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The VeggieChess SatChat

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Another enormous chat more than 5.5 hours! It was one of our best, with a couple of exciting new members and one of the most profound discussions we have ever had in that chatroom!

We were delighted to see the newest member of our family, Larry (rhp huntingbear and papa_bear in the chat) appear. He did not just appear though. He was the first person in there! He uttered the first word! It was "test"! I will refrain from mentioning that he came 6 hours before the chat started though. He is after all from Australia and has no doubt been influenced somehow by Dyl.

Anyway, Larry did not wait around for 6 hours. He only stayed 10 minutes, no doubt admiring the fine paint job Fjord had done in the chatroom many weeks ago. Instead, Larry reappeared 13 minutes after the chat had started, but that was just fine because even though Dyl and Kyron were already in there, neither said anything to the other so the chatting really hadn't started.

So who do you think started this chat?

Well I did, with the single word and accompanying exclamation mark "larry!" Now Larry lives on the part of Australia where the time isn't as strange as Dyl's so it was only about 11 pm for him. Soon Rachel and Ranjana appeared so introductions were made.

We were very surprised to see Rachel because we thought she might still be at camp, but as it turned out, she had managed to get on a computer at one of her friend's in Louisville. She couldn't stay long, but it was great that she dropped in to say hello to everybody. Not only that, Kirksey came on a few minutes later as well, but he had to leave soon too because he had to drive his younger daughter's friend. He was of course very glad to see Larry, whom he referred to as 'the other theologian', since both of them are two of the kindest people on the RHP forums speaking the truths of Christianity in the nicest ways.

I explained a few details about the chatroom to Larry who had discovered how to use different colours and the next thing I knew all these happy faces were being emitted by him. That was very nice of him, even though I realized that he was only testing the faces. Then Larry's wife Deborah sent us a hello as did his nine month old daughter who I think wanted to attend the chat, but it was really a bit late for her to do so.

Upon Ranjana's asking, Larry told us that he was originally from the United States, but had moved with his Australian wife to Perth. He said that he had received several messages of welcome from Veggiechess members already since joining us a few days ago. I warned him that Veggiechess people like to talk a lot (as evidenced by these chats) and that they like to eat a lot too, aptly demonstrated in several earlier chats as they would stampede at the first mention of food. Larry replied "well I like talking, and eating. looks like I came to the right place!"

While I was contemplating the correctness of Larry's words and how glad we were to have him with us, Dyl entered and I was so surprised that I was forced to exclaim, "dyl!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" This surprised Dyl even more and he was left speechless for quite a while so I had to ask, "dyl??????????????" After Dyl had recovered from all these punctuation marks, he and Larry talked a bit about Australia and timezones, since they were at opposite ends of that country.

Then Dyl told me that he was studying a book on endgames by Glenn Flear, so I had to tell him that I "never heard of it i flear". This got Ranjana to blurt out, "dylohoh dyl, he's starting it again!" but she directed the message to me instead of Dyl not that either of us could possibly understand it, and then followed it immediately with "i made a real mess of that message!" as though that subsequent commentary was really necessary! Luckily, Dyl and Larry were engrossed in a discussion about Australian holidays by now, and were more or less spared particularly since the message had been directed to me even though it shouldn't have been.

Then Dyl asked whether I knew that Australians called North American football by the strange name of Grid Iron. I said I didn't and so Dyl proclaimed, "Interesting. I always thought North Americans only feigned ignorance to irritate others." While there was probably plenty of truth to this, I countered with "we can hardly make out what dyl is saying because of the [Aussie] accent" immediately after which Ranjana desparately rushed to Dyl's defence by telling Larry that "Prad is rather naughty". However, there was no explanation as yet why football is called grid iron, or why football is called soccer, or why rugby is called rugby until Dyl solved the mystery by suggesting that they came up with these weird names so as not to conflict with the ones already in use. Considering the choices of the names and their incomprehensible logic, I can honestly think of no better explanation!

Dyl and I talked a bit about 'real' football. He played defence and mid-field. I played center forward and right inside, but at a time when the 5-3-2 (5 forwards, 3 mid-field, 2 defense) systems were in common use. Dyl suggested that it would lead to a high scoring game. Most systems these days tend to be far more defensive.

Fjord entered and immediately expressed his disappointment at Ranjana's move that he had been waiting for weeks (if you recall from an earlier chat, the two of them were planning to continue their game into several lifetimes because a certain person was taking so long to make her move). He said he expected a mate in 3! Then he proceeded to tell Dyl that his whole country was orange because of football, so I had to jump in to ask "so is your national anthem 'home, home on the orange?'" to which Ranjana asked " couldn't you orange something different?"

