Food, Fiber, and Friends

Erin McKenna

A reevaluation of our relationship with livestock animals


"Erin McKenna argues for an ecological or ‘biocentric’ perspective on ‘livestock animals.’ In her interviews of livestock farmers and observations of their farms, she investigates human ways of being in relationship with animals raised for human consumption and contextualizes these relationships within their broader natural environments. Then, examining these contextualized relationships through the dual lens of pragmatism and ecofeminism, she develops a picture of healthier, more respectful relationships with the animals we know as ‘livestock.’ After reading this book I better appreciate the complexity and interrelatedness of agricultural ecologies and economies."
—Mary Trachsel, University of Iowa

"A rigorous and crossdisciplinary work that is accessible and highly effective at sparking discussion and reflection about the animals that are called 'livestock.' This text would shine as a core reading for a course about animal ethics or food ethics that incorporates philosophy and/or case studies."
—S. M. Weiss, CHOICE


Most livestock in the United States currently live in cramped and unhealthy confinement, have few stable social relationships with humans or others of their species, and finish their lives by being transported and killed under stressful conditions. In Livestock, Erin McKenna allows us to see this situation and presents alternatives. She interweaves stories from visits to farms, interviews with producers and activists, and other rich material about the current condition of livestock. In addition, she mixes her account with pragmatist and ecofeminist theorizing about animals, drawing in particular on John Dewey’s account of evolutionary history, and provides substantial historical background about individual species and about human-animal relations.

This deeply informative text reveals that the animals we commonly see as livestock have rich evolutionary histories, species-specific behaviors, breed tendencies, and individual variation, just as those we respect in companion animals such as dogs, cats, and horses. To restore a similar level of respect for livestock, McKenna examines ways we can balance the needs of our livestock animals with the environmental and social impacts of raising them, and she investigates new possibilities for humans to be in relationships with other animals. This book thus offers us a picture of healthier, more respectful relationships with livestock.

Animal Voices / Animal Worlds

This book was made possible in part by the generous support of the Oregon Humanities Center

Page count: 264 pp.
14 b&w images
Trim size: 6 x 9


List price: $89.95

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List price: $29.95

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Erin McKenna is a professor of philosophy at the University of Oregon.