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September 11, 2005
11th Sep – the ethical dilemma
Section A/B the outside world (ish)
I'm finding it increasingly difficult to keep these things seperate, and so have to confess that I am pretty much giving up. Of course, my inner neuroses will remain seperate, as these are private entries into the distubing depths my mind has been known to plumb. Anyway, as an obessesive foody, I was delighted to recieve the Observer Food Monthly this morning -a monthly ray of delight to my gluttonous brain (food-porn, i believe they call it) anyway, having spent this morning indulging in its glossy and oh so yummy pages, I am again stuck as to how exactly one is to lead an ethical life. Simply within the realm of food the problems are staggering. Organic food is better for your body, fair trade better for your moral health. Fair enough – buy organic and fairtrade where available. But enter the issue of food miles – do you buy organic fair trade Indian runner beans (having never purchased runner beans, I have no idea where they come from), or english non organic ones which have not caused several tons of Carbon monoxide to be released into the atmosphere in transportation, but which may have been produced using pesticides. And thats only fruit and veg. Ethics enter a whole new level of complication when you hit meat and fish. The issue of factory farming rears its ugly (and probably smelly) head. Does organic necessarily mean free-range and killed in a humane way. Does it mean this chicken has had sex in its lifetime (apparantly a major criteria for a good chicken, according to Raymond Blanc) or does it simply mean it ate something natural rather than a swill made of other dead chickens heads and bones. Apparantly when buying a chicken you should check for burns on its legs – supposedly 'free range' chickens are kept in large warehouses with chemicals on the floor to keep away disease etc, and when they get to fat too move, their little leggies get burnt and you can see the remains in the skin. But what happens if you only want breasts? is it unethical to only want breasts? Should we be buying a whole chicken and hacking it up ourselves? Really of course, we should all be attending farmers markets and buying only the freshest produce, right from the earth. We should looke the farmers in the eyes and say 'were you cruel to this chicken?' and we should grab hunks of delicious fresh meat marbled with fat and cook it as fresh as we dare, delighting in the freshness of it, a la Hugh Fearnly whittingstall. And here we have moved on to another issue with food – perhaps less ethical, but important nonetheless.The britsh, we are told have lost the pure pleasure of food. Nigel Slater (OFM's resident foodie, aka, God) cannot stress the importance of food as pleasure. You should choose the freshest ingredients (those which are inseason, chosen – ethically – at your local farmers market) to cook something seasonally relevant and gastronomically orgasmic. If food magazines are food porn, Nigel Slater is the pimp, the producer – the porn king. His descriptions of juicy plums and ripe tomatoes, fresh fruit and vegetables send shivers down my spine (not only is he an excellent cook, but a truly talented writer. He also wears converse, which is so cool that i do wish he wasn't married). I want to rush out and buy some late season plumbs and eat them, juice dribbling down my chin. So now we must combine ethics and pleasure, also avoiding the perils of over packaging and wasting food (about 40% of the food brought into the UK is thrown out).
And therin lies another conundrum. People all over the world are starving and we throw all our food away. What can we do – it would be off by the time Royal Mail got it to Africa anyway. Buy less? but we'd be short of something. Buy more frequently perhaps, but we just don't have time. Well, now the scientists have discovered they can 'grow meat' in a petri dish – wahey! now we can feed the starving masses lumps of tissue cells mashed together to form something barely recognisable as meat in the way we now (or should now be seeing it). King of all things fleshly, Hugh Fearnly Whittingstall's diatribe against petri-meat was amusing in its way, although terrifying in others. The message however has become clear to me: you can't help others without sacriicing something yourself.Even if I eat all organic, locally grown pruduce, full of lumps and bumps and fairly traded, I'm sure i'll still be doing something wrong.