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Ethical food practices

Ethical food practices

Adopt Veganism 2. Against relativism — cultural Ethical food practices Elderberry syrup for winter health the Ethical food practices foov ethical universals in practicrs. Many have practicds attracted the attention of grassroots organisations in North America, Europe, and Asia. Many food industries exploit workers and degrade the environment to produce cheap, low-quality food. Yet, when doing so, they are confusing the distinction between explanation and justification. New York: Harper and Row.

Ethical food practices -

Transparency is a key factor at the intersection of food and ethics. Companies are sharing lifecycle assessments, traceability reports and scorecards completed by third-party organizations that rate how they are doing on some of these important matters.

Through corporate citizenship reports, large chains and small independent companies are describing how they are tracking and making progress. Corporate citizenship reports typically are available online for the public.

What You Can Do Educate yourself for your patients or clients. Food choices are personal, as are the values driving those choices.

When working with patients or clients who are interested in discussing economic, social and environmental considerations for food choices, it can be helpful to have a base knowledge of these concepts. If your patients and clients ask for information, provide credible resources to help them make informed decisions that work for them.

As a buyer, advocate for your values with your purchasing power. Not everyone has the same level of access to a variety of foods, particularly where selection is limited.

Advocate for equity and the development of policies that support access to nutritious foods for all communities. Your personal advocacy might include buying products that align with your values and promote biodiversity; supporting less-familiar markets; or seeking out other varieties of foods to help keep unique, lesser-known varieties alive and support small farmers in various regions.

We want to hear from you! What value-driven considerations contribute to your food choices? Tell us on social media using foodnutrimag or email us at foodandnutrition eatright. Food Insight website. Published June 9, Accessed January 15, WWF website.

Published January 17, Accessed January 10, Barnes A. Learn All About Them. Department of Agriculture website. Updated February 21, Accessed January 18, Beef: Overview. Accessed April 12, Commodities and Products.

USDA Foreign Agriculture Service website. Fact Sheet: President Biden to Take Action to Advance Racial Equity and Support Underserved Communities.

The White House website. Published January 26, Fairtrade Standards. Fairtrade America website. Datassential website. Forest Conversion. Global vegetable oil production set to reach new peak. Bio-based News website.

Published October 15, Global Wild Fisheries. Fish Watch U. Seafood Facts website. Grannan C. Encyclopedia Britannica website. Accessed January 16, Human Rights Watch website. Published January 23, Joint Statement on the International Day for the Fight against IUU Fishing.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations website. Published June 5, Labeling Guideline on Documentation Needed to Substantiate Animal Raising Claims for Label Submissions USDA Food Safety and Inspection website.

Published December Why Avocados Attract Interest of Mexican Drug Cartels. WBUR website. Published February 7, Palm Oil. Rahmanulloh A. Biofuels Annual. USDA website. Published August 3, Accessed January 20, Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil website.

Shaftel H. Overview: Weather, Global Warming and Climate Change. NASA Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet website. Accessed January 24, Malaysian Palm Oil website.

Published November 12, Sustainable Soybean Production. Soybean Connection website. USDA Foreign Agricultural Service website. Published May 8, The biggest misunderstandings about palm oil. New Hope Network website.

Published February 20, The Five Freedoms for Animals. Animal Humane Society website. The Problem with Fair Trade Coffee. Stanford Social Innovation Review website. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities website.

Updated April 8, Trans Fat. Food and Drug Administration website. WHO list of critically important antimicrobials WHO CIA list. World Health Organization website. It provides reasons for their occurrence, as well as their persistence over time.

Narratives are told about their origin, social representation, structural effect, symbolic dimensions, etc. that help us understand how these food practices came about and why they are still around.

This cooking method, consisting of deep-frying pieces of white fish first dipped in batter, was apparently imported by Jewish immigrants, mostly coming from Spain Panayi , It is cheap to make at home and can be sold right on the streets, not to mention its compatibility with British insular culture.

Its popularity then spread all around the Western world and further. Indeed, shark fin soup entered the official menu of refined imperial Chinese cuisine during the Ming Dynasty 14th to 16th century. Despite its high price and the intricacies associated with its preparation, Footnote 7 shark fin soup became popular outside aristocratic circles during the last decades of the 20th century, with the rise of a middle-class population in mainland China and Hong Kong Vannuccini , 6.

With this spread of the middle-class population and the new availability of shark fin soup, Chinese citizens participate in a class affirmation ritual that was exclusive to a group of privileged elites in times now revolute.

The eating of dog meat dates back in Korea from more than two thousand years. It therefore belongs to the Confucian category of yang related to male character.

