The World is on Fire: Animal Agriculture, Climate Change, And The Path Forward

SSPSSR Faculty Seminar Series
Join us online at 4pm on Thursday 25 March for an SSPSSR Faculty Seminar with Dr Vasile Stănescu from Mercer University

‘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:

  1. 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
  2. The rise of so-called “in vitro” meat which, like claims about humane meat, will also offset the environmental effects of animal agriculture
  3. 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.’


Vasile Stanescu is Associate Professor of Communication at Mercer University. He is the co-editor of the Critical Animal Studies book series published by Rodopi/Brill, the co-founder of the North American Association for Critical Animal Studies (NAACAS), the former co-editor of the Journal for Critical Animal Studies, and former co-organiser of the Stanford Environmental Humanities Project. Stanescu is the author of over 20 peer-reviewed publications on the critical study of animals and the environment. These include publications in the American Behavioral Scientist, Liberazioni – Rivista di critica antispecista [Liberations-Anti-Specieist Criticisms], Journal fürkritische Tierstudien [The German Journal for Critical Animal Studies], The Journal of American Culture, Animal Studies Journal, and the Journal for Critical Animal Studies. Stanescu’s research has been recognised by The Woods Institute for the Environment, Minding Animals International, The Andrew Mellon Foundation, the Culture and Animals Foundation, the Institute for Critical Animal Studies, and the Institutul Cultural Român, [Institute for Romanian Culture] among others.

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