Digest of terms


the link between food and morality is as great as that between sex and morality - with dramatic changes in the last hundred years. For most of human history obtaining, preparing and consuming food have taken up most waking hours for most people. The order and control of that process has been critical for survival. They have included tests for edibility, taste and nutrition; protocols for feeding times and social eating; and symbolic use to express identity.

Food substances in themselves may be regarded as morally neutral, but that judgement is questionable according to different perspectives, including religious ones. A vegan or a Jain refrains from harming life forms which many meat-eaters would never perceive to be susceptible to harm. A Hindu refuses beef out of deference to the supreme nurturance in life represented by the cow, whereas for Jews and Muslims the pig is avoided not from respect, but from notions of purity /impurity. Christians from their earliest decades have eaten freely what they see as universal gift. Yet they and others have also refrained from eating at certain times, as signs of penitence or demonstrations of discipline.

In the twenty-first century food continues to present moral challenges. First, there is the huge problem of how to feed a global population heading towards 7 billion and increasing exponentially. Related to this, second, how can the disparity be transformed between life-styles which depend on cattle for meat being fed more and better food than the millions of people who barely subsist? Third, in provision for social eating, in homes, schools, cafeteria and restaurants, to what extent should the desirability of 'good food' be given priority over more commercially beneficial alternatives?

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