More and more we are learning about how our food choices, farming and marketing of it affects our planet and our bodies. Thankfully there is now a rise in publications raising awareness about the importance of ethical eating and how we can learn how to do it. We need to be more conscientious about how what we choose to eat effects our health, our environment and the animals we farm for food.
I wanted to look at ethical eating from all perspectives instead solely looking at benefits of plant based diets because not all of us are willing or prepared to give up on our meat. I recently wrote a blog about carnivore vs vegan and another explaining why I am participating in Veganuary but now I want to look at how we can follow any diet but choose to do so ethically.
A friend of mine is a birth and post natal doula who has shared a very informative blog about Nestlé and their practises which you can read here. Nestlé knowingly contributes to unnecessary death and suffering of infants around the world and more importantly in poorer countries by aggressively marketing baby foods in breach of international marketing standards.
You can read the Save The Children report about it here. Mike Brady, who is the Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action responded to misinformation by Nestlé Public Relations in Nestlé’s Creative Storytelling Initiative by saying, “Nestlé has created a fictional world where it is this nice, kind company that respects human rights and cares for the environment and asks policy makers and civil society to trust it – and not regulate its practices. Too many have fallen for Mr. Brabeck’s Creative Storytelling Venture and so willingly or inadvertently have become part of his PR strategy, as demonstrated in his address today. Anyone wishing to have a positive impact on Nestlé’s practices would do better following the examples of IBFAN and Save the Children and monitor what the company is actually doing and hold it to account for malpractice. Nestlé should be marked down when its CSV reports are misleading, as is demonstrably the case with regard to its baby milk marketing and the other issues addressed by the Nestlé Critics.”
Ethical eating or food ethics refers to the “moral consequences of food choices, both those made by humans for themselves and those made for food animals. Common concerns are damage to the environment, exploitative labour practices, food shortages for others, inhumane treatment of food animals, and the unintended effects of food policy. Ethical eating is a type of ethical consumerism.”
This blog is not about following a specific vegan, vegetarian, pescetarian or meat eating diet. Instead its about making ethical choices about what we put into our bodies or serve up to our friends and families.
The Green World have published view points of a vegan, vegetarian and meat eater on their website as to how they can eat ethically with their choice of diet.
From the vegan viewpoint “We live in a society that routinely exploits animals for food, clothing and entertainment – highly profitable industries that inflict pain and suffering upon 60 billion non-human animals every year while also destroying our health and the planet. Veganism is the ultimate protest against animal cruelty and exploitation. It’s a vote for non-violence and compassion every mealtime, every single day. If you knew that something as simple as a dietary change would end the suffering of thousands of sentient beings, radically improve your health and become, without question, your biggest contribution to preserving the planet, would you make it?” vegansociety.com
From the vegetarian viewpoint “The facts speak for themselves. Not only does producing plant-based food use a lot less of the planet’s resources, but vegetarian diets also produce lower greenhouse gas emissions than even those based on a low meat intake. Furthermore, excluding fish and seafood from your diet has a hugely beneficial effect on fish stocks and marine ecology. Keeping some animals in our countryside can have positive benefits to biodiversity and our ecosystems, and can help provide a diet that appeals to more people. Including eggs and dairy in the diet, alongside plant-based foods, ensures a valuable source of protein and micronutrients. At the Vegetarian Society, we like to be realistic and practical about making the switch to plant-based eating. People aren’t perfect, and the real world is a complex place. But that’s exactly why going vegetarian is such a good idea. Simply put: everyone can do it – and easily stick to it. Collectively, this would have a huge – and lasting – positive impact on the planet.” vegsoc.org
The rare breeds survival trust put forward how meat eaters can eat ethically “Eating meat from the right animals, kept under the correct conditions can have vast benefits to the environment, biodiversity and health. Livestock plays a pivotal part in shaping our environment and are utilised to ensure the land is as productive as it can be. The hills of the UK are impracticable to be farmed to grow crops but are used for grazing; this utilises the land to produce a meat product. This links directly to conservation grazing, the increasing use of farm livestock as to manage valued habitats. This is the most natural way of ensuring the habitats are maintained. Using livestock to maintain the land then eating the produce is an extremely ethical way of meat production and benefits the environment greatly. We believe it is important to eat meat in moderation. As population increases, it is only natural that the amount of meat required will also increase. This will require more resources to produce the meat, so utilising systems such as conservation grazing and feeding waste products can minimise the effect on the environment.” rbst.org.uk
My question is how do we know that what we buy has been ethically produced? We have to rely on the labelling that is put on our food ~ but is what’s printed accurate or misleading? We need to work on our own awareness on how our local butcher or supermarket sources it’s food. How the animals are kept and farmed. We need to know and understand what is given to the animals ~ are they fed antibiotics, growth hormones, poor quality food contaminated by chemicals? Are they raised outside, do they graze in fields are they kept humanely, further on are they transported and killed humanely, how is the meat butchered, stored and packaged.
