What does ethical eating mean to you?

(Photo: Jason Edwards/Unsplash)(Photo: Jason Edwards/Unsplash)

In making decisions about what to eat, respondents to an informal survey told America that the most important factor was their own health. Marilyn Welker of Indianapolis said: “What do I have available to me that will support good health, still taste good and be affordable?”

The environment was the second most important factor for respondents, and this concern was repeatedly linked to health. For Matthew Tate of Prince Frederick, Md., ethical eating is “an ever-evolving fusion of care for health and the environment, usually fighting against cost.” Laurie Richlovsky of Oxford, Miss., also connected health and environmental concerns: “I try to choose food that fits a healthy balanced diet and is produced sustainably.”

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Many readers also linked the environment to the third most cited factor in making decisions about food: animal rights and the humane treatment of animals. Amy Sarah LaMena of Schenectady, N.Y., noted, “I believe having stewardship over the earth means we have to engage in less destructive, dangerous, and cruel practices.”

For some readers, prioritizing the treatment of animals meant a vegan or vegetarian diet. “I am Catholic. I believe that all life is sacred. Therefore, I am vegan,” wrote Emily Flagstad of St. Paul, Minn.

Other readers interpreted concern for animals to mean reduced consumption of meat and what they call the humane treatment of animals. M. Murray of Sandusky, Ohio, wrote, “We purchase only organic, lean chicken as well as fish. We do not purchase beef due to the effects on the environment, the abuse of animals and health concerns.” Others wrote that occasional hunting (but not trophy hunting) can cultivate a respectful relationship with nature, promote sustainability and provide food for a family.

“I am Catholic. I believe that all life is sacred. Therefore, I am vegan,” wrote Emily Flagstad of St. Paul, Minn.

After health, the environment and the treatment of animals, cost was cited by many respondents as an important consideration in choosing what to eat. Jodith Allen of Custer, Wash., said: “My decisions are based almost entirely on cost and ease of preparation. I’m disabled (I have chronic fatigue) and am on a fixed income. My diet consists almost entirely of what I can easily microwave.” Anthony Buccitelli of Lancaster, Pa., spoke for many respondents when he wrote: “I don’t have the luxury of eating completely in line with my ethics because of cost.”

Survey results

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Vanessa Johnson
6 months 3 weeks ago

This has been a topic on my mind particularly after watching the beautiful Wendell Berry documentary, “Look and See,” and by the inspiration of Alice Waters and Michael Pollan. I have been persuaded to switch to a flexitarian diet for the sake of the environment and also for our grocery budget so that we can purchase meat from farmers who raise and treat animals humanely. I disagree that there is a religious case for eating vegan as it is clear from the Bible that God has given us dominion over animals, but the way that we treat animals is a matter of justice. While grocery budgets are a real concern, farmers and ranchers work hard and deserve a just wage. For me, ethical eating means getting to know where my food is coming from, supporting local farmers who care for the land, and realizing that food is a means for fellowship, eating with gratitude and pleasure.

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