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Normalised, human-centric discourses of meat and animals in climate change, sustainability and food security literature

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  • Paula Arcari

    () (RMIT University)

Abstract

Abstract The large-scale, intensive production of meat and other animal products, also known as the animal-industrial complex, is our largest food system in terms of global land use and contribution to environmental degradation. Despite the environmental impact of the meat industry, in much of the policy literature on climate and environmental change, sustainability and food security, meat continues to be included as part of a sustainable food future. In this paper, I present outcomes of a discourse analysis undertaken on a selection of key major international and Australian reports. After highlighting common themes in the ways that meat and animals are discussed, I draw on the animal studies literature to critically analyse the assumptions underpinning such policy documents. My analysis illustrates that animals are effectively de-animated and rendered invisible in these bodies of literature by being either aggregated—as livestock, units of production and resources, or materialised—as meat and protein. These discursive frames reflect implicit understandings of meat as necessary to human survival and animals as a natural human resource. A critical examination of these understandings illustrates their dual capacity to normalise and encourage the continuation of activities known to be seriously harming the environment, climate and human health, while at the same time obstructing and even denigrating alternative, less harmful approaches to food. In response, I offer some conceptual and analytical modifications that can be easily adopted by researchers on climate change, sustainability and food security with the aim of challenging dominant discourses on meat and animals.

Suggested Citation

  • Paula Arcari, 2017. "Normalised, human-centric discourses of meat and animals in climate change, sustainability and food security literature," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 34(1), pages 69-86, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:agrhuv:v:34:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s10460-016-9697-0
    DOI: 10.1007/s10460-016-9697-0
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Hoolohan, C. & Berners-Lee, M. & McKinstry-West, J. & Hewitt, C.N., 2013. "Mitigating the greenhouse gas emissions embodied in food through realistic consumer choices," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 1065-1074.
    2. Wong, Lucille & Selvanathan, Eliyathamby A. & Selvanathan, Saroja, 2015. "Modelling the meat consumption patterns in Australia," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 1-10.
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    5. Fiala, Nathan, 2008. "Meeting the demand: An estimation of potential future greenhouse gas emissions from meat production," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(3), pages 412-419, October.
    6. Peter Scarborough & Paul Appleby & Anja Mizdrak & Adam Briggs & Ruth Travis & Kathryn Bradbury & Timothy Key, 2014. "Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 125(2), pages 179-192, July.
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    8. Vinnari, Markus & Tapio, Petri, 2012. "Sustainability of diets: From concepts to governance," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 46-54.
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