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.