Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Food Wasting

A person orders a plate of food. He eats some, and discards the rest. Is this action of food wasting ethically wrong?

As queer as it might sound, I don't really believe that anything egregiously wrong has been committed. I would instead ask, what's wrong with it?

We might say that wasting food is wrong as food is precious. In the scenario, some food cannot be used for useful activities, since it is wasted. Yet, on closer analysis, this is flawed. Once the food has been served, the entire bulk of food is deemed useless to all other parties. In other words, whether the person consumes the whole meal or wastes the whole meal does little to affect other parties (assuming that not eating the meal does not cause the person to consume another meal, in which case waste has occurred).

However, we might then argue that the previous argument is flawed, since it assumes that we have no control over the servings of food. To provide an example, if we intentionally order five steaks while knowing that we can only consume two, then we are guilty of the crime of wasting a precious resource. This is a useful argument, but it is generally false. On most occasions, people do not order food knowing that it will be wasted. They might, however, order servings of food which would later turn out to be greater than their capacity to consume it. However, this is not morally wrong, as the intent is not to waste food, and the waste was only the result of a faulty sense of reckoning.

Hence, I conclude that it is generally not wrong to have discard leftovers after meals. Of course, there are many possible counterarguments, of which I can think of at least three, but I unfortunately have little time to address these points here.

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