The Ethics of Food

The growing, farming, selling, preparing, and eating of food is a fundamental aspect of human life that can unite – and separate – society. With brand new eBooks, exciting podcasts and exclusive Lesson Plans, this Topic in Focus is your gateway into the vital and timely topic of food ethics.

Barbeque (Pixabay)

Bloomsbury Academic Podcast: The Sexual Politics of Meat

Veganism. Animal rights. Feminism. Masculinity. Capitalism. The climate crisis. Racism. Author Carol Adams discusses how each of these issues is connected. If you’re eager to explore the intersectional relationships between them and discover how they relate to the way society thinks about meat consumption and gender politics, then this episode of the Bloomsbury Academic Podcast is for you. Carol J. Adams is a feminist-vegan advocate, activist, and independent scholar, and her new book Living Among Meat Eaters: The Vegetarian and Vegan Survival Guide (2022) is now available on the Bloomsbury Food Library.

Ohio Farm (Pixabay)

The Ethics of Dairy Farming in the 21st Century

How do we achieve food security for a global population now over 7 billion people and trending towards 10 billion by 2050? This study of the global dairy industry examines how to balance our needs with those of animals and the environment. In this chapter from Dairy Farming in the 21st Century: Global Ethics, Environment and Politics (2022) Bruce A. Scholten offers a multifaceted discussion of the ethics of dairying, and consumption of plant- and laboratory-based foods in the 21st century. No book to date offers such a comprehensive overview, linking ethics, environment, health and policy-making with in-depth coverage of the major dairy farming regions of the world.

: Grocery Shopping (Pixabay)

The Moralities and Politics of Food

A notable feature of contemporary life is the role food plays as a medium for social commentary and political action. Food is as visible in policymaking and is the focus of a good deal of campaigning and proselytizing. The prevalence of debates around food today demands interrogation, as it signals something important about the social and cultural worlds we inhabit. This chapter by Peter Luetchford from The Handbook of Food and Anthropology (2016) focuses on ethical consumption in mature capitalist economies. Food, it is argued, has become an increasingly visible ‘problematic’ in such contexts because it poses important social and political questions, as these increasingly emerge in the context of neoliberal globalization.

Rally Protest (Pixabay)

Food Justice and Narrative Ethics

In her vital and timely book, Food Justice and Narrative Ethics: Reading Stories for Ethical Awareness and Activism (2018), Beth A. Dixon explores how food justice impacts human lives. With stories from national media, food and farming memoirs, and scholarly ethnographies, Dixon reveals how different food narratives are constructed, and enable identification of just solutions to issues surrounding food insecurity, farm labor, and the lived experience of obesity. Drawing on Aristotle’s concept of ethical perception, Dixon demonstrates how we can use narratives to enhance our understanding and ethical competence about injustice in relation to food. In this chapter Dixon introduce the concept of ethical perception and explains its role in the development of moral competence.

Wind Energy (Pixabay)

Exclusive Lesson Plan: Sustainable Food

In this exclusive Lesson Plan, Rebecca Sandover highlights central discourses and debates in food and sustainability, such as; what is a sustainable diet? How can we move towards an increased consumption of sustainable diets? What is the role of individuals and government in addressing these issues? Central to these questions are the issues of the governance of individual actions, themes of sustainable and ethical food consumption, the role of food movements, issues of food justice, and more. With weekly readings, suggested discussion questions as assessment options, this unique teaching and learning tool will support instructors building their course, as well as independent students and researchers looking to expand their own research.

Pig Breeding (Pixabay)

Ethics and Systematic Theology

On Animals by David Clough (2018) presents an authoritative and comprehensive survey of human practice in relation to other animals, together with a Christian ethical analysis building on the theological account of animals which Clough developed in On Animals Volume I: Systematic Theology (2012). It argues that a Christian understanding of other animals has radical implications for their treatment by humans, with the human use and abuse of non-human animals for food the most urgent immediate priority. This chapter explores the use of animals to gain knowledge, through research, medicine, and education, and considers opposition to the practice through history through to present day.

List of recommended reading from this Topic in Focus:

The book cover of A Cultural History of Food in the Modern Age

Author in Focus: Amy Bentley

Amy Bentley is a Professor of Food Studies in the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, and is co-founder of the NYU Urban Farm Lab and the Experimental Cuisine Collective. A historian with interests in the social, historical, and cultural contexts of food, food systems, and nutrition and health, Bentley has written or edited extensively in the field of food studies. Her current research projects include a history of food in US hospitals, and the meanings and uses of food production in religious communities. Bentley also serves as a board member for a number of academic journals, and is a member of the Bloomsbury Food Library’s very own Editorial Advisory Board. Click here to discover a list of her works that are available through the Bloomsbury Food Library.

Bentley has published widely in the field of food studies, including as editor of the multi volume reference work, A Cultural History of Food in the Modern Age (2011). In her Introduction to the volume Bentley outlines the way that we can explore the story of history and culture through food, which plays a role in virtually every arena that is important to our lives: from the rituals of daily life, leisure activities, and aesthetic pleasure, to politics and government, war, social interchange, and commerce. As Bentley points out, the consumption of food is an extraordinarily social activity laden with complex and shifting layers of meaning.

This notion of food as a vehicle to study and understand our society is a thread that is weaved throughout Bentley’s work, and is carried through her diverse list of publications. Indeed, she has contributed articles to a number of publications on a wide ranging variety of topics, from the historiography of food in U.S. history (Writing Food History, 2013), and food in popular culture as it is demarcated by age over the life span (The Handbook of Popular Culture, 2018), to food riots and European national identity (Food, Drink and Identity, 2001).

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