Spring 2023

The Milky Way: An Ecological Transition of the Dairy IndustryElvira Kinzner, Ji Min An, and Thomas Gruber

The picturesque hinterland with cows grazing on steep alpine pastures forms one of the most unmissable imaginaries of Switzerland. However, this idyllic postcard image conceals complex environmental and sociocultural imbalances that give rise to multiple anthropogenic challenges in the meat and dairy industry that places the well-being of our ecosystems in peril. The need to be self-sufficient where Switzerland can meet its food requirements from its own domestic production further distorts this image as a web of subsidies stagnate the structure of this bovine landscape.

In the Zurich Oberland, like in most other farming regions of Switzerland, agricultural lands are under pressure due to the expansion of urban settlements in the lower valley, and the encroachment of the forest boundaries from the upper valley. The diminishing area of agricultural land together with the impacts of climate crisis further deteriorates the carrying capacity of the territory where regenerative closed-loop systems are no longer feasible.

The growing criticism directed at the meat and dairy industry due to its negative impacts on the climate crisis and animal welfare, necessitates a shift in our current value systems. How can we move towards a more resilient future not by adding even more layers of strict social binaries- such as complete vegan populations- but a scenario that is more agile and flexible? This project envisions a territorial and socioecological transformation through the practice of neo-transhumance as the vehicle towards landscapes of continuity, adaptability, hybridity, and community.