Center for Respect of Life and Environment (CRLE)
Thomas Berry Award & Lecture
Center for Respect of Life and Environment (CRLE)


Towards A New Production Ethic

Tools: The Process of Stating Principles and its Rationale

Tentative Classification of Ethical Principles, useful for Overhead Projection

[ Forming a Consensus on the Mutual Ethics of Family Farming]


1.) The dedication of land, water and other resources critical to farming is fitting in nature and to be presumed moral unless, in special cases, circumstances show otherwise.

2.) The dedication and preservation of resources, mainly fertile land and water, for farming must be as permanent as the human needs they serve

3.) The conditions of farming for farmers and farm-worker must be rewarding and healthy enough to assure that the vocation will not be abandoned or seriously damaged.

4.) The economic conditions of farming must encourage the preservation of agricultural resources.

5.) The economic and regulatory conditions of farming must protect the cleanliness of the soil and the safety of its crops.

6.) MORE?


A) Farmers and Workers:

1.) Rewards for the work of farming are to be justly shared by all who work at it in proportion to their time effort and responsibility and in consideration of the needs of a decent human living.

2.) Due to its ability to secure the knowledge and caring needed for good farming, continuity of time and place of farmers, whether owners, renters, managers or laborers, is to be preserved or encouraged as far as possible.

3.) Other things being equal, local farm ownership and local owner management has benefits so extensive as to endow it with moral preference in policy.

4.) The social needs of farm labor, such as community, church and school continuity, are of such importance that farmer/community collaborative efforts to provide permanent residence where possible are morally laudable.

5.) A moral obligation exists for farmers and their communities to unify for the purpose of gaining the power to act ethically without severe consequences where that power is out of their hands as individuals. Futile individual heroism is not a moral principle.

B) Impacts on Animals and Other Living Systems:

1.) Although used and even consumed in production, natural beings, plants and animals are the sacred gifts of Creation, given for our use, not abuse. They are worthy in themselves of being treated with respect. Their diversity and the harmony of their coexistence is prima facie good and should be protected.

2.) Serious harm to nature's balance in both wild and cultivated states and serious suffering imposed on animals must be measured with humble estimates of the importance of the human utility achieved.

3.) A moral obligation exists for farmers to be open, consultative, and supportive of each other in seeking advice in finding alternative production methods which can reduce harmful side effects.

4.) Because of their gentleness on the environment and sustainability, solar, biointensive and other regenerative technologies enjoy a prima facie ethical superiority

5.) It is morally abusive to regard trivial increases in human utility as a justification for serious harm to nature.

6.) It is morally unacceptable to cause serious suffering to animals for trivial reasons.

7.) Any form of animal agriculture about whose animals we must say; "They would, from their birth on, have been better off dead" is morally shameful.

8.) Freedom from inhumane pain and pathological stress should be sought for animals.

9.) Serious and long term suppression of animals' freedom to express natural functions and movements is not justified by non-essential economic advantages.

10.) Burdens and the costs of limits placed on farmers to preserve nature's balance, variety and elements of wildness for the public heritage are justly to be shared by the public.

11.) Diversity in cropping systems and the integration of animals into farming systems have values great enough to justify a prima facie preference for them.

C) Farmer to Farmer Relations:

1.) Friendship based forms of competition must replace destructive forms.

2.) Collaboration in shared information, experience and labor should be cultivated.

3.) A moral obligation exists for the community of farmers (and non-farmers)to assist in the making the established reliability of more benign farming alternatives, such as organic, biological, ecological, regenerative systems, known and acceptable among other older methods.

4.) Innovators in the direction of more benign alternatives must be treated with honor and with tolerance for the inevitable early mishaps.

5.) Collaborative efforts by farmers to return the power of ethical decision making to farmers must be cultivated.

D) Farmer /Community Relations:

1.) Community based policy making in general has benefits which favor it morally in policy.

2.) Collaborative, friendship based, forms of environmental protection which are respectful of the community and the needs of farming are morally superior to more distant or coercive forms.

3.) The economic stability of both the community and the farms which surround it should be the common goal of policy.

4.) Wherever possible agricultural production decision making should be communally sensitive and community supported and be characterized by a tendency to share benefits, circulate wealth and employment opportunities in the community.

5.) A moral obligation exists to reduce harmful side effects of farming on the community

6.) Environmental policy makers must recognize that poverty and economic hardship in the country-side is a cause of environmental damage. Economic justice for farmers must be pursued for protection of the environment which farmers and communities share.

E) Farmer /Consumer Relations

1.) Forms of marketing and purchasing which restore a friendship-like relationship between farmer and consumer are to be preferred where possible.

2.) Institutions and practices which enhance consumer awareness of the nature and needs of farming are to be encouraged.

3.) Institutions and practices which increase farmer awareness of the food needs and concerns of consumers are to be encouraged.

4.) Free market forces as a means to produce and market food must be frequently guided and limited by the moral demands of justice and basic human needs as well as other values of the means and ends of farming. The free market must be kept as an instrument of human good.

5.) It is morally appropriate to guide free market forces by the communally determined needs of local consumers and local farmers.


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