‘Eating Local’ Is Unethical
The term ‘locavore’ is obnoxious both sonically and philosophically. That hasn’t stopped the self-styled ‘locavores’ from proliferating, however: scores of “locally sourced” restaurants and grocery stores have sprung up throughout the American landscape over the past decade. My former home of Portland, Oregon now boasts dozens of restaurants that loudly flaunt the “locally grown” products that they serve.
Like the wrongheaded veneration of “locally-owned businesses” however, the “eat local” movement is profoundly misguided. For “locavorism” is a thinly veiled cousin of tribalism and racism — two destructive phenomena that humans have struggled for thousands of years to repudiate.
The foundation of any ethical system – actually, the foundation of ethics, period – is is the premise that the interests of all people are worthy of equal consideration. This holds true whether we are related to said people, whether they are of the same race as us, whether they live in the same area, or, indeed, whether we have any consciousness of their existence at all. (Incidentally, this is also the philosophical basis for climate alarmism. After all, anti-global warming activists are taking steps that they hope will benefit the lives of people who have not even been born yet.) By formulating the first codes of ethics, classical philosophers repudiated tribalism, and its close relative, racism: that is, the noxious belief that some people, solely by virtue of their relation to us, are more deserving of consideration than others.
Yet it is precisely this form of tribalism that the “Eat Local” movement is based upon. ‘Locavorism’ encourages people to weigh the interests of their local farmers, cheesemakers, or ranchers over that of others. That is, solely because Farmer John happen to live near us, we should care more about him than Ma Kettle, who lives farther away. I currently reside in Santa Cruz, California. Thus, some would have me weigh the concerns of a farmer who happens to live somewhere on the Monterey Bay over those of a farmer who happens to live in Iowa.
This attitude hardly differs from tribalism and racism.
We’ve known for sometime that many Bobos are deeply suspicious of human progress. But I always assumed these fears were solely related to technological progress. Now we know many oppose ethical progress as well.