A Glimpse of the Peaceable Kingdom
Humans Befriend Sloth
AliaAndSloth.jpg A human couple had made plans to adopt a sloth to join their other animal friends, when they found they were expecting a child. So Daisy the sloth and Alia the baby human are growing up together, and show signs of becoming good friends. Sloths are big on hugging, as the pictures show, and no doubt make good companions for the lonely. See Friendship --Contributed by Robert Ellwood
Editor’s Corner Essay: Where God Was Homeless
To an open house in the evening
Home shall [we] come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome . . .
To the place where God was homeless
And all [folk] are at home.
The Border Crisis
In the town of Murrieta, California over nine days last July, busloads of unaccompanied children and mothers with children from Central America enroute to processing in the Border Patrol station--mostly refugees from the runaway violence in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador--were greeted by several hundred protesters chanting, screaming, and carrying signs with such sentiments as “No Illegals” and “Return to Sender” and “Our Tax $ for Illegals? Hell No! Go Home!” In response to some comments that this was (in effect) a heartless way to treat children, it was claimed that some of the children were actually older than they looked. Counter-protesters trying to welcome the refugees were also present; there were arguments, scuffles, and some arrests. The protesters succeeded in blocking the busses, which were routed to another center.
How would the children and mothers inside the bus have felt? Even assuming they could not read the signs, they would have had little trouble understanding the hostile message: We hate you! Go back! Imagine the stress to young people who had fled their homes already traumatized by death threats and bullets sprayed into their houses, or by the kidnapping and murder of one family member already. This kind of thing is widespread in the three Central American countries; order has to a great degree broken down into a quasi-feudal situation in many areas due to powerful street gangs who divide cities into rival territories, with police helpless to cope with the situation, or seriously corrupt. The gangs recruit children at school or on their way to school with death threats; children as young as seven have been found murdered for refusing to join. One teenager who fled said that if he had agreed to join the gang, he would have just been killed by a rival gang. Drug sales are a major factor. Another way the gangs spread grief and terror is by a protection racket, sometimes known as a “war tax,” also enforced by deadly violence.
Honduras now has the highest murder rate in the world, ninety per 100,000 people; in the city of San Pedro Sula, it is 180. (In the US, the rate is five per 100,000). (See Murder Inc. ). Traumatized families scrape together their savings and pay a “coyote” to convey them north through Mexico to the US; many parents who feel they cannot themselves leave may try to save their children’s lives by sending them alone, intending them to connect with relatives already in the US. The more traditional motivator driving Mexicans and Central Americans north, great poverty, is still part of the picture as well. The protesters’ claim that some of the children are older than they look is no doubt actually true in some instances, for in poor countries it is common to see, e.g., a child of eight who who looks five or six as a result of malnourishment. I have seen them. International law requires that refugees in danger of their lives be given sanctuary for the duration of the threat, but the problems involved are huge and complex, with no easy answer.Almeida_Júnior_-_Study_for_-Flight_of_the_Holy_Family_to_Egypt-_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg
One Small Refugee
This month Christians celebrate the birth of Christ. One of the two well-known Nativity stories provides a poignant commentary on the increasing American refugee-child crisis of the last few years. According to the gospel of Matthew, after the Magi had visited King Herod and thus alerted him to the fact of the birth of a new king, then failed to return from Bethlehem as instructed with specific information, Herod went into a rage and ordered that all the infant boys of Bethlehem from age two and under be killed. Jesus’ foster father Joseph, who had received a warning from God in a dream, fled with his wife and little son from their home in Bethlehem to Egypt (they did not have papers!), living there until after the death of Herod. The other parents of Bethlehem did not receive warning dreams. On December 28, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the church traditionally memorializes the killing of these babies.
As I commented in “The Holy Innocents” in PT 93, the story is almost surely a fictional tale patterned on the birth of Moses in the Exodus story, which also involved a cruel Pharaoh ordering the massacre of infant boys--a story intended to symbolize and validate the calling of Jesus as the new Moses leading God’s people out of oppression and slavery to freedom and plenty. But Herod as history describes him was, unhappily, only too well cast as the new Pharaoh in the tale. Historically, “he was about seventy and in poor health at the time of Jesus’ birth in (probably) 4 BCE, and a newborn could not have been a threat to him, but this massacre is the sort of thing he would not hesitate to do. Paranoid and cruel, he would order murders (even of his own wife Mariamne, whom he loved) and massacres at the slightest suspicion or suggestion” from others ( PT 93 ). His policies were typical of Roman rule, and, with some variations, were continued by his successors. But the Flight to Egypt story does not have to be historical to be profoundly true on other levels and for many situations.
