Posts Tagged ‘Debate’

Ethical Meat

July 14th, 2009 No comments

Below is an article I wrote for Secular Future, the newsletter/periodical of the AHS. I warn you that the content is contraversial and if it offends you, then i refer you to my ‘about‘ page.

I hope to bring you some more articles, some written by me and some not. Let me know what you think.

The article below is the unedited and unabridged version.

One of the most pervasive moral debates of the last fifty years has been whether it is possible to consume meat or animal products ethically or not. One of the main components of the debate is whether it is right to mass slaughter animals for human consumption on a commercial scale.

Whilst humans regard eating meat as a vital part of their diet, animals will need to be slaughtered to provide that meat. In today’s commercial environment, this slaughter comes in the form of the large scale abattoir which provides the cost effective production line style methods required to ensure affordable products for the end consumer. Whilst this is not necessarily an ethical position, it is certainly a practical one.

This commercialisation of the slaughter industry carries with it certain responsibilities. If we are going to consume meat, then we should do it with at least some regard to the animals we are eating. We have the power to ensure that animals reared for meat are treated to the highest possible standards in life and ultimately in death. Our responsibility as slaughterers of animals is to ensure that these standards are maintained throughout the various stages of the journey from farm to supermarket aisle. This responsibility has led us to develop certain policies and procedures with regards to how we can slaughter animals for human consumption.

These policies and procedures are designed to limit the suffering and pain of the animals as much as is humanly possible. The current law in England and Wales specifically states that it “…is an absolute offence to cause or permit an animal avoidable excitement, pain or suffering.” This law lays out in explicit detail how animals should be treated to ensure that there is no unavoidable excitement, pain or suffering. The only exception to this seemingly acceptable compromise is the fact that it specifically exempts animals slaughtered for religious reasons from the guidelines applied to the rest of the industry.

Animals slaughtered for consumption by Muslims or Jews, i.e. Halal and Kosher meat, does not have to be slaughtered using the strict guidelines laid down by the law. The main difference in the methods comes down to pre-stunning. This is the practice of knocking the animal unconscious by electric shock prior to being slaughtered. This method is considered by many to be the most humane way of mass slaughtering animals. In Britain, the Muslim and Jewish authorities deem this practice to be contrary to their traditions concerning the ritual slaughter of animals. This means that animals slaughtered for the religious market must be killed alive by the slitting of the throat and allowed to bleed to death.

The Farm Animals Welfare Council in their 2003 report on the slaughter practices in the UK concluded that all animals slaughtered for human consumption should be electrically pre-stunned and that the Halal and Kosher methods for the slaughter of animals caused unnecessary pain and suffering the animals in direct contravention of the main principle of the Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations 1995.

The religious slaughter industry is worth over a billion pounds and makes up one seventh of the total slaughter industry. In practice this means that thirteen per cent of the animals slaughtered in this country are subjected to unnecessary pain and suffering.

What is worse is that there are Muslim and Jewish authorities outside of the UK that have accepted that pre-stunning is essential in ensuring that animals do not suffer in excess. In countries such as New Zealand where there is no exemption from welfare laws for religious slaughter, the Muslim and Jewish leaders have devised ways of incorporating electrical pre-stunning into their ritual slaughter.

With an ever increasing trend for fast food outlets, takeaways and supermarkets stocking religiously slaughtered meat, the industry is going to continue to grow. This means that more and more of the meat we see in our shops will have come from animals that suffered excessively.

How does that affect you and me, the consumer? There is currently no law in the UK that requires meat products derived from animals slaughtered cruelly in religious slaughter houses to be labelled, or notice given to customers. This means that consumers are unaware of where their meat comes from and more importantly, whether the animal that provided it was subjected to the torture of religious slaughter.

Eating meat is an ethical question for us all. For those that choose not to eat meat, there is legal provision for the labelling of food that suitable for vegetarians. Consumers have a choice. For those that choose to eat meat, that choice does not exist.

