“It’s Still an Animal That Died for Me.” Responsibility and Meat Consumption


  • Fabienne Gfeller


The aim of this paper is to explore the way people engaging in a more or less strict reduction of their consumption of food of animal origin (de)construct their responsibility regarding the food production and distribution system. Starting from a description of the crisis in meat production, it contributes to the understanding of the way people who are sensitive to these issues position themselves by focusing on the notion of responsibility. Ciarán Benson’s work on positioning serves as theoretical background. Through the analysis of interviews and a qualitative experiment with people who changed their consumption of food of animal origin recently, several dimensions along which responsibility is constructed are identified. Those are 1) who bears responsibility, 2) towards whom or what, 3) the action that is considered, 4) the knowledge implicated and 5) the power to act in that situation. The main proposition of the paper is to enhance Benson’s approach through the inclusion of a collective “we.” The study took place in Switzerland, where meat consumption is the norm. This context also implies a certain room for maneuver in the choice of products, as well as the presence of debates around the ecological and ethical implications of meat production.