Were you aware that as it stands now there is no legal requirement to label products with information on how the animals farmed for food were reared? This is true for everything with the exception of whole eggs. That is crazy to me, with all the technology we have today sure it is no hardship for products to be labelled accurately for the consumer?
So what can we do? Well until labelling evolves to add this essential extra information you can look out for specific labels which indicate how the food was produced. There are also organisations which work towards ensuring more and more of our food production is guaranteed to be ethical, although this will take time as it is ongoing and a slow process.
Soil Association Certification ~ the country’s leading organic certifier offering a huge range of organic and sustainable certification schemes across food, farming, catering, health and beauty, textiles and forestry. When buying food look out for their symbol which shows that it abides by organic standards that the welfare benefits exceed standard industry practice, including prohibiting confinement systems, ensuring bedding and/or environmental enrichment, ensuring free-range access with shade and shelter, specifying stunning and slaughter practices and monitoring welfare through outcome measures.
This is the logo to look out for when shopping or eating out.
You can read about the new Soil Association standard changes coming into effect from April 2019 here. This video also helps explain the changes..
Free range ~ it may come as a stamp on the actual eggs or a label on the box. Some may have the Lion Mark which shows that the eggs meet food safety criteria. But the standard only ensures minimum legislative requirements for animal welfare, it permits use of ‘enriched cages’ for hens along with barn and free-range systems. However it does guarantee the eggs were laid in Britain. The stamp on the actual eggs give you further information ~ method of production, producer ID British Lion Quality mark and best before date.
The Red Tractor scheme ~ This is run by Assured Food Standards and certifies that the food was produced in Britain. It also shows that it adheres to certain quality standards for food safety, hygiene, environment and that it reflects standard industry practice in the UK. However, only some of the standards benefit animal welfare by going beyond minimum legislation. It has to be noted though that in some circumstances the standards inadequately reflect the legislation, and they don’t necessarily address the welfare issues not reflected in legislation. This could be something like the confinement of sows during farrowing and permanent housing and tethering of dairy cows. So be aware that this symbol doesn’t necessarily qualify as ethical.
British Lion Quality Mark ~ In 1998 the Lion Quality mark and Lion Quality Code of Practice were launched. This requires egg farmers in the UK have to vaccinate their flock against Salmonella Enteriditis plus have independent auditing and a way to trace the eggs back to the producer and finally to show a “best-before” date along with the logo stamped on the egg shell of each egg as well as the egg box, as well as on~farm and packing station controls. It also requires not only the eggs but the breeding farms, hatcheries, rearing and laying farms as well as feed mills and packing centres to be assessed and approved to gain the Lion Quality seal of approval. The Lion approval also means that each egg can be fully retraced back to point of origin and you can even go onto this website to trace where the eggs you buy come from.
RSPCA Assured ~ This label makes products easily recognisable as being from animals that have had a better life. This means when you are shopping and eating out and see the logo you can rest assured that you have made a good ethical choice. When it comes to your grocery shopping when buying eggs, fish or meat and you see that it has the RSPCA assured label on it then the farm, plus all other sources involved in the animals life, have been throughly assessed ensuring high standard of animal welfare for them to qualify to use the stamp.
