The price of ethical eating.. an internet trawling-induced headache πŸ˜›

Anyway. So, James and I have revised our family’s eating standards. For simplicity’s sake, we’ve been ovo-lacto vegetarians, using organics whenever possible (or indeed affordable), for 5+ years. We had a chat, and have decided that it’s acceptable for us to be eating meat as well, as long as it’s from systems that look after both the welfare of animals and the environment. To be honest, if we were to be vegetarian for not-killing-animals reasons, then we should really be vegans. I’ve had a good think and here’s what I make of the animals being killed for our benefit..thing:

PETA makes a distinction between animal welfare and animal rights, which I think is fairly apt. Obviously, they go for the latter in believing that animals are not ours to be used for food, clothing, entertainment, etc. As harsh as it sounds, I don’t believe animals have any inherent rights. Leaving aside my nihilism, in the human construct of rights, those who have them also have duties. A lion doesn’t owe anything to a sheep, and neither can it expect anything from it. I can say the same thing for human babies. What humans have done in order to cope with being social animals with sentience is create the concept of covenantal ethics. We want to be protected, along with our possessions and vulnerable kin, so we create the tit-for-tat rules that promise our good behavior in return for that of our fellow humans. We obviously can’t have that sort of relationship with animals. What we have done is extend our humanity to an empathy for the suffering of other species. I don’t really have any philosophical reason for it, but I fall squarely into this camp. It *bothers* me when people are cruel to animals, and I don’t feel any need to justify this knee-jerk emotional response. I can only assume that better humans (better as in humans I am more likely to want to be around) are nurtured amongst those people who strive to diminish or prevent suffering, no matter who or what is experiencing it. My desire to protect the environment is purely pragmatic–we cannot have a healthy future on a shat-upon planet. So, to the point, I don’t have a problem eating meat if 1. animal welfare standards are observed and 2. it is only occasionally, as raising meat as food is environmentally inefficient.

So, the results of the trawl, most of which was done on Compassion in World Farming’s website. I also took note of the RSPCA’s materials regarding ‘Freedom Foods’, but to be honest they don’t do much to address environmental issues. The same can be said in reverse for some organic food. It’s all very confusing. Any, what follows is a list, mostly for my benefit, of foods that I can source fairly easily. That is, that doesn’t require shipping food here, or taking the series of buses out to the organic farm (I adore the irony that once I get my car my ethical shopping will become much more feasible).

So. From Marks and Spencer:
-all eggs, dairy, beef, lamb, veal, trout, salmon, halibut, chicken, venison, geese and duck, buying their organic and free-range where possible. Apparently their pork has been greatly improved this year, so I suppose that’s on the list as well.

-nobody does ethical quail, though if there was a Waitrose I could have quail eggs.

-Tesco does trout, venison, outdoor reared and bred pork, but labels need to be carefully scanned. The organic eggs and milk are fine, though I should probably be getting my cheese from M&S.

-only free-range or organic turkey, regardless of store.

-there is no local source of ethically slaughtered farmed fish, aside from what was mentioned.

-my guess is that most seafood is off-limits because of the intensive methods used to harvest it, but I shall have to do more reading.

-cat food. Am I likely to find the special diet food my old cat needs in an organic shop? Methinks not. Science Diet it is.

-Eating out–this will require discussion. Obviously we’ll be avoiding the usual perpetrators (as much as I love their shitty food).

-Eating with friends and family. I think the rule will be something along the lines of eating what is offered with a grateful spirit.

So now that that is mostly dealt with, the next item of questionable ethics can come to the fore–I apparently need to be a lot more careful about where I buy my wool/yarn: link. Also, we need to have a think about zoos, animal parks, etc.: link. I really have a hard time with larger animals, roaming predators, primates, many birds, etc. being kept in zoos and parks, but I’m not sure what I think about other species. I just don’t know enough about the welfare of these animals to make an informed opinion. Something to remedy, surely.


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7 Responses to “The price of ethical eating..”

  1. rasjane Says:

    You are right that having a car makes that much easier to shop ethically. We drive to the farmers market, we drive to the farm for raw milk (and therefore raised in an amazingly ethical manner–those cows and goats have it good), I drive to friends house to get eggs from chickens who get to eat bugs from poo all day long, and I drive to pick up chickens who have been raised in a ginormous chicken heaven field. I am on the waiting list for beef and pork that have been eating what nature intended their whole life. We just wait till Pa Russ goes fishing to get fish. (Getting low *ahem*).
    We are so lucky to live in the Portland area where this is all so much easier! Have you checked out They may have some UK stuff, dunno.
    Good luck. It’s tough to get started, but easier once you establish your sources and habits.

    • rosgen Says:

      Yeah, even in Moscow there was the Coop. Of course, my not having a car changes my perspective. Fife has loads of organic farms, but if they’re not a short bus ride away, they might as well be in the highlands.

      The UK now has a Whole Foods Market–in London of course. Very irritating. Edinburgh is a capital! Why can’t we have better stuff? You know what silly thing I really miss from the States? Annie’s bunny pasta Mac and Cheese but organic.

      Shall check out the link, thanks πŸ™‚

      Got to go, Joseph needs info from me to make me a Time Agent πŸ™‚

  2. Anonymous Says:

    it’s sara btw

    I’m too lazy to sign up to anything – bad, huh??
    anyway, is nocatch cod not ethical?
    it’s definitely yummy and organic.
    we had their fishfingers last night.

    i think catching wild animals is the most environmentally efficient thing to do – rabbit etc.
    but also, in a temperate climate with winters that rule out growing veg, surely meat is a good energy store and could prevent importing … say… asparagus from kenya or whatever?

    jamesfield do mail order and it seems to me like they’re decent enough.

    • rosgen Says:

      Re: it’s sara btw

      cool, thanks for the nocatch link. they say they sell it at dunfermline tesco, i wonder if they have it at the kirkcaldy one… one challenge is that as james is still veggie, we won’t be actually cooking any meat at home so the things i find have to be pre-cooked.

      i definitely miss living near my step-dad who would bring home venison from his hunting trips. i agree that that’s about as close to ideal as you can get, assuming the marksman is skilled. that’s also a good point about food with air miles.

      i’ve never ordered from jamesfield, shall have to check them out. i’ve ordered in things from goodnessdirect and whilst i love it all, i always feel vaguely guilty about all the packaging for the chilled foods.

      basically, I just can’t win πŸ˜‰

  3. Anonymous Says:

    I agree on the wild-caught…rabbit and venison are my meats du choix.

    I go to the Edinburgh famers market once or twice a month but I get nearly all our meat from my very good local butcher who has free range Scottish produce (not usually organic though).

    Funny, I was looking for quail eggs in Jenners at the weekend! Waitrose in Morningside is too far to go…. I like all the game birds but, like the rabbits and deer, I would prefer it if they were shot rather than farm-reared.

    Keep letting me know if you’re going to be in town!

  4. rasjane Says:

    Oh, and read Omnivore’s Dilemna, by Michael Pollan. Fabulous, enlightening read. You’ll thank me. And then make James read it.

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