Ethos Education

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: What reasons are there for not eating meat?

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Learning Objectives:

  • Understand different views about the relative value and differences between humans and animals.
  • Awareness of different Christian views about animal rights.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Reflect upon whether life choices can lead a person to be considered better or worse than others.
  • Reflect upon different reasons that might lead someone not to eat meat.
  • Understand the difference between vegetarian and vegan.
  • Evaluate different reasons for not eating meat, grouping them into related categories.
  • Analyse a number of Bible passages, assessing their relevance for Christians in deciding what they should eat and how they should treat animals.
  • Synthesise learning by writing a discussion about the subject of vegetarianism, with one or more characters basing their argument on Christian principles.

STARTER:

Put the students into small groups and give out a set of Who’s Best? cards to each group. Ask the students to decide which of the four people described on the cards is better than the others, and to rank all four in order of goodness. They can use whatever criteria they choose for this, but must come to a consensus of opinion (or a majority vote if necessary).

Ask the students to report back on their findings. Which factors were most helpful in deciding who was best? Did any of the apparently irrelevant factors make a difference in deciding the final order? Is it possible to determine which of two people is better on the basis of the life choices they have made?

Explain that in this lesson you are going to be looking at a film clip where the view is expressed that what someone chooses to eat makes them better (or worse) than other people, and that in this lesson you are going to be thinking about the reasons that some people choose to follow a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.

The information on the cards is as follows:

Name: Simon Scribbler

Age: 36

Sex: Male

Occupation: Journalist

Other information: Specialises in exposing cases of corruption within government and other big business. Drinks and smokes heavily.

Name: Legal Laura

Age: 41

Sex: Female

Occupation: Barrister

Other information: Works mostly as a prosecution counsel, specialising in the cases of those accused of benefit fraud, or of being illegal immigrants or asylum seekers. Regularly gives 10% of her earnings to charity.

Name: Vegan Victor

Age: 26

Sex: Male

Occupation: Full-time animal rights activist

Other information: Organises and participates in protests against vivisection clinics, fox-hunting and cute animated cartoons. Doesn’t eat meat or dairy products and doesn’t wear leather or other animal products. Supports Arsenal football club.

Name: Granny Annie

Age: 86

Sex: Female

Occupation: Retired nurse

Other information: Worked in the NHS for 44 years. When she first retired, she worked as a volunteer at charity shops, but now feels that she is too old to commit to regular voluntary work. Is allergic to cats.

Name: Bertie Big-Wad

Age: 51

Sex: Male

Occupation: Banker

Other information: Earns a six-figure annual salary, plus generous bonuses. Recently switched to working three days a week in order to spend more time caring for his wife who has developed a serious medical condition. Listens to classical music.

Name: Suzie Starr

Age: 23

Sex: Female

Occupation: Singer

Other information: Has a string of worldwide hit singles, albums and sell-out tours. Enjoys a lavish, luxury lifestyle and regularly speaks out about issues such as eating disorders, bullying and poverty. Has agreed to record this year’s official Children In Need single. Favourite colour is green.

MAIN ACTIVITIES:

Introduce the clip from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Universal, 2010, certificate 12). Click here to buy the DVD online.

Explain that Scott (Michael Cera) is being hunted down by the seven evil exes of his girlfriend Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). In this scene, he comes face to face with Todd (Brandon Routh).

  • Start time:     1.00.35 (the start of chapter 12 of the DVD)
  • End time:      1.08.33
  • Clip length:   7 minutes and 58 seconds

The clip starts with two groups of people sitting and glaring at each other. The first line is Todd coolly saying, ‘Hey, Ramona’, and Ramona replying, ‘Hey, Todd’. The clip ends with the two Vegan Police officers departing, high-fiving as they go. Please note that the clip includes comic-book style violence and some bad language (at one point Scott calls Todd ‘a cocky cock’, and he later refers to him as ‘an a-hole’.) If you want a shorter clip, stop the film at 1.05.11, after Envy (Brie Larson) says, ‘Oh, he’ll be done – real soon.’ This clip includes all the discussion about the benefits of being a vegan, but loses the entertaining arrival of the Vegan Police who are there to strip Todd of his powers for ‘a veganity violation, code number 827: imbibing half and half.’

