[globe trot] The Ethics of Edibility

“In respect of the food animal we need to fully appreciate the value they add to our lives.”

I was in Winnipeg speaking at a forum on The Ethics of Edibility: Food Animals in Perspective, and thought I would share this experience with you. The most important part about this forum is that it took place, and in doing so, brought together academics and non-academics to discuss food animal welfare and production. It is the first time to the best of my knowledge that a highly-researched dialogue that was non-confrontational has taken place that included audience participation. In this regard, the forum was historical, as was the knowledge transfer between interested parties.

From my perspective, I talked about the hidden economic driver behind food animal production – that being credits or value adding to the non-meat portion of the animal. The evolution of food animal has transcended beyond the basic need for food. In cattle, we count over 500 secondary products for a value of $19.00 cwt. or $266.00 per head. That has created a huge societal dependence on products that they may have never even related to food animal, such as the gelatin in their shampoo, conditioner, baking or yogurt.

When it comes to ethics, we could all agree on one word and that word was “respect”. Dr. Temple Grandin said it best when she proclaimed that “food animals are here for our use – we need to respect that.” The full societal contribution of the food animal is likely under-appreciated because they add so much value to our lives. It is our duty to ensure that society has an appreciation for food animals and that they understand we are ethical contributors to their well being. They are after all – entrusted to our care.