Food Studies’s Updates

Porridge in the Panopticon

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

London Review of Books Blog | Article Link | by Glen Newey

Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation included in its first edition an appendix with vegetarian recipes, ‘Eating for Liberated People’. For utilitarians, the belly’s as good a persuasive route as the brain. The Transcribe Bentham project at University College London has put outJeremy Bentham’s Prison Cooking, the perfect gift for a loved one spending Christmas in the nick.

Utilitarians, and consequentialists like Derek Parfit, can feel torn about food. On the one hand, it’s undeniably a source of pleasure. Bentham’s mummified corpse – the ‘auto-icon’ showcased at UCL – looks pretty well fed for a man of 267, partly because of its wax head (the real one disappeared, to show up later in a parcel inside the mummy’s ribcage). But food costs, too. Parfit recently pointed out that beef and dairy farming is a major cause of global warming, as up to 10 per cent of global greenhouse-gas emissions come from cows farting. For Bentham, since prison aims to put people off going there, it was a question whether to deploy the grub as a deterrent in its own right.

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