Point out to the students that the clip seems to suggest that one reason for following a vegan diet is because it gives you awesome psychic powers, (or, as Envy (Brie Larson) puts it, ‘short answer, being vegan just makes you better than most people’). Ask the students whether they agree with this assessment of veganism (ignoring the comic-book superpowers, obviously – those aren’t a genuine benefit of a vegan diet).

Ask the students to suggest reasons why somebody might choose not to eat meat (if there are any vegetarians in the class, you might invite them to state the reasons behind their decision to follow a vegetarian diet, although some students might prefer not to be singled out in this way). Write student contributions on the board without any discussion of whether each is a good or bad reason, and keep going until you have a reasonably comprehensive list.

This might be a good moment to make sure that the students know the difference between a vegetarian diet and a vegan one. A vegetarian doesn’t eat meat, poultry, fish or (in many cases) by-products of animal slaughter (such as rennet, which is commonly used in the manufacture of cheese). Vegans abstain from everything that vegetarians abstain from, but also avoid eating dairy products and avoid using other animal products including eggs, honey, leather, wool, cosmetics and soaps derived from animal products.

Divide the class into small groups and ask them to try to group similar reasons together. They could record their ideas on a sheet of flipchart paper or OHP acetate. Visit each group as they are working to discuss their reasoning with them. You may need to discourage some carnivores from giving the herbivores in their group a hard time, or vice versa.

Although they may express their ideas in many different ways, they will probably have reasons relating to personal tastes (‘I don’t like meat’), sentiment (‘I don’t like the idea of killing those poor little pigs’), animal rights (‘We don’t have the right to make animals suffer just for our convenience’), the environment (‘Raising animals for food is a poor use of resources’) and religion or morality (‘It’s not right to eat meat’). Obviously, there is overlap between these reasons — an argument that sounds like an appeal to animal rights may, in fact, owe more to sentiment or vice versa.

Take feedback from the groups, and allow a little time for the students to discuss the various groups of reasons, expressing their own views as to which are more or less convincing. Explain that people of many religions have restrictions on eating some or all types of meat.  Unlike many other major world religions, Christianity does not impose any dietary restrictions on its believers.  However, many Christians choose to be vegetarian for one or more of the reasons discussed already.

Divide the class into small groups. Ask them to read the following passages from the Bible and discuss what perspective each passage gives on the eating of meat, other matters concerning the treatment of animals and what conclusions a Christian might draw from them.

Genesis 1:28–31

God gives humans dominion over his creation, explicitly including animals.  Interestingly, it seems that eating animals for food was a development that came after the Fall, rather than God’s original plan for humanity.

Genesis 9:1–4

But that doesn’t mean that all Christians believe eating meat is wrong per se – here God specifically allows the eating of any animals for his people.

Deuteronomy 5:12-14

Notice that even the animals are to be given a day of rest.  This suggests that human dominion over animals should not mean a lack of concern for the welfare of the animals.

Romans 14:1–12, 19-21

The role of individual conscience for Christians is advanced here.  As we have seen, eating meat is not considered wrong per se for Christians, although some Christians may find good reasons not to do so.  Notice that in verse 2, Paul seems to say that Christians who only eat vegetables have a weaker faith. It should be noted that for economic reasons, meat was more of a rarity for most people at the time these words were written, and many Christians understand this passage as being specifically written about meat that has been offered as a sacrifice to pagan idols. This passage suggests that Christians should be free to follow their own conscience on this matter, although they are also instructed to do so in a way that won’t cause problems for those who take a different position on the issue.

Students may also be interested in the following websites, which promote vegetarianism from a Christian perspective. Interestingly, we have been unable to locate any websites dedicated to advocating the eating of meat from a Christian perspective. In the interest of balance, you may want to point out to the students that a significant number of Christians in the UK, probably the majority, are happy to eat meat as part of their diet.

http://www.christianveg.org

www.jesuspeopleforanimals.com

SUMMARY AND ASSESSMENT OF LEARNING:

Ask students to write a paragraph or more explaining reasons why a Christian might choose to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, and another paragraph or more explaining reasons why a Christian might choose not to make such a step. Students should also write a third section explaining their view of the relative merits of the arguments on either side of this issue, demonstrating their understanding of Christian attitudes towards animals and the consumption of animal products.

YOU WILL NEED:

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