Panel 8: (De)Meating the Future



Panel 8: (De)Meating the Future

Carnism and Climate

Jerome Bump, University of Texas, Austin

This presentation will explore how, by significantly reducing our meat consumption we will be able to distribute resources more justly and reduce extreme climate changes by the year 2050. This greater distribution of justice, it will be discussed, extends far beyond just humans or livestock, but all species (more).

Greenhorn Visions and the New Agrarian Activism: Imagining Alternative Agriculture in the Anthropocene

Bradley Jones, Washington University in St. Louis

This talk considers the possibilities and limits of food activism to imagine and enact just futures in the Anthropocene. To bring about more just futures the presenter will explore the emergence of alternative agriculture as a fertile site of becoming; cultivating not only new relationships between humans and nature but also between humans and other humans (more).

The Vegan Metamorphosis from 2050

Sailesh Rao, Climate Healers

This presentation predicts the possibility and attributes of a vegan metamorphosis in the years leading up to 2050. Forced into a new awareness from its unsustainable lifestyle, the presenter offers an explanation for humanity’s shift towards regarding all life as sacred, and the consequences this poses for planet (more).

Q & A

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11 replies
  1. Bradley Jones, Washington University in St. Louis says:

    Dear virtual audience,
    Thank you for watching my talk and engaging with this exciting, innovative conference! Please don’t hesitate with any feedback or questions. While my talk has perhaps more in common with another panel on Just Agricultural Futures…a radical restructuring of agricultural production, including diversified small holder farming which if not “demeated” is at the very least “remeated”, is clearly called for by the activists I consider. I’d love to know if you have thoughts on other grassroots social movements working to imagine and enact alternative agricultural futures through prefiguration, or other scholars with interests in these topics. I look forward to an inspired conversation on these and other important topics.

  2. Sailesh Rao, Climate Healers says:

    This is an exciting format and topic and it was fun to imagine how the vegan transformation could take hold in the next decade or so.

    One of the most influential papers on my thinking is the paper on Megafauna biomass tradeoffs by Prof. Anthony Barnosky in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences from 2008. In that paper, Prof. Barnosky showed that the biomass of humans alone, 500 Million Metric Tons (MT) is more than double the estimated biomass of ALL wild megafauna from 10,000 years ago, 200 MT. Therefore, human consumption is inherently an unprecedented burden on the biosphere. But on top of that, our livestock consume 5 times as much food as all humans put together, thereby presenting the profile of a 2500 MT animal group, 12 times larger than the weight of all wild megafauna from 10,000 years ago! Thus, a systemic transformation organized around compassion, not consumption, has tremendous potential to reverse climate change, mitigate biodiversity loss and heal the Earth.

    I welcome your feedback and thoughts on the presentation.

  3. Jerome Bump U. of Texas at Austin says:

    Thank you for listening to this panel. Concerning my talk, I would like to pose these questions. What role, if any, do emotions play in the climate crisis?
    Have you heard the argument before that the climate crisis is caused by animal agriculture as much as by fossil fuel emissions? Are you persuaded by the argument? If not, why not?

    • Sailesh Rao, Climate Healers says:

      Goodland and Anhang’s debate with Herrero et al. in the Animal Feed Science and Technology Journal in 2011-2012 settled the question of the contribution of animal agriculture to climate change. As far as I’m concerned, the Goodland-Anhang estimate is the only credible one on the greenhouse gas contributions of the animal agriculture industry.

      It makes sense that the Livestock Long Shadow (LLS) estimate from 2006 was too low, since the primary authors of the LLS report were employed by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), a think-tank for the animal agriculture industry. Such biases are to be expected since, as Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” This is why we don’t take the Tobacco Institute scientists seriously on their tobacco findings. Unfortunately, in the case of animal agriculture, the vast majority of the public are “users” and are inclined to look for good news to justify their habits.

      • Jerome Bump U. of Texas at Austin says:

