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Agricultural ethics: then and now


  • Paul 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. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Suggested Citation

  • Paul Thompson, 2015. "Agricultural ethics: then and now," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 32(1), pages 77-85, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:agrhuv:v:32:y:2015:i:1:p:77-85
    DOI: 10.1007/s10460-014-9519-1

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Johnson, Glenn L., 1982. "Agro-Ethics: Extension, Research, and Teaching," Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 14(01), pages 1-10, July.
    2. Paul Thompson, 1988. "Ethical dilemmas in agriculture: The need for recognition and resolution," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 5(4), pages 4-15, September.
    3. Johnson, Glenn L., 1982. "Agro-Ethics: Extension, Research, And Teaching," Southern Journal of Agricultural Economics, Southern Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 14(01), July.
    4. Glenn Johnson, 1990. "Ethical dilemmas posed by recent and prospective developments with respect to agricultural research," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 7(3), pages 23-35, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Diebel, Penelope L., 2008. "Ethics and Agriculture: A Teaching Perspective," Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Western Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 33(3), December.
    2. Shortall, O.K. & Raman, Sujatha & Millar, Kate, 2015. "Are plants the new oil? Responsible innovation, biorefining and multipurpose agriculture," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 86(C), pages 360-368.


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