Bioethics Blogs

Meat and Cancer: Considering food as loci of relations

Kelly Struthers Montford discusses the politics of food choice and meat consumption.


“[Food] is such a complex product of choice and coercion, necessity and pleasure, science and culture…” (Mosby, Food Will Win the War, 2014).

Recent announcements and debates in the media, such as the World Health Organization’s (WHO) announcement on October 26th, 2015 concerning the link between cancers and processed and red meats, have unfolded within a wider social context marked by ongoing anxieties about the politics of food, nutrition, and choice.

We see these anxieties about eating animals as the mainstream media debates and questions the practice from various angles: CNN stated that beef is the new SUV; a New York Times op-ed has predicted that the future of meat is that of ‘fake’ meat; The Atlantic’s installment of If Our Bodies Could Talk series ran a segment named The Future of Protein will not be Animal Meat; the BBC asked whether we can justify killing animals for food given the effects of animal agriculture on climate change; and Oxfam America detailed the exploitative and dangerous working conditions for workers in chicken slaughterhouses.

Franz Marc, Animals in a Landscape (1914)

The development of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines in the United States also reflected these concerns. An expert panel of 15 academic researchers synthesized over 4000 peer-reviewed studies and recommended that issues of environmental sustainability be considered in the dietary guidelines. The expert panel reported that, given the emissions produced and the water used in animal agriculture, the health effects of meat, and the availability of foods for the general public, it would be inconsistent to recommend meat-based diets for the nation.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.