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First I wish you all a Happy New Year and success in implementing and promoting a vegetarian humanist approach to life. The temporary difficulties reported in the previous Newsletter regarding the Google Group seem to have been dealt with. That Group is now closed and its members’ email addresses transferred to the main HVG / VGH supporters list. Only one person responded to say they did not wish to be on the list.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
The following is from a BHA email
"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
In my response I included the following (to which I received a positive response):
"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 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 approach 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 establishments to offer any of the many meat substitutes on the market
GAVIN ORLAND, TFTD, RITUAL SLAUGHTER
Some of you may be interested in Gavin Orland’s blog and website. It is Gavin who organised the successful pledge from large numbers of secularists to email the BBC (again!) about the refusal of Thought For The Day to include non-religious contributors.
Gavin writes: "Due to my pledge, the BBC are receiving hundreds of e-mails of protest about Thought for the Day. Knowing that this time they might actually be heard, free-thinking people are telling the BBC how they feel (and have felt for a long time) about this slot." You can find more detail and updates here
The reason for my including this in the HVG Newsletter is that you might also like to look at what Gavin has to say on animal welfare in the context of the cruelty of ritual slaughter; and perhaps give him your views and help him to decide whether or not to launch a campaign on this issue? He is considering it but wants to research the topic more thoroughly first. He says in reference to Judaism and Islam "One thing the two faiths have in common is an extremely cruel means of killing animals - Kosher for Judaism and Halal in Islam."
When we discussed the issue in HVG in the past, the consensus then was that as vegetarians / vegans opposed to all unnecessary slaughter of animals for food, it probably did not make sense as an organisation to single out certain forms of slaughter to campaign against, however cruel they are. But that does not mean we could not lend our support to a more widely based campaign does it?
YOUR COMMENTS as always are welcome.
Best wishes for 2009