Friday, June 24, 2011

Blogging GA: Ethical Eating

Today the UUA General Assembly had one main issue before them in the short (comparatively) plenary session: to vote on the proposed Statement of Conscience on Ethical Eating.  There were two main debates that were held about the SOC.  The first was about the elephant in the UUA room: classism.  The proposal put before us in plenary included two lines that urged us to tell food sellers and producers that we will buy and pay more for ethically produced food.  One fellow from my own economically devastated state of Michigan urged people to vote against the SOC because of this.  He shared with the gathered delegates that while he wishes he could pay more for food to follow ethical eating guidelines, he's on food stamps.  As another person put it, it's all about the math. 

The second issue was around a sentence that says, "Minimally processed plant-based diets are healthier diets."  The complaint was that this speaks for everyone, and calls on all UUs to be vegetarian.  We heard from people saying that it's simply not true that vegetarian diets are better for everyone -- one woman spoke of her partner, a previously committed vegetarian, who was forced to add meat to her diet to survive due to increasing food allergies and other health issues.  Another person said he just didn't believe that vegetarianism wasn't always the most healthy option for everyone.  One person argued that the focus of the sentence was on the issue of processed foods.  Yet another argued that the sentence talked about plant-based diets not vegetarianism, and that meat can be included in a plant-based diet.  An amendment to strike this sentence was proposed, and struck down. 

Later, we went back to those lines about money, and an amendment was made to strike them, and was passed with no argument. 

Unlike Actions of Immediate Witness, which are proposed at General Assemblies and voted on at the same one, the Statements of Conscience we pass are much longer and thoughtful procedures.  Ethical Eating started as a study-action issue for congregations, and then out of that process comes the statement of conscience.  That this is now a statement of conscience makes it an important document for our faith, and UUs might be interested to read it and consider what it asks of us as individuals and congregations.

5 comments:

Heather Albee-Scott said...

Hi Cynthia,

I only know a wee bit about UU's teachings, but I was struck by the statement, "calls on all UUs to be vegetarian." I thought part of the UU philosophy was that people make choices based on the principles in the way they see fit.

I need to learn more and I really need to attend services - ok, my goal for tomorrow! :)

Anonymous said...

Do you know if there's somewhere online where we can find the final version which was passed?

Cynthia Landrum said...

@Heather,
You're absolutely right, which is part of why the debate was going on. I would say that the authors of the resolution intend it to be understood that way, wherein suggestions are made, but each UU decides for him or herself what to do.

@Anon,
It'll be up at the UUA's page in no time, I'm sure. Until then, no I don't. I would check three places -- GA coverage on the UUA's site, the social witness pages of the UUA's site, and the coverage by the UU World. Sometimes it seems to take a couple of weeks after GA before the final language gets posted up.

Chris K. said...

My family of 6 lives mostly on our monthly allotment of $75 a month in food stamps and WIC. For the most part, we eat a pretty ethical diet. The main obstacle to being entirely ethical with our eating is actually the government through the WIC program. A large chunk of WIC is dairy, and you can't get organic or dairy from "happy cows" as I like to call them on it. You can only get the cheapy stuff. The only part of WIC that you can get organic is with the monthly fruit and vegetable allotment, which you can use to buy any fruits or veggies you choose. When our youngest was a baby, they also gave us meat baby food, which I wouldn't feed my baby since A) he didn't need it and B) it was factory farm meat. I was told that if I let too many of my benefits go unused each month, I'd be booted from the program, so rather than risking it, I would get my required meat baby food, but I would donate it food banks and domestic violence shelters, so at least some good would come out of it.

A huge chunk of our food comes from food that my mom grows in her garden or I grow in my own garden. Our meat mostly comes from my husband's hunting, which I see as ethical, since the animals are not mistreated in life like factory farmed animals. It also helps keep the overpopulation of deer in the area under control a bit more so not as many animals have to suffer from starvation in the winter since there isn't enough food for all the animals out there. My husband also won't take a shot at an animal unless he is sure it is going to be a clean kill. Our eggs come from a relative that has truly free range chickens that are happy and healthy as can be as well.

These days I am spending my $75 a month in food stamps at the Lansing City Market, since they double SNAP EBT purchases up to $20 per visit, so I visit up to 4 times a month to maximize my limited resources. I don't always use those funds to buy organic, but just about everything is at least locally produced.

Okay, that was a rather long and rambling reply, but my point was that it is possible to eat pretty ethically on an extremely limited budget, but you have to think outside the box a bit more and it can be a lot more work!

Cynthia Landrum said...

Final version is online at http://www.uua.org/justice/issuesprocess/currentissues/ethicaleating/172671.shtml