Bulbs being planted in a garden.

Being Vegetarian is a Climate Issue

© hiroshiteshigawara   I would like to make the case for Quakers becoming vegetarian. Quakers at one point wore black, white, and gray clothing so that they would not support a market for dyed clothing, because the dyeing process was so carcinogenic that those working in the industry died young. Quakers🔒

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Lynn Fitz-Hugh is a climate activist, parent, psychotherapist, and vegetarian. She belongs to Eastside Meeting in Bellevue, Wash.

Posted in: Quaker Lifestyles

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6 Responses to Being Vegetarian is a Climate Issue

  1. Robby England January 4, 2018 at 10:08 am #

    City & State
    Millerton, PA
    I admire anyone who lives their life according to their spiritual principals or social concerns, and therefor, my comments are not meant to attack your lifestyle, but to defend mine.

    I live on a 150 acre farm in northern Pennsylvania. About 50 acres are wooded or scrub land. An additional 50 acres is too steep to till, but can be grazed. The remaining 50 are flat enough to cut hay, but the soil is too poor (shallow or poorly drained) to efficiently raise cash crops or vegetables. The core of my farming operation is a flock of 100 ewes. From these ewes, we market 150–175 lambs per year and about 1000 pounds of wool. 90% of the feed for my sheep is grown on the farm–half of that is grazed. I use tractors to harvest my hay and to clip the pastures for control of thistles and noxious weeds, but I use less that 150 gallons of diesel fuel per year in the tractors. The manure from my flock is either deposited directly on the pastures or spread on the hayfields for fertilizer. A small portion is also used to fertilize our vegetable garden.

    Although I farm for profit, my management decisions are always weighed against my spiritual convictions and my social consciousness and these have the veto power. Raised in a farm family that always had a hearty meat and potatoes meal on the table, I have reconsidered the role of meat in my diet and now prefer a good stir fry or salad with just enough meat to add flavor and supply iron and vitamins. You may note that meat is only part of our product–we also market a half ton of wool. Our fleeces are carefully skirted and sent to a mill downstate to be spun into yarn. Some of the yarn is sold retail and some we use for knitting and weaving. Wool is a wonderful natural fibre and we are proud to produce it.

    I wish you good will and peace in following your chosen lifestyle. Our family has been blessed with both in following ours.

    Robby England

  2. Ms. Suzanne W. Cole January 11, 2018 at 1:44 pm #

    City & State
    New Orleans, LA
    While the core principles of this article are sound, I find it decidedly naive and downright problematic in many places including suggesting that we as a Quaker community forcibly offer only plant‐based food without considering the actual needs of the people we are in community with. It is not hospitality to set a table that will leave multiple guests struggling with their medical needs after eating a meal. It is not good stewardship of our communities to exclude around something so simple.

    Perhaps my work as FGC’s Gathering Food Coordinator (aka the person who liaises between the conference coordinator, the dining staff, and registrants around issues of food, dietary concerns, allergies, and access needs in our dining spaces) is coloring my comment, but I think of the hundreds of attendees who would be fighting their bodies and in some considerable discomfort throughout the entire week if we transitioned to exclusively plant‐based proteins. I am one of those attendees, and I cannot imagine facing down a week of only vegetarian meals while trying to focus on my job, the eagerly anticipated socialization of Gathering, and self‐care. I wouldn’t be able to stay awake for more than an hour at a time by day 2 of the event!

    One of the great joys of the work that I do at Gathering is explaining to the dining hall that we have a tremendous number of adult vegetarians and even more attendees who choose the “I eat meat but choose a plant‐based protein at least half the time.” Advocating for the quality and quantity of those plant‐based proteins is something I spend hours doing, often in places where I have to define the phrase “plant‐based” for the staff in a way that will honor their experience instead of belittling them for not being exposed to some of the favorite planet‐friendly lifestyle buzzwords. I am often the target for anger and frustration in that work, acting as a public lightening rod by being visible and vocal about the role of our plant‐based protein entrees.

    Bringing the joy of food that honors their needs and nourishes their body to every attendee at Gathering is what makes the work of this position worthwhile. Using food as a political tool is not on my agenda. Food is inherently political, entwined with our values and culture. Using food to exclude or shut down an outlet of hospitality, especially for people who are often struggling for balance in their own bodies is against everything I know as a kitchen manager, cook, Southerner, and Friend.

    Sometimes, modeling the abundant joy of our diet and food choice–because it is clear to me that being a vegetarian brings that joy to Lynn’s life–means accepting that our friends and loved ones need a different source of joy to also live abundant and powerful lives.