This symbolic association classifies the consumption of dog meat as both food and medicine without distinction Podberscek , However, dog meat is no longer a seasonal market product; it is consumed all year round Dugnoille , — Because dog meat is expensive, especially when the animal is bought alive and slaughtered at the market stall, and because it is associated with medicinal virtues, offering dog meat to family and guests has become a symbol of social status — For their rich tales not only reach over multiple centuries, but also inform the social and political role of cultural food practices invested with symbolic meaning Ariès ; Dugnoille ; Panayi Customs and traditions explain ethically objectionable food practices.

However, whether ethically objectionable food practices should be maintained in the future calls for something other by means of justification. As Wichert and Nussbaum argue:. All sorts of bad practices are highly traditional: for example, domestic violence, child sexual abuse, and, of course, the torture of animals.

The fact that these practices have been around for a long time is not a point in their favor. Many bad things are very old: for example, racism, patriarchy, and domestic violence. If tradition has a normative force, its defenders have to try harder to say what that force is , Because of this, food enthusiasts sometimes find it difficult to imagine the ethical horizon upon which these food practices unfold, being oblivious to the issues raised.

Others are aware of the issues but take refuge behind culture by presenting or directing to various narratives. Yet, when doing so, they are confusing the distinction between explanation and justification. Their argument, therefore, does not have the persuasive force intended.

The argument of respect for tradition also turns out to be unpersuasive when associated with cultural relativism, a theory according to which customs and traditions are normative in nature. The argument of respect for tradition unfolds on the backdrop of a longstanding and complex meta-ethical debate opposing ethical relativism and ethical objectivism Shafer-Landau Not all appeals to food tradition are necessarily grounded in relativism.

For instance, the argument of respect for tradition might take forms compatible with ethical objectivism but place overriding value on tradition or refuse that outsiders to a food culture have authority to critique a food practice because they cannot fully understand the ethical value that it has.

Footnote 8 Although all appeals to food tradition should be critically discussed, we will focus on the relativist configuration of the argument as a plausible — and probably popular — version considering the appeal associated with its straightforwardness.

In this section, we will argue in favour of an objective approach to food ethics in opposition to cultural relativism based on the possibility of moral progress. Our goal will not be to refute cultural relativism, nor prove ethical objectivism but to highlight logical weaknesses in the former that are better addressed in the latter.

In other words, according to cultural relativism, ethical norms, rules, and standards are purely cultural and, hence, it is impossible to establish objective universal ethical norms.

Although cultural relativism permeates the ambient discourse on several issues well summarized in the debate on multiculturalism in modern states Kymlicka , 1—2 , its implications are problematic and lay the groundwork for critique Shafer-Landau , —; Shafer-Landau , 15ff.

A thorough exposition of all criticisms addressed to cultural relativism is impossible here, since it would take us beyond the goal of this article. Nevertheless, we will succinctly introduce three arguments that challenge the validity, or practical implications, of such a position.

First, from the simple point of view of logic, one implausible consequence of cultural relativism is that it makes societies morally infallible or incapable of error as far as core moral commitments are concerned.

Under cultural relativism, ideals such as ethnic oppression, male domination or religious bigotry are as morally compelling as values like social cohesion, gender equality or fairness. What is more, they are equivalent with one another.

Cultural relativism imposes respect for other cultures, but at an important cost: it eliminates all possibilities of judging and appraising their components. This is not to say that cultures never change; they do continually and in many ways e.

However, the notion of moral progress or regression does not apply to the relativist outlook. They can change, of course. It follows from cultural relativism that any change witnessed within a society is always cultural at first, and that ethical principles are replaced or revised only because of a cultural change, the other way around being impossible.

Thirdly, as a result, cultural relativism introduces a strong bias in favour of status quo that tends to enclose societies into unalterable cultural identities. This status quo has important anthropological, if not political, consequences.

Immobilised in space and time, the notion of culture so conceived is adept in sustaining crystallised views of others, portrayed in caricatured traits — Thus, cultural relativism not only presents logical flaws, but it also relates to a vision of culture that may not be entirely true.

With respect to food ways, cultural relativism offers no possibility of calling into question, from an ethical perspective, any cultural food practices considered questionable. As Sandler illustrates:. If it is widely acceptable and historically done, then it is ethically acceptable to do it , Although the strong ties that exist between culture and ethical principles cannot be denied, another theoretical position admits the exercise of moral judgement when confronted with problematic cultural food practices.

This is ethical objectivism. In other words, such a theory implies that a certain set of moral claims are always true and that these claims can be known, or maybe discovered, by rational beings such as humans.

