Archives for februari 2014

Live: Lustrum Leiden Open 2014

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This year the Leiden Debating Union exists for 10 years and that wil be celebrated with a special Lustrum edition of the Leiden Open tournament. It will take place today and tomorrow at both the Bonaventura College (inrounds) and the Kamerlingh Onnes Gebouw (Law Faculty, outrounds).

The CA-team consists of Leela Koenig (CA, Leiden), Ashish Kumar (Cambridge), Francesca Ruddy (Glasgow), Niels Schroter (Berlin) and Nika Jelaska (Zagreb). Martijn Otten is the convener and Gigi Gil is the Equity Officer. The tournament will have five inrounds, seven minute speeches and will be in BP format.

Yesterday evening all teams that had already arrived could go to a pub for pre-registration. There they could also pick up their crash people. The amount of people nearly did not fit in the pub, but it was good to see that were already so many people present.

This Lustrum edition of the Leiden features a dresscode to make it that much more special. The dresscode was: suit up and dress up. Many of the tournaments’ participants indeed showed up fashionably dressed save for the odd pair of jeans.

Now the first round is about to begin! The motion reads: THBT the governments of developing nations should actively encourage slum tourism. An infoslide gives us some more information about the definition of slum tourism (tourists visiting impoverished areas on tours organized by travel agencies). The debate is mostly about self-suffiency of developing nations and morality.

After an engaging first round there is lunch in the auditorium (announcement room). Revitalised by the food and drink, which was provided by the nice volunteers, the speakers and judges are ready for the next round.

We continue to the second round. This time the motion reads: TH, as a critic, would advise the public not to consume works of music, film and art produced by artists that you deem morally reprehensible, regardless of the artistic merits of their work.

The third round ensues and the motion reads: THW randomly select citizens to actively assist in the rehabilitation process of ex-convicts, and make participation mandatory for those citizens. There is another infoslide that explains about the experiments which involved voluntary assistance to ex-convicts which were succesful. This third round is the last open round, which means that feedback is given by the judges immediately after the debates. The fourth and fifth rounds will be closed rounds which means that feedback will only be given after the break announcement.

Round four is starting in a moment. The motion reads: THBT the state should make funding for political parties proportionate to the number of low income brackets in those parties.

After dinner we move on to round five. The motion reads: THW nationalise prostitution.

After the socials saturday we now on sunday start the semifinals and the novice final. The motion for the novice final is announced first and reads : TH as a nominee of such an award would not accept it. What this award is for is explained is an infosheet. The award is for people from minority groups and is given out by an institution like a university for their achievements. The motion for the semifinals reads : THB it is legitimate for states to deny residence or asylum to immigrants who openly contradict their predominant values.

After lunch the finals are starting. The motion for the round reads: THBT the catholic church should make absolution for those who have committed a crime conditional upon handing themselves into the police. After an invigorating debate about doctrine, confession and crimes we now go to the pub and await the call of the judges.

In the crowed pub the results of the final and the novice final are announced. The tournament has been won by team Two guys, Daan Welling and Ruairidh Macintosh, in closing opposition. The novice final was won by team VOPS (Matija Dragojevic & Stefan Mitrovic). These results bring an end to the Lustrum Leiden Open.

I respect your decision to kill

Debater Daan Welling explains why he decided to be a vegetarian in his blog. This article gives an interesting insight in the arguments to decide if you want to be a vegetarian or not. You can find the original blog post here. Warning: it may be better not to eat meat while reading.

“Meat is murder. Delicious murder.”
– unattributed

At some level we probably are all aware of the fact that much of the food that we eat and enjoy every day
was specifically raised, often in dehumanising torturous conditions, and then viciously and uncaringly murdered, their carcasses disseminated without much thought or concern of its lifes, for the sole purpose of us enjoying food that tastes incredibly good, tasty, juicy, but is not necessary to sustain a healthy diet in the 21st century.

I am sorry if you were eating while reading this.

