Global Food, Health, and Society

A Colby Community Website for ST297, Fall 2018

Are we making the right choices?

In my earlier post, I discussed the accessibility of food, and how some corporations have perverted nutritional science in order to benefit themselves. Access to food is an important issue, and in the United States it is often correlated to economic status. Those with more wealth have access to more expensive food. This more expensive food falls under three categories; luxury goods (such as truffles or imported fruits), meat, and locally grown/organic food (these categories were created by generalizing the groceries available in an upscale grocery store, such as Whole Foods). These three categories exist in tandem, meaning that those with access to more expensive food are faced with a choice between them. The local/organic food is the more ethical option, for reasons this blogpost will delve into later, but will people choose the more ethical option over the option that is less ethical but more satisfying to themselves? Will those with the option choose what is better for them or better for the environment? By addressing these questions using philosophical logic, this blogpost aims to explore the ethics of these three choices.

Before the philosophical logic is presented on the ethics of choosing to eat meat, we must dive into why local organic food is the more ethical option. Local/organic food is the more ethical option for one main reason; environmental impact. To start with, local/organic food is locally sourced, as can be inferred in the name. This means that there is less of an environmental impact from the transportation of local/organic food, than any of the other options. These other options likely had to be flown or driven in to the supermarket from the source, which can be a large chain of transport. The average transportation chain is shown in the graphic below:

Transportation Chain Graphic

Looking at this graphic, it is clear that the non-locally sourced option involves a large amount of transportation, whereas the local/organic option takes less transportation. Purely from a carbon emissions standpoint, it is clear that there is less of negative environmental impact in the short distance transportation of local/organic food than in the long distance transportation of other options. Local/organic foods also help benefit the local environment; by buying local food we can help maintain farmland and green space in our community.2 As the local/organic foods have less of an environmental impact, they are a more sustainable option. This means that purchasing local/organic foods is better for the future of the environment as a whole. Taking into account the environmental impact, and the positive effect on local areas, both positives that the other options do not have, it is clear that the local/organic options are the ethical choice. Meat was not mentioned in terms of environmental impact due to transportation, because meat can fall under either of these categories.

Now that it has been established that choosing local/organic options are more ethical than the luxury goods because of environmental impact, we must explore the ethics of eating meat. To do so, we must define speciesism. Speciesism is the idea in one’s species that their species is inherently better than any others.1 It is thought to be one of the reasons of why a species will justify killing another to eat it (learned from an interview with a Philosophy professor). If one species, for argumentative purposes we shall call it species A, believes itself to be inherently better than species B, then it will have no moral or ethical qualms about killing species B, whether it be for eating purposes or otherwise. We see this often in today’s world, as many people eat meat, and some even hunt for sport. In these people we see speciesism at its pinnacle, as neither type have qualms about killing another species. This is an explanation for why one species will eat another, and without this speciesism, we see the existence of individuals who make the choice not to eat meat. These individuals have conquered their speciesism, and in an interview with a vegetarian, he stated that the main reason for his vegetarianism was “because they were not better or more special than any animal that would be slaughtered for meat”. In further questions we learned that they came to this conclusion when they learned that animals could feel, and some could even have conscious thought (such as dolphins). With more knowledge of an animal’s characteristics, they were able to overcome the idea that their species was better than any others. This raises the question; does education about an animal’s ability to feel pain lead to the overcoming of speciesism (and in turn would education about the ethics of local/organic foods change people’s choice whether or not to purchase them)? In self-reflection, I found the answer to be no. While I know that an animal feels pain, and that they can potentially have conscious thought, I still am inclined to eat meat. However, it is not because of speciesism. I do not think myself to be better than any other species, yet I am still inclined to eat meat. While speciesism is definitely a factor in why humans eat meat, it is not the only reason. To be frank, after lots of thought, the main reason I choose to eat meat is because I enjoy the taste. I put selfish enjoyment over the well-being of another animal. I choose to put personal experience first. We cannot therefore make a sweeping exclamation about the ethics of eating meat; it comes down to the individual and whether they believe that their satisfaction is worth the life of an animal. There are those who choose not to, and further research needs to be done into the philosophical and psychological reasons those that choose not to eat meat do so.

It is clear that the local/organic option of food is the more ethical option, mainly due to environmental issues, and the ethics that come along with choosing to eat meat remain unresolved, and for the reader to determine for themselves. Little was gleamed from this exploration other than that there will be those who make the choice against the ethics, and those who take the ethics into account. Perhaps people choose the luxury goods because they are a form of conspicuous consumption, and a status symbol. More research should be done into the philosophical and psychological conundrums that occur when someone makes the choice to put their self-pleasure before anything else (in terms of food choices), and see if that is the case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Citations:

 

1“Ethics – Animal Ethics: The Ethics of Speciesism.” BBC. Accessed November 26, 2018.

 

2Klavinski, Rita. “7 Benefits of Eating Local Foods.” Native Plants and Ecosystem Services. September 20, 2018. Accessed November 26, 2018.

 

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for this thought-provoking post. Personally, I cannot decide to what extent eating meat is ethical/unethical. I know that reducing meat consumption has a positive impact on the environment, but I am only one in a few billion people who eat meat, so it would make little difference whether I am vegetarian. Of course if everyone uses the same excuse then we won’t be able to make any positive changes, but I feel that among the world’s population nowadays, there is still no real impetus to switch to a more plant-based diet, so I am still disinclined to abandon my love for meat. Or perhaps I just need to change my mindset. Another thing is, even though animals like dolphins, dogs and pigs are highly intelligent and feel pain, do frogs and shellfish deserve the same amount of respect? Would it be more ethical for us to eat less evolved animals (e.g. fish, jellyfish, lobsters, snails, insects) because they are unlikely to have conscious thoughts or perception of pain? Is it going to be like a new religion, where people have to follow rules about which animals are justifiable to eat and which are not?

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