Geoff Tansey is a longtime member of the Food Ethics Council. Here he reflects on his experience sitting on the initial Food and Fairness Inquiry ten years ago and how far our understanding of and efforts to address food justice, both as an organisation and as a sector, has developed in the years since. 

Ten years ago, I was one of 14 people to sit on the Food and Fairness Inquiry, a year-long investigation into social justice in the food and farming system. This was an innovative and inclusive process resulting in the Food Justice Report. Half the people on the Inquiry were from the Food Ethics Council and the others from various parts of the food system – from retail to farming to the Gangmasters Licensing Authority.

A decade later, the Food Ethics Council has revisited the report and reflected on where we are now, resulting in a short new publication  ‘On the Road to Food Justice’. In short, we’ve still a long way to go to ensure fair shares, a fair say and fair play in our food systems. Urgent action is needed to address the many injustices in food and farming.

Sharing my experience of the Food Ethics Council

Last year, I spoke at the second International Congress on Agricultural and Food Ethics, reflecting on the 2O years I’ve been a member of the Food Ethics Council. Building on the Food Ethics Council’s approach and core concepts of respect for fairness, wellbeing and freedom, I reflected on lessons learned from its work over the past two decades in a paper entitled ‘Food ethics in the UK – from small beginnings to food citizenship and beyond.’ This experience highlights the importance of taking a systemic approach and the need to transform rules, incentives, and mindsets to achieve ethical food systems. Treating each other as food citizens, rather than just consumers, is central to this. I discussed some of the ways the Council seeks, alongside others, to empower people to shape a better food system and address controversial issues in the face of climate destabilisation, biodiversity loss, changing trading relationships and growing inequality.

Fair and open access

I was encouraged by the editor of Food Ethics journal, who also spoke at the conference, to revise the paper and submit it for publication. When I’d revised it and looked at submitting it, I found I’d have to assign copyright to Springer, who publish the journal, and pay a lot to enable it to be open access. I wanted to make my work freely available, not locked behind a paywall. Despite peer reviewing for free for the journal, when I enquired about waiving the open access fee as neither the Food Ethics Council as a charity nor I could pay the fee, this was refused. So instead of publishing the paper in an academic journal, I’m making it available on my website. Please share it widely with anyone interested in food ethics and the work of the Food Ethics Council.