Furthermore, these true moral claims might not be compatible with certain cultural behaviours. In such circumstances, we should be willing to change our cultural behaviours to conform to the objective moral truth. Of course, being an ethical objectivist is incompatible with any type of extreme cultural relativism.

Moreover, these principles and laws, being a priori, are superior to our daily cultural practices and should be implemented even if they come in contradiction with them Kant , That being the case, although actions may accidentally conform to duty, they should not be considered true moral actions per se.

This theoretical perspective undermines the idea that culture cannot be judged objectively from an ethical standpoint.

Under Kantianism, it is possible, as well as advisable, to evaluate customs and traditions to insure conformity to moral duties.

For instance, if cruelty to animals is considered to be wrong, then it is logically obligatory to condemn cultural practices involving animal cruelty, even if this implies questioning minority rights granted by the state in keeping with religious traditions or local cultures Casal , 2.

The main advantage of ethical objectivism as Kant first theorized it is the possibility for moral progress. Indeed, since knowledge of the moral law proceeds from reason, there is nothing keeping our understanding of this law from evolving over time, in the same way as our knowledge of, say, physical laws has increased in the last century.

A good example may be found in the recent flourishing of ethical thinking concerning the treatment of animals and the environment. Whether theories of animal ethics are inspired by Kant or by other ethical traditions, they all rely on the assumption that our understanding of the ethical dimension of animal life has progressed and that we must adapt our ethical standards accordingly.

Authors like Peter Singer c. pl;l'lll and Tom Reagan have challenged our cultural practices on the ground of moral progress, arguing for a better treatment of animals as a matter of justice.

Both authors would disapprove of the cruel practices associated with dog meat consumption in South Korea. As far as the environment is concerned, the last fifty years have marked an equally important calling into question of our ethical relation to the natural world.

Various theories have been proposed, ranging from ecocentrism Callicott to biocentrism Naess ; Rolston The idea of sustainable development also brings under scrutiny many culturally embedded ways of living. These perspectives all suggest a form of respect for the integrity or sustainability of the environment.

Woven into the daily life of mainstream culture, industrialization and mass production have brought in abundance the fruits of Taylorism Footnote 10 to our plates Fumey , The cultural food practices described earlier see second section all make sense within the confines of deeply ingrained customary habits or longstanding traditions.

Judging them from a cultural relativist point of view is theoretically impossible. However, from an ethical objectivist perspective, they may be challenged. For the time being, there is no perfectly universal ethical standard from which to look upon the examples presented.

However, developments in ethical theory are to be hoped for progressing towards better rational ethical norms and standards Shafer-Landau , Whether they are consciously enacted or routinely performed, customs and traditions play an important part in our lives.

For not only do they shape our social behaviours, but they also provide meaning to our actions. Offering presents on occasions such as birthdays, weddings or Christmas Day is a well-known example of a cultural ritual.

Although the gifts are tendered out of praxis, they nevertheless express important forms of gratitude and respect for others, as they also strengthen the bounds between individuals.

The same logic applies to food customs and traditions. Food is therefore a central vehicle of meaning Telfer , 37ff. According to this, cultural food practices are worth of respect and consideration.

But nevertheless, from an ethical objectivist point of view, one is allowed to question the moral justifications of cultural practices, since they are only empirically justified. However, as Cergo also notes, food culture is increasingly subservient to a flourishing economy of cultural diversity aimed at promoting tourism and international trade , Food customs and traditions can thus fall prey to instrumentalization and become aggressively marketed as commercial goods to be purchased and consumed in the global marketplace.

In such a context, cultural food practices run the risk of becoming icons of an artificial kitsch culture created for mass consumption in high-rise towers or by wise local businesspeople, blurring the lines between genuine and fake Footnote Such a muddying effect is not necessarily troublesome and reprehensible, but it does point in the direction of caution when it comes to the argument from tradition.

Indeed, not all food practices are likely to stand equal on the scale of food culture. Some will be worth safeguarding and accordingly will have normative significance; others will be devoid of such value and, for that reason, will not fall under the scope of the argument.

Demonstrating perspicacity and exercising judgement when confronted with claims regarding culturally embedded food practices is therefore important, especially when considering what may be ethically problematic cultural food practices.

Is the tradition oppressive? Does it produce more harm than benefits? Does it involve coercion of individuals? These questions refer to values or principles i. However, this possibility coincides with the modified form of ethical relativism that she supports—namely, moderate in the prescriptive role customs and traditions can play.

However, the developments that occurred in animal and environmental ethics over the last 50 years suggest that fundamental ethical principles based on animal welfare or ecosystem sustainability are legitimate benchmarks against which customs and traditions may be assessed.