No doubt many of the protesters at Murietta, and many thousands of other citizens with the same hostility toward refugees without papers, are Christians who are now preparing to celebrate Christmas, and will heartily sing carols celebrating the newborn baby, feeling joy in the escape to Egypt of the defenseless little Jesus and his family in flight from Herod’s goon squads. Can there be anything genuine in such expressions of feeling in people who shout abuse at defenseless children and adults in virtually the same situation today? Are such religious celebrations on their part nothing but hypocrisy?
Before we answer this question too quickly, it may be helpful to consider how thousands of people respond to still another situation of refugees fleeing violent death, namely, that of farmed animals. At wide intervals, the media will proclaim a dramatic story of a young cow or pig who manages to jump over a high fence or out of a truck carrying hundreds of her kind to a certain and horrible death in the slaughterhell. It seems that nearly everyone hearing the story (except the police) cheers the animal on; usually she is taken to a shelter and given a name. A young pig who jumped out of a truck in Guanxi, China, last spring was given the name “Babe” and offered care at the local police station. A cow named Yvonne who escaped from a German farm evaded capture for several weeks, with various updates appearing in the media, before she was captured. By then her popularity was such that a slaughterhell fate was out of the question, and she was taken to a sanctuary.PigJumps.jpg
How can so many people root for an animal fleeing a violent death, while so many--perhaps some of the same ones--close their hearts and abuse humans in a similar situation? Most of them will go home afterwards to a dinner of beef or chicken as usual; It hardly seems likely that that they have a worse case of xenophobia than of speciesism.
Death Had Undone So Many
A key is the fact of sheer numbers in the latter case, creating major problems in resolving the situation. We can well imagine what would happen if thousands of frightened slaughterhell escapees came flooding into the cities or even the countryside: people would panic, and instead of cheering the brave refugees, they would make sure the animals were either shot on the spot, or at least rounded up and sent back. Even those of us who send compassionate love to every one of the millions of animals killed daily, who carry flies and spiders out of our houses rather than kill them, might find different feelings arising if we found thousands of ants flooding our kitchen counter to feast on some favorite food we had carelessly left out. Hopefully, such feelings won’t translate directly into actions!
There are great differences between humans and cows, and still greater ones between cows and ants. My point is not to meld all kinds of refugees into a featureless Victim, but to try to understand human responses: why do some respond with hostility and others with compassion, even putting it to work in service? Anxiety and fear seem to make up a significant element in the angry reactions in Murrieta; witness signs reading “Protect your kids from diseases” (in fact the refugees were no more diseased than the general population), ”Wake Up America,” and “Stop the Invasion [!] of Illegals.” One veteran’s sign expressed bitterness that “illegals” should get aid while he had been waiting interminably for medical care. It also seems likely that the protesters were not very aware of the part their anxieties played. It is more gratifying to feel and act out rage that “they” are trying to steal something from “us” than to admit to feelings of fearfulness and helplessness in an incomprehensible system that is breaking down and failing us. And perhaps the people who responded with compassion understand themselves better, enabling them to transcend the them-against-us dichotomy, to put themselves in the shoes of the refugees, and realize that when they are bleeding, so are we.
God is There
Although critics over the years have accused compassionate vegetarians and animal advocates of ignoring human suffering, perhaps to lessen their own discomfort at resisting the message, in fact most friends of animals support causes to aid human sufferers as well. When any beings are abused and victimized, we are there, in their shoes. But, being ourselves limited human beings, we have to limit and focus our actions for healing and justice to the cause[s] to which we feel most strongly drawn; and in our case, it is chiefly to victims who have no shoes but go about on hooves or trotters or clawed or webbed feet--if they can go about at all. When they are mutilated, crammed into tight spaces, shipped to deaths of unspeakable agony, we are there.
The lines from G.K. Chesterfield’s moving poem “The House of Christmas” that served as the epigraph above was probably meant to say that human beings will return to God only by being united to the Jesus who in childhood was homeless in Bethlehem and Egypt. But it implies a further meaning, that speaks also to folk of other faiths: that where living beings are desperately poor, where they are homeless, where they flee from the deadly violence of Herod or Caesar or Hitler or gangs--or are finally overtaken by it as Jesus and many others have been--God is there.
--Gracia Fay Ellwood
The Flight Into Egypt painting is by Brazilian artist José Ferraz de Almeida Júnior, 1850-1899.
