The Food Ethics Council is a UK-based charity think tank with a global perspective (it assumes a global/cosmopolitan ethic, which believes all humans matter equally) that focuses on fairness and covers three dimensions – humans, animals and the planet.

All these points reflect different aspects of ethical thinking.

First the scope of ethics is not merely on personal face-to-face relations or relations within a society or political community, but on global relations and the impacts of what we do on the rest of the world.

Second, whilst often ethics has been seen as essentially anthropocentric – that is focused solely on our fellow human beings because human beings alone have intrinsic worth – ethics is arguably non-anthropocentric as well. It can for instance also be concerned with the welfare of higher animals, or with the value of life generally (biocentrism) or with ecosystems/the planet (ecocentrism).

Of course even an anthropocentrist – an enlightened one – may see it as important that animals are healthy or that ecosystems are not damaged simply because healthy animals and undamaged ecosystems serve human interests especially in the long run – that is the concern is an instrumental one, one about means to what we care about. But the Food Ethics Council’s concern extends beyond that, to considering fairness to animals and the environment/planet too. They matter, over and above their usefulness to us humans.

This emphasis on fairness or on food justice is further illustrated by the Food Ethics Council’s Food Justice: report of the Food and Fairness Inquiry (July 2010).

The report distinguishes three aspects of fairness: ‘Fair share’; ‘Fair play’; and ‘Fair say’. ‘Fair share’ is for instance about the distribution of access to food; ‘fair play’ is about for instance the conditions under which someone sells food or gets paid sufficient wages (e.g. to get food). ‘Fair say’ concerns the conditions under which everyone contributes towards making decisions that affect them.