To a historian, recent reconfigurations of agriculture could be seen as less of a revolution than a reversion to the norm, with the 20th Century’s profligate long-distance distribution of regional produce – not to mention its waste, subsidies and stockpiling – appearing as an aberrational episode.
Monoculture farming practices are in retreat worldwide, but the reduction in the beef and dairy systems that dominated Europe and the Americas is perhaps the most profound. Provoked in part by the rising cost of long-haul logistics and refrigeration, the impetus came mostly from below, as the spread of vegan and vegetarian lifestyles provoked a higher standard of quality and ethics among those who were still unwilling to entirely forgo animal products.
While the worst excesses of militant vegan terror-cells in the 2020s came close to provoking a backlash, the work of a new generation of farmers and chefs in producing and promoting healthy, locally-sourced foods untainted by refrigeration, preservatives and plastic packaging did much to normalise diets in which meat, dairy and exotic produce play a far smaller role. The adjustment of subsidy regimes toward rewilding and carbon sinks have resulted in the resurrection of landscapes last seen before the dawn of the industrial revolution.
by Paul Raven
A Cemetery of Cows
Imagine if milk was produced in humongous industrial facilities; fractured into powder and shipped around the globe. For a long time, that is how the dairy system worked. Most of the cow-juice would be pasteurized and packaged for domestic consumption but during the early 21st century, powder became the currency of choice for leading dairy nations such as New Zealand. The team at Vice visited the ruins of what was once Europe’s biggest dairy farm, in Noviercas – Spain.
Our guide José started working at the farm in 2019 when he was just 18 years old:
at the time, this was the biggest thing to happen to my village! They came to a local council meeting and showed us the plans - 23 000 cows in one facility - almost a 100 million Euros invested, 3000 hectares and at least 300 jobs. I remember calling my mother in tears; I would finally get my first job.
Not everyone was pleased by the decision, local farmers feared they would be out-competed and animal rights groups called the institution ‘an architectured genocide’:
We know that there is controversy; the sector may not like it whenever there is competition. But in Soria, there is nothing else, we have to reach everything that comes and this is an investment of €80m that will create jobs, said Asaja Soria, president of the local farmers association in a 2017 interview.
But this industrialist’s wet dream would not last forever, José explains:
Then they started to arrive. Los Veganas [said with disdain]. They came from the big cities of Spain, even from France, and set up camp outside of the gates to the farm. Every morning they would harass us as we went to work, yelling ‘Meat is Murder’ and ‘No Milk. No Climate Change’. It was draining, we just wanted the work.
One night in 2025, the protesters took matters into their own hands, broke into one of the mega-barns, and released upwards to two thousands cows.
We had to spend a week just gathering all the cows up, many of them were too weak and died in the exposed sun. Each week more and more people showed up. More Veganas, more trouble. We were also hearing news from our superiors that the EU was considering cutting off their support to all large-scale animal agriculture.
A year later, in the spring of 2026, the TAP (Transitional Agricultural Programme) passed in the EU – following violent clashes between farmers, police and the ‘TAP the CAP’-movement. This meant a massive financial shift in what ventures were profitable, the livestock industry had to adapt and thus cows became a means to an end, not the end itself.
The day after the decision came; the company told us we would shut down. It was no longer economically viable with the new rules. We were laid off – effective immediately. I asked; ‘what about the animals?’ – leave them, my boss said as he sped off in his truck.
That is why the locals call this site el cemetario de vacas – ‘The cow cemetery’. It didn’t take long for local farmers to capture the cows that were still standing after the lot was vacated – and soon enough, the municipality launched FENIX, a TAP-financed regenerative agricultural program, which brought regenerative farming back to the area. The buildings still stand, rusty and wild, as an obituary to a lost era – and if you listen closely, you might hear a ghostly ‘moooo’…
by Ludwig Bengtsson Sonesson