Dairy’s Link to Certain Cancers
According to a study published in the British Journal of Cancer dairy might increase rates of lung, breast and ovarian cancers. Researchers followed 22,788 lactose intolerant participants from Sweden as well as their immediate family members. It turns out that the incidence rates for lung, breast, and ovarian cancers was lower among the lactose intolerant compared to those who included dairy in their diet. See Link .
Showing compassion to dairy cows--and not stealing their milk, their babies, and their lives--helps us take better care of our own health as well.
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
Bird Flu Outbreak in Europe
Cases of bird flu strain H5N8 in farmed birds have pushed European officials to adopt proactive measures to prevent the spread of the virus, including the massacre of birds in infected areas of the Netherlands, Germany and the UK, and the ban on the transportation and/or sale of chicken products in those areas. This strain is apparently not as deadly to humans as H5N1 and H5N9, but the viruses tend to mutate quickly. See Outbreak . Let us send Light and healing to the consciousnesses of the massacred birds, and forgiveness and true peace to their killers.
The extreme confinement of animals raised for food has greatly increased the chances that bacteria and viruses will mutate and spread. Bird flu seems to be a virus of our own making, a consequence of exploiting God’s animals.
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
For an overall sketch of the history and dangers of influenza, see “The Sins of the Fathers,” PT 38 . Hen-Project.jpg
At a retirement home in Newcastle, Britain, a program in which residents adopt chickens has proved wonderful in reducing isolation, loneliness, and depression, and helping reduce the incidence of Alzheimer’s. See Chickens
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
Karen Davis Featured in USA Today
A substantial article about Karen Davis’ work to benefit farmed birds has appeared in the national periodical USA Today. Ms. Davis, who has a PhD in English, is the founder of United Poultry Concerns, and operates a bird sanctuary, has put farmed fowl on the animal rights map by means of her very moving essays, talks, and books. See Davis .
“Birds remind me of angels.”
--Karen Davis, United Poultry Concerns
“We are one soul, joined at the heart, separated at Earth.”
--Linda Jamison and Terry Jamison
Letters: Carol Hoke
Dear Peaceable Friends,
Thank you for the November Peaceable Table. Especially gratifying is the news story about Martin Sheen's gift of a research vessel to the Sea Shepherd organization. Both of the book reviews are quite thought provoking, and I'm looking forward to trying the new recipes. Best of all, maybe, is the sweet photo of the cat and piglets at the beginning! Thanks for all the work you do to keep us informed.
My Pilgrimage: Theodore “Ted” Schmidkonz
Having been born, as I was, into a ravenously omnivorous, carnivorous working-class family of lapsed Lutherans in the middle west, one of the last things on my mind as a child and youth was actually becoming a vegetarian. If I had mentioned it to anyone in my life during that period, heaven only knows what would have happened. But I did have stirrings. I'll never forget, as a small boy of five or six, visiting my mother’s family’s farms in Indiana. Seeing horses and cows grazing in the pasture, I asked my parents “Why are they eating grass? How can such big animals live on only grass, and why aren't we doing it? Why do we kill them and eat them? Their response: "Be quiet,don't ask such nonsense"! Mine was not a happy childhood, and I had the kinds of anxieties that an orphan would have. Both my parents, bless their souls, told me in later life that they were totally unsuited for each other, and for being parents.Teddy.jpg
One of the comforts of my childhood was animals. I have been fascinated by and in love with animals since the day I realized that they were a part of my world. When I was a child my parents had a job trying to keep me away from them. I loved them all, and had no fear of any animal. Neither they nor my siblings shared my love of and compassion for animals, and neither my two sisters nor my brother have become vegetarian.
We moved to rural Wisconsin when I was ten years old. Growing up there enabled me to work on nearby farms as a youth. I regularly spent as much time playing with the animals as I did feeding and tending to them. Another advantage of living there was that I became acquainted with people from other faiths. The public schools were full of every denomination you could imagine. I was invited to worship with children from many of them, and did so.
After a tour of duty in the Army, I returned and settled into the same working class mid-western atmosphere that I was raised in. In 1975 when I was thirty-two, that came to an end when I had an opportunity to go to England to visit a friend named Helmut Berns whom I had met while in Germany during my army service. He had become a vegetarian, and was working in a vegetarian restaurant called “The Gentle Ghost” near where he was living in London. I was open and curious about this way of eating, eager to experiment. As a result, I became immersed in contact with countless vegetarians and other interested persons from all over Britain, Europe, and the world.
