Values encompassed in ethical responsibility for food choices
Ethical responsibility in making food choices can encompass varied range of values concerning environment to economic issues. With regards to consumption of food activity, ethics in making food choices can be related to the reason behind how are farm workers treated or if the sourced food is local and fresh to find out whether they leave less carbon footprints during transportation or not (Riccia, Marinellib, & Puliti, 2016). Ethical responsibility may also include finding out answers to the question like whether industrial organic is advantageous for the country or not? However, principles which determines person food choices may differ from person to person and even ethical responsibility might prove dissimilar depending on the nature and circumstances faced by individuals. While some care for social and political factors, for others caring more for low-income area or environmental concern may prove significant. Although ethical responsibilities are not aligned with each other’s while making food choices, but each consumer desire one basic element to be present i.e. sustainability and health for which every individual and communities share basic food system. On this note, this research essay will find out whether we have ethical responsibility as consumers in making food choices or not (Giesler & Veresiu, 2014).
Food choices and ethical responsibility intersect in everyday work routine along with abstract inquiry. For example, purchasing tomato in winter and refusing to choose meat and animal products, taking part in community garden and petitioning government to provide agriculture subsidy comes under ethical responsibilities as food consumers. According to (Sandin & Rocklinberg, 2016), food ethics is one of those interdisciplinary fields which provides ethical analysis frameworks and guidance for conducting human roles in production, preparation, distribution and consumption of food. Since past few decades, all the aforesaid mentioned human roles have changed dramatically in which technological developments have taken over food processing, manufacturing and agriculture. This have further changed human perspectives towards food consumption and making of choices among available food products (Sandin & Rocklinberg, 2016).
Urbanisation, globalisation and social developments in public health, trade and living pattern are also significant areas that needs to be discussed while making a research on ethical responsibility of consumers in making food choices. One instance to proceed with the approach while elaborating and understanding the topic related to the notion behind ethical responsibility is historical shifts in individual practice and thinking that are majorly associated with food. Genealogical approach further reflects upon the historical ideas that effects present debate among researchers and authors related to food consumption study fields. According to (Korthals, 2006), traditions provide many philosophical concepts and tools that can be used to analyse contemporary ethical apprehensions that are directly related to food consumption. Other approaches accentuate, for example, environment, roles of gender and country laws to configure the domains related to food ethics. Responding to recent social and technological changes seen in food practices, range of critical investigations have emerged that have raised public awareness and seeking attention towards emerging ethical issues related to food. For example, concealed exploitation of migrant labours in meat and farm industry, pesticide effects on environment, animals suffering for human consumption practices, structural causes that results in starvation and famines, consequences due to biotechnological remedies used in agriculture and political influence on dietary policies.
Intersections of food choices and ethical responsibility
According to (Halkier, 2016), considering ethics and responsibility are becoming prominent in consumers while making food choices due to uneasiness expressed by many researchers regarding increasing gap in consumption and production processes. Even current trends show that consumers are developing mainly three kinds of ethical concerns namely; substantive problems identified in animal welfare, second one’s are anxious about insufficient information provided relating to food products and third ones considers participation and involvement. The above-mentioned ethical concerns have further turned many consumers diversify their food choices according to their lifestyle, situation and culture which means that the current trend inclines towards increased diversification among food consumption and production styles along with showing responsibility while making food choices. However, (Korthals, 2006) argues that stakeholders like producers and regulators are equally responsible for showing responsibility for making food sector more ethical that can help in incorporating acceptable values and responsible food choices.
There are many barriers that may block ethical consciousness among food producers and consumers that can further discern food choices. Ethical requirements, as discussed by (Solomon, Dahl, White, Zaichkowsky & Polegato, 2014) comprises requirement of increased taxes especially on unhealthy ingredients used for food production, production methods diversification, noticeable labelling for ethical traces in food products and providing sufficient process to match country’s economic situation. Furthermore, the authors states that if prices are reduced at the expense of ethical value like compromised animal welfare or environmental impact, it may again lead consumers in making unethically responsible food choices. Other than above mentioned consequences, the growing significance of ethical responsibility in food consumption in society goes beyond nutrition and health related aspects like fast and slow food, diversified farming and production process, healthy and local food etc. Therefore, regulating the coexistence and representation of different styles of food production within a specific food market is interrelated to consumer’s social responsibility towards making food choices.
