Ethical issues are, by their nature, contentious – and there are many such issues relating to food and farming. These range from deeply entrenched debates about long-standing issues (e.g. GM food) to the role for emerging technologies.
Our current priority focus issue to help ‘unlock’ is the future of meat and dairy. Recent years have seen a welcome increase in debate about the future of livestock production and animal product consumption. However, we are increasingly seeing divisions emerging in UK (and global) debates – ‘vegans versus meat eaters’, ‘the vital role of livestock grazing versus the harm caused by livestock grazing’ and more. It is vital that the excellent work that many are doing in this space is not derailed and that instead, we have a nuanced and inclusive debate.
Differences remain between different groups as to the role of meat in future diets and future landscapes. Hence, we believe it is a vital moment to break down divisions and to unlock often polarised meat and dairy debates. Through this work, we will bring together a wide range of stakeholders – from environmental NGOs to meat processors, from farmers to retailers, from animal welfare charities to investors, from health professionals to cell grown meat technologists and beyond. Through progressive dialogues, together we will seek to put livestock farming and the food we eat in the UK onto a healthy, sustainable footing.
We believe it is a vital moment to break down divisions and to unlock often polarised meat and dairy debates.
Much of our work over more than two decades has been helping to unlock contentious issues, from GM food to cell-grown meat, from meat consumption to food miles and beyond. A few examples are shown below.
Previous work on meat and livestock (including the original Livestock Dialogues series with WWF-UK that started in 2009) reinvigorated the debate on meat consumption. Our work catalysed the setting up of Eating Better, the broad alliance of over 50 organisations promoting less and better meat.
In the late 2000s, we brought together environmental and development groups to unlock the stalemate about flying food into the UK from the Global South. Through constructive dialogue, we shifted the debate over the environmental costs and development benefits of air freight, resulting in much better understood positions and a more nuanced debate.
We helped catapult food and poverty issues up the political agenda through our longstanding work on household food insecurity. Our food aid research for Defra gained much political attention (including at Prime Minister’s Questions), and helped catalyse the Fabian Commission on Food & Poverty.
Ralph Early, Professor of Food Industry at Harper Adams University, describes the applications and ethical dilemmas posed by 3D food printing.