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Unformatted text preview: BEFORE DINNER The International Library of Environmental, Agricultural and Food Ethics
VOLUME 5 Editors
Michiel Korthals, Dept. of Applied Philosophy, Wageningen University, Wageningen,
Paul B. Thompson, Dept. of Philosophy, Purdue University, West Lafayette, U.S.A.
Timothy Beatley, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, U.S.A.
Lawrence Busch, Dept. of Sociology, Michigan State University, Lansing, U.S.A.
Anil Gupta, Centre for Management in Agriculture, Gujarat, India
Richard Haynes, Dept. of Philosophy, University of Florida, Gainesville, U.S.A.
Daryl Macer, The Eubios Ethics Institute, University of Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan
Ben Mepham, Centre for Applied Bio-Ethics, School of Biosciences, University of
Nottingham, Loughborough, United Kingdom
Dietmar Mieth, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany
Egbert Schroten, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands A C.I.P. Catalogue record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. ISBN 1-4020-2992-6 (HB)
ISBN 1-4020-2993-4 (e-book) Published by Springer,
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Revised edition and translation of the Dutch book: Voor het Eten, uitgeverij Boom, 2002. springeronline.com
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© 2004 Springer
No part of this work may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted
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Printed in the Netherlands. CONTENTS List of tables and figures
xiii Chapter 1: Good food, good eating, good living
1.1 How it all began
1.2 What is the matter with our food?
1.3 The setup of this book 1
5 Chapter 2: What do philosophers say about nutrition? A brief history
2.3 Conclusion 7
15 Chapter 3: Toward a philosophy of nutrition
3.1 Esthetic, social, cultural, and moral functions of food
3.2 You are not what you eat 17
21 Chapter 4: Modern and postmodern lifestyles and foodstyles
4.1 Nature, risks, globalization, and individualization
4.2 Late-modern lifestyles and foodstyles 23
25 Chapter 5: Ethics and politics of nutrition - liberal versus deliberative
5.1 Autonomy and fairness versus identity in a community
5.2 The neutral liberal perspective on autonomy
5.3 Problems of the liberal approach
5.4 The deliberative perspective on nutrition
5.5 Toward non-neutral, impartial ethics and politics of nutrition
5.6 Conclusion 29
41 Chapter 6: Living with ethical dilemmas
6.1 Ethical dilemmas in agriculture and nutrition
6.2 Three approaches in food ethics
6.3 Deliberative ethics – debate, values, and trust
6.4 Heuristic of ethical reasoning
6.5 Conclusion 45
58 v vi CONTENTS Chapter 7: Welfare of and respect for living beings. May we eat anything?