(Riccia, Marinellib & Puliti, 2016) says that consumer’s as citizen are the ones who make purchasing choice after considering sustainable development of global community. Social responsibility, environmental protection and labour welfare have become a major criterion that leads consumers while making food choices. However, the authors also state that individual’s personal satisfaction and interest are never removed rather they become more “functional to the realisation of other most relevant aims” (Riccia, Marinellib & Piliti 2016, p. 397). Therefore, a critical debate is presented where the authors argue that the consumers have to cope with significant challenges regarding how to integrate responsibility and autonomy as an individual with collective obligations. In other sense, the argument reflects upon the relationship between how society must be organised and how consumers want to live their life. However, the breakdown of historical establishments, as mentioned above in the essay, shows the increasing awareness regarding global dimension in food choices from both individuals and societal perspectives.
Barriers that block ethical consciousness among food producers and consumers
In literature, few evidences prove that postmodern society have adopted global engagement for sustainable development majorly due to increased use of digital medias that provides information faster through public debates and discussions on global media platforms. Along with it, growth of international forums and research networks also influences sustainability and ethical policies where postmodernity demonstrates facing challenges that are related to global citizenship. This new and enhanced global identity calls for adopting transformative systems change that entails the requirements for adopting new and ethical values like human solidarity, enhanced living standards and environmental stability. There is also a rising debate related to dangers seen in food due to excessive use of pesticides, additives and veterinary medicines that creates issues concerning consumption of medically modified food and experimental food production processes. Every issue identified requires to renovate consumers interest towards safer and healthier means and showing deeper interdependence among environmental safety as well as personal health. Hence, (Nuttavuthisit & Thogersen, 2017) says that ethically responsible food consumption is perceived as best choice due to engagement with superior food quality and environmentally friendly activities that also prevents damages caused due to abuse of significant natural resources.
According to (Pohjolainen, Tapio, Vinnari, Jokinen, & Räsänen, 2016) food quality is another significant aspect that determines consumers food choices and when it comes to make an ethical choice based on philosophy of life, the appropriate way of living do not persuade other people choices as individual selections are left upon their own preference. For instance, one consumer may find their food related products to be natural, but actually there are no food that can be completely claimed to be natural or untouched by other people. Other consumers may hold another viewpoint about how much producers are allowed to make alterations in food before it no longer remains natural. Yet, there are others also who are only concerned whether their chosen food is natural or not. Putting succinctly, in every case, the results are controversial and difficult to be judged to determine which set of people are ethically and socially correct. Even if it is considered that consumers are motivated and willing to go beyond the boundaries and pay significant amount to remain ethically responsible consumer, the entire task can turn to be very difficult and impossible to be accomplished by common mass of people. Moreover, contemporary food production processes have become extremely complicated that becomes very difficult for consumers to comprehend which process has the product gone through before getting filled up in supermarkets (Nuttavuthisit & Thogersen, 2017).
Relation of ethical responsibility with society and personal autonomy
It can also be noted that in all the above arguments made regarding production of food products say beef and meat can harm other people seriously where there is an ethical obligation for reducing such food consumption. The subject of controversy again remains the same whether consumers are responsible for such unethical happening even in the situation when those activities are not reinforced by politically implemented climatic policies. Therefore, (Vitell, 2015) argues that individual obligation for undertaking food choice responsibility is still not clear when majority of events suggest that insufficient and ineffective food production processes leads to negative impacts on nature as well as climatic conditions. To ensure that effective actions are implemented against carbon footprints while producing certain kind of food, the issue must be solved politically and governmental regulation in both the areas of production and consumption. Furthermore, (Giesler & Veresiu, 2014) have also suggested that purchasing pattern of consumers related to ethos-political food can help in overcoming issues related to animal cruelty, nutrition and degradation of environment. If consumers are made aware of production processes and food ingredients, they will be able to reject unethically manufactured food and prevent themselves from falling under ethical stances. Therefore, it can be said that ethical food production will ultimately lead to ethical food choices and more socially responsible society where health experts and food nutritionists can advocate and make inspections of food corporations.
Previous research on consumers responsibility while making food choices provided with theoretically stimulating and rich insights that helped in identifying experiences of food consumers like religious consumers, ethnic consumers and activist ones to name few of them. However, this research essay has presented various arguments and suppositions made by authors and researchers in which ethical responsibility of consumers while making food choices have been considered as an important bridge between food consumption and production. This essay also reflected on how increasing awareness among consumers about food related issues and information have evolved in contemporary societies where people demand right to be informed, be oneself and make a choice so that ethical responsibility is carried in positive way. This essay concludes on the note that consumers does have ethical responsibility as a consumer while making food choices as ethically responsible decision will not only develop a healthier society, but also help in creating better environment and nations.
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