Fortunately, before any of this could continue further, David (rhp dreamlax) came in for his first Veggiechess chat! David had joined us just a day before Larry and he was based in New Zealand. David was a friend Fjord had discovered on the forums and we had been impressed with the quality of his postings. Right now, though, David wasn't quite awake, because it was even later for him than it was for Dyl! He said, "Excuse me if I stop talking entirely, I'm either asleep, or eating breakfast"

Of course, people were curious about David's nick so here is his answer, "Yes, actually this nickname actually comes from the words DREAMing and reLAXing. The monks found it very suitable for me and decided it was the name they'd call me when I'm lazier than normal (which does not make for a good Buddhist!)"

David asked when the chat started so Ranjana told him that people just drop in from around 8am pst onwards and I had to add that "at least one person even dropped in on the wrong day" to which Dyl guiltily but cleverly replied, " hardly surprising, with the thing still called a sat-chat". Well, then I had to explain that since I couldn't change the name of the title on the forum, we called it a satChat because we are sitting when chatting.

Meanwhile, Fjord and Dyl were engrossed in a conversation about painting policemen orange, blue and green. Since I really didn't understand any of it, I will comment no further other than to say that this sort of conspiracy would probably not be looked upon kindly by the police associations.

Larry decided to leave at this point but told us that soon he would be able to show us pictures of his family, links to which we will make available on the satChat.

Dyl thought he should get going too because he had to meet " someone of the female persuasion for coffee" at 11:30 and he figured he'd better be awake and on time. He wondered if doing a Russian cossack dance would be a good way to impress her, but I suggested something more along the lines of carrying a chessboard. Dyl was impressively philosophical regarding this indicating that if his friend wasn't sufficiently impressed, he'd be home in time for the midday show. We both concluded that it would be a win-win situation!

Meanwhile, David accomplished a first in Veggiechess chat history. He sent a directed message to himself. Then he woke up a bit and exclaimed, "why the hell did I message myself?" Fjord shouted, "Dreamlax" in astonishment! I pointed out, "this has never happened here before". Dyl suggested, "Mate, you really need some sleep".Ranjana, for once, was speechless or perhaps she hadn't noticed because she was contemplating her smoothie.

At any rate, after we had all recovered, David told us what he does at the monastery and showed us a website of programmers (of which he is part of), who write programs for people who need them, for free:

Ranjana stated how nice that was and "its in the spirit of sharing and service". I think that may have embarrassed David, because he immediately left the chatroom. He came back shortly though and we were able to continue. As it turned out, it wasn't David who was embarrassed, but apparently his computer was because it logged him out several times during the chat.

Fjord asked whether I could join him in the Peter Singer thread and I said I would as soon as I could but it doesn't look like it will be that soon because this satChat is so long. Dyl felt he had to leave to prepare for his encounter expressing how grateful he was that I didn't try any of my jokes this week. That made me wonder if I should have armed Dyl with some jokes so that he was even better prepared!

Then David started us on one of the most interesting discussions we have had on these chats with the question "What do you do when someone offers you a meal with meat?" and specifically "The eight-fold path says right thought and right action is defined by right only if it is beneficial to others, but is it more beneficial to eat meat, or to be polite?"

The conversation went on for a long time and I will try to summarize it as best as I can.

The crux of the problem appears to lie in the concept of being beneficial: "being beneficient is very debateable since it is also temporaly based - therefore, due to its transitory nature, it may be an idea to establish alternate parameters".

One may argue that by refusing to eat meat we risk offending the host and therefore are not being beneficial either to the host or to the cause of vegetarianism. One can also argue that since the animal has been already murdered it is more respectful to eat the meat - the damage has already been done, so why cause more 'damage' by creating friction. One can even go to the extent of claiming that you actually 'hurt' your host by refusing to partake in the meal that has had a lot of effort put into it.

While there is some validity to all of the above three ideas, they should not be the deciding factor in one's decision. For instance, refusing to eat the meat can prove to be an educational eye-opener for the host who perhaps thought that everyone except those 'sickly veggies' eat meat. Possibly, it can be an inspiration to the host who may not agree with the murdering of animals, but didn't realize that some people not only live without doing so, but also stand-up to speak out against it. Finally, the host may be hurt even more realizing that the guest has violated a cherished principle just to accommodate the host's feelings.