For instance, the practical concerns about the environmental consequences of mass fisheries of white fish and sharks are not to be ignored Ferreti et al. In fact, it is now common knowledge that we humans, as individuals or social groups, do depend on the quality and the sustainability of our surrounding ecosystems.

To decide whether a cultural food practice is ethically normative, he suggests considering the level of importance of the ethical considerations that are compromised by the tradition and the extent to which they are impaired Sandler , Only a detailed and neutral examination of cultural food practices may enable one to determine whether they can be ethically justified by the factors sustaining them Macklin , A negative determination is easier to articulate whenever a society recognises the ethical perspective from which its food custom or tradition is reproved.

Under such circumstances, one simply must draw attention to the blind spot represented by the food practice under scrutiny A negative determination should also occur if there is a way of preserving the core of a cultural food practice, while losing its questionable features Sandler , ; Wichert and Nussbaum , Finally, contrary to the essentialist bias of ethical relativism, cultures are questioned and challenged from the inside; they evolve under social and political tensions Massé , The existence of regional grassroots organisations advocating for reform speaks to this point.

Their activism reflects ongoing cultural change or is telling of a struggle to that effect Macklin , Therefore, apart from the special case of indigenous peoples whose culture is already under threat to the point of irreparable disruption or destruction, it is hard to see why any food practice should be envisaged as static to begin with Wichert and Nussbaum , The central aspect to consider is the importance of the food practice under scrutiny for cultural identity and cultural value Sandler , Over the last twenty years or so, reactions to international protests to the consumption of dog meat in South Korea have combined into a discourse carrying strong nationalistic connotations aimed at protecting this food practice as a symbol of national pride.

However, South Koreans harbour a growing anti-dog-meat sentiment and Korean grassroots organisations condemn dog meat practices Oh and Jackson, ; Dugnoille, Within the country, dissonance thus exits on the issue.

What is more, opposition to dog meat finds anchor within Confucian philosophy, a moral system able to justify concern over animal welfare Dugnoille , 4; Dugnoille , 13— South Korea has also adopted legislation to prevent cruelty to animals Global Animal Law , therewith implicitly recognising animal welfare as a legitimate ethical principle.

Under the Animal Protection Act , cruel methods of killing e. Such a situation limits the normative or prescriptive weight of tradition in the context of dog meat eating.

This is especially the case considering the inhumane breeding conditions and violent slaughter practices under which the consumption of dog meat takes place in South Korea.

Whereas the welfare of dogs is compromised to a considerable extent, no tangible benefits accrue from this food practice aside from gratifying specious beliefs and reinforcing the symbolic value of dog meat.

It seems, therefore, that cultural considerations do not immune the consumption of dog meat from ethical criticism. The fact that violent slaughter methods are believed to be required for the virtues associated with the consumption of dog meat to manifest themselves reinforces this conclusion.

Even if breeding conditions were reformed with a view to protecting animal welfare fully, meat dogs would still need to be tormented. This feature distinguishes dog meat eating from probably most other forms of meat consumption. The latter may involve their lot of injury, disease, physical and mental suffering ensuing from breeding, transport, or slaughter conditions, but the possibility to eliminate these detrimental effects always remains open.

In consequence, Westerners who condemn the consumption of dog meat in South Korea are shielded from the charge of hypocrisy—unless they do not also call into question the conditions operating in livestock production systems in the occidental world.

In this article, we have argued that an appeal to tradition cannot justify all cultural food practices. The examples we have chosen were meant to exemplify the extent to which food customs and traditions can be defined as ethically problematic.

Animal cruelty and environmentally damaging practices are highly different in nature, but they point towards the necessity to reflect on traditions. First, although traditions are constitutive of cultural identities and explain why we act, or eat, the way we do, they do not necessarily justify these practices.

Secondly, we have identified cultural relativism as one possible theoretical standpoint from which traditions can be accepted as justifications for cruel or environmentally harmful practices.

However, cultural relativism carries logical flaws and epistemological errors, making it an incomplete tool in terms of ethical assessment. Finally, we have presented an outline of what could be a valid evaluation method for ethically questionable food practices inspired by an open-minded ethical objectivism taking into account the possibility for moral progress.

The ethical evaluation of cultural practices will always trigger resistance from strict ethical relativists or strong critics of cultural imperialism, and we should remember that this resistance is not solely based on a simplistic idea of ethics. For ethical relativists, there is a real danger to shift from a reasonable, open-minded, and progressive questioning to a narrow-minded form of ethical ethnocentrism rooted in cultural imperialism Massé , Our argument is not addressed to those who would consider moral objectivity logically flawed in the first place or necessarily unjust in its epistemological perspective.