    If Friends are interested in experiencing the plant‐based protein options at Gathering, I would encourage them to register as a vegetarian to fully engage with the offerings that the conference coordinator, dining team, and I will be putting together. I would also encourage Friends to trust that many of us are listening to our bodies and our doctors so that we may also join your table with abundant joy.

    • Dana Harvey January 13, 2018 at 10:48 am #

      City & State
      Fort Erie Ontario, Canada
      I attended Gathering in NF for a few days last summer and was impressed by the food variety that was offered each day. You did an excellent job.

    • Lynn Fitz-Hugh February 28, 2018 at 2:35 pm #

      City & State
      Seattle, WA
      I would like to start this reply to Suzanne by saying that I have great admiration for Suzanne as our FGC food liaison. She is in my opinion a hero. Before she became liaison my daughter who is both vegetarian and suffers from gluten allergies had actually lost weight at two Gatherings in a row because of not being able to get food she could eat. I also last year had talked to Suzanne about instituting a line that was just vegetarian so that the vegetarian’s did not have to get in multiple lines to get what was available for them to eat. Suzanne did institute this mid week and I witnessed her having to stand at the line and ask the meat eaters to please leave this option for the vegetarians because there was not enough of that option available for everyone. I watched her have to argue with one man who was insistent that he should have what he wanted even if it meant that the vegetarian food ran out leaving those who don’t eat meat with nothing to eat. So I know how important hospitality is to Suzanne.

      It was precisely that experience that impacted my thinking about this. I have observed before at FGC that when there are good vegetarian choices available that those are heavily selected by all (often leaving vegetarian’s late to meal without options.) So my thought was really lets reverse the balance and have the bulk of the choices be tasty vegetarian options. Could we have enough of those options that they don’t run out? I did envision a meat line, just like the gluten free line for those with health restrictions. I certainly never intended to say that those who have health needs be left without! However, restricted for page space I did not spell all that out so I’m sorry for alarming Suzanne and others.

      However, I do need to address what a health need really is. All humans metabolize protein differently and so there are some people who really do need protein in a meat form. That is actually a very small number of people. Because of complementary protein (complete protein that is created by a combination of incomplete plant proteins.) many people and whole cultures have lived just fine without meat protein. When I referred to my doctor saying I needed to eat some meat — that was not a general statement the doctor was making about diet, but some specific issues I was having. Which by the way were addressed by eating one serving of fish and one serving of egg a week! In many many cultures this sort of meat as a condiment approach keeps everyone healthy. American’s diet is way meat heavy and we have heart issues, etc to show for it.

      I was sort of amazed by Suzanne’s belief that she would be falling asleep with exhaustion if she did not meat all the time. I don’t know it this is an experiment she has done and is true of her particular body, but this is certainly not what happens for most people if they do not eat meat.

      I am aware that FGC has gone to states where vegetarianism is so uncommon that the kitchen has no vegetarian recipes in its repertoire and that the food committee has really had to work with them to help them figure out how to feed us, and I am very grateful for that.

      I think if there are folks interested in doing the experiment of what would it be like to eat without meat for a week I hope they will as Suzanne suggested register that way for the week. I also still hope we could work with food services to for example at least discourage the most carbon intensive meats from being served: lamb, beef and pork. Really I just want people to wrestle with how can we take steps in response to climate. I am not trying to tell anyone how to eat.

      Lynn Fitz‐Hugh

  3. Ms. Margaret Fisher March 3, 2018 at 2:22 pm #

    City & State
    Clifton, VA
    I am grateful for Lynn Fitz-Hugh’s invitation to make our food choices a witness for peace, equality, stewardship, and justice. So much of my modern American lifestyle has been at odds with the needs of the more‐than‐human world that surrounds us. It is a great joy to find ways (in this case such delicious ways) of being able to live up to my principles. The more that I learn about our fellow beings, the more I value a plant‐based diet that minimizes my contribution to the pain and needless killing that our species inflicts on others, whether directly on fish and farm animals or indirectly by way of the wasteful and polluting animal‐agriculture industry.

  4. RichardGrossman April 10, 2018 at 4:01 pm #

    City & State
    Bayfield, Colorado
    I have two concerns about this article. The first is that, although avoid meat is good for the environment and for the climate, it is not a good way to slow climate change. Having fewer children (or none at all!) is the most effective action that an individual can take.
    The other is a medical issue. Because no vegetables have a substantial amount of the essential vitamin B12, it is necessary for all vegetarians to take B12 supplementation and/or have the level tested.
    Thanks for writing this important article!

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