Debating animal agriculture in contemporary India: Ethics, politics, ecologies

Krithika Srinivasan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper investigates social science literatures and public discourse on animal-based food systems in India to examine how social, ecological, and animal justice concerns are addressed (or not). The Indian livestock sector is estimated to be the largest in the world, with significant implications for local and planetary natures and the individual animals that compose the sector. The intensification of livestock production in India has unfolded alongside serious, often violent, sectarian conflicts around meat and cow protection. In this paper, I discuss how scholarly and public debates have been centred on the cultural roots of vegetarianism, the right-wing contours of political bans on cow slaughter, beef, and eggs, while issues relating to the more-than-human impacts of animal agriculture have remained marginal. The paper brings these analyses together with an examination of the intensification of animal agriculture in the country, and the consequent animal, ecological, and social vulnerabilities. Through this multi-optic account of animalbased food systems in India, I argue that the single-optic focus on cows, consumption (of meat) and related identity politics has produced serious lacunae in scholarship and public debate in the form of the overlooking of the multiple, intersecting impacts of commercial livestock farming on social, ecological, and animal wellbeing. In the backdrop of global worry about animal agriculture, the paper inspects the role of the social sciences in creating possibilities for considered engagement with the plural justice implications of India’s rapidly intensifying livestock landscapes.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironment and Planning E: Nature and Space
Early online date23 Dec 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Dec 2021


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