7.2 Humans versus animals? Anthropocentrism, anthropomorphism,
7.3 Some of my best friends eat meat. Philosophers about eating meat
7.4 Does keeping animals imply caring for them?
7.5 Justification for killing and eating farm animals
7.6 Keeping cattle in large or small volumes
7.7 The failure of agricultural expertise and the cost-benefit analysis
in the foot-and-mouth disease crisis
7.8 Conclusion 61
94 Chapter 8: Heaven or hell: scientific production and preparation of food
8.1 Scientific production, cooking, and eating of food
8.2 Great promises and the turnaround to Frankenfear
8.3 Between food and drug – functional food
8.4 Genomics and nutrigenomics
8.5 A deliberative and practical perspective – new practices
8.6 How shall we feed ourselves in a technological culture?
8.7 Conclusion – Does food technology mean good living? 97
130 Chapter 9: Globalization of the food production system
9.1 Globalization and its discontents
9.2 Trading in food – risks and culture
9.3 Poverty and world hunger
9.4 International democratic government structures and public forums 135
147 Chapter 10: Consumers, abundance, and responsibility
10.1 Consumption or consumer society
10.2 Where consumers stand – on the sideline
10.3 Consumers, citizens, and markets
10.4 Tastes – enjoying, feasting, and fasting
10.5 Gluttony – sin or pleasure
10.6 Individual rights and responsibility 149
173 Chapter 11: The future of nutrition and agriculture
11.1 Three challenges
11.2 Key ethical concepts
11.3 The edible landscape in Europe and the rest of the world
11.4 Conscious consumers
11.5 The edible government
11.6 Good living is eating with moral dilemmas 175
132 CONTENTS vii Appendix 1 Differences in Risk Perception and
Views on Food Safety 185 Appendix 2 New Public Responsibilities for Food Scientists 193 Literature 201 About the author 213 LIST OF TABLES AND FIGURES
Table 1. Mouth sensations and flavor styles according to Klosse 2004
Table 2. Ethical Perspectives Justice and The Good Life
Table 3. Advocates and opponents of GM-Food or Functional Food according to
Ethical Perspectives Justice and The Good Life
Table 4. The relationships between different types of discussions according to
Table 5. Relationship between notions Justice and The Good Life according to
Rawls and Habermas
Table 6. Ethical matrix filled in by Mepham 1996
Figure 1. The four layer-model of society
Table 7. Differences between intention/opinion and decision making processes
Table 8. Notions Justice and Good Life in the deliberative perspective
Figure 2. Relationships between eating pleasure and animal welfare
Table 9. Tasks of governments in food policy
Table 10. Ideological fronts about risks and food safety ix ACKNOWLEDGEMENT The translation of this publication was carried out with the support of the
Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). xi FOREWORD Hardly a day goes by that we do not hear about some scandal or problem related
to agriculture and food: the risk of cancer from eating French fries, salmonella in
chickens, dioxin in pigfeed, pesticide residues in organic chickens. Obesity has
taken on epidemic proportions, experts call for a ban on junkfood. But at the same
time, we also hear all sorts of positive reports from nutrition experts: a life free from
illness, a medical food that prevents memory loss, a fatty substance that does not
make us fat.
It is hard enough to grasp the exact implications of this news; it is even
more difficult to penetrate to their ethical and philosophical core. Lots of
conversations with friends and acquaintances, especially around generous tables,
have helped me enormously in maturing my unripe thoughts. I have benefited
greatly from the time that I spent with Hans Roelofsen and Reina Boelens; through
their music they have taught me more about eating and living than anyone. Also the
many hours spent with Paul and Diana Thompson, who received me with great
hospitality during my sabbatical in the US and at other times, whetted my appetite
for more. It was wonderful to touch on philosophic issues with Jozef Keulartz and
Maartje Schermer; the same applies for Tsjalling Swierstra and Guy and Ineke
Widdershoven. Avner de-Shalit kept putting me back on a libertarian train of
thought. Athalya Brenner enabled me to see more than just the philosophical side of
eating. With his enthusiasm, Matias Pasquali helped me cross troublesome barriers.
Lawrence Busch, Jan Staman, and Peter Kenmore are each involved with food in
their own unique way. And let me not forget the three Important Women: Manon,
Roxanne, and Atie. At times they inspired me to such an extent that I was no longer
sure whether a particular idea originated from them or from me; I just hope that I
have inspired them in the same way.
From colleagues at Wageningen University, other universities, and the
university of life I have learned much, such as from Jan Douwe van der Ploeg,
Andrew Long, Paul Richards, Rudy Rabbinge, Hans van Trijp, Tini van Boekel,
Henk van den Belt, Volkert Beekman, Marian Deblonde, Frans Brom, Hauke
Brunkhorst, Ruth Chadwick, Gert-Jan Hageman, Vaughan Schlepp, Bram van der
Vlugt, Joanneke Bekkenkamp, Bea Prijn, and Phoebe TheCat. My sincere thanks to
each of them.
July 2004 xiii CHAPTER 1
GOOD FOOD, GOOD EATING, GOOD LIVING
Philosophy and food, do they go together? After all, isn’t philosophy about the
higher things in life, while food deals with lowly, everyday concerns? These are
misconceptions. Eating and drinking are altogether essential elements of human life.
When we eat, we connect to reality, to nature around us. What’s more, it becomes
part of us, we taste it and feel it. We renew our body by partaking of products from
nature. Food issues have been ignored for too long by philosophy, for philosophy
deals with the essential issues of human life. Food and philosophy belong together,
like body and nature. That is why it is a serious oversight, a blind spot in the
thinking of philosophers, that so few philosophies of nutrition have ever been
published in the English-speaking world. So let’s get to work!
