Saturday 29 October, 1.30pm until 3.00pm, Café
From the growing popularity of farmers’ markets and organic food, to campaigns to stop the building of a ‘super dairy’ or prevent the sale and consumption of foie gras, our choice of food is increasingly regarded as an ethical question. What we consume has become a signifier of who we are and what we stand for. Are you the kind of person who lets your children eat junk food? Do you eat organic, local produce that’s GM-free – or do you follow the herd and shop at Tesco? Are you the sort of person who would let an animal suffer so you can eat foie gras or cheap chicken – or do you prefer your food ‘cruelty free’? Do you eat endangered fish like bluefin tuna and cod, or do you choose the sustainable alternatives? The ethical food choices we face can seem bewildering. Are certain foods actually damaging the planet? Rachendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, thinks we should all go vegetarian to save the planet, arguing that producing meat has a bigger impact on global temperatures than transport – and he has high-profile celebrity backing from the likes of Sir Paul McCartney and Gwyneth Paltrow.
With the stakes apparently so high, what we eat is no longer a question of personal preference, but increasingly political. While some ‘ethical eaters’ boycott McDonald’s, battery hens and veal, critics object to what they see as moralising, or simple snobbery, about food. This ‘fight over food’ perhaps also reflects the difficulty we have in understanding where our food comes from, and our estrangement from its production. Ethical consumption suggests what we eat or don’t eat can be a force for good. But when we become so obsessed with conscientious consumption, what happens to the simple pleasure of eating?
Listen to session audio:
journalist and food writer; columnist, Guardian
freelance food writer and TV presenter; judge, The Great British Menu
interim director, European Animal Research Campaign Centre; government affairs, Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry
award-winning journalist; writer on food and food policy; author, May Contain Bones (forthcoming); contributing editor, Prospect magazine
science and technology director, Institute of Ideas
Even if one doesn't like the taste or idea of shark fin soup, what is at stake is the individual's right to choose what to eat within the confines of the law, regardless of whether its production is offensive to some campaigners, celebrities or politicians.Kirk Leech, Huffington Post, 6 October 2011
The availability, range, cost and quality of food in Western societies have never been more favourable, yet food is also the focus of a great deal of anxiety. There are concerns that our current diets will mean we will get steadily fatter and more unhealthy while consuming junk food', with consequences for our quality of life, our children's behaviour and even the environment.
Rob Lyons, Imprint Academic, 1 October 2011
As profits soar at the supermarkets, food producers say they are being forced out of business by unfair buying practicesAlex Renton, Guardian, 3 July 2011
New film Planeat claims that a vegan lifestyle can save the world and our health. But where’s the beef?Rob Lyons, spiked, 1 June 2011
It's a sunny afternoon and a small but resolute group of protesters are out on one of British city Cheltenham's prettiest and wealthiest streets, Rotunda Terrace. They're alerting us to awfulness beyond comprehension, not famine nor war, but the consumption of goose or duck liver.Kirk Leech, The Australian, 29 January 2011
It's time to stand with Ronald McDonald and his compatriots against the anti-fast-food assault.Steve Tuttle, Daily Beast, 30 October 2009
The choices we make when we buy food are serious choices. More and more people understand this. They no longer see themselves as passive food 'consumers'. Rather, they embrace their roles as 'creators', knowing that the foods they decide to grow or purchase will create a different future for themselves, their families, generations to come, and the natural world.Alice Waters, Fatal Harvest: The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture