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Crusading at the Dinner Table

Monday, Aug. 19, 2013

The best student comment on "Crusading at the Dinner Table" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, September 1st, 2013. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates.

**DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**

Towards the end of her senior year of high school, Grace volunteered for a local animal rights organization. Although she was always an animal lover, she had never really considered the issue of animals being raised to be eaten. During her time with the organization, she became passionate about animal rights and became a vegetarian. She was also able to convince her parents to become vegetarians.

Now a new freshman, Grace faces a dilemma. Everyone around her seems to eat meat. Though the dining hall offers plenty of vegetarian options, she is unhappy about the presence of meat as a constant feature among the offerings.

Grace isn’t able to put aside her feelings about the suffering of animals. Going by her own experience of having her eyes opened to the cause, Grace is convinced that spreading knowledge about the suffering of farm animals is the only way of converting more people into vegetarians.

On one hand, she feels she has a duty, when sitting at a table with people who are consuming meat, to express her beliefs. On the other hand, she knows that directly confronting people about their choices tends to alienate them. She would like to establish good relationships and friendships with the people around her, but she would also like to express her beliefs and teach people about her cause. Should Grace confront her friends at the dining table?

Useful Resources:

A Framework for Ethical Decision-Making

Stand Up, Speak Out: The College Student's Guide to Activism

Ethics Guide: Eating Animals


Photo by Ben Isacat available under a Creative Commons license.

Comments Comments

Jeremy said on Aug 19, 2013
Unless Grace is able to convert so many people that the cafeteria eliminates or significantly reduces the meat on their menu, she is accomplishing nothing. (One could raise the point that the new vegetarians would be more powerful politically, but that's an "if" statement.) Similarly, as long as she is purchasing food from a store that offers meat products, she is indirectly supporting the purchase of meat from inhumanely slaughtered farm animals. Instead of trying to make tiny, ineffective changes, she should instead try to lobby politically for the rights of animals. It accomplishes more in the long run and does not drive uninterested friends away. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Shawn said on Aug 26, 2013
If this were me and I recently turned vegetarian, I would casually bring up how I switched. I have done my ethical duty to myself and to the animals. Please keep in mind that while I may hold a certain principle, it does not mean that I need to force those ethical considerations I hold upon another. That is why I say "if this were me." Truth be told this is not a topic that should concern ethical considerations. You want a real gut pulling ethical dilemma...end of life decisions...watchh Frotnline: Facing Death - Like - 1 person likes this.
Chris said on Aug 28, 2013
I think that instead of directly challenging her friends morals at the dining table, Grace should instead ask her friends if they want to join her and volunteer for a local animal rights organization. By doing this, they can share the same experience she had and hopefully make the same moral internal transformations on their own. By having this similar experience, her friends will gain internal satisfaction for helping out Grace, volunteering, and being given the opportunity to determine this moral dilemma for themselves. Mahatma Gandhi once said ?I do not believe in telling people of one?s faith, especially with a view to conversion. Faith must be lived, and when it is, it becomes self-propagating.? I really like this quote and think that if the friends choose to convert based on the experience they have instead of Grace?s word, their conversion will become more meaningful, powerful, and self-propagating. If Grace confronts her friends and they do not wish to join her and volunteer, I think that instead of pushing the issue further, Grace should be respectful of her peers and kindly offer to send them additional information if they are interested. Her friends may accept her offer for additional information by just trying to be polite, but this would allow Grace an acceptable invitation to push her moral views a little more aggressively upon her friends at a later time. In the event that Grace sends her friends additional information and they do not want to volunteer with her, Grace can at least rest her moral cause because she went beyond just a conversation to attempt to spread her knowledge. In the words of the great Philosopher Confucius, ?I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.? Grace at least went through the process and pushed her friends to go through the first two of these steps. By doing so, Grace can hope that her friends will walk away from the whole thing with a positive experience and remember the moral views she shared without anyone feeling alienated or uncomfortable. - Like - 4 people like this.
Jon said on Aug 30, 2013
There is a time and place for everything. If Grace wants to talk to her friends about her values and the reason why she doesn't eat meat, that is totally acceptable, however if she announces this at their dinner table, she will only upset her friends. She should find the right time to talk to friends about her values and why she personally decided to become vegetarian. If it were me, this time might be when hanging out in the dorms, or if the topic comes up as to why she is vegetarian herself. I have eaten meat my whole life, and I know I personally would get annoyed if someone told me that eating beef was bad while I was biting into a burger. - Like
Saurabh said on Sep 7, 2013
Ethical dilemma presents two choices which are equally difficult to exercise. Such binary considerations create a trap and may result into inaction or escapism. The plausible course of action would be to reconcile both choices to find a middle path. Grace is convinced that those who are eating non-vegetarian food are becoming a cause for suffering of animals and ethical conduct would demand her not to remain a mute spectator. She has to objectively analyze her action based on moral frameworks. If she remains silent she would feel guilt and may be unethical in the sense that she is voluntary in cause for not exercising options to stop unethical act. If she confronts them then also people will not stop eating meat and may even avoid her for being impractical/dogmatic. This will enhance pain and has negligible good (her self satisfaction for speaking out) She can not forcefully impose her moral conviction on somebody else as she herself would refuse the same if somebody does that to her. She is not expected to become a meat eater if someone says to her that she is violating plant rights by being vegetarian! A society where choices are not respected will create conflicts and intolerance. By saying out her beliefs she may be displaying virtues of courage and honesty. But this has to be very humble to say out her beliefs while respecting the choices of other person. An ethical person has no prejudices/biases. Gandhi Ji said "Hate the sin but love the sinner". By humbly pointing out her beliefs to her friends she will not feel guilt later. She will earn respect for being honest, courageous and humble. She will make them friends and may then tell about her experiences of becoming a vegetarian for larger benefit of animals and removing their suffering. This would help her to follow her own ethical conscience and may give even greater satisfaction if even some of friends will become vegetarians. - Like
Vicky said on Sep 11, 2013
In the beginning Grace was non-vegetarian but she always loved animals. Her feeling towards animals convinced her to shift to vegetarianism only after she spent more time with the animal rights organization. In scientific terms, plants also do have life but she is ignorant or least concerned about the plan rights. Her decision to become vegetarian is a way to satisfy her self-interest. Food habits are very fundamental aspect of an Individual?s life. If she confront her friend on dining table then she can put forth her opinion but it may fail to arouse any thought in other?s mind about animal rights. People do have different frame of mind, some of the friends may not even be animal lovers like her. She can share her beliefs & experience with her friends at later point of time. She can raise awareness about the animal rights and ask them to join organization. Chances are that few of her friend may follow her path of vegetarianism. - Like
The Big Q said on Sep 12, 2013
Thanks to everyone for contributing to this conversation. For the prize, we could only consider comments that came in before the deadline, Sunday, Sept. 1, but we appreciate your keeping the conversation going. The winner of the prize was Chris. - Like
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