        Thank you for those references, Sailesh. I share your suspicion of bias in them, but I think the obstacles to our shared dream are much greater than some academic articles. Agribusiness has not yet taken the threat of veganism or vegetarianism seriously, it seems to me. But what they have done so far gives some indication of what we will be up against if the vegan movement gains more momentum.
        Marion Nestle has demonstrated that we “make a political statement every time we eat” and has shown how agribusiness controls even the government information about what food is healthy, (2007, 372; Salih 2012, 57), but more shocking is agribusiness’s use of “ag-gag” and food disparagement laws to prevent disclosure and even discussion of the food animal-man boundary. As you know, about twenty-five years ago three states passed laws to criminalize undercover videos of the horrors of industrial farming and slaughterhouses. At the beginning of this century, a conservative lobbying group originally founded to attack the Environmental Protection Agency came up with the “Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act,” a draft of a law that required a “terrorist registry” of those convicted of undercover videos of animal cruelty in agribusiness. They won the support of the FBI: in fact, the chief of domestic terrorism testified before Congress to the serious threat of what he called “eco-terrorism.” In 2006, a state legislator stated that “according to the F.B.I.,” People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is “the number one domestic terrorist group in America” (Tennessee 2006). In the same year Congress passed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act prohibiting “picketing, boycotts and undercover investigations if they ‘interfere’ with an animal enterprise by causing a loss of profits,” effectively silencing “peaceful and lawful protest activities of animal and environmental advocates” (CCR 2007). Six more states have now passed ag-gag laws and the lobbying continues in others.
        Thirteen states have effectively prohibited even discussion of the issue by passing food disparagement laws enabling agribusinesses to sue anyone who criticizes them in public, granting punitive damages and attorney’s fees for plaintiffs alone, regardless of the case’s outcome. In 1998, for example, Oprah Winfrey and one of her guests, Howard Lyman (featured in my talk for this panel), were sued by a feedlot operator for disparaging the beef industry. Even though the feedlot operator “lost,” he won, not only because he made the defendants pay huge sums for their defense, but also because he enforced the food animal-man boundary: Oprah longer speaks publicly on the issue or supplies copies of the original interview. (Something similar may have happened to the Peaceable Kingdom documentary which I cite, which is no longer available.) Lyman, however, refused to be silenced and paid the price, as he testified in the documentary Cowspiracy (Andersen 2014): “It took five years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to end up extricating myself from the suits from the cattle industry….you can go today and tell the truth and you will be guilty because if you cause a disruption in the profits of the animal industry you are guilty under the Patriot Act.” Kip Andersen, the maker of Cowspiracy, asks him, “Do you think there should be any concern of us making this documentary?” Lyman replies, “Of course. If you don’t realize right now that you’re putting your head on the chopping block, you know, you better take that camera and throw it away.” Anderson concludes, “When I learned about the activists being killed in Brazil I was disturbed but I felt removed, but to learn about American activists and journalists being targeted by the industry and by the FBI? …I was beyond frightened to imagine what could possibly happen if I pursued this subject any further.” (As you know, over a thousand activists have been murdered trying to prevent the transformation of Brazil’s rainforest into cattle ranches, including the American nun, Sister Dorothy Stang, who worked for “the Sustainable Project.”)
        Because of this kind of opposition I stress the need to raise funds to provide a counterbalance to agribusiness in the media and in politics.

        • Sailesh Rao, Climate Healers says:

          As one of the Executive Co-Producers of “Cowspiracy,” I am acutely aware of the issues you raise. The animal agriculture industry has certainly built a formidable legal fortress around itself, which buttresses my claim that top-down solutions to our environmental predicaments are doomed to failure. As such, I subscribe to the Buckminster Fuller dictum, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

    • Rick Thomas, UC Santa Barbara says:

      Professor Bump,
      I do believe that emotions can play a significant role in the climate crisis. Emotions are what often drive activists to pursue their cause, or open the eyes of those unaware at what is happening around them. However, so many people have spent their entire lives denying their sense of emotions, sense of empathy, choosing instead to pursue an economically and materialistically driven way of life. Although I agree that these drastic appeals to emotion may be necessary, they do not reach the largest audience. Many people will shy away from efforts to “show them the truth” in such a direct, graphic way, fearing a forced attempt at opening them up to their own emotions. More often than not, the people who willingly watch such documentaries, attend these protests, etc are already people who are ethics-minded. Because other people will want to avoid these negative emotions that undoubtedly occur when exposed to vivid imagery or movements such as the slaughterhouse truck-stoppings, I feel there must still be a way to expand the audience being educated without only using tactics that appeal to these negative emotions of fear and guilt. You stated that the Cowspiracy posters were not as effective as they could have been because they didn’t appeal to emotion, but perhaps is there another way to inspire people to change through positive emotion? Do you think an effective method to teach these facts would be to eventually reach a point where these climate/agriculture topics are a requirement to be taught in schools starting from a very young age? I do not know exactly how this can be accomplished, but I imagine if these facts become “mainstream” enough to be shared in public education sectors, soon there will be a generation who has been raised to understand these things and accept them as fact. This will be the generation whose emotions will still be involved, but with feelings of pride for being part of an environmental crusade, or perhaps guilt for what the previous generations committed and inspired to make a difference. As long as only a small few are being exposed to the upsetting reality of the meat industry, the level of interference required to change our current climate status as it relates to agriculture I fear would not be reachable. I suppose our generations must make the first strides in accepting the facts of agriculture on climate change, and perhaps your ideas of striking raw emotions are the most effective way. These are just a few of my thoughts, you have several interesting, and thought-provoking ideas in this talk. Thank you for your work.

      • Jessica Holmes, University of Washington says:

        I think this is a really interesting point. I remember watching the documentary “Earthlings” which shows a lot of graphic slaughterhouse footage not long after I had gone vegan–my reaction was “thank goodness I’m already vegan” because I felt the images and the accompanying guilt (both individually and collectively) were so emotionally crushing that, had I not already educated myself and made the changes to my lifestyle, I would have felt too helpless, dejected and faithless to actually change my ways, let alone try to inspire others to do so. Images, especially graphic or jarring ones, can be extremely effective in capturing the attention of many people, but I agree that conversation and education–especially the kind centered around positive, progressive action–is key. How to get that kind of material into the mainstream though…it’s a big question, given the size and strength of opposing forces… Thanks for your insight!