There are two messages to take away from this debate. The first is that any food that is currently slaughtered outside of the spirit of the law must be labelled. The second is that the spirit of the law needs to be upheld by becoming the letter of the law. If it is an absolute offence to cause animals unnecessary excitement, pain or suffering, then let us ensure that it is an offence, under law, to cause that suffering regardless of your religious beliefs.

We do not protect other aspects of religious belief that do not conform to the spirit of our laws and human social advancement such as the stoning of adulterers and the murder of infidels. Why then do we protect the cruel abuse of the animals we eat?

Party Time!

July 27th, 2008 No comments

Friday night saw two landmarks.

1) I finshed my O2 training, so I am allowed to talk to real people about real problems from Monday!

2) We had our housewarming party.

The party was pretty good, it started really slowly – 5 people when I got home from work at 10pm – but it picked up nicely by the end. I was a little worried that it wouldn’t as we do live some whay away from the rest of the gang and the majority of students cannot be bothered to make the two buses to get to our house. The only disappointing thing was that a couple of mates from work flaked on me and didn’t turn up. Kudos to Dan for turning up and staying even though he didn’t know anyone! James and Mike suck!!

I was suitably drunk by the end of the evening as were most people, which is always a good sign. We also had a full house as most people stayed over.

Spent a lot of the night arguing about politics which was very grown up fo us, except the topic was socialism which is very studenty. Most people grow out of socialism when they get a job!

All in all though, a good night!

Lets Get Rational!

April 26th, 2008 1 comment

This post could be a long one if I included everything that happened at Atheist Society’s Rationalist Week 2008. A pretty good run down of everything that went wrong for us can be found here so I won’t include them in this account. I want to focus on the positive sides and more of the human interest aspects of the week.

Chris, the retiring president, wrote this account of the week, well worth checking out. My version of the week follows here.

The week got off to a bad start, the tent was late and the generator needed fetching, and we were late starting. There were hiccups during the rest of the week, not least of them me being ill, but in general the week got better. A lot better.

We signed up a lot of people, didn’t lose too much money and our events ran smoothly for an A-Soc event but the ultimate success came from within the society. We finally got people involved, found leaders from within our ranks, something we have been sorely lacking the past two years.

We reached a lot of people during the week, I would estimate that we probably developed our brand to over a thousand staff, students and members of the public during the week and that we physically spoke to well over a hundred (excluding all night debate) and signed up a quarter of those that came into the tent. The membership numbers now rival our competitors and should hopefully mean we can start playing with the big boys in terms of politics and campaigning as well as securing some decent funding for the year!

The highlights for me included the CU debate, where again we out argued the opposition and should have come away with the victory had the crowd not been partisan, and the internal debate on the Flying Spaghetti Monster where the key flaws in religious argument were highlighted and exposed. In fact, most of the events went well – especially the evening ones. Once again Mike Lake was excellent and converted some fence sitters.

My personal highlight however, was the friends and friendships that I forged and strengthened during the week. The improved ties we developed with the CU and other societies. The fact that I think our message got across. Atheist Society is not about religion bashing or telling people they are wrong, but to offer an alternative that wasn’t available.

It was a success that didn’t kill us financially.

We finally pulled off an event that was worthy of the work that went into it.

Well done all!

Atheist Week, Interrupted

November 22nd, 2007 No comments

Today I missed my alarm and ended up sleeping through our lunchtime A-Soc event – God of Emotions, something that I would never normally do. Now I do not want to excuse this by bringing up my sleeping problems, but I must admit that they probably played a part. A lot of people have made comments about my post on not sleeping (check out the Facebook page) and suggested a variety of ways to cope with the sleep pattern disruption. I am touched to see that so many people are concerned about my well being, a feeling that I have not always been privy to, and is on of the reasons that I maintain that the years spent at university are the best of one’s life, not school.

Just as a quick follow up to the last post I would like to say a few things. Firstly, insomnia is a condition that has plagued my teenage years, a condition that I pretty much could write the book on regarding cures and remedies. I think that over the years I have probably tried every known trick in the book to improve the quality and quantity of my sleep. I have come to the conclusion that whatever method you choose you have to accept the fact that it will work some of the time and not at others. I find that when trying say reading, or meditating you can get stressed about the fact you are not falling asleep and then you can’t fall asleep.

