First things first, as with any discussion of ethics let's start with what ethics is.
eth·ics[eth-iks] Show IPA
( used with a singular or plural verb ) a system of moral principles: the ethics of a culture.
the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particularclass of human actions or a particular group, culture, etc.:medical ethics; Christian ethics.
moral principles, as of an individual: His ethics forbade betrayal of a confidence.
Ok, now that we have a definition for Ethics we need to define what Moral is.
mor·al[mawr-uhl, mor-] Show IPA
of, pertaining to, or concerned with the principles or rules ofright conduct or the distinction between right and wrong;ethical: moral attitudes.
expressing or conveying truths or counsel as to right conduct, as a speaker or a literary work; moralizing: a moralnovel.
founded on the fundamental principles of right conductrather than on legalities, enactment, or custom: moral obligations.
capable of conforming to the rules of right conduct: a moralbeing.
conforming to the rules of right conduct ( opposed to immoral): a moral man.
Alright, with those definitions out of the way let's move on to talking about whether ethics relating to food choices is a luxury.
First of all we are looking at a complex thing when we talk about ethics, and I think the answer to the question is different based on which definition we are looking at. So let's narrow down what we are talking about a little more than just Ethics as a monolithic whole. Let's talk about on an individual level as with definition three.
"Moral Principles, as of an individual"
The immediate response is that thinking ethically about food is a luxury, plain and simple. Food is a need, and in many cases people have to worry where their next food will come from. To start thinking ethically about food requires the luxury to not be simply needing to eat. It in fact assumes you have the privilege to have an education, and ample food, as well as free time to think about whether your choices are ethical instead of just subsisting.
If it was as simple as that I probably wouldn't do a whole post on it.
So What If I Can Think About Where My Food Comes From?
Ok, obviously the Lady of the House and I do have the privilege to have an education, enough food access to not have to worry every day about whether we will have food, and enough free time to think about whether our choices are ethical. Within that context, I believe that thinking about the ethics of food is not a luxury, it is an important responsibility of being in that privileged position.
Before people start screaming, what do I mean by privileged?
priv·i·leged[priv-uh-lijd, priv-lijd] Show IPA
belonging to a class that enjoys special privileges; favored:the privileged few.
entitled to or exercising a privilege.
Ok, so now we need the definition of privilege
priv·i·lege[priv-uh-lij, priv-lij] Show IPA noun,verb, priv·i·leged, priv·i·leg·ing.
a right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages of most: the privileges of the veryrich.
That seems clear enough to me. The Lady of the House and I aren't rich, in the context of the USA where we live. What we are though is privileged enough to live in a system where food is plentiful, education is the norm, and on a normal day we won't have to worry about being shot and killed. It isn't something inherently bad, but given that we are in that situation our ethics have to be different.
I think that it is not a luxury for people in our position to think about the ethics and source of their food because in a very real sense we are taking time today to try to insure we can eat, and maintain the position of food security in the future. If we don't take the time that we have due to our position of safety and security now, continuing to have that position could, and likely will end. Part of maintaining our position of food security is ethical choices, and insuring the food security of others.
I actually think that as people in the privileged position we live in it is a responsibility to try to protect and enhance the resources that allow the survival of everyone. Given that, when in a position of privilege it is not a luxury, and is in fact unethical to not think about the source and ethics of our food choices.
Well, Consider it a First Draft
I am reminded of why when ever writing ethics papers I tended to do it in multiple drafts instead of the single draft work format I have with this blog. I've got the basic ideas out there in this post, but there is a lot left to nail down and discuss. For instance, responsibility versus ethical choices. Is it ethically right to do a responsibility, and why?
Jump in and discuss this please!