Monday Musing: Respect vs Taste

My series looking at the Guide Law draws to a close today with the final Law:

A Guide respects all living things and takes care of the world around her.

Some important questions arise:

  • What is respect?
  • Can you respect a cow and still eat it?
  • How much of the world counts as “around her”?
  • Do Guides have to be eco-warriors?
  • Does “the world around” mean just the physical world?

What is respect?

According to the dictionary, respect is “a feeling or understanding that someone or something is important, serious, etc, and should be treated in an appropriate way”.

Which brings us neatly to question two:

Can you respect a cow and still eat it?

If I respect the cow (or pig, or sheep, or chicken…), then I may feel or understand that it is important.  Even leaving aside the fact that it is my lunch (which is very important), I may have empathy for the cow, know that it is important as a living being in its own right.

However, what is an “appropriate” way to treat the cow?

Should I release it into the wild?  Feed it on the very best of grass fields and care for it when it is ill?  Allow it to live to a ripe old age, die of natural causes, and then bury it in a special graveyard and visit its grave each week?

Source: Cgoodwin, CC BY-SA 3.0

Should I kill it (humanely) and chow down on its lovely, delicious meat?

Should I cram it into a shed with many other cows and fatten it up, bash it over the head, hang it by its hind legs and slit its throat?

Sorry, that was a little graphic.

To be perfectly honest I don’t usually think about it.  There is a definite disconnect in my brain between the supermarket and the processes behind it.  When I do think about it, that makes me feel slightly guilty.

Now that I am seriously considering the matter, I can’t just say, on the basis of the Guide Law, that killing animals and eating them is wrong.  After all, vegetables are “living things” too, and nobody is suggesting stopping eating entirely.  Apart from breatharians, but the less said about that the better.

If an animal is treated well and killed humanely, I’m fine with eating it.  How can I ensure that the animals I eat are treated well?  This will require some further thought and investigations, which no doubt I will comment on at a later date.

The World Around Her

This one, I feel, is slightly easier.  The extent of the world depends a lot on the age of the child.

For a Rainbow, taking care of the world might mean not dropping litter, not picking other people’s flowers, and maybe feeding their pet.

For a Brownie, this might extend to recycling, learning about conservation projects, and helping to keep the house or Brownie meeting place looking good.

Brownies have been interested in the environment for a long time.  This tree, planted in 1978, is still there!
Brownies have been interested in the environment for a long time. This tree, planted in 1978, is still there – although it’s a lot bigger now!

Guides and Senior Section would probably take a more active role.  We expect them to think about what “the world” means to them and to be more active in caring for it.  There might be community projects to regenerate an area, tree planting, raising money for conservation charities, and campaigning for change, for example.

Does that mean Guides should all be eco-warriors?

Well, I guess that depends on what you mean by “eco-warrior”. My immediate mental image is of a hippie-type, sitting in a tree shouting at men with bulldozers.

I know, intellectually, that that image is not entirely accurate, but that’s what my brain gave me.

A more modern image of an eco-warrior would probably involve some campaigning for better environmental protection, politics, and yes, some non-violent demonstrations.

I’ve occasionally campaigned, if you count signing petitions.

My political career consists entirely of voting when asked to, unless you count standing for election in a university society with about five active members, three of whom were the outgoing committee.

The only demonstration I’ve ever been involved with was something student-related. I can’t even remember what it was for, which says something about how much I cared. We sat in the street outside the university admin building (it was a bus route) and then wandered off when we got bored.

If the Guide Law means we have to be eco-warriors, then by the definition above I’m failing quite badly.

Fortunately I’m of the opinion that at least part of that definition (probably most of it) is wrong.

A Guide respects all living things and takes care of the world around her.  A Guide watches over, or is responsible for, the world around her.

What does that actually mean, in practical terms?  I have vague feelings of being environmentally friendly (recycling, energy conscious, walk or cycle rather than use a car…), but it’s hard to know whether you’re actually achieving anything.

Another way of looking at it would be that to be responsible for something you really should learn as much about it as possible.  Perhaps putting more effort into learning about environmental issues would be a good place to start?

What do you think?  I’d be interested in a debate in the comments!

Does the “world around” extend past the physical?

I think it does.  People are both living things and part of the world, so we should respect them and take care of them.

We’ve covered being a good friend and polite and considerate already.


This week sees the end of my actuarial studies (at least until the results come out, and hopefully for good).  I’m building a little list of things to research when I have more free time, starting with ethical food production and environmental issues.

Those are both large topics – I think my first step is going to have to be breaking it down into some semblance of a plan.

When was the last time you truly researched something, just to know more about it?  Did what you find change how you looked at the world?


One thought on “Monday Musing: Respect vs Taste

  1. The last big research I did was into Guiding history. It was sparked by some comments made by a friend of mine, that some of what I had taught was wrong (although it was drawn from an official history book). By research led to new insights into how Guiding really started, and to creating a website to share my findings with others, and to getting involved in trying to spread the true story – maybe one day it will replace the myths . . .

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