  4. Jessica Holmes, University of Washington says:

    Thank you all for these illuminating and (most importantly) hopeful talks on the issues of animal agriculture and veganism. As a vegan advocate (albeit a very new one!), I particularly identify with Professor Bump’s discussion of the human capacity for denial and the psychological barriers individuals experience. Facts indeed often seem to prove less effective than emotional appeals, particularly visual ones as you describe. These psychological barriers on a personal level, combined with the larger socioeconomic system (based on consumption as a driving factor, as Dr. Rao states) constitute quite the uphill battle (not to mention the corrupt practices referenced in some of the comments above).

    Given the urgency of this issue, I’d like to hear more about what you think are the most direct methods (on an individual level and a collective one) to “acknowledge, validate & show” public emotions (Bump) and how to “direct these emotions outward” in the interest of widespread political and economic change. How do we create the “electric” atmosphere Dr. Rao so beautifully describes? And, given that a top-down approach is impossible for the reasons you describe, how do we “build a new model” and moreover build it as quickly and efficiently as possible?

    • Sailesh Rao, Climate Healers says:

      In my experience, I have found the Save movement’s tactics to be the most effective at showing public emotions and directing them outward. The Save activists temporarily halt slaughterhouse trucks in public places and “bear witness” to the suffering of the animals and provide them some loving human contact before they are sent on to the slaughterhouses. The Save movement is active in a number of cities around the world and can be found at They have online resources to start one in your own city.

      The annual “March to Close Down All Slaughterhouses” is another event that I found to be most effective at reaching out to fence-sitters on this issue. I participated in the Toronto march this year and there were at least 1000 activists, mostly youth activists, marching. At a couple of very public places during the march, the marchers feigned to die on the street as vocal recordings from the slaughterhouses were played on the loudspeakers. It shook the onlookers.

      Climate Healers, in partnership with a number of academic institutions, has applied for the MacArthur 100&Change grant to implement the Sacred Lifeline project, to “build and demonstrate a new model.” Here’s a summary description of the problem and the solution that we are proposing:

      “The problem is to heal the Earth’s climate versus maintain it precariously in an advanced state of disrepair. Its solution is impossible within our current socioeconomic system, since the system is oriented towards endless economic growth with consumption as its organizing value and competition as its organizing principle. Our solution, the Sacred Lifeline project, implements a new socioeconomic system oriented towards human creativity with compassion as its organizing value and collaboration as its organizing principle. It envisions a network of radically inclusive, sustainable, off-grid, zero-waste, all-faiths communities, modeling and exemplifying a compassionate, vegan lifestyle, in well-recognized sacred sites around the world. Half the community would be mentors/educators and permanent residents while the other half would be short-term visitors, or longer-term student interns working on sustainability projects and open-source technologies. The solution’s objective is to ensure human ecological footprint does not ever exceed half the Earth’s bio-capacity, when adopted worldwide.”

      The MacArthur 100&Change initiative is a competition that will result in $100M granted to one project to “change the world” ( ). Even if our application is unsuccessful, we intend to raise funds from the vegan community to proceed with the Sacred Lifeline project.

  5. Jerome Bump U. of Texas at Austin says:

    To add to Sailesh’s response and to reply to Jessica’s questions here are a few thoughts about how to direct our emotions outward to take action on individual and collective levels:
    [1] improve your emotional intelligence, self-awareness, etc. to be able to respond not just with reason but also to be able to cultivate positive emotions, such as empathy for the victims of climate change, as well as identify the negative feelings such as despair, hopelessness, depression, etc. Hopefully, you will be able to move beyond these at least to make ethical decisions, ideally move on to discover the kind of passion needed for to be consistently proactive.
    [2] Basic ethics are the minimum.
    [2a] be a conscious, ethical consumer of products: think of the impact on the environment before you buy food and clothing, adopt pets, etc.
    [2b] be a conscious, active, voting citizen of this democracy.

    [3] Help other individuals in need. Relevant inspiration: Loren Eiseley’s “Starfish Story.”:
    [4] Be an activist, writer, teacher, etc.

    [1] Sponsor relevant documentaries, such as Cowspiracy
    [2] Organize local protests. Examples from animal ethics: picket, shut down, promote local laws against: circuses, rodeos, pet stores who buy from puppy mills, etc.
    [3] Get relevant state laws passed. Examples from animal ethics: California ballot initiatives vs. battery cages for chickens, etc.
    [4] Bring lawsuits on local, state, national levels. Example from animal ethics: law suits that shut down notorious Iowa “kosher” slaughterhouse.
    [5] Support effective nonprofits. Great animal ethics example: PETA.
    [6] Support international collective efforts. Animal ethics examples: international declarations on animal welfare, animal rights, etc.

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