Livia Boscardin

Green Growth, Happy Meat, and Resource Species: Animal Exploitation in Neoliberal Green Capitalism

By, Livia Boscardin, Doctoral Student in Sociology at University of Basel, Switzerland


McDonald’s starts purchasing “verified sustainable meat” in 2016. Self-declared conservationists go into raptures over “home-grown,” “happy meat” from local farms. Starbucks is selling vegan soy frappuccino to be both trendier and greener (i.e., to increase profits). Radical environmentalists and animal liberationists might shake their head despondently: just old wine in new wineskins?

On the one hand, we have corporations and the state embracing an ingenious green rhetoric while assiduously exploiting nonhuman animals. On the other hand, we can observe the materialization of a new form of vegan consumerist lifestyle. Both phenomena share their belief in the logic of the market.

In my presentation, I will first critically examine sustainable development as a concept which has become almost equivalent to green capitalism: Focusing on the marketization of natural resources, on efficiency gains and recycling, and on the strategy of decoupling, current sustainable development policies show that it is mainly profitability that must be sustained. Accordingly, this anthropocentric paradigm reduces nonhuman animals to mere “resource species.”

Secondly, I will look at new trends in the animal industrial complex, which, next to killing more than 66 billion nonhuman land animals yearly, is responsible for up to 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The industry struggles to reduce its ecological hoofprint, but simultaneously wants to achieve the “livestock revolution,” which means doubling the numbers of slaughtered beings. This should be attained through an increase in efficiency and technological innovation such as the manipulation of the animal’s digestion. Other trends inspired by green growth are the creation of in vitro meat or, as mentioned above, the notorious “happy meat.”

These recent developments pose new challenges, but also new opportunities for collaboration between different groups fighting for animal and Earth liberation: The hegemonic sustainable development discourse and the animal industrial complex have their common denominator in commoditizing life and nature following ecological modernization theory. Acknowledging the urgency posed by the Anthropo- or Capitalocene, the goal of the presentation is to collectively reflect on ecology–including racist biological concepts like of “invasive species” that are perhaps too often taken at face value–, intersectionality, power and privilege, and strategies for total liberation in neoliberal green capitalism.


Livia Boscardin is a PhD student in Sociology at the University of Basel, Switzerland. Her work critically examines the nexus Animals and Sustainable Development by asking how nonhuman animals are considered in the concept and practice of sustainable development, and how the paradigm of green capitalism/green growth is creating new forms of oppression in the nonhuman and human world. She has presented her research at conferences in Europe and Australia and published on the issue. Livia’s interests include critical animal studies, sustainable development/ degrowth, Critical Theory, ecofeminism, and intersectionality. She was the coordinative assistant of the doctoral program “Law and Animals: Ethics at Crossroads” of the University of Basel and now spends the Spring term of 2015 as a visiting scholar at the Animal Studies Initiative, NYU. In Basel, she’s part of animal rights and prisoner support collectives and equally engaged in other struggles for social justice.