We think it possible to make objective ethical assessments of other cultures—and therefore judge cultural food practices — with intellectual humility and a deep respect for difference and plurality. The line might be difficult to draw between these two outcomes and any good-faith researcher might one day feel to have fallen on the wrong side.

Being objective and open to cultural difference is no easy task. It requires objectifying oneself as much as it demands judging others. Questioning cultural food practices cannot be achieved without remembering this problem, which transcends all ethical observations and speculations.

Furthermore, the complexity of cultural practices will always be an obstacle to whomever desires to achieve a perfect and clear judgement.

To acknowledge this reality means to accept the multidisciplinary nature of ethical assessments and, as we understand it, can only be an opportunity to better understand the world. On the cultural dimension of food, see Barilla Center for Food Nutrition Other white fish are also used, such as haddock, plaice and ray.

It is estimated that more than million sharks are captured every year for their fins Ferreti et al. On the legal uncertainty over dog meat in South Korea, see Kim , — In the case of whaling, see for example Holtzman ; and Wichert and Nussbaum Preparing shark fins for consumption is a long and delicate process.

It must be dried and rehydrated several times before it acquires the correct texture and taste. The concept of Taylorism, from Frederick Winslow Taylor — , refers to a highly productive management strategy based on the separation of conception and execution activities on production sites.

For further readings on this question, see Kemmerer See also Heldke for a thought-provoking reflection on cultural food colonialism. Ariès, P. Chevilly Larue: Max Milo Éditions. Google Scholar. The cultural dimension of food. Accessed 21 Mar Calgano, R. Requins: au-delà du malentendu.

Monaco: Éditions du Rocher. Callicott, J. Beyond the land ethic: more essays in environmental philosophy. Albany: State University of New York Press. Casal, P. Is multiculturalism bad for animals?

Journal of Political Philosophy 11 1 : 1— Article Google Scholar. Csergo, J. Food as a collective heritage brand in the era of globalization.

International Journal of Cultural Property — Czajkowski, C. Dog meat trade in South Korea: a report on the current state of the trade and efforts to eliminate it. Animal Law 21 1 : 29— Dawson, S.

In Food ethics education: integrating food science and engineering knowledge into the food chain , ed. Costa and P. Pittia, — Cham: Springer. Chapter Google Scholar.

Dent, F. State of the global market for shark product. Rome: FAO Fisheries Technical Paper Dugnoille, J. From plate to pet. Anthropology Today 30 6 : 3—7. October To eat or not to eat companion dogs: symbolic value of dog meat and human-dog companionship in contemporary South Korea.

Ferriti, F. Patterns and ecosystem consequences of shark declines in the ocean. Ecology Letters — Fischler, C. Paris: Odile Jacob. Frank, K. Trophic cascades in a formerly cod-dominated ecosystem.

Science : — Fumey, G. Fowler, S. Shark fins in Europe: implications for reforming the EU finning ban. European Elasmobranch Association and UICN Shark Specialist Group. Garcia, M. Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 18 3 : — Gile, J. Genetic and phenotypic diversity in the wedgefish Rhyncobatus autraliae, a threatened ray of high value in the shark fin trade.

Marine Ecology Progress Series — Global Animal Law. Harris, M. Good to eat: riddles of food and culture. Prospect Heights: Waveland Press. Heldke, L. Exotic appetites: ruminations of a food adventurer. New York: Routledge.

Hiddink, J. Global analysis of depletion and recovery of seabed biota after bottom trawling disturbance. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 31 : — Hobbs, J.

Biodiversity and Conservation — Holtzman, J. On whale: conundrums of culture and cetaceans as local meat. Ethos 82 2 : — Horsthemke, K. Animals and the challenge or ethnocentrism. In Animals, race and multiculturalism , ed. Cordeiro-Rodrigues and L. Mitchell, — Cham: Palgrave Macmillan Animal Ethics Series.

Humane Society International. Kant, I. Groundwork for the metaphysics of morals. New York: Harper and Row. Kemmerer, L. Eating earth: environmental ethics and dietary choice. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Book Google Scholar. Kim, R. Dog meat in Korea: a socio-legal challenge.

Animal Law Journal — Kymlicka, W. Afterword: realigning multiculturalism with animal rights. Multicultural citizenship. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Lien, M. Dogs, whales and kangaroos: transnational activism and food taboos. In The politics of food.

Lien and B. Nerlich, Chap. Berg Publishers. Massé, R. In Soins de santé et pratiques culturelles: à propos du sida et de quelques maladies infectieuses , — Paris: Ed. Bellas Cabane.

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