Ethical—what does it mean when it comes to our food?

And what can be done about it?

Mark Bittman of the New York Times recently did a piece featuring “the greatest living food writer,” Colin Spencer, a British citizen. And since the primary focus on the article challenged the ethics of our current factory farming industry—while reading the article (See link below), I looked up the word ethical:

Avoiding activities or organizations that do harm to people or the environment.

Colin Spencer — Renaissance Man

What about the critters? Given Mr. Spencer’s disdain for the harsh treatment of animals, I should think that we might want to add animals to the people and environment mentioned in the definition. So how is the human race doing when it comes to behaving in an ethical and humane manner? Before answering that question, let’s take a look at what a legendary historical figure had to say over 500 years ago:

“The time will come when men such as I will look on the murder of animals as they now look on the murder of men.”—Leonardo da Vinci

When Bittman asked Spencer how he became an ethical eater (he isn’t a strict vegetarian), he responded, “It was in the ‘70s, about 1975. It was the horror of factory farming. The other issue was the fact of the ecology.”

Mr. Spencer “gets it.” Mark went on to tell us more about this remarkable man. “Indeed, he’s as close to a Renaissance man as you can get, an accomplished artist, novelist, analyst, activist, playwright and journalist.” Spencer is the author of “From Microliths to Microwaves,” a history of food in Britain from pre-historic times to the present. Now for the part that convinced me that Mr. Colin Spencer does indeed see the big picture. Bittman continues:

But it is not just about ethics or animal rights, he reiterated, it’s also the cost to the environment and indeed humanity. There is the issue of sustainability, he reminded me — by some estimates it takes 30 times as much land to raise animals industrially as it does to raise vegetables — compounded by the fact that we’ll soon need to grow more food for ourselves rather than feeding it to animals.

And, he said, “The thought of the developing world and malnutrition and hunger — it’s a hard call that we use that food for animals. Certainly, by the end of this century, industrial livestock will be a thing of the past.”

Leonardo da Vinci

My Question is this. After over five hundred years of having our scholars like da Vinci, Spencer and Bittman talk about the ethical atrocities, when are they going to start SHOUTING about it and demanding change?

What would Leonardo da Vinci say now if he were alive today? What would he say after visiting one of our modern factory farms and then learning that we subject some sixty billion animals a year to this kind of torture so that the wealthiest 30% of the world’s seven billion people can eat their flesh?

How important is this topic? In our book, I summed up my feelings on that question in the last paragraph of the Introduction:

The primary objective of this book is to outline in simple, everyday terms the extent of the problems we face, how we got ourselves into trouble, and what each of us can do to make things better. Fortunately, despite the incredible complexity of our current dilemma, the solution is refreshingly simple. All we have to do is educate ourselves, start making better choices about what we eat, and then share all that we have learned with everyone we care about. I am convinced that there has never been anything more important in the history of the world.

Once again, I want to thank Mark Bittman for bringing these kinds of stories to the world. I just wish that he would become more of a consistent leader of change—consistently education the public about what must be done to fix the mess in which we find ourselves. Let’s face it, things have gotten exponentially worse since the days of Leonardo da Vinci, yet there are no prominent leaders out there who are consistently addressing this singular important topic.


Mark Bittman’s article: Talking to Colin Spencer –

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—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
This entry was posted in Activism & Leadership, Suffering of Animals, Sustainability. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Ethical—what does it mean when it comes to our food?

  1. Denise Sullivan says:

    It is encouraging to read interviews such as this with Colin Spencer – it’s so true that how we treat those less powerful than us says a lot about our society. I do hope and believe that in many years to come, historians will look on this period as incredibly primitive and cruel. Thanks for your good fight!

  2. Vic says:

    Have you been following John and Ocean Roberts Food Revolution Summit??
    April 26-May 6 a tremendous array of movers and shakers!!! Gives me hope that
    lots of us are not lost in the wilderness….:))

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