"Food for thought
Former BHA Education Officer Marilyn Mason has been asked to write something on humanism and food for the Shap Journal 2009 (a journal for RE professionals). As there is no humanist rule book, Marilyn would like to include and quote from a range of personal views from humanists on subjects including ethical attitudes to food (vegetarianism/veganism, animal welfare), how non-religious people deal with the dietary strictures of other religions, and how humanists use food for celebratory occasions (such as Christmas). She’d also like to know about how you think a multi-cultural school or workplace should deal with religious food rules and taboos, and how food can bring communities together – or mark out differences. But any subject is fine as long as you stick broadly to the topic of food. If you are happy to be quoted, please add whatever personal information you would like attached to the quote and send to email@example.com"
Can I remind you of the Humanist Vegetarian Group with its website http://www.humanist.veggroup.org and its ThinkHumanism HVG Forum? I will copy the piece quoted below to the Forum so you might get some responses to that. There is lots of material / articles on our website. To sum up my own basic position on the ethical case for vegetarianism from a Humanist standpoint I would say that Veggie (including Vegan) Humanists may believe that
(a) we should at least do the best we reasonably can not to cause unnecessary suffering to human and non-human animals, and better still positively promote their welfare, an extension of Utilitarianism
developed by the Humanist moral philosopher Peter Singer ---- of course what is reasonable and what is unnecessary is open to debate but we consider eating animals in most (if not in all) circumstances to be unnecessary and veggie diets to be entirely reasonable
(b) we should treat others as we wish to be treated, again as far as we reasonably can, and we extend the expression 'others' to non-human animals, considering there to be are no rational grounds for not doing so in most circumstances, and we think few people would wish to be eaten!
(c) we do not think people have to be veggies to be Humanists or that vegetarians are morally better than others because of their vegetarianism but we do think our approache to humanist ethics requires us, as far as reasonably possible, to be vegetarians
(d) we would suggest that an effective approach to dealing with religious food rules in schools and workplaces, etc is to always offer vegetarian meals at least as an option as there are few if any objections to eating plants on religious grounds plus there are significant health and ecological arguments in favour of veggie diets
(e) at Christmas my wife and I usually eat one of the various non-meat substitutes (for turkey, chicken, duck, beef) for traditional Christmas fare, now increasingly available ---- (and not usually nut cutlets which we rarely eat). Some Veggies, in particular Vegans do not favour this but for many it is a matter of taste / aesthetics rather than principle, depending on the ingredients. We continue to be disappointed at the failure of catering establishents to offer any of the many meat substitutes on the market
I hope this is of some help.
Founder / Manager of the Humanist Vegetarian Group.