Anyway, back on topic, as I want to continue to talk about Atheist Week. Yesterday was the final day of Riley Smith activity and I thought it went OK, but not great. We only got a few people to come to Ask An Atheist (our give it a go session) but we got some realy good discussion going. The same happened at our evening debate on the positive and negative influence that Richard Dawkins has had on atheist thinking and actions. Although we never really came to a conclusion on that topic we delved quite deeply into what is faith and religion and whether we can ever really answer the philosophical questions we raise without them. All in all, I thought that this, along with Gijsbert’s talk yesterday were the highlights so far. Jerry Springer: The Opera is being shown tonight in Roger Stevens (LT23, 1900 if you are interested).

Then its London!

Atheist Week

November 21st, 2007 No comments

It is here, the long awaited return of a week long A-Soc event, Atheist Week.

Atheist Week is basically the slightly less hardcore version of Rationalist week (see posts here, here and here) but with a slightly more relaxed agenda. We were aiming for a cosy, intimate feel in the Riley Smith Hall, maybe attracting larger crowds for the main events. I think it is going ok so far, although we seem to be very quiet between events. The events themselves though seem to be quite successful. The two evening events so far have pulled a decent crowd – especially Gijsbert’s discussion on the problems with agnosticism.

I am hoping that the next few days work out equally as well. We have a couple of big events left to do – a debate on the influence of Richard Dawkins (in which I am speaking) and a screening of the contraversial Jerry Springer: The Opera.

So, if any one is in Leeds tomorrow or Thursday then check it out.

Fence Sitting Anonymous

August 15th, 2007 2 comments

I’ve just finished reading a blog post on moderation and anti-fundamentalism and it got me thinking about a number of things. Firstly, is the age old question of fundamentalism. Is it wrong to believe something so strongly that you pursue it with all your might, literally in some cases? I still cannot make up my mind, my fellow A-Soc member Chris Worfolk says that moderation in religion is wrong, a cop out even in his article “The problem With Religious Moderates”. I am not entirely convinced by his arguments, I like to think that there is room even within the most deep set of principles for self censorship and the need to balance your convictions against the freedom of those around you. It is important as a religious commentator that balance is given to all arguments. It is fine blasting non-fundamentalists for failing at their religion as long as you continue that crusade against all non-fundamentalists in every walk of life. Every conviction out there can be followed fundamentally. If fundamentalism was to be applauded then shouldn’t we all be members of the BNP or the Communist Party? Extremism is not the same as fundamentalism, I think it is important that is clarified, but all fundamentalists are extremists in the modern sense.

I like the idea of fundamentalism, I think it allows an easy life. The rules and thought processes are simple. you just follow the guidelines set down by your conviction be it religion, racism, anti-semetism or just that all meals must be eaten at the dinner table! However, there is no flexibility in it, which is the crux of the issue for me. We need flexibility. We need to be able to say “wait a minute?”. There must be room for criticism, for question, for reason.

As an atheist I am often barraged with the question, “But, isn’t Atheism a religion?”. I am often forced to concede that certain aspects of the atheists beliefs can be construed as religious. Especially with idealogies such as Buddhism and Humanism. I, however, an neither of the above. I am an atheist. I have no reason to believe ina god or gods, so I don’t. Is it, therefore, possible for me to be a fundamentalist atheist? I am sure that there are many out there who would say that some of my actions within A-Soc and in public could be cinstrued as fundamental. I am not known for my lack of convictions. However, as a rational thinker I require flexibility. None of my convictions are set in stone. This would pique the author of the initial article as he suggests that weak convictions are a curse on society. it would also cause some concern for my esteemed colleague, Chris, as he maintains his convisitons as the bedrock of his motivation to pursue his goals for A-Soc World Domination!

Anyway, I hope some of you enjoyed this little discussion and I welcome your comments on the issue!

