Friday, February 13, 2015

Why I Prefer Revising the Second Principle

Guest author: Jennifer Greene

Jennifer is lead author of the new food education curriculum, Demonstrating Our Values through Eating (DOVE). She has served as RE director at the South Nassau Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Freeport, NY; interim RE consultant for the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Great South Bay; and board member for the Unitarian Universalist Animal Ministry. Jennifer is part of the Food Justice Ministry team, and she assists Dr. Melanie Joy with her international speaking tours.

I love the reverence for life that's expressed by the First Principle Project!


I think maybe we should shift the campaign, and target the second principle instead of the first.

Here's why.

1. If we want to explicitly challenge humancentrism, isn't the second principle, with its "human relations" wording, the place to do it?  The first principle is not actually necessarily humancentric, since "personhood" can be understood as not limited to our own species.

2. The second principle's direct reference to "justice, equity, and compassion" makes it more clearly action-focused, which I see as a definite plus. Because at the end of the day, what really matters to animals is our actions and behavior toward them, not our beliefs about them.  "Deeds not creeds" is another way to put it.  (To paraphrase Patti Rogers: animals don't care why we stop hurting them, just THAT we stop hurting them.)

3. Conversations I've already had with UUs on this topic indicate to me that changing the second principle would be less contentious than trying to change the first principle. Why provoke more resistance than we need to? 

4. Changing the second principle may serve the animals' interests better than changing the first, since the second principle explicitly affirms justice. The harm and suffering inflicted by humans on other-than-humans needs to be understood as a justice issue rather than a matter of personal choice. The second principle is where we can make this critical point on behalf of our animal kin.

In conclusion: let's campaign to replace "human" with "all our" in the second principle, so that it reads:

Justice, equity, and compassion in all our relations.

Yours for love and liberation,



  1. I like this very much, Jennifer. I agree that we definitely need to change the second principle in the way you suggest and for the reasons you outline above. Why not do both? We will need to recognize the inherent worth and dignity of all beings in order to treat them with the equity and justce they deserve. To me the two principles go hand in hand (paw?). The source of contention I foresee with the second principle change is over the understanding of "equity". I say we change both to bring the UUA into alignment with current scientific and philosophical thought. I certainly don't see any reason to limit justice, equity, or compassion to only one species. Thanks for this valuable contribution!

  2. I like your second principle change, too, Jennifer. Will all UUs understand that all our relations includes animals or do we need to spell out "including animals, plants, elementals" etc.

  3. Mark and Mary, thank you for your feedback. I'm glad you like the idea of campaigning to change the second principle.

    Mark asks, why not do both? First, I'll answer that with a question: don't you find the concept of "equity" less contentious than the concept of "equality"? I have, in my own understanding and experience...

    Also, I refer you back to my previous blogpost (, in which I explained the problems I see with the proposed change to the first principle. (I posted a reply to your comment, by the way, and was looking forward to your response, but I'm guessing you may not have realized that I replied.) I just don't want to say everyone should believe in dustmite dignity, in order to advance animal justice and liberation.



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