Almost a billion animals are farmed for food in the UK and millions of fish, each year. In response to vegans and vegetarians they like to say that they are aware of their ethics and beliefs but they feel someone has to look at the animal, fish and egg producers which provide the food of choice for the carnivorous population. They want to educate and encourage people to think about where their food comes from.
So, via RSPCA Assured, the RSPCA decided to work proactively with the farming industry to improve the lives of farm animals. Nearly a billion farm animals and many millions of farmed fish have had a better life thanks to RSPCA Assured. Their sole goal is to encourage people who already choose to eat meat, fish and eggs to buy products from animals that have had better lives, which they can spot by looking for the RSPCA Assured label.
The work of the RSPCA is to continue to raise awareness of how farm animals are reared, transported and slaughtered and the welfare issues affecting them. Then with this information they hope shoppers make better-informed decisions about the food they choose to eat.
Compassion in World Farming ~ their website informs us “With increasing strain on the world’s natural resources and millions of people unable to feed themselves, we think it’s unsustainable and morally questionable to continue rearing so many farm animals in such intensive systems and feeding them crops which could be used for human needs. Not only that, factory farming produces large amounts of waste (often polluting local water sources) and increases the risk of spreading animal disease.”
You can click on the various pages within the website to learn about what they do.
Pasture Promise on dairy ~ This is a promise to produce free range dairy. The milk is from traditional, seasonally grazed dairy herds and farmers are getting a fair price for their milk. Look for dairy products with the Free Range Dairy Pasture Promise logo.
Sustain ~ “The alliance for better food and farming, they advocate food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, plus improve the working and living environment, enrich society and culture and promote equity. The main way that Sustain fulfils its aims is through running a multitude of different projects and campaigns to improve food and farming, with the help of our members and other supporters.” You can look on their website to see all the current active projects and campains they are running.
Sustainable Fish Cities ~ “People are eating more fish than they used to, and a lot of it is being caught by destructive methods. The world is now seriously at risk of losing some species from our seas for ever. The Sustainable Fish City project began when a working group helped the organisers of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to buy only sustainable fish. Inspired by this achievement, we began to campaign to make sure all of the seafood served across London is demonstrably sustainable. In 2014, the campaign expanded beyond London, and we are now urging towns and cities across the UK to become Sustainable Fish Cities.” You can read more about their work here.
Sustainable fish for our tables can be found by looking for the blue label on your fish and seafood. There are more than 30,000 MSC certified sustainable fish and seafood products on sale around the world.
The Marine Stewardship Council gives us 10 reasons why we should choose the certified sustainable seafood by looking for and purchasing fish with this blue label
1. Our oceans need to be protected ~ Our oceans are home to an amazing variety of life and support the livelihoods of 1/10 of the world’s population.
2. Marine ecosystems are under enormous pressure ~ Unsustainable fishing is threatening fish populations, ocean habitats, coastal fishing communities and economies.
3. The MSC provides a solution ~ By choosing seafood with the blue MSC label you are supporting independently certified sustainable fisheries. Their good management practices help ensure fish stocks and habitats are healthy and fishing community livelihoods are secure.
4. Sustainability is based on science ~ To be MSC certified, fisheries are independently assessed by scientists and marine experts to ensure they meet our standard for environmentally sustainable fishing. Annual audits ensure that they maintain these standards.
5. You’re helping to protect a whole ecosystem ~ It’s not all about one species – MSC certified fisheries minimise their impacts on the whole marine environment to ensure healthy, thriving oceans for the future.
6. You can buy with confidence ~ Processors, retailers and restaurants must ensure MSC certified seafood is not mixed with uncertified product. This way you can be sure that the product is correctly labelled.
7. There’s plenty to choose from! ~ You can enjoy sustainable seafood all over the world. Just look for the blue label – it appears on tens of thousands of products in more than 100 countries.
8. There’s a choice for every budget ~ Products with the blue MSC label range from pickled herring to luxury caviar.
9. You’re helping to create change ~ Your purchases of MSC labelled seafood create an incentive for more fisheries, retailers and restaurants to produce and sell certified sustainable seafood.
