Ethical Eating is very important to a considerable amount of people in town. There are a variety of concerns for people when considering what to eat.
Can one Eat Ethically as a Vegetarian?
Many people find the killing of animals, especially the ones that look kinda like us, fairly disturbing. Nonetheless, most of the same people will not hesitate to eat a meat product so long as somebody else has done the dirty work. Many children are disgusted by having to eat animal flesh that contains bones, tendons, or skin. To some people, the popular trend of transforming meat into unrecognizable patties, sausages, and nuggets suggests that people have a natural aversion to eating meat but are conditioned to accept the violence necessitated for meat-eating as they grow up. The realization of the disconnect between disliking killing and choosing to eat meat anyway is what first causes many to consider vegetarianism.
Many animals (including all animals and birds) can suffer and feel pain. They are also conscious, aware beings with thoughts and emotions. Indeed, it is fair to say that there are some animals who are more intelligent and aware than some humans (such as the congenitally mentally incapacitated) are. Yet the vast majority of us would not kill and eat these people. Why should we kill and eat these animals? Many vegetarians argue that to do so is unethical.
In addition, some have abandoned eating meat in part due to the ways that animals are systematically mistreated on corporate farms. Students walking through the UC Davis quad are frequently handed literature that details such abuse of animals. Others stop eating meat because of the environmental impacts.
Finally, while a balanced diet for a healthy adult can generally contain meat, there are many health reasons (beyond personal improvement) that call for a vegetarian diet. The range of vegetarian diets can be startling: one Davis resident successfully lost dozens of pounds through following the Atkins diet while omitting any animal products (leafy veggies are highly encouraged in the actual book, despite the popular "butter and bacon" perception). This is not a suggestion, merely a note of how wide a spectrum vegetarian diets can be.
Buddhists believe that intentionally killing any living being is immoral. Modern Buddhists are divided as to the morality of eating the flesh of an animal which somebody else has killed.
See also vegetarian options.
Why be Vegan?
In addition to the reasons for being vegetarian, some people are vegan because of the suffering caused to animals in the production of milk, honey, etc.
The Davis Seventh-day Adventist Fellowship recommends a vegan diet, primarily for health. The Fellowship believes that healthy-eating habits are tied in with spiritual well-being, and that some meats, such as those prohibited by Leviticus food laws, are inherently unclean.
Why be Local?
Advances in transportation and refrigeration means that you can have thin, tender asparagus year round. The footprint of this amazing modern industry, however, is not light. From the fuel used in the massive shipping efforts to invasive species hitching a ride, there are quite a few ramifications from a global food network that can be minimized by buying local.
Local farmers market vendors, such as those found at the Davis Farmers Market, and food stands tend to carry local produce (although not exclusively), but even mega-supermarkets can carry local food. Watch and read stickers, labels and signs. The amazing bounty of California's wide growing season means that you don't suffer all that much when it comes to seasonal restrictions compared to many other locales.
A food or other item that bears a "Fair Trade" label is marketing itself as being produced/grown/harvested the item in accordance with a set of labor standards. Among these standards are a ban on child and slave labor, a guarantee of the right to unionize, and adherence to the United Nations Charter. Through long-term buyer/seller contracts, the hope is that a fair price which covers the true cost of production will facilitate social/community development and make environmental protection/conservation possible in the developing world. A Fair Trade-labeled item generally costs more because the producers are being paid more and the packager is paying the certification association for the right to use the label.
Can One Eat Ethically as an Omnivore?
Ethics can play an important part in a diet that includes meat (if you don't object to the fundamental concept of animals as food, of course). Conscientious efforts to source organic-fed, free-range, heirloom breeds from responsible ranches and farms will often result in a greater awareness of humanity's place in the food chain. This will not be inexpensive; the trade-off is acquiring quality (and peace of mind) instead of quantity. If fish and seafood are your preference, check out the seafood entry for information on sustainable species found locally. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has more information about sustainable choices.
Running through a handful of ideas, hormones, fair trade and GMOs would make sense here, as they are things that people specifically look for. Hormones are more of a health issue, I think? GMO can certainly be a strong ethical issue re: patents and strongarm tactics on small farmers rather than any health concerns. I'm hesitant to add a large list without people coming up with specific local examples. Prop 37 probably be mentioned re: GMO, even if it failed.
Monsanto and big corporations are evil in more ways than patent hoarding and Roundup ready. No argument about that
GMO doesn't really make sense, especially since people don't want to think critically about them. Pro GMO stuff (IE golden rice w/ nutrients, square tomatos (a specific local example), modern corn in all incantations, Rice that can has been cross-bred to survive extended flooding etc) should be included. Sadly factory farms feed the world, and organic farms simply can't hang in terms of Lbs of harvest per square foot...
I was referring to purely the patent and legal issues. In fact, that's why I said "rather than any health concerns". For instance, one can support music and musicians and still be against the modern music industry. Same goes for GMOs and the current legal and enforcement structure around them.
I think the environmental impacts of GMOs (e.g., the increased use of roundup on roundup-ready GMOs) are an ethical concern.
True. I was going for an obvious ethical and non-health related issue to demonstrate the relevance. There are probably others, especially once you start looking at religions.