Quaker Values and Veganism
15/09/2019, 10:30 am - 2:30 pmat Wolverhampton Quaker Meeting House, Wolverhampton
10.30-11.30 Meeting for Worship
12.30-13.30 Bring-and-share vegan lunch
13.30-14:30 Talk and discussion
Please do let Julie Nettleship, Resident Warden, know in advance if you intend to come.
Julie’s contact details are:
Tel: 01902 426220
Wolverhampton Quaker Meeting House
8b Summerfield Road
This is the article that was published in The Friend, 13 Jun 2019. I have added some useful links at the end:
‘A more vegan lifestyle has the potential to be an exciting, joyful opening.’
Given the climate emergency, might a vegan way of living be a wise course for our species?
‘It is consistent with a Quaker approach to treat non-human animal species with compassionate, respectful and peaceful intent.’
Unprecedented, growing environmental crises now endanger our existence. Whatever approaches we take to deal with this need to be positive, open, reasonable, pragmatic and rooted in our core values of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality and sustainability. Looked at this way, might a plant-based or vegan way of living be a wise course for our species to take? A vegan way of living in this context is not a goal in itself but rather an ethical and moral pathway along which we all are already journeying. Each person who walks this path will make a small but positive contribution to our sustainability.
Personal and collective commitments from us to move in the direction of a vegan way of living would be to the benefit of billions of animals, including ourselves. Changing our habits and patterns of consumption and moving toward a well-considered, plant-based lifestyle would be more humane and environmentally less destructive than one based on the exploitation, suffering and death of animals. Changing some of our consumption choices could help protect environments and the wonderful biodiversity they sustain.
Entire crops have to be grown to feed the animals we consume. That is costly and wasteful in terms of land and water usage. It would be more efficient, economical and healthy for us to consume plants, grains, pulses, fruits and vegetables directly. That would reduce our impact on precious, finite, natural resources.
A more vegan lifestyle is not only a rational option but has the potential to be an exciting, joyful opening, a discovery of fresh, new ways to live more simply and healthily, more closely in tune with our ethical and moral principles. It is never easy to change deeply ingrained habits or matters of culture, particularly when those relate to traditional diets that have warm cultural associations. The arguments for doing nothing, though, and making no changes, in denial of our latest knowledge and understanding, ring more hollow every day.
In Britain over a billion farm animals are consumed a year. Violence is routine and endemic in industrial scale animal husbandry. Much of that violence arises out of the logistical pressures of processing vast quantities of individuals for our consumption. Slaughterhouse workers become habituated to the distress and suffering.
The unsettling experience of an abattoir gives many workers profound trauma, which can result in a range of further psychological ills. We cannot in good conscience, if it can be avoided, have others do extremely unpleasant work for us that we, for ethical or moral reasons, would not do ourselves.
It is consistent with a Quaker approach to treat non-human animal species with compassionate, respectful and peaceful intent. Let us give serious consideration to laying down the weapons we use against those who lack the words and language to seek clemency of us.
Food corporations are able to exploit animals on a massive scale because animals are helpless, voiceless and vulnerable. How we view and treat our own and other species today is quite different from what it once was, so we know moral and ethical evolution is not only possible but something that actually happens. What once may have been considered unremarkable or ‘in right ordering’ regarding the health, welfare and freedoms of others, including animals, may some day not too far off come to be seen as intolerable, unspeakable even. Our task and challenge is to be gentle but sure midwives to new, well-considered ways of seeing and feeling, that initially might be considered by some to be radical or disruptive.
There arise pivotal times in our history when opportunities for refinement of our values and relationships become apparent. This may be one of those, when our sense of integrity calls on us to cease treating certain types of animal unjustly simply because it is pleasurable, profitable or convenient for us to do so.
The quality of our interactions with others is key to our happiness and sense of self. Closely related is how we interact with the non-human beings that come into our lives in one way or another. How we deal with them speaks of what kind of individuals and society we are and aspire to be. In healthy societies our concept of community evolves, with a trend toward extending inclusiveness to those who in a previous era were barely recognised or noticed. It is not consistent or ethical for us to treat some species, such as companion animals, with consideration, love and kindness but to treat less favoured species with callousness and ill intent.