Wendy House

April 22nd, 2007 7 comments

“Norm, don’t be afraid of the cows.”

The wonderfully profound words that come out of the mouths of drunk people. If you haven’t figured it out yet, we all went out for Wendy House last night. Quite a crowd in the end actually. Definitely one of the best attended Wendy’s in recent times.

The party kicked off for some of us at B and Chris’s house. The hosts, Cara, Michelle and I set about getting nice and merry ready for the night ahead. An interesting pre-Wendy debate where none of the Christians in the room could actually remember the Ten Commandments!

We set off for Wendy at about 10.30pm, which was fairly early really. Well I thought so until I realised that Michelle already needed carrying! B, Michelle and I slowly wandered up to the union where we were accosted by a group of Italians wanting us to join their BBQ. Unfortunately, the rest of the gang were already waiting for us at the pub so we had to decline. We met up with Sarann, Kat, Claire, Moz, Verity, Worfolk etc in the Old Bar. Sarann was wearing cool boots with buckle things on, I knew I was drunk because I thought it would be fun to unbuckle them!

We got to Wendy about 11.30 and it promised to be a great night. The drink was flowing and the dancing was as crazy as normal. Sarann kept losing things though. First it was part of her camera then an eyeliner and then people! Worfolk was the first to capitulate, having pretty much been awake for seven days it wasn’t that surprising. Me and B were next, not by choice mind. B was wasted.

Anyway, that was that. After a brief adventure into the ladies loo to fetch B we went home.

Sorry guys.

And I’m done!

April 21st, 2007 2 comments


What a week! Rationalist Week has been an unbelievable success, a success far beyond even our most optimistic expectations. We were hoping for maybe one or two members and a few people coming into the tent. Instead we filled a membership book, raised the awareness of the society to the point that we are pretty much the talk of the union at the moment, we also managed to be full pretty much every day. Early indications suggest we were attracting a hundred people a day with about a 50% return rate in terms of people coming back over and over. The debates were in depth and relavent most of the time and the effort that most of the A-Soc membership put in was phenominal.

A massive thanks to the crew: Chris (El Presidente) for pretty much organising and funding the event singlehandedly; Claire for her constant cheerfulness – even in the face of adversity – and total support; Paul for his input, which although contraversial at times really sparked debate; Moz, for the tents and his help with really getting people involved and active in the discussions; Rich, for his enthusiasm and desire to be involved; finally, every person over the week who sat down and spoke to us, those who got involved and those who gave us the feedback we need to ensure that next year is even better! We couln’t have done it without you!

So a run-down of the events.

Monday was ok, quiet for the most part, but we did get some interest and learned a lot very quickly about what we could and couldn’t do. The talks attracted a few people, but by far and away this was our worst day in terms of turn out.

Tuesday saw a massive pick up in attendence. The word was getting out. We were attracting a real mix of people. A lot of atheists popped in to talk and see where and what we stood for. We attracted a lot of Christians – a theme that continued throughout the week – who wanted to ask us many things. The debates were starting to heat up and the biscuiots were starting to disappear. Unfortunately, we had to cope for a second day without a generator. The evening talk from Chris was not well attended, we got about six people. We needed to push these evening events, they were our flagship after all.

Wednesday was our best day to date. We were full for the first time, we had standing room only and quite a few people were! The discussion was getting deeper and the feedback we were getting was very very positive. We also had a new generator! Things were going well. Mike Lake, the guest speaker from Derby Secularists, spoke at the evening event. This was slightly better attended than Tuesday, but still a disappointing turnout. The talk was excellent. He really knew his stuff on why ideas should always be open to ridicule, mockery and insult. I recommend you watch the video when it becomes available.