Some of these ideas become a little clearer if we consider what we would do if invited to a cannibal's house for dinner. I rather doubt if anyone would try to 'accommodate' in order not to 'hurt' the host's feelings even though the refusal would be based more on disgust rather than on having compassion towards living beings. Yet, the slaughter of helpless animals which occurs at a horrific rate draws neither disgust nor compassion from many, but only because it is an accepted social norm.

To base our actions on the accepted social norms is both dangerous and detrimental, because the status quo changes, but ethics don't. It is never the quantity of people who pursue a course of action that is important, but the quality of their conscience. If 100 people do a wrong thing, it doesn't make it right. Instead, a single person who does the right thing can never be made 'wrong' no matter how many voices speak against, no matter how powerful the opposition. As Gandhi once put it,

"When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall - think of it, ALWAYS."

So on to specifics.

Suppose you are the 'guest of honour' and meat is served - what do you do? Well, if they know you are veg and they serve meat, then you are really not the guest of honour; if they don't know you are veg, then they should find out right away, so as not to dishonour you.

Should you risk offending them by refusing to eat meat when the most important thing is perhaps to convince them to change such behaviour? First, it is important to realize that it is not our job to convince them of anything; it is up to them to convince themselves. Second, while it may be true that it is easier to start a conversation by eating the meat, it seems a bit strange to speak about vegetarianism through a mouthful of flesh. Finally, a courteous, infomative, non-threatening refusal shows what your principles are and that you stick to them. What is interesting is that no host would ever be offended if you refused because it was 'against your religion', rather they would rush to undo their lack of awareness, so why does it suddenly become a problem when we substitute 'principle' for religion?

What do you do if meat is offered as a donation to your organization? Well, this is a somewhat different situation, because it would depend if your organization advocates vegetarianism or not. However, even if it doesn't, it is possible to inform the donors that vegetarianism is the lowest common denominator - meat eaters will eat veg food, but veggies will not eat meat. Therefore, it makes more sense to donate vegetarian food since then it can go to anyone in need. Sometimes an organization will even accept, in the name of the cause, the very thing it opposes. For instance, PETA accepts furs donated by people who refuse to wear them anymore and gives them to people in need or to animal shelters.

Is it immoral to eat an animal that has already been murdered? Eating the murdered animal isn't immoral, but what needs to be considered is the message you wish to project. By eating it (except in a situation of desperation), do you not project that you accept the murder of animals? Since eating the animal requires it to be murdered, the two become almost synonamous, even though the one eating it has committed no immoral act. People who eat meat aren't cruel, but perhaps they haven't thought through the connections of their actions. It is their 'consumer demand' that produces most of the cruelty. Similarly, eating of chocolate from the Ivory Coast isn't an immoral act, but it is the consumer demand that fuels the child slavery there.

What if the host cannot grasp your principle of being vegetarian? If the host doesn't understand your reasons, then you should explain them. Eating the meat while explaining may be a courtesy to them, but then why talk about vegetarianism? It is of course possible to say that you are a semi-vegetarian and give your reasons for 'cutting' down, but then it would be appropriate for your host to also follow suit and 'cut down' meat consumption which certainly is not the same as eliminating it. Besides, as Michael put it "you cannot only live the moral principals others can grasp, can you?"

Here are some interesting questions and statements by various people in this discussion:

"The question is for me what is more valuable; sharing with friends and communicate about my morals; or refuse and have no communication at all." (Fjord)

"There is a difference between eating a meal -because- it has meat, and eating a meal with meat in it that was offered. Are we just as equally supporting the death of the animal, if at all? (David)

"Especially as I DONT EAT ANY ANIMAL PRODUCTS I had the most opportunities to talk with many people about why i live like that ….." (Michael)

" if you start with that premise - you will find people react accordingly …. I have a different premise and I get a different reaction - never have I found that communication stops…. people have said they don't agree with me and we have very good discussions" (Ranjana)

"isnt it a bit silly for a vegetarian to go to and eat something without knowing what it is well beforehand?" (Kyron)

"how would your hosts feel having you eat meat at their table and then finding out you were veg? … i think if they learned that you were veg for moral reasons, they would be devastated" (prad)

"Last November when we had a big business dinner in my company with 80-100 people present and I knew that there is served only meat …… so i asked to prepare a special meal for me as i am vegan and really a special meal only for me was prepared and i had the best opportunity to talk about why i live like that with soooo many people who were vvery curious … never would i have had that platform to talk about animal rights if i had not decided to be completely true to myself" (Michael)