Nutrition, food: what is it really? We consume food products: fruit, vegetables,
meat, potatoes, you name it. All of these are products of nature that we produce,
process, eat and drink, and make a part of ourselves. Our bodies convert products
from nature like bread, cheese, wine, fish, and meat into good or bad thoughts, into
heroic or cowardly actions. Every bite into a juicy apple converts this wondrous
mixture of smell, color, and taste into flesh and blood. And possibly into amusing
thoughts, smooth talk, a good laugh, or a kick in the ass. It does not sound at all odd
to say that the sentences I am writing down here and now, is the omelet I feasted on
this morning changed into words. Through nutrition, nature becomes human
thoughts and actions. It is often said: you are what you eat, we are what we eat.
What does that mean? Are the stories that I tell right here and now already contained
in that omelet?
When I eat something exquisite, like caviar, people consider me an exquisite
person. In that sense it is correct that you are what you eat. But when I eat the food
that Pete Sampras or Martina Hingis eats, will that make me just a good a tennis
player as they are? If I go on Pavarotti’s diet, will I then become another Pavarotti?
And if I eat what Eminem eats, does that make me Eminem? According to the
cheese ad of Friends of the Earth, I will start mooing like a cow if I eat organic
cheese. So if I eat inorganic cheese, will I then become a factory? Well, it’s not as
simple as that. Pavarotti’s quiche does not contain his aria, the steak that Pete
Sampras bolts down does not yet contain his hard returns. And there might well be a
hair in the soup of William Shakespeare, but not his poems. It is more complicated;
we are not always what we eat.
No doubt about it: good eating contributes to good living. If the one is below par,
then the other suffers too. But good eating is getting more difficult all the time. Not
so much because the direct taste of a food product causes problems, but because the
way the product is made is getting more problematic all the time. Good eating is
1 2 CHAPTER 1 problematic because food production has become problematic. And that makes good
living much more difficult as well.
Food is a question of personal identity, which is in a real state of flux in the
Western world. This is why food has been getting a prominent role in public
Information about nutrition is likewise subject to dynamic changes. The
information relates, for example, to the value of health claims about specific food
products, or the quality of an ecoseal, or the alleged pro-animal nature of a product.
Since the sciences and technology behind these products change so quickly,
knowledge-related issues, such as information gaps or access to information, receive
a lot of attention.
A set of knowledge ethics that takes these issues seriously would have to address
the fact that the concept of agriculture and nature that consumers have hardly
corresponds with modern food production. Many people still believe that a pork
chop comes from a freely rummaging little pig that is constantly petted on the head
by a stubble-bearded farmer. When it turns out to be altogether different, they are
astounded or even outraged.
Still, information about food, no matter how important, is not the decisive factor
in the preferences of consumers. More important are the value choices that
consumers make: their judgements about the obligations, values, facts, expectations,
and price options that they see. Information and ethical considerations are
inseparably linked in the choice for a specific eating style.
Society shows great interest in nutrition. In this study I will concentrate on the
main philosophic issues. What stages does food go through before it enters our
mouth? Was this food a living being first, like an animal or a plant, and what did
those living organisms undergo? May we eat just anything? If so, how can we
regulate those processes so that they lead to optimum animal welfare while at the
same time producing optimum taste? The production of food also causes
environmental pollution – does the fight against hunger have priority over the care
of the environment? The care of the environment, animal welfare, and the quality of
food should be in a certain harmony, but that is far from granted and hardly easy to
achieve. These factors are not always in balance; rather, they are often in conflict
with each other. A balance will thus need to be searched for.
But there are more factors. Many I have not even mentioned yet, such as the issue
of global famine, the care for a farming class that is able to keep its head above
water in a decent way, a fair trade system that does not throw up unnecessary
barriers for newcomers or small market participants and that promotes good
nutrition. These factors give the social meaning of nutrition a new dimension: food
is about feasting and fasting, about plenty and famine. Famine continues to be a
widespread phenomenon that violates human rights; it is absolutely a shame that
nearly a billion people still suffer from hunger or malnutrition. At the same time,
deliberate hunger and abundance are prevalent in the Western world. Both issues
refer to the social and cultural aspects of food.
