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Letters, Spring 2009

Readers respond to the Winter 2008 issue.
By Jane Greer
Spring 2009 2.15.09

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Dinner dilemmas

In “Dinner Dilemmas” (Winter 2008), John Gibb Millspaugh asserted that Butterball® turkeys contain growth hormones and antibiotics in every slice. No hormones are available in the United States for administering to turkeys and none have ever been approved—at least not in the last 25 years of my career. Importing turkeys treated with hormones is illegal.

Millspaugh’s generalization that “USDA Organic, Free-Range Turkey” is “better for you and the environment” gives a warm, fuzzy feeling, but is certainly false in many cases and probably also false as a generalization. Free-range conditions put the birds in contact with a lot of wildlife (from wild birds to rodents and worms), and one must expect that the fungal, viral, and bacterial burden, as well as the parasite burden they carry, is much more dangerous than that carried by the so called “factory-farmed” birds.

Thomas K. Shotwell
Runaway Bay, Texas

The editors reply: Thomas Shotwell is correct: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, hormones are not authorized for use in poultry in the United States. We regret the error.


I fear that “Dinner Dilemmas” left readers with the feeling that, when it comes to family food choices, you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. This in spite of the fact that the 2008 Carnegie Mellon University study (by Christopher L. Weber and H. Scott Matthews) cited by the author offers a relatively simple way for consumers to reduce food-related greenhouse gas emissions.

As Millspaugh points out, if the average household bought every food product locally the energy savings per year would be modest. This is because most of the greenhouse-gas emissions associated with food occur during the production phase rather than the transportation phase, according to Weber and Matthews.

Of all foods, red meat production is especially greenhouse-gas intensive—more than chicken, fish, or eggs. If the average family eliminated red meat from their diet they would save emissions equal to driving over 8,000 miles a year.

Dave Herath
Oakmont, Pennsylvania


Although I have sympathy for the farmers halfway around the world who are trying to earn money to put their children through elementary school, I have no idea whether our dollar spent at the corporate store will indeed end up benefiting them or not. By buying locally we support our local farmers and we can be certain of it, simply by asking.

Alice Reinheimer
Arroyo Grande, California


Some people seem to believe it is their duty to serve up a heaping helping of guilt for the holidays. I certainly don’t want to interfere with Mills­paugh’s paying $9.18 per pound for a main course made of possibly commercially grown and chemically fertilized soybeans, but my store brand turkey cost 79 cents a pound, which leaves me with $8.39 per pound (or more than $100, assuming his and my purchases both weigh 12 pounds) to use elsewhere—perhaps even to pay for meals at a homeless shelter.

Larry Roth
Kansas City, Missouri


Older ministers

The Rev. W. Donald Beaudreault complained about congregational surveys voicing preference for a young minister (“Letters,” Winter 2008). Expressed preference on a survey is one thing; search committee practice is another.

In the last two years, 21 percent of ministers called have been in their thirties, 22 percent in their forties, 37 percent in their fifties, and 19 percent—almost one out of five—in their sixties. In fact, some of those older ministers are among the most hotly pursued by multiple congregations!

There may be things to worry about in the search process—for example, will there be enough ministers to go around?—but unless search committees change their spots, age discrimination is not one of them.

The Rev. Dr. John H. Weston
UUA Transitions Director
Boston, Massachusetts


Rankism

In “Be a Dignitarian,” Robert W. Fuller and Pamela A. Gerloff write about the importance of combating “rankism.” They also mention other “isms,” such as sexism. In that context, I find the phrasing of the following sentence very interesting: “When a company executive has an intimate relationship with an intern and she loses her job over it, but he doesn’t, that’s rankism.”

Now, grammatically speaking, she should refer to the executive and he to the intern, but that makes the sentence nonsensical in terms of rankism, since that interpretation would have the executive losing her job while the intern remains safe. Therefore, she must refer to the intern and he to the executive. For the sentence to be interpreted that way, the authors are relying on their readers’ innate, sexist sense of how the world is organized: men are executives, women are interns.

Diana E. Nier
Ithaca, New York


Principles revised

Warren R. Ross reported that the Commission on Appraisal’s proposed changes to the UUA’s Principles and Purposes are primarily in context. One specific proposal is to replace two words, “affirm and promote,” with two others, “honor and uphold.” Would someone explain how this new twosome more clearly identifies a context of UU practice? “Honor and uphold” are passive verbs. If instances of dignity, justice, and compassion occur, then we covenant to honor and uphold them. I hope we aim higher than that. Only with active verbs such as “affirm and promote” do UUs commit to work so that these principles become apparent throughout our world. Ours has never been a think-about-do-nothing faith.

Julie Wambach
Fountain Hills, Arizona

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