"I just want to know what the worse situation is, though, to refuse the meal or to eat it." (David)

"we're talking about how people feel… how did the animals feel? what harm is greater?" (Ranjana)

" i feel that this really is the point …. we could see all this discussion from the point of view of the animal being in the slaughterhouse shortly before his/her death ….. then it does not matter how other people feel about you" (Michael)

"[your host] should respect your views … if he doesn't, then he needs to invite you to dinner a few more times" (prad)

"Offending the host is not showing compassion. We must never assume we are not going to offend anyone." (David)

" let's look at a muslim and a buddhist each inviting the other to dinner … the muslim offers meat as a token of respect - the buddhist offers vegetarian for the same reason … the muslim will eat at the buddhists, but the buddhist will not eat the muslims meat … why? because the underlying principle that is the strongest belongs to the buddhist … all religions preach compassion - but few practise it and offense is not to be taken in the same light as death … so the compassion of not killing overrides the 'token of respect'" (prad)

Sangeeta entered at this point and though she had unfortunately missed this very interesting discussion, she got to talking to David about various things such as music composition which is a talent David has. It also came out that David had done an excellent post on 'anger' and it is well-worth looking at: 

Ranjana read the post and said how wonderful it was. Immediately, David disappeared not because he was embarrassed remember, but because his computer was.

Sangeeta and David continued to talk about veg restaurants, buddhism, and New Zealand which is a place Sangeeta wanted to visit, so David invited her. It would be interesting to see if he were shocked if the whole Veggiechess family were to descend on him in Sangeeta's entourage!

Then we got into a brief discussion on vitamins and vegetarians, because it is a strange misconception that people have, that vegetarians are somehow deficient and need to take vitamins to replace what they are missing. This is one of the silliest anti-veg arguments around. No one needs to eat animal products and no one will be deficient in anything as a result. Like any diet though you should eat sufficient variety (ie don't try to be veg on pasta and tofu alone) and acquire sufficient calories for your level of activity. Vitamins from your drugstore are both unnecessary and don't really get assimilated into the body as the advertisements try to get you to believe.

Another common misconception revolves around what a vegetarian really eats and for that we have this rather astute description:

"A vegetarian doesn't consume any animal products such as meat, fish, milk, cheese, butter, eggs, sea foods, or even honey (a vegan is a vegetarian who has adopted a lifestyle avoiding animal products like wool, leather, silk). The 'veg' in vegetarian after all does represent vegetables, fruits and other plant-based foods. People who include dairy to an otherwise vegetarian diet consider themselves to be lacto vegetarians. Those who consume both dairy and eggs call themselves lacto-ovo vegetarians. Of course, by that reasoning those who eat everything other than red meat should fancy themselves to be lacto-ovo-pesco-polla-miele vegetarians."

The term vegetarian is rather loosely used to describe lacto-ovo vegetarians because most people who consider themselves vegetarian are lacto-ovo vegetarian.

What many people do not realize is that by supporting the dairy industry one actually supports the veal industry. One may think that no animal is killed in milk production, but millions of male calves and their mothers (whose lifespans are quartered) would tell you otherwise.

We would have had a discussion about medicines, but since I wanted to illustrate my point with diarrhea and David was considering eating muesli, we decided it would be better to just talk about muesli instead.

David disappeared again at this point, but came back exhibiting his chatroom version of reincarnation.

Andrew then dropped by for a bit. He has been travelling to various places for his work, but he always tries to come by to say hello. He is presently involved in a series of presentations that take him to north carolina - oregon - pennsylvania - Colorado - Wyoming - Alabama, Texas - then Florida!

David talked about the various milk producing farms in his area and how the bulls that don't produce good sperm are slaughtered for the fast food restaurants so they can say they serve real beef. This reminded me of the amusing but pointed statement Dr. Neal Barnard made:

"The beef industry has contributed to more American deaths than all the wars of this century, all natural disasters, and all automobile accidents combined. If beef is your idea of 'real food for real people', you'd better live real close to a real good hospital."

So we talked some more about other milks such as soy, rice and oat milk, the last being of primary interest to me since one doesn't have to cook anything.

I don't like to make food and I really don't like eating either, but when it is time to clear the table because others haven't met their responsibility, guess who is called upon to save the honour of all? Me! Sangeeta who had nothing better to do, stayed around to argue about my noble actions which she forgets she has often been responsible for initiating, but then decided that she wanted to discuss something else on Yahoo! So I said I'd race her out of the chatroom and quickly exited before she knew what was happening!