On March 25th, IAVS affiliate Dr Vasile Stănescu from Mercer University spoke to the University of Kent’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research. He gave an impassioned talk to an audience of 80 on the politics of climate change, the silence on animal agriculture’s contribution to the environmental crisis, and major tactical failings of the animal rights movement.
The World is on Fire: Animal Agriculture, Climate Change, and the Path Forward
In 2006, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), issued a report titled “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” concluding that animal farming presents a “major threat to the environment” with such “deep and wide-ranging” impacts that it should rank as the leading focus for environmental policy. Recently, these stakes were raised again when the UN determined that the world has only fourteen years to act to prevent catastrophic effects due to climate change. The UN Convention on Biological Diversity estimates as high as 150 species go extinct each day; the UN determined animal agriculture represents the single largest cause of habit loss, species extinction, and biodiversity loss. Most importantly, exponentially more animals are killed, in worse conditions, every year: My first publication in critical animal studies, entitled “Green Eggs and Ham: The Myth of Sustainable Meat and The Danger of the Local” was published in 2010; at that time, the world raised and killed approximately 60 billion land animals each year. Today it is 80 billion; the UN estimates by 2050, the number will exceed 120 billion. The world is on fire.
The response by many, including both advocates for animal agriculture and animal rights, has been three main strategies:
- Attempts to move toward local, humane, and free-range animal farming based on, in part, a belief that such moves will positively affect the environment
- The rise of so-called “in vitro” meat which, like claims about humane meat, will also offset the environmental effects of animal agriculture
- Market based moves to sell new meat substitutes, such as Burger King’s decision to sell the Impossible Whopper.
However, in reality none of these proposed solutions will work. Indeed, most – if not all – will in reality make the environmental effects of animal agriculture worse. Instead, I argue, we need a social justice based approach to animal advocacy, based on directly confronting speciesism and anthropocentrism, that seeks to build solidarity between animal rights and other social justice movements to affect broad based change. We are running out of time. To paraphrase the famous maxim attributed to Marx: As scholars, we no longer possess the luxury to only understand the world; we have to change it.