Peacemaking, part 4: Does Hypocrisy Matter?
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Peacemaking, part 4: Does Hypocrisy Matter?

Last essay, I noted that peace activists who eat meat and other animal products appear to be hypocritical. Should animal activists focus on hypocrisy?
Appearing to be consistent strengthens oneís argument. People who donít eat animal products are more effective opponents of factory farming. Otherwise, the focus easily shifts away from factory farming to why they eat the animal products.
However, as Mary Midgely noted, a man who is in the habit of breaking peopleís arms is correct when he says that we shouldnít break peopleís legs. Charges of hypocrisy focus on the messenger rather than the message, and the implication of the charge of hypocrisy is that messenger is acting in bad faith. In other words, it shifts the focus to the speakerís motivations.
This generally leads to unproductive conversations, for several reasons. First, the speakerís motivations donít matter Ė itís the content that should count. Second, attribution of motivations is usually inaccurate, and sometimes totally mistaken. Third, people are often offended when their motivations are challenged. Challenging motivations might make for good theater or for effective rhetoric (see, for example, Fox News debates), but it generally yields much more heat than light.
Therefore, rather than accuse people of hypocrisy, I think a more effective strategy is to show where we agree with them, and then point out how, for us, consistency of principle demands a plant-based diet. In other words, we focus on our own choices and why we make them, rather than why other people make their choices.

Next essay, I will continue to explore what constitutes respectful communication, and why this is needed to generate harmonious and just communities. 

Go on to: Respectful Communication: Political Correctness
Return to: Reflection on the Lectionary, Table of Contents 

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