Equality is a concept that has developed over centuries. Equality of genders, for example, is still in the process of becoming established in society, as is marriage equality, both struggles in which Quakers have led and lead the way. It may be time to open up a discussion on whether an extension of the testimony of equality into the more compassionate treatment of species other than our own might be a constructive development. We are some way off treating animals as if they had the same right to life and freedom from unnecessary interference and suffering as we feel our own species deserves, but we could get there.
Many would agree that we have a collective responsibility to care for the finite resources of our planet, which entails caring for other species as well as our own. There now exist over seven billion human beings, and more and more of them are opting, when they can afford it, to consume eggs, dairy, meat and other animal products. That means the area of land occupied by our collective global herd and flock will need to be vast and ever increasing, which is not sustainable. A simple action most of us could take to help conserve our planet’s threatened resources would be to give up or reduce our consumption of meat, eggs and dairy.
Animal husbandry is responsible for eighteen per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation. As thoughtful, caring, proactive people, we need, as a matter of urgency, to ask ourselves what actually we are doing to mitigate the effects of our demands on our environment and move to a kinder way of living that sustains the cycle of life. We remain always free to choose, one way or the other.
No great progressive change – equal rights for women, the abolition of slavery, humane treatment of children and young people, care and protection of the most vulnerable – has ever come without dislocations, disturbances and economic loss for some. Moving to a more plant-based society will, in that respect, be no exception, but, in common with every other major social change there will come great advantages and opportunities for all sorts of entrepreneurial social, cultural and economic activity. Quaker entrepreneurship has a long history, full of examples of great ingenuity and resourcefulness, of making the best out of oftentimes highly adverse circumstances. Many Quakers have invested gains from their enterprises back into society. We may be entering an era of opportunity for those with the ability, flair and sense of adventure to fashion a society that better accords with our values and ethical and moral principles. We could all welcome and support compassionate, sustainable enterprises that spring up to serve, benefit and heal this broken world of ours.
An arguably defining characteristic of Quakers is our standing and declaring our intention to live our lives in concordance with our core values and principles – empathy, compassion, generosity, kindness, living simply, taking responsibility, living sustainably, freedom and love… and ever ‘speaking truth to power’. The Canterbury Commitment of Britain Yearly Meeting, a bold statement of communal intent, invites us to do all we can, individually and institutionally, to lessen our environmental impact, our ‘carbon footprint’. If as a Society we embrace a more plant-based lifestyle we significantly help fulfill that commitment.
Let us do all in our ability to end the misery and slaughter of thousands of millions of animals and actively encourage one another to move away from our current, catastrophic path and towards a more sustainable one that embraces respect and consideration across all animal species and environments. This is the essence of the concern being expressed here.
Now is a good time to reflect on the fact that how we treat animals is a moral and environmental issue that ought to concern us all.
– Rajan Naidu
Some useful links:
• The Canterbury Commitment Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM) committed in Canterbury in 2011 to become a low carbon, sustainable community. Minute 36 of BYM 2011 says: ‘We need to arrive at a place in which we all take personal responsibility to make whatever changes we are called to. At the same time, we need to pledge ourselves to corporate action.’ It set out some guidance – for instance that our action must flow from love. But it left open questions of what we really mean by ‘low carbon’, ‘sustainable’ and ‘community’:
In this passionate call to action, 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg explains why, in August 2018, she walked out of school and organized a strike to raise awareness of global warming, protesting outside the Swedish parliament and grabbing the world’s attention. “The climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions,” Thunberg says. “All we have to do is to wake up and change.”
• Quaker Concern for Animals:
• Quaker Vegans – Facebook group:
• Lis Burch, clerk of the Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM) Sustainability Group stressed that it doesn’t matter that people are ‘at different stages and travelling at different speeds.’ Those who are farther down the road can serve as patterns and examples. Those who have not yet come as far should not feel any guilt. ‘Don’t be afraid of being a peculiar people,’ she said.
• What is veganism?
• Veganism must be an informed and evidence-based choice:
• Paul McCartney – If slaughterhouses had glass walls . . .
• Raising pigs, chickens and cows means increased emissions of the greenhouse gases causing climate change:
• Benjamin Lay is an excellent example of a person willing and committed to stand for what he believed to be the truth and for the ethical treatment of others.
Quakers and Slavery – Benjamin Lay – Speaking truth to power:
• Our natural world is disappearing before our eyes. We have to save it – George Monbiot:
• Quaker Values and a Vegan Future (Facebook):
Wolverhampton Quaker Meeting House
8b Summerfield Road Wolverhampton WV1 4PR