The Temerty Faculty of Medicine's Environmental Lecture Series: Health (human and planetary) and the Existential Threat of the Anthropocene

March 21: The ecological hoofprint and the trajectory of global livestock production and consumption


Tony Weis

Tony Weis PhD
Department of Geography and Environment
The University of Western Ontario, Canada

Tony Weis is a Professor of Geography and Environment at Western University. His research is broadly located in the field of political ecology, with a focus on the power imbalances, biophysical instabilities, and interspecies relations in modern agriculture and food systems, and he has given particular attention to the problems of industrial livestock production. He is the author of The Ecological Hoofprint: The Global Burden of Industrial Livestock (2013) and The Global Food Economy: The Battle for the Future of Farming (2007), and is presently at work on a book tentatively entitled The Violent Narrowing of Animal Life.


In 2021, the average person on earth consumed over 45 kg of meat in a world of almost 8 billion people, nearly double the per capita consumption from 1961 (23 kg/year) when the world population was roughly 3 billion people. By 2050, if FAO projections materialize, the average person on earth will be consuming over 50 kg of meat/year in a world of over 9.5 billion people. This picture contains huge disparities in per capita consumption between high- and low-income countries, while the fastest growth is occurring in middle-income countries. These extraordinary increases have been driven by the industrialization of livestock production, which now commands close to one-third of the world’s arable land. The aim of this talk is to present a framework for understanding the multidimensional environmental burdens associated with this trajectory, and why challenging it is vital to hopes of building more sustainable, healthy, just, and humane agro-food systems.