Physically, my initial response to vegetarianism was not comfortable; I had quite a lot of detoxing to do, but after some months, I felt wonderful, as though I had been “born again.” What was intended to be a brief visit ultimately evolved into a six month personal revolution. Returning then to the greater Chicago area, I made a conscious effort to find other vegetarians, which wasn't difficult. Soon enough, I'd met someone who referred me to a place in rural southwest Michigan being set up about that time, the Creative Health Institute, an Anne-Wigmore-type natural healing center where I learned more about being vegan. Besides compassion for animals, health was an important element in my new way of life; over time, environmental concern also developed.
During the next ten years, I found myself going to the Creative Health Institute during the summers for further learning, and spending the winters in metropolitan Los Angeles. Not being a member of any particular church during that period, I visited a long list of various denominations, one of which was the Religious Society of Friends. I learned about meditation and services that had no minister or other leader. I tried most of the Asian belief systems, eventually returning to Friends’ worship, which had the advantages both of meditation and the option of giving ministry when one is led to do so. I made a commitment to Friends at the Los Angeles Meeting.
Since that time I have worshipped at various Friends’ Meetings. Attitudes in the different Meetings toward my veganism varied considerably, from friendly acceptance to considerable hostility. It is hard to understand how some members of a supposedly open-minded, liberal denomination could be so closed on this issue. At present I live in Yuma, Arizona, where there is unfortunately no Friends Meeting. I tried to start one when I arrived via an advertisement in the newspaper, without success. But I have not given up; I intend to post notices in vegetarian-friendly restaurants and health food stores. Considering the large population of Yuma, especially in the winter months, there must be at least six folks interested in starting a Worship Group. Theodore.jpg
I wish I could say that my family members and earlier friends were even partially accepting of my lifestyle. But they have all been hostile to it, and, sadly, we have parted ways. Thus my friendships with those who share my concerns mean a lot to me.
The Ultimate Vegetable Lentil Loaf
1 cup dry lentils (use green/brown)
2 1/2 cups water or vegetable broth
3 tablespoons flax seed meal (ground flax seeds)
1/3 cup water (6 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons olive oil for sauteing, or steam saute using 1/4 cup water
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, finely diced
1 small red bell pepper, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced or grated
1 celery stalk, finely diced
3/4 cup oats (I used GF oats)
1/2 cup oat flour or finely ground oats (any flour of choice will work here too)
1 heaping teaspoon dried thymeLentilLoaf.jpg
1/2 heaping teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon each of garlic powder & onion powder
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper, optional
cracked pepper & sea salt to taste
3 tablespoons organic ketchup
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rinse lentils. In large pot add 2 1/2 cups water with lentils. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. It's ok if they get mushy, we are going to roughly puree 3/4 of the mixture when cooled. Once done, remove lid and set aside to cool (do not drain), they will thicken a bit upon standing, about 15 minutes is good.
In small bowl combine flaxseed meal and 1/3 cup water; set aside for at least 10 minutes, preferably in the refrigerator. This will act as a binder and will thicken nicely.
Prepare vegetables. In sauté pan heat oil or water over medium heat. Sauté garlic, onion, bell pepper, carrots and celery for about 5 minutes. Add spices mixing well to incorporate. Set aside to cool.
Using an immersion blender or food processor, blend 3/4 of the lentil mixture. For me this was an important part, I tried it other ways and this worked to help as a binder. If using an immersion blender, tilt your pot slightly to the side for easier blending. Alternately, you can mash the lentils with a potato masher or fork.
Combine sautéed vegetables with the lentils, oats, oat flour and flax “egg;” mix well. Taste, adding salt and pepper as needed, or any other herb or spice you might like. Place mixture into a loaf pan lined with parchment paper, leaving it overlapping for easy removal later. Press down firmly, filling in along the edges too.
Prepare your glaze by combining the ingredients in a small bowl; mix until incorporated. I recommend making each tablespoon heaping so you have plenty of this great sauce on top. Spread over top of loaf and bake in oven for about 45 - 50 minutes. Let cool a bit before slicing.
--Julie, “The Simple Veganista”
Book Note: Cold Noses at the Pearly Gates
Gary Kurz, Cold Noses at the Pearly Gates: A Book of Hope for Those Who Have Lost a Pet. New York: Kensington Publishing, 1997, 2008. $12.95 softcover. 272 pages.
