Ethics on the Menu

Submitted by John_O on Fri, 03/12/2010 - 16:43

A menu, found on the table of the Duke of Cambridge Organic Pub in Islington, London, outlines (in a broad range of categories) various values and operating principles to which this business subscribes.



Recognising that product and process are intrinsically intertwined, Duke of Cambridge tallies its policy information like badges of honour alongside the specific year when each value was adopted: 'No airfreight; 2003'

Presented in a similar manner to the way in which fine wines are listed, by vintage, the dates here also acknowledge a need for growth and change in value systems to reflect society at large e.g. the 'Chemical Free Cigarettes' policy (started in 1999) ended in 2007, presumably coinciding with the U.K. smoking ban.

Brands and their products are of course inseparable, and fast-knowledge-hungry consumers are happy to pay a little more if they can be given assurances regarding the provenance of their chosen product.  Anita Roddick, founder of Body Shop and early promoter of Fair Trade produce, knew that 'fairness' can be good for business, and a quotation from her on the back of the menu situates this eatery in a lineage of ethical consumerism:

"If business comes with no moral sympathy or honorable code of behaviour, God help us all."  Anita Roddick, (1942 - 2007)

Another City, another menu, this time Newcastle and the visiting Feral Trade Cafe where once again process is at the fore:

'Feral Trade Menu items have been brought in over moving social networks, including vacation, commuter and funded cultural travel. Stocks are limited by the haulage power of our couriers; dine early to avoid scarcity, see specials board for arrivals, departures and shipping disasters. Feral Trade has been trading groceries outside commercial systems since 2003.'

Proprietor Kate Rich is proud to source goods and ingredients direct from the producers, transporting them 'peer-to-peer' along pre-existing lines of supply - the international travel routes taken by artists and friends in her own extended social network.

There are two 'strands' of Feral Trade produce:

Home Manufactured Goods and Hi-Jacked Products - and a good example of the latter is the 'open-source' Cube Cola (administered at Feral Trade Cafe Newcastle, mixed with soda, delivered through the very infrastructure of the dominant cola in the marketplace.)

Feral Trade Goods are served with a comprehensive invoice (which doubles as a placemat) and even a cursory glance reveals an information overload. 

We are provided with testimony as to the place of origin, the name of the individual who personally delivered the goods and when and via which flight - personal details which actually open up more questions than answers.  This critical function clearly differentiates 'Feral Trade Goods' from the domain of 'ethical consumerism' and Fair Trade which seem hell-bent on providing consumers with all of the information they need to put their conscience at ease.

One final menu in this small collection which I would like to draw reference to was that used at The Meat Licence Proposal's 'Year of Activism' Dinner back at the beginning of 2009.

Here, no actual information was provided regarding the origins of the food - and instead the menus doubled as formal legal contracts. 

In a grotesque formalisation of etiquette, invited guests were asked by their host to add their signature to the menu in order to formally give consent for the meal to take place.