Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 77–85 | Cite as

Agricultural ethics: then and now

  • Paul Banks Thompson


This paper was written to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the University of Nottingham’s Easter School on “Issues in Agricultural Bioethics,” organized by Ben Mepham in 1993. At that time, agricultural ethics was being envisioned as an interdisciplinary sub-discipline comparable to that of medical ethics. Agricultural ethicists would co-operate with other agricultural faculty to produce careful articulation, analysis and critique (or defense) of norms and values being implicitly assumed by agricultural researchers, practitioners and policy makers. Roughly two factors have conspired to substantially limit the realization of that vision in the intervening 20 years. First, the institutional environment within agricultural universities was far less conducive to such an activity than medical schools. Second, while the rise of a food-oriented social movement might have provided new opportunities for food ethics, the social movement orientation has actually constrained the kind of philosophical work typically undertaken by bioethicists. The paper ends with a brief note calling for a renewal of the original vision.


History of agricultural ethics Food ethics Agricultural research Agricultural education 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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