I became a vegetarian right before I went to university, after I spend a few minutes actually thinking about the food we all consume. Before that food was something that just tasted incredibly good; a steak and a glass wine so I could feel sophisticated alongside the adults, or the grease-and-food-poisioning taste of a döner kebab after my first nights of getting thoroughly drunk after midnight in the city. The relation between meat and animal suffering was one that was carefully hidden. You see “pork” and “beef” in supermarkets, which is not the same as “pig” or “cow”. As a kid raised in a small village I saw milk cows grazing next to our backyard garden, but I didn’t see them being taken away or slaughtered. If anything, the pictures of animals in supermarkets are that of smiling cows with their tongue sticking out, as if they too are anticipating taking a large bite of their brethren. And animal cruelty was not the systemic stuff of factory lines, but merely the targeted attack of a youth on a Youtube clip who hit his dog and was rightfully condemned by a nation. In the way that I was raised and conditioned to understood the world animals only had a little capacity for humanity – the pet dog you own and brings you a ball to play, the pictures of panda bears used to have you fork over money for charity.

Yes, the food you are having looks amazing.

And then I started to think, and connected the clip of a dog being beaten to the squeals of the terrified pigs on the way to the slaughterhouse half-way between my home and my school. I started watching documentaries and reading books. I learned that pigs have a far more developed sense of taste and smell than humans. That a “free-range chicken” in the USA could mean that the chicken had access only to a narrow window where it could view the outside. That 80 percent of pigs slaughtered suffer from pneumonia due to the terrible hygienic conditions and cramped spaces they are raised. I learned that, analytically, an animal – whether a stout or a feasant or a horse – had the exact same capacity of suffering that humans do, but that they don’t have the means to communicate this suffering due to a lack of voice and because we hide factory slaughter away in the dark corners of our society, so no one has to voluntarily walk into the nasty truth of our sustained culture and tradition of meat consumption. Apart from the minimum wage workers who are often employed in industrial farming, who breathe the same disgusting air, are deafened by the continued squelching of animals about to be massacred, and who grow desensitised and in their helplessness commit acts of violence against the poor and defenceless ill and decaying animals before they are put to their death.

Oh, I’m sorry, I do hope you are enjoying your meal.

For an ethical vegetarian it is hard to remain silent, because you are convinced that your stance is the right one in an area of debate that is so important for you – because it’s about 70 billion lives per year that matter to you. It is, in my mind, completely understandable that “radical” vegans or PETA-activists bring a worldwide nuisance upon the hordes of meat-eating humans. These are people who feel like they are part of a Civil Rights movement, or that they are Abolitionists, or first-wave feminists, or pacifist protesters.

But it’s also deeply unhelpful.

My family – like most adults and children I know – get deeply upset when this is brought up at the dinner table. They don’t think that they’re murderers or complicit in killing – they are taking essential nutrients that they need in order to sustain a life in which they are working hard to care about other people; as teachers, and nurses. They are taking part in important rituals, where the spaghetti bolognese is passed down as grandmother’s recipe and her cooking is fondly remembered, and over the beef wellington stories about the days are shared.

And of course they aren’t killers – not in the way that matters to us, in the way that we think about them and understand their daily action. Those thirty minutes of cooking and fifteen minutes of eating doesn’t constitute who they are in the slightest.

So I am forbidden to talk about my absolutist ethical stance on meat and murder, and slowly my family and friends accommodate my vegetarianism without any grumbling, and sometimes they remark that they love the vegetarian dishes they eat (apart from many meat-replacements, which tastes like dry spongy lies).

Recently I met a wonderful girl, whom I’ve grown incredibly fond of. She eats (and enjoys) meat. One of the things we agree on is the importance of good food (and maybe even more good drinks). In much the same way as people cook meat-free dishes for me, I want to make her a great steak (I’ll go with a side of mushrooms and Valess).

If there’s one word that you could historically ascribe to the Dutch and their political culture it would be “tolerance”. The Dutch Republic became succesfull largely because in an era of religiously-motivated persecution of knowledge and socially condoned practices of ethnic persecution many intellectuals, free-thinkers and pioneers found their safe haven in the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. It’s the radical idea that your opinions or beliefs are no better than that of another person, and you should thus not patronise or coerce or condemn that other. And on a personal level it is something I have now ingrained about my lifestyle, as many vegetarians do. We don’t publicly condemn or cry out a distaste for eating meat. We don’t comment on how we’ve grown to dislike its smell. And we don’t want to pay the price of social ostracism in order to defend the lives of killed animals.

At its core, here lies the difficulty. Edmund Burke told us that all is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. But it’s impossible to ascribe the terminology of evil to the choices of people that we care about and can only describe as being good human beings.

And thus ethical vegetarianism and the belief that meat is murder is in practice not an ethical position I hold, but a personal belief I subscribe to.