The relentless meatification of diets is a momentous but wildly under-appreciated aspect of modernity. The average person on earth annually consumes nearly twice as much meat as occurred just a half century ago, during a period when the human population leapt from roughly 3 billion to over 7 billion people. On the current course, there will be more than 9 billion people by 2050 consuming an average of more than 50 kg (over 110 pounds) of meat per year, with huge disparities between rich and poor and the fastest growth occurring in the middle. Roughly 70 percent of global meat production by volume comes from pigs and chickens alone, and the industrial production of these two species, led by chickens, is expected to account for almost all further growth. The industrial grain-oilseed-livestock complex occupies a large share of the world’s arable land, with soaring animal populations concentrated in dense enclosures and tied to great flows of feedstuffs.

This talk will introduce a conceptual framework, the ecological hoofprint, for examining this system of agriculture and how it is contributing to a more unsustainable, unequal, and violent world. In particular, it focuses on how productive environments are organized and the biophysical problems engendered, as a means to understand resource budgets and environmental burdens. The ecological hoofprint also helps to understand how this trajectory of dietary change and system of agriculture contribute to global inequality, the degradation of agrarian labour, and an expanding world of animal suffering."

Interactive transcript

Tony Weis

Tony Weis

2016 Conference
Tony Weis is an Associate Professor of Geography at the University of Western Ontario, in London, Ontario, where he lives with his wife and two daughters. Tony is the author of The Ecological Hoofprint: The Global Burden of Industrial Livestock (Zed Books, 2013) and The Global Food Economy: The Battle for the Future of Farming (Zed Books, 2007), and co-editor of A Line in the Tar Sands: Struggles for Environmental Justice (BTL/PM Press 2014) and Critical Perspectives on Food Sovereignty (Routledge 2014). At Western, Tony teaches courses which center on international political economy, biodiversity and climate change, conservation, and agriculture and food systems. Tony’s research is broadly located in the field of political ecology and critical agrarian studies. Initially, his empirical research occurred in the Caribbean, where he lived and worked for a total of roughly three years (Jamaica and Guyana). There, he sought to understand the economic and environmental problems facing small farmers, as well as prospects for change, approaching research in a way that was grounded in work with small farmers while also considering the wider political, economic context of their struggles. This interest led him towards his first book, The Global Food Economy, which analyzed the structural imbalances, social tensions, and ecological instabilities in the global system of agricultural production and trade; the historical development and institutional entrenchment of this system; and prospects for more socially just, ecologically rational and humane alternatives. Following this, he has focused a lot of attention on what has often been described as the ‘global food crisis,' seeking to examine the biophysical dimensions of present and future food insecurity, especially with respect to the industrial grain-oilseed-livestock complex, interests which flowed into his second book, The Ecological Hoofprint. He is currently at work on his third book, tentatively titled Ghosts and Things: Animals in a Changing World.   To learn more, visit


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