Thursday continued in the same vein as Wednesday, we were swamped all day. The work was really starting to pay off now. Thursday night saw the much anticipated debate with the CU. Chris and I had been preparing all day and were as up for this as anything. The debate was amazing, great arguments were put forward by both sides on the motion “this house believes there is enough evidence that Jesus was the son of god.” Felicity, the Debate Soc president, chaired the debate and was simply brilliant. She kept everything running smoothly and even managed to control unwanted outbursts from the audience. A-Soc lost the vote on the motion unsurprisingly – the CU had brought a contingent of about 100 people! The turnout was great, it was really overwhelming to see a full lecture theatre! The feedback we got in the pub afterwards suggested that we had won the argument as well!

Friday, the final day, was relatively quiet in the morning. This gave us a good chance to reflect on the week and start to put together some findings. Business picked up in the afternoon and we started to really see the benefit of having week long events, The continuity and depth of the debate was really evident by now. I think we were really effecting people and, more improtantly, effecting change. A couple of trips to Tesco later and we were ready for our final event – the all night debate.

We were dead until about midnight when it really kicked off. We probably had twenty people in the tent at any one time. We got through 40 cups of tea, uncountable cold drinks and 160 hotdogs! The event was a massive success! We really made a difference. Thanks to those of you that stayed up to 4am to help out. We couldn’t have pulled this night off without you.

Rich, Chris and I then set about dismantling everything, tidying up and storing all the equipment. It was a good time, we really noticed the bond that had grown after a week together. it got to 9am before Chris and I finally finished.

Now I could sleep!

Day 1

April 16th, 2007 1 comment

Today was the fisrt day of Rationalist Week. It is also the second day of my end of holidays binge. It is nearly 6.30pm and I have just sat down in my own home for the first time since 10.30am yesterday!

I set out to pick up a kettle and some other bits ond bobs for Rationalist Week from Tesco, then spent the whole of Sunday afternoon helping set the tents and stuff up ready for opening today. It was hard work in the baking heat, but the six of us made relatively short work of what was basically a massive job. We put two 6m X 3m tents up, fetched the generator and tested it with the PA system and the cooking equipment, we put up all the displays and set out the 4 tables and 20 chairs. We ended up in the Old Bar for some liquid refreshment. I left at 12.30am with B!! I was very, very drunk.

My alarm went off at 8.30am this morning, I threw it across the room! At 9.45 I eventually rolled out of bed and down to the petrol station to get fuel for the generator. I then met Chris to start hauling the kit from Ellerslie down to outside the Union. This is not an easy task and has to be done twice every day, once in the morning to set up and once in the evening to pack away!

I spent the day helping out in the tent, sorting drinks, chatting to the various guests – including a Rabbi and a vicar!

I think the day went really well, apart from the minor mishap with the generator – which broke – we enjoyed a fairly decent turn out and got some good feedback as well as lively debate. I reckon we got about 30 people through the door, about half of which sat down and got involved in the speeches, talks and debates. We even ended up getting three new members! All in all, it was definitely a success. Even if it doesn’t get any busier we will have made enough of an impact to justify the expense and time. People are talking about us now.

Another productive day

April 4th, 2007 No comments

It is surprising how productive I have been recently. Today was another massively productive day! I was up well before 9am, had some breakfast and then tidied my room – which really needed doing. All it requires now is a final bit of filing and a quick vac.

Ended up heading to the Llama for lunch and was massively surprised to find they have changed the menu! It is all colourful and modern. It was diasppointing to find they have added 50p or more to the price of everything and have fiddled with the 2-4-1 offer. they have taken the burgers off and the BBQ chicken melt, but have replaced it with a pasta dish and an all-day breakfast. Drinks are pretty much the same. When Si headed back up to DEC10, me and Chris decided to call it a day too – about 5.15. Chris headed home to sort himself out for A-Soc and I popped into the Brotherton Library.

The Brotherton Library is scary! I had to delve deep down in the stack shelves and ened up getting trapped! I did, however, find all but one of the books I went in for. I am researching for a debate I am involved in – “This house opposes that there is enough evidence to believe Jesus is the son of God”. So, a lot of bed time reading for me!

6pm saw the penultimate A-Soc planning meeting for Rationalist Week. It was a really good meeting and we got a lot of the little niggles sorted out. It did take over three hours though!

Finished the day with take-away and WOW!