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Defund Meat Conference


Date and venue

A public launch event will be held at the Deutsch-Amerikanisches Institut in Heidelberg on Wednesday evening, 15 January 2025.

The conference will be held at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg on Thursday and Friday, 16 - 17 January 2025.


Conference theme

This conference revisits the ‘meat question’ in the contemporary social, political, and legal context. Meat is an embodied symbol of the mounting and interrelated environmental and public health crises that have become characteristic of our era (which may be best described as the Anthropocene and One Health era): climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation, pandemics, food insecurity, unhealthy and unsustainable diets, and institutionalised animal suffering. While (not) eating meat has long been cast as a private choice, it is increasingly turning into a public and political issue, as the social, ecological, and ethical costs of industrialised meat production are becoming more visible and prominent. Overwhelming scientific evidence indicates the need for sustainable food transformations and, concomitantly, a dietary transition away from animal-based foods. In consequence, the idea of a new – a transformative – meat governance with the aim of reducing overall meat production and consumption is gaining traction.

Nevertheless, meat remains the elephant in the room – or the sacred cow – especially when it comes to climate change and global public health strategies. Moreover, meat-reduction policies have not yet been instituted as integral part of the sustainable food transformation. While buzzwords such as the ‘decarbonisation’ of the economy and ‘fossil fuel divestment’ have become mainstream, comparable calls for a ‘deanimalisation’ of agriculture or for ‘defunding meat’ remain marginal. Considering livestock’s ‘long shadow’, it is time to drop the taboo: we need to talk about meat.

This interdisciplinary conference seeks to move the meat question from the margins into the spotlight of the ongoing debates on One Health, sustainability, climate change, food security, and public health. The objective is to launch a multi-disciplinary and multi-perspective scholarly debate about meat in the Anthropocene that also contributes to the public debates in society. We seek to understand better the impacts of meat production and consumption on humans, animals, and the environment, to scrutinise traditional regulatory approaches, and to envision the future shape and instruments of a transformative meat governance.

Call for Engaged Listeners

The MPIL invites doctoral and postdoctoral researchers to apply as 'engaged listeners'. Engaged listeners will be admitted to the conference including meals free of charge and will be listed in the programme. Engaged listeners do not give a talk but are expected to participate actively in the discussions. Travel and accommodation are at own expenses.  

Please apply via our online application system with CV and letter of motivation (max. 500 words) by 15 July 2024. Selection is based on demonstrated interest and expertise in the conference theme. Notifications about acceptance as an engaged listener will be sent out by 31 July 2024.