Agriculture in the Age of Animal Obsolescence

Animal agriculture has been central to human civilization for millennia, but the explosion of agri-capitalist intensive animal source food (ASF) production over the past century has caused profound harms: to ecosystems, the climate, wild species, public health, labor, and animals themselves. Food production in the anthropocene, as maby have pointed out, has an outsized ecological hoofprint. However, despite a growing scientific and ethical consensus that ASF production and consumption must be reduced to keep agriculture within planetary limits, global production and consumption continue to grow. One novel solution to this collective action problem lies in the rise of so-called alternative proteins, or plant-based, fermentation-based, and cell-based ASF analogs for meat, dairy, and eggs. These products promise to solve the problem of animal agriculture by changing how ASF products are produced but not consumed. In doing so, they give rise to distinct imaginaries of a post-animal agriculture, – some utopic, others dystopic – and give rise to debates about the role of biotechnology and capitalism in addressing environmental harms.

This project is composed of a number of multi-disciplinary and inter-institutional research initiatives spanning design, ethics, public health, and political economy that revolve around the question of what a future food system could and should look like in a future where the centrality of animals (and even rurality) in agricultural production is in doubt. These inculde a suite of imaginaries of food production systems that align with broad visions of animal, environmental, and labopr justice; a set of articles examining the role of dietary change in climate politics; research on the tensions between techno-pragmatism and capitalism in complex environmental problems; and an analysis of the health benefits and risk of a transition away from animal agriculture.

Some aspects this research are also supported by an SSHRC Covid-19 rapid response grant held by Jan Dutkiewicz and Kregg Hetherington.