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Social Philosophy Today

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published on April 22, 2014

Erinn Gilson

Vote With Your Fork?
Responsibility for Food Justice

As popular food writers and activists urge consumers to express their social, political, and ethical commitments through their food choices, the imperative to ‘vote with your fork’ has become a common slogan of emerging food movements in the US. I interrogate the conception of responsibility embedded in this dictate, which has become a de facto model for how to comport ourselves ethically with respect to food. I argue that it implicitly endorses a narrow and problematic understanding of responsibility. To contextualize this claim, I utilize Iris Marion Young’s critique of a “liability model” of responsibility to demonstrate that voting with one’s fork is insufficient as model for taking responsibility for food-related injustices. Instead, I suggest that Young’s social connection model of responsibility is best suited for taking stock of responsibility for food and agriculture related injustices since they are structural and systemic ones. I conclude that although consumer choices and purchases may be important dimensions of our conduct with respect to food and eating, imagining responsibility to be centered on this type of conduct—consumer behavior—is detrimental to attempts to develop a more just food system.

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