for animals, society, and the environment. Performing a sociological discourse analysis of reports on the Livestock Revolution from 1999 to 2016, the dissertation demonstrates that the Revolution is not unavoidable but rather a process promoted in view of stagnating turnovers in the Minority World. The widely shared biologistic assertion that population growth, income increase, and urbanization in the Majority World provoke an increasing consumption of animal protein conceals the discursive and structural settings of the Livestock Revolution, which, ultimately, universalize the Minority World’s meatified system of production and consumption. To condense the Revolution’s chief characteristics, the thesis proposes the concept of “sustainable exploitation”, underscoring, on the one hand, the Revolution’s promise of green growth, poverty alleviation, and environmental stewardship, and, on the other hand, its detrimental effects on farmed animals, workers, communities, and nature at large – in sum, the paradoxes of ecological modernization theory. In its uniformity, the Livestock Revolution discourse is highly successful; counterhegemonic perspectives are exceptional. It is thus crucial to dismantle the symbolic power of the Minority World’s imperial diet and to reveal that the Livestock Revolution is not a matter of fate but a question of power and capital interests

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