Scientific and technological developments also play an increasingly important
role. Almost every bite that we take is determined by scientific developments, even
when we think that we are simply eating a fresh apple. After all, for most people in GOOD FOOD, GOOD EATING, GOOD LIVING 3 the Western world the choice to eat an apple is heavily impacted by the scientific
information that apples are good for you. An extra difficulty is that scientific
information is often contradictory, or that it relies on statistical probabilities that are
difficult to translate into everyday certitudes.
All of these factors deserve attention, but it is the mix that is most important. In
the land of food, ‘either or’ does not exist, only ‘both and’. The adequate measure of
‘both and’ serves as the starting point for a philosophical reflection.
1.1 How it all began
A starting point for food and nutrition is nature, with its abundance of living (biotic)
elements, such as animals and plants, and non-living (abiotic) elements, such as
water and air. Nature helps us to stay alive. And not only us human beings, but also
all other living beings. Nature presents itself to us as a coherent whole. In nature,
living beings are dependent on each other – each needs the other.
There are great differences among the numerous elements in nature. It is difficult
to say which elements are essential to ensure that nature endures and which are not,
why it is that some ecosystems continue to exist for ages, while others disappear
after a short time. Experts speak of ecosystems and interaction. Add to that the
changing of the seasons: new life in the spring, expressing itself in trees and plants
coming into leaf, then dying in the fall. Growth means transition, new events
occurring, all things changing all the time. But it means also dying.
Many people think that nature is one great dance party, where the dance partners
must be on the same wavelength with each other. Otherwise things go wrong, with
people stepping on each other’s toes or, even worse, a dance partner falling by the
wayside. Sometimes it is a wild and savage dance, where the outcome is uncertain,
and sometimes a quiet, intimate dance with beautiful effects. Bees produce honey
and spread the pollen of plants; the leaves of trees provide shade to the animals in
the field; the birds get rid of harmful insects; and plants benefit in turn from that.
And consider the butterflies – they dance with the flowers.
But more often it looks like a fight, a continuous struggle. And among all those
complex processes of nature we human beings need to gain a foothold. No human
being is satisfied with merely the fruits of the field. To eat, we need to intervene, to
work the land, weeding and watering it in a quiet and well-considered way. But
sometimes we intervene in a very drastic way, killing plants or animals in order to
enable other plants or animals, such as homo sapiens, to prosper. In other words,
people are gardener or butcher, but often both. We may try to have that distasteful
work, such as slaughtering, done by others – behind curtains, wherever possible, so
that we do not see it –, but in essence we are all butchers. Butchers on behalf of life,
to be sure; I will come back on this in the third theme. No delicacy flies into our
mouth of itself; the land of plenty, with rivers of milk and honey, with streams of
wine, does not exist.
Agriculture has around now since at least ten thousand years; hunting, gathering,
and fishing much longer. Those activities imply that people learn certain skills and
familiarize themselves with the characteristics and skills of other living beings in 4 CHAPTER 1 their vicinity, such as deer and rabbits, or berries and mushrooms. Hunting, fishing
and farming must be learned; working with nature does not come of itself. You need
knowledge, which you acquire from your parents, your friends, at school.
Such knowledge is very local, based on local soil conditions and weather
circumstances, on your own preferences and more.
To fish, you need to know how to catch a fish before you can eat it. A fish does
not just fly into your mouth; something needs to be done first. You need to know
what kind of bait attracts the fish, to know that some types of fish stay away from
clear water, whereas they allow themselves to be caught in murky water. You need
to know your way like a thief in the night, and sometimes you have to outsmart a
fish with trickery and deceit. As a fisherman, you need to act fast, to strike suddenly.
With agriculture it is quite different. Agriculture does not have the quickness of
fishing and hunting. It does not involve sudden action; it means building up
something gradually. You need to look far ahead. Agriculture is a long-term
investment; you need to allow long stretches of time to pass you by. While a
fisherman or hunter must move around quickly, agriculture means being bound to a
specific place, being tied to the land. After you have sown, it still takes long before
you can harvest. And then you need to look ahead again, ...
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