Editorial: An Offence to Destroy Food—But only in War-Time
Reviving a practice adopted during the last war, the Government has issued an order under which it is an offence to waste food. Heavy penalties, up to two years’ imprisonment and a £500 fine, may be imposed on persons who wilfully or negligently damage or throw away anything “used by man for food or drink other than water,” water being already covered by bye-laws. The order also makes it an offence if anyone having control or custody of food fails to take reasonable precautions for its preservation, or if anyone procures a larger quantity than is reasonably required for his purposes, and part becomes unfit for use.
It is recalled that during the last war a woman was fined £20 for giving meat to a St. Bernard dog, while another who fed 14 dogs on bread and milk was fined £5.
This seems all very reasonable. What could be more natural than that it should be illegal to destroy or waste food when there are human beings in need of it. But observe. The order to this effect introduced in the last war ceased when the war ended. No authorities stepped in to fine and imprison the individuals and companies responsible for destroying wheat and coffee, throwing fish back into the sea, feeding milk to pigs, and so on. Indeed, in some countries the destruction of foodstuffs to keep up prices was organised with the active support of State authorities themselves.
There is, indeed, something very unnatural about the social system that permitted such things.