Conference: Living Responsibly – ethical issues in everyday life (Lisbon, May 2014)

EC team member and PhD candidate Paula Arcari will be presenting a paper at the upcoming 4th Global conference on responsible living in May 2014.  The conference asks, “How can we live responsibly, taking care of one another and of our planet? This is the question faced by everyone who wants, so far as they can, to do what is right, and it is at the heart of Living Responsibly: reflecting on the ethical decisions of everyday life.”  The full call for papers can be found here.


Whole foods meat wrapping (Source: social media)

Paula’s paper focuses on ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’ meat as a response to the environmental and animal welfare issues associated with factory farmed meat. It proposes that normalised conceptions of meat and animals are reflected in, and reinforced by, dominant food discourses at multiple levels, contributing to policy and practices which by default treat meat as necessary and natural, and animals as a human resource. This is obstructing the emergence of new, and acknowledgement of existing responses to factory farmed meat that are more ethical and sustainable.

Below is the full abstract for the paper.

“It’s all good!” Or is it?: Constructions and practices of ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’ meat

Paula Arcari (RMIT University, Australia)

Representations of meat consumption as ethical and sustainable are supported by ‘normalised’ conceptions of meat eating and our relationship to non-human animals that demand closer interrogation. This paper reports on work in progress that aims to understand how meat consumption is represented and understood as being ethical and sustainable. In particular, I propose a critical approach to exploring the practices of producers, retailers and consumers of ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’ meat, and the meanings they associate with these practices. A review of relevant literature, encompassing sustainability, industry-based studies, animal welfare and rights, ethics, sociology, cultural studies and feminist theory, suggests that meat consumption as ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’ is supported in dominant scientific, industry and public discourses through certain normative assumptions. These include the commodification of non-human animals, positive associations with ‘nature’, masculinity and health, and constructions of vegetarianism and veganism as ‘un-natural’, feminine (i.e. weak) and unhealthy. The role and implications of these discourses in supporting the consumption of ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’ meat have not yet been a focus of academic study. This paper situates the emerging trend of ethical and sustainable meat within a broader historical and cultural context thereby problematising its moral and environmental claims. Ultimately, I wish to demonstrate that our current and future food systems are shaped by a range of assumptions that are rarely questioned. These normative discourses are contributing to the continuation and expansion of practices shown to be seriously harming our climate, natural environment and human health, while preventing the emergence of new, or the acknowledgement of existing, approaches to food that are more ethical and sustainable.

Key Words: Meat consumption, animal welfare, animal rights, humane, climate change, environmental change, social norms, dominant ideologies, alternative food systems, literature