Workshop session 1 (13.30-15.00)

This is the first of two workshop sessions on Wednesday 7 September. For information about the second set (later the same afternoon), please go to the second session page

Workshop 1: Emotion and imagination in laboratory practices

Organised by Trine Antonsen, Norce Norwegian Research Institute

Practices are fundamental for a meaningful and ethical relationship with the material world. Our interests in this workshop are in the skills and practices involved in the advances in biotechnology, particularly those that concerns our food culture. For most people, the laboratory is an invisible part of the food chain at best known through representations in the media. However, similar to the field, the barn or the slaughterhouse, the laboratory is a place for interaction between humans and other organisms. And it is a place for choice with respect to these relationships, which, following a virtue theory approach, makes it a matter of ethics.

In our experience, in biotechnology laboratory practices, researchers are attentive to the bacteria, cells and the genome in ways that can be best described using a language of imagination, metaphor and attachment: agency, integrity, knowledge, negotiation, care and feeling. During a three-year research project on gene technology (“ReWrite”), we have witnessed researchers’ empathic outbursts upon noticing a dying colony of cells, frustration over slow growth and failure to understand the cells’ needs. We found the researchers talk about spending time with the cells, carefully getting to know them by attending to their responses to the experiments. We have discussed cell communication and the cells relationships to each other, as well as the status of the cell in relation to the organism in which they origin.

Similar practices are reported in Evelyn Fox Keller’s biography of the pioneering work of American scientist Barbara McClintock. More recently, Calvert and Szymanski’s work in synthetic biology and yeast reveal that researchers do not have a straightforwardly exploitative relationship to the organisms that they work on even in engineering whole organisms. The long history of interrelatedness with some species, they argue, opens for an affective but conflicted relationship.

Key Questions:
• If the attention to and care for the organisms is the inspirational and ethical source of practicing science, how is this affected by, and how can this be reconciled with strict rule following that is required by the scientific method?
• If ethics is not separable from scientific practice, and exploring the other with attention, emotion and imagination is what starts ethics off, do we need to change or adapt scientific method, scientific dissemination, or the very foundational values and ideas of science?
• How does attention to methods of attachment impact the stories we tell about science, the trust we have in science and our scientists, how science is perceived in the public that such experiences are not communicated?

Target group:
Researchers working with the intersection between lab research, development and responsible research and innovation. Research institutions, producers, regulators, and policy makers concerned with public trust in science and her products. Ethicists concerned with the sources of normative practices.

Panel of discussants:

1. Trine Antonsen, NORCE Norwegian Research Institute (corresponding chair): Ethical significance of emotion in laboratory practices.

2. Jane Calvert, University of Edinburgh: Feeling for the (micro-)organism.

3. Erik Lundestad, UiT The Arctic university of Norway: Anthropomorphism and epistemic standards in science

4. Torill Blix, NORCE Norwegian Research Institute: Human-salmon relations

5. Sigfrid Kjeldaas, UiT The Arctic University of Norway : The post-colonial

6. Hedda S. Bjerklund, NORCE Norwegian Research Institute: Plant consciousness

Chair: Anne I. Myhr, Norce Norwegian Research Institute


Workshop 2: Exploring Social Sustainability through the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill

Hosted by the Food Researchers in Edinburgh (FRIED) Network

This workshop aims to explore the concept of social sustainability and how it relates to, and can be advanced thorough, food with particular emphasis on the newly passed Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill. After short introductions to the new Bill and the concept of social sustainability, an expert practitioner panel will provide insights from their varied work and organisational experiences as to how the concepts of social sustainability relates to, and can be advanced through, food and in what way they believe the Good Food Nation Bill can support and drive improvements in social sustainability in Scotland. We aim to generate a stimulating and thought-provoking discussion between the panellists and attendees that helps refine and advance our thinking and practice.

Workshop Agenda

• Part 1: The Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill – The Story so far – Professor Mary Brennan – 15 mins

• Part 2: Critical reflections on Social Sustainability – Dr Isabelle Darmon – 15 mins

• Part 3: Stories from the ground – Practitioner Insights into Food and Social Sustainability, chaired by Professor Brennan. Practitioners:

o Jill Murie Glasgow – website
o Alison Goodfellow – Maxwell Centre Dundee – website 
o Evie Murray – Earth in Common – website 
o Christopher Ross – Catering Operations Manager, City of Edinburgh Council and Deputy Chair, Assist FM 

• Part 4: Panel Q&A – 30mins – Expert Practitioners + Dr Darmon, chaired by Professor Brennan

Workshop 3: Should eating insects be bugging us? Alternative approaches to the ethics of eating insects

Organised by Erich Linder, Hannah Winther, Katharina Dieck and Konstantin Deininger, Messerli Research Institute, Vienna

Insect farming has been recently discussed as a viable response to the increasing demand for safe and nutritious food for all. Adding insects to our regular diet has frequently been suggested as one potential solution to the environmental problems our food systems face. Besides its alleged positive environmental impact, eating insects opens up an array of important questions for animal ethics and our relationships with them.

Traditional, and still predominant, approaches to animal ethics (e.g. Peter Singer, Tom Regan, James Rachels, Jeff McMahan, Bob Fischer, Gary L. Francrione) usually address sentience in combination with other characteristics such as self-awareness to ascribe moral status to a particular individual. However, it is not certain whether insects possess these characteristics and therefore it is questionable whether insects should be considered morally at all from this perspective. Such approaches to animal ethics have been challenged by “multi-criteria approaches” (Ursula Wolf) on the ground that they fail to account for the moral complexities of our relationships to animals (e.g. Cora Diamond, Alice Crary, Mary Midgley, Donna Haraway, Clare Palmer). But if our moral obligations with animals are rooted in our relationships with them or more generally in the practices in which we encounter them, what does this imply for the ethics of eating insects? 

This workshop will explore ethical aspects of consuming insects that go beyond capacity-based reasoning by incorporating practice-oriented, alternative approaches to animal ethics which depart from a multi-criteria perspective. In western culture, insects are often met with disgust and associated with potential health hazards, e.g., when seeing insects infesting corpses or food. Thus, often enough we want to get rid of them. However, not all insects are met with the same contempt, as we sympathize with bees or with ladybugs. Whether we feel repelled or astonished by insects – in western culture, they usually do not land on plates. When thinking about insects as food, we are met with a lack of established practices. Hence, we want to address the following question: can practice-oriented moral theory substantially provide us with guidelines for rethinking present patterns? 

Exploring eating insects and the challenges they pose to western imagination, this workshop aims to test different practice-oriented, alternative approaches in their viability regarding a novel setting. Tailored to this multifaceted venture, this undertaking is accompanied by an interactive format that ensures that all the different facets join again in a fruitful general discussion: The workshop is divided into two blocks, in which two speakers each briefly illustrate a practice-oriented aspect of eating insects and ethical questions that may emerge therein. An invited expert will proceed to bring together insights in a short response to the talks for a general discussion on the merits and limits of practice-based accounts.