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The Ecological Hoofprint: The Global Burden of Industrial Livestock

By Tony Weis

The Ecological Hoofprint book-coverThe Ecological Hoofprint examines the industrialization of livestock production on a world scale, which is the driving force behind the phenomenal and uneven increase in global meat consumption, and the momentous but greatly underappreciated implications of this trajectory. The central argument of the book is that industrial livestock production and the ‘meatification’ of diets constitute a large and growing vector of environmental degradation and worsening human inequality, as well as an invisible, routinized aspect of the deep systemic violence of everyday life. These interwoven dynamics are illuminated through ecological hoofprint: a new conceptual framework which helps to understand the nature of the industrial grain-oilseed-livestock complex, in particular how the scale, inequality, resource budgets, and pollution loads of grain and oilseed monocultures are greatly magnified by soaring populations of concentrated and commodified animals.

Ultimately, the ecological hoofprint explains why there is an urgent need to challenge the industrialization of livestock production, and why this deserves much greater attention in broader struggles to build a more sustainable, just, and humane world.

What is being said about The Ecological Hoofprint:

‘In The Ecological Hoofprint Weis puts meat at the centre of global problems like climate change, poverty, workers’ rights, and speciesism. Anyone seeking a just and sustainable world needs to consider his compelling argument that radical change must start by combating the meatification of the human diet.’
Peter Singer, Princeton University, author of Animal Liberation
Tony Weis has a mind that spans a multitude of disciplines, from philosophy to international political economy, from ecology to biology. In The Ecological Hoofprint, he brings these considerable skills to craft a concise, readable, and important reading of today’s meatified world. It’s an analysis that couldn’t be more timely nor more urgent.’
Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System
‘With the metaphor of the ecological hoofprint Tony Weis sounds a clear warning about the perils of the rising global consumption of meat. The powerful message of this book is that ascending the animal protein ladder is a formula for deepening social inequalities and compounding ecological risk. With compelling detail the author demonstrates that meatification is an inefficient and potentially catastrophic use of planetary resources. This didactic book provides an unforgettable perspective on the illusion of identifying animal protein consumption with modern progress.’
Philip McMichael, Cornell University, author of Development and Social Change: A Global Perspective
‘With Tony Weis’s powerful insights, we see that humanity’s sudden, catastrophic shift to meat-centric farming and eating – killing us and our planet – is neither inevitable nor progress. We learn we have real choice. Packed with startling facts and framed in a compelling narrative, The Ecological Hoofprint is a mighty motivator. Bravo!’
Frances Moore Lappé, author of Diet for a Small Planet and co-founder of The Small Planet Institute
‘Weis delivers a penetrating and systematic structural analysis of the global industrial feeds-livestock complex that reveals the extent to which Earth’s resources are subsumed to the logic of cheap meat production. Insightful, accessible, compelling, this is a must read for scholars and students of the food system.’
Colin Sage, University College Cork, author of Environment and Food
‘Weis provides an intellectually compelling argument against the industrial farming of livestock. While recognizing that increasing meat consumption is often viewed favorably – as evidence of the globalization of the Western diet – he carefully details the costs for human health, the environment, and the industrially reared animals. Weis calls for an urgent reappraisal of factory farming as a first step in reducing the ecological hoofprint on planet meat. It’s a great book!’
Geoffrey Lawrence, The University of Queensland
‘A must read if you want to understand the scale, inefficiency, and wide-ranging impact of the rapid meatification of diets since the mid-twentieth century. The number of slaughtered animals, the author notes, has rocketed from 8 billion to 64 billion in fifty years. The dynamic driving this ecologically damaging change, rightly argues Tony Weis, is an industrial grain-oilseed-livestock complex driven by the demands of capitalism to seek new means of increasing returns, which involves totally reorganizing nature.’
             Geoff Tansey, co-author of The Food System –  A Guide and member and trustee of The Food Ethics Council


Introduction: meatification and why it matters

1. Contextualizing the hoofprint: global environmental change and inequality

2. The uneven geography of meat

3. The industrial grain-oilseed-livestock complex

4. Confronting the ecological hoofprint: towards a more sustainable, just, and humane world