Sustainable Food Guide
|Environmental Practice at Work © 2005
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We are hearing the term "ethical" more often. Sometimes it is used as a misnomer for "environmental" (eg Newsnights TV's "Ethical Man") Which is a shame, as the term provides a useful tool to address issues - here to do with food.
While some people may think ethics is a bit "airy fairy", it has history which we can call upon. Many people in the past have tried to work out how we come to making that crucial ethical decision - is it right or wrong?
Just like the legal system, there are previous precedents and both have to arrive at a guilty/not guilty (or ethical/unethical) decision. Both ethics and law have to deal with specific sets of circumstances, always different.
Ethics is the 'big picture' . Food / Agricultural Ethics takes in "sustainability" (primarily envirornment but also social concerns), welfare of animals and people, but also wider concerns - that go beyond what may be easiliy measurable.
Food Ethics is "concerned with the issues of right and wrong, and/or good and bad, as they impact on the production, processing, distribution, and utilisation of food - encompassing the interests of the current and future generations of humans and sentient beings." Ben Mepham
More " Such ethical concerns seek tp pay due concern to the diveristy of political, cultural , spiritual and technological influnces on the world's peoples, while prioritorising the principle of fairness". There are three principles to help determine what is ethical: Wellbeing, Autonomy and Fairness.
Go to the Ethical Matrix that provides "exercises in how to apply ethics to issues in animal farming, including an interactive web-based exercise".
This matrix was developed by Ben Mepham who edited the book Food Ethics and wrote Biothics. People are free to develop or reinterpret it at will. It is a tool for ethical deliberation, and does not prescribe an outcome. It helps people arrive at, and justify to others, their ethical reasons for reaching a judgement. The matrix is there to be adapted.
We have added another 'interest group' from one of several in the Food Chain which include retailers, suppliers, growers, managers and workers. We have chosen 'workers' (in both developed and less developed countries) to show how ethical decisions may be made. You can see how we have added ethical concerns regarding workers to fit the matrix below...
We invite you to make suggestions for ways to assess the 'wellbeing', 'autonomy' and 'fairness' for other interest groups...perhaps also for consumers - rich, poor, young, old, fit, sick etc.
Agricultural Ethics is to help all agriculturalists feel comfortable using ethics in handling the multiple and often conflicting demands that sectors of the public press on agriculture
|Photos courtesy of http://www.usda.gov