The author of this charmingly-titled book, Gary Kurz, a retired Coast Guard officer, is definitely a biblical literalist who believes the Bible was written word-for-word by God and is our only source of reliable truth. He affirms a seven-day creation and clearly abominates Darwinian evolution, even "theistic" evolution.
He is also a genuine lover of animals who obviously feels the pain of others who, like himself, have suffered the loss of a beloved animal companion. In this and other books, Kurz strives to bring comfort, based strictly on biblical teaching as he understands it, to those enduring that pain, and to support all who, on the same grounds, work for the good of our animal fellow-creatures. Kurz affirms that animals were meant to be our companions, not slaves, in Eden, and contrary to some biblicists, he holds that animals then and now have eternal souls and eternal life in the same heaven as we. We and they will ultimately be reunited in a return to the Edenic paradise. (In this conviction he resembles Methodist co-founder and vegetarian John Wesley; see Wesley’s sermon “The General Deliverance.”)
I doubt if many readers of The Peaceable Table share completely the theological outlook of this author. However, some of us do have more biblically literalist friends and relatives who might respond to a book like this, and for whom it could serve as an awakening to animal concerns. It would make a fine suggestion, or gift, to such a person, especially after a painful animal-friend loss.
Incidentally, Kurz declines to take a public position on vegetarianism in this book, claiming that whichever way he went would generate "pallets" full of angry mail, and distract from the basic healing mission he has here set before himself.
Book Review: Unlikely Heroes
Unlikely Heroes: 37 Inspiring Stories of Courage and Heart from the Animal Kingdom. By Jennifer S. Holland. Workman Publishing, New York. Soft cover. $13.95. 246 pages.
Jennifer Holland, known as the author of several well-received books (primarily) for children about loving and helpful animals, has done it again in this text about animals who have sparked rescues or done other admirable deeds on behalf of their fellow beings. One story, dealing with rats, particularly drew me. Initially, however, the accompanying photograph on page 226, showing a huge (six-pound) rat on a man's shoulder, made me a bit uneasy. I am not the unfortunate Winston Smith of 1984 fame, but I never have been a fan of rats--until now. I learned that African pouched rats (Cricetomys gambianus) sniff out landmines in Angola and Mozambique so that their human partners can dig up and disarm those murderous weapons. "By the end of a four-year project . . . the rats had helped clear and return some eight million square meters [around 2000 acres] to the people of Mozambique" (page 232). Not only that, they can sniff the signs of tuberculosis in infected persons before any symptoms appear. So I apologize to the rats for my previous prejudice. I see that these righteous rodents are servants of the Living God.
At the other end of the graphic spectrum, on page 134 there is a charming photograph of a sweet-faced human child sharing a book with Rojo the Llama, who seems very interested in the lesson, or at least is politely pretending to be attentive. Rojo is a trained Therapy Llama who visits ill children and elderly people to help them and comfort them. Rojo is "mellow and tolerant"--which is "a very unusual personality for a llama" (page 136). They are more commonly feisty and irascible [depending partly on how they are raised]. But in such cases they can also render helpful service, protecting sheep from predators and other dangers (see page 96-101). Everybody can contribute in her or his own way.
My favorite story in the book is that of Willie the Quaker Parrot (pages 54-59). The wise little Quaker proved himself a Friend in deed (pun intended, with no apologies). On one occasion, he was helping to take care of two-year-old Hannah, when the babysitter had stepped out of the room. The infant began to choke on a pop tart. Willie cried out, loud and clear: "Mama! Baby! Mama! Baby!" It is clear that Willie knew quite well what he was saying: he intended to summon the mother-figure to save this precious young human being. And he succeeded: the baby-sitter came running and applied the Heimlich maneuver. For more details see PT 53 .
These are my favorite three stories in the book, but there are thirty-four more for you to enjoy, and from which to choose your own favorites. All the stories are uplifting, and illustrated with beautiful color photographs. Highly recommended for adults as well as children.
Poetry: Gilbert Keith Chesterton, 1874 - 1936
The House of Christmas
There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.
For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay on their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.
Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.
A Child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost--how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky's dome.
This world is wild as an old wives' tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible thingsGilbert_Chesterton.jpg
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.
To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.
This poem appeared in the December 2011 issue; we reprint it again because it is so fine, and for convenient reference for those reading the Editor’s Corner essay.
In sad irony, G. K. Chesterton was opposed to the principles of vegetarianism, and engaged in a debate with his “friendly enemy” G. B. Shaw on that subject (and others).--GFE
Painting of stable scene by Scottish artist William Bell Scott, 1811-1890