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From pastures to plates

Class writes book on the source of the food we eat

Vegetarian. Vegan. Omnivore. Many people identify as having a particular diet. But do these people know why they eat the way they do?
At 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 21, one Florida Gulf Coast University class will try to answer that question.
“Animals and Ethics” is an honors independent research class taught by professors Jessica Rhea and Sean Kelly. The six students in the class have spent the semester researching, discussing and preparing a book and presentation on the many philosophies of eating ethically.
“Every philosopher has a different take on animals: Are they intelligent beings? Are they sentient? Are they property?” said Caroline Chern, a junior in the class. When biology major Jessica Ford was researching her portion of the book, she found that “most of the books out there are trying to get you to do something specific.”
The book the class is writing involves a series of vignettes. For example, Dr. Kelly’s portion follows “Flexitarian Mike.” Each vignette is written from the point of view of a character to describe why each has chosen a particular diet. Rather than coerce readers into a particular eating philosophy, the writers of the book hope to avoid the judgmental tone often found in publications about ethical eating.
“We want to give people the tools to choose a diet based on specific ethical beliefs and support that diet specifically in the Southwest Florida area,” said sophomore Jessica Baker.
Junior Rebecca Gonche has found that sometimes people don’t have a reason for what they eat.
“I didn’t really think about it. I was brought up in Brazil, and you just eat what you’re given … sometimes people don’t even think of it as a meal without meat, even though a lot of vegetarian items can taste better,” Gonche said.
Other students also have started taking a closer look at what they eat.
Ford, an animal lover and omnivore, said, “I find myself eating less and less meat. If you’re going to say you care about animals, maybe you shouldn’t eat them.”
The group will be presenting its research in an interactive, multimedia discussion Thursday in the Cohen Center, room 247. Food representing several different diets will be available.
Members of the class do not plan to change people’s eating habits through their presentation or book.
“It’s not my job to force someone to change something. I just want them to think about their choices a little bit more,” Chern said.

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