GA approves ‘Ethical Eating’ Statement of Conscience
General Assembly delegates passed their first major item of business Friday morning, approving a Statement of Conscience on Ethical Eating. The statement had been in the works for three years, having been proposed at GA 2008 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
The three-page statement calls on UUs to “eat ethically” by becoming aware of the ways that our food choices affect our health and the planet’s health. It makes references to industrial farming, condemns mistreatment of animals and workers in food production, encourages a diet based more on plants than animals, and invites all of us to seek out and advocate for food that is raised responsibly.
It invites congregations to work for “food justice” so that everyone can have “adequate, nutritious food.”
The statement passed overwhelmingly. It had been the subject of a mini-assembly on Thursday at which there had been intense conversation, and it had been debated at workshops at the two previous GAs. In all around 400 congregations had provided input to it over three years.
After all that action there was a minimum of debate when it came up for a vote Friday. Still, several people wanted to be convinced that the statement would not require all of us to become vegetarians. It does not. Several delegates said they believed it would unfairly impact low-income people. One delegate, from Michigan, who described himself as a small businessman, waved his food stamps card and said, “I don’t feel included in this statement. I simply cannot think about these things.” He said he knew he should not be eating highly-processed foods, but for him it was a matter of survival.
The Rev. John Millspaugh, chair of a task force that helped create the Statement of Conscience, said that the 400 congregations that contributed to the statement nearly doubled the number that get involved with most Statements of Conscience. He said the SOC does not dictate actions by congregations, but it does suggest a number of ways they can engage with food issues. “Different actions will make sense for different congregations,” he said.
In the next few days the final statement as approved will be posted on the UUA website. Congregations will be invited to spend the next year discussing and working on food issues.