Hyperanimals: framing livestock and climate change in Danish imaginaries
Winter, Drew Robert
Doctor of Philosophy
The IPCC and UN FAO have both suggested a global reduction in meat consumption to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But how do nations and citizens resolve tensions between ecological stewardship and meat consumption? What is implied in eating meat and raising livestock in a country where the historical imaginary yokes national values to the pig-producing countryside? To answer these questions, this dissertation examines how climate change is affecting meat consumption and production logics in Denmark. Though the country has a reputation for progressive environmental policy, its formerly large agricultural sector continues to exert disproportionate political influence, and many citizens consider pork its most "traditional" food. In 2016, a publicly-funded advisory council issued a report suggesting that parliament pass a beef tax to reduce consumption and reflect its environmental impact. The report was the most controversial the council had ever issued, with members receiving angry phone calls and politicians arguing the council should be disbanded. The proposal put national tensions between sustainability and agriculture in full view, and it became clear that such a tax would not be passed. Based on 16 months of fieldwork with meat industry workers, food innovation NGOs, environmental activists, and animal rights advocates, this dissertation explores how stakeholders in the meat-climate debate produce and enact knowledge; while industry scientists used quantification as a stand-in for making ethical claims, NGOs attempted to make new environmental subjects through educational eating programs and pressure campaigns to increase availability of plant-based foods. These efforts are contrasted with activists who work directly with animals, whose work is biopolitical and affective. All actors claim to be in favor of "environmental sustainability" but are governed by conflicting internal regimes and motivations. What emerged was a hydra of anxieties not just about climate but human-animal relationships in general, that I call "hyperanimal."
global warming; meat; agriculture; animal liberation; Scandinavia