10. You’re helping to keep it wild ~ You can enjoy your seafood knowing that tomorrow there will be plenty more where it came from.
You can read more about sustainable fishing here.
I found this article whilst reading up on ethical eating discussing 7 reasons why now is the best time for ethical food innovation in Britain. It talks about ethicality in different areas of consumerism and is a good read.
When it comes to live transportation of animals I am fervently against it. It makes me cry when I see lorries pass me crammed full of animals destined for slaughter. It’s inhumane and should not be allowed to happen. At the very least transportation should be limited to a certain distance ~ not too far and the conditions of transport should be with adequate space for comfort. You can join the campaign to stop live exports and improve the quality of life right to the very end for the animals by clicking here and following the links on the website.
I almost forgot to mention Fairtrade ~ “Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. By requiring companies to pay sustainable prices (which must never fall lower than the market price), Fairtrade addresses the injustices of conventional trade, which traditionally discriminates against the poorest, weakest producers. It enables them to improve their position and have more control over their lives. With Fairtrade you have the power to change the world every day. With simple shopping choices you can get farmers a better deal. And that means they can make their own decisions, control their future and lead the dignified life everyone deserves.” If you want to buy Fairtrade then look for the symbol on your purchases ~ everything with this mark shows that the it has been certified to offer a better deal to the farmers and workers involved.
You can read fully about the 10 principles of Fairtrade here which is depicted by the info~graphic below..
From what I can gather from my reading, if you want to eat ethically your really need to do your research about where your purchases come from. I think it is near impossible to know the practices of how our imported products are farmed. Instead, wherever possible look for the logos discussed above when buying imported goods. Try to support local businesses but first check them out to ensure their practices fall within ethical guidelines. Sourcing from local farmers means you can see where the food is grown and how the animals are farmed. Ask questions whenever you can and make changes and adaptations to your approach to shopping and your diet.
By being aware and constantly keeping as up to date as possible with ongoing changes and practices we can do our bit to help support those who practice ethical farming all down the line and those who have shoddy inhumane practices. If we can name and shame those who farm intensively and inhumanely, together with growing numbers of supporters we can unite to end these practices.
At home we can make changes too, composting our leftovers and peelings ~ only buying what we need so that food waste is not an issue. Make sure we buy fresh local produce and whenever possible avoid excessive packaging and plastic. Use reusable straws instead of single use plastic, try to recycle what packaging you have as much as possible.
Fact ~ Food that goes into landfills releases methane gas, one of the worst for global warming — 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
You don’t have to give up meat, fish or dairy but if you do include these in your diet treat them as luxuries and try to have several days a week without. Every small change in your habits helps to improve our environment. It is through ethical choices regarding our food and where it’s sourced that we can make a different. So I’m not say you should go vegetarian or vegan but to shop with the source and ethicality of the products in your mind.
Follow the seasons and buy fresh local seasonal food. We can make a difference if we reduce our purchases of processed foods full of chemicals and who knows what and trade it for the fresh, local seasonal foods. If you have a green thumb then get outside and get gardening, make vegetable plots, use green houses or poly tunnels to grow your own organic ethically produced food. There is nothing better than digging up and cooking your own home grown produce.
We’re not perfect and yes there will be times when we buy luxury items which may not be in keeping with fully ethical products. I enjoy chocolate but can’t grow cocoa beans in my garden to make my own ~ so instead I look for Fairtrade chocolate.
The Footprint website has a wealth of articles on a range of topics dealing with sustainable responsible business ~ the information on it is far too much for me to share with you and so I urge you instead to get cuppa and have a browse through their articles which are extremely interesting.
Nothing will change overnight, but I do honestly hope that we can make swift advancements towards changing current practices and saving the planet, our environment and secure a good future for our race and descendants.
My final words on this are ~ will you pledge to eat ethically on 11th January each year on Ethical Eating Day? I have made my pledge and as I am participating in Veganuary too I will make sure I source just local fruit and veggies for that day. A small step to stand united globally with others who want to be part of the change, a movement to eat locally and only sustainable foods.