A Glimpse of the Peaceable Kingdom
Here is a video clip of a cockatoo feeding noodles to her (or his) dog friend. See Caring Parrot
--Contributed by Maria Elena Nava
Note: Some subspecies of the yellow-crested cockatoo are critically endangered in their homelands due to trapping. Some, introduced into other places such as Hong Kong, live free and thrive. Because of horrors like the trapping and kidnapping of wild-caught parrots, in which nests can be destroyed and nestlings die by violence or hunger, as well as parrots’ high psychological maintenance needs, they should not be commercially purchased and kept as “pets.” However, rescuing or ransoming abused or neglected parrots is certainly an admirable thing to do.--Editor
Editor’s Corner Essay: “Mind if I Order the Cheeseburger?”
Author Sherry Colb, in her book of the same title, poses the question of how to respond in a situation in which a friend with whom one is dining asks a vegan a question like this. We can’t be sure just what the questioner has in mind, Colb says, but she suspects that in some cases the query is intended to be merely a polite gesture, and an obliging “Of course not” is expected. We all respect one another’s choices, right?
It’s difficult for a vegan of conscience to respond to this question in any way that would keep the situation comfortable and pleasant for both/all parties. Saying “Go ahead, I don’t mind” would make her or him unhappy because she is being dishonest, betraying the animals; “Yes, I do mind” would sound not only intolerant and self-righteous but controlling, and would be likely to cast a shadow over the meal. What to do?
The author makes the point that this is not a situation in which the diners are at odds because of diametrically opposed ethical values. Most persons are not sadists; most agree that it is wrong to hurt animals unnecessarily. Hearing of or seeing a case of graphic cruelty to an animal, meat-eaters will be distressed just as the ethical vegan will. This, of course, is why the institutions that produce foods from animals make efforts to hide the suffering involved, via tactics ranging from euphemisms and happy-animal pictures to ag-gag laws: the powers in charge want to maintain consumers’ widespread emotional numbness in regard to animals required to keep the CAFOs and slaughterhells running and profitable. And benumbed people want to remain numb so that they can keep eating foods they like without thinking about the source, and thus continue to fit comfortably in their meat-eating social circles. The vegan’s presence threatens to bring this part of their heart back to uncomfortable life; they seek reassurance with the “Do you mind . . .” question.
Dealing With the Question
Trying to show that she is neither intolerant, self-righteous, nor controlling, but that it’s about the animals’ suffering, the vegan could answer the question frankly: “I do mind because if I see someone eating hamburger, I will be thinking of the terror and agony of the cows in the slaughterhouse, the fact that some of them aren’t killed by the blade or the gun, and are still alive and struggling when they are hung up on a hook and their skin is jerked off.” “The cheese will make me think of the cows screaming and bellowing in anguish when their newborn baby calves are taken away from them. And I’ll be thinking of that calf, immobilized in a kind of crate in a dark shed for weeks, desperate to suckle from his mother, getting so weak that when he’s pulled out to be driven to the slaughterhell, he may even be unable to get to his feet. I can’t enjoy my food while these images are going through my mind.”
Hearing about these horrifying scenes--just what the other has been unconsciously trying to avoid thinking about--will no doubt clarify the vegan’s motivation, awaken the numb areas of the questioner’s heart (at least for the moment), and motivate him to order a vegan dish instead. But no one welcomes graphic, painful mental images when sitting down to eat, especially when they implicitly point an accusing finger at oneself for doing and enjoying what she and everyone else in her circle has always done and enjoyed. Empathy with the suffering animals may quickly turn to defensiveness--perhaps a cold silence, perhaps an immediate change of subject, occasionally hostile words; the long-term result may be to make the other less likely to give the vegan, or any vegan, a sympathetic hearing.
Carol J. Adams, covering some of the same territory in Living Among Meat Eaters, suggests that we activists see the signs of resistance in meat eaters as stemming from the same basic empathy with animals that we feel. The difference, says Adams, is that they didn’t follow up on it by going vegan, because of ______. (Fill in the blank: they feel it’s too hard, they don’t have time, they are stressed and can’t take on any more issues, they would miss meat or cheese too much, they want to stay in comfortable step with colleagues or family, it costs too much, etc.) in other words, the person who resists the message is a blocked vegetarian / vegan). She or he may show signs of alienation from or hostility toward the vegan who brings the message, but the real conflict is inside herself. Going vegan may seem hard to her, but hosting deep inner conflict is hard too, because it takes up a lot of psychological energy. But the problem lies within herself--between whatever is blocking her consciousness from her heart; she needs to gather the courage to follow her heart.
Regarding a meat-eater as a blocked vegetarian is to be vividly conscious of this commonality between the vegan of conscience and the other. They are not from different planets, but stem from the same ground, the same Source. Giving expression to this shared empathy in some way can sometimes make it possible to answer the “Do you mind . . .” question honestly without seeming self-righteous or opening a difficult scene that will spoil the pleasure of the meal. One option might be to convey the message briefly that we mind because of all the pain it causes the animals, that we know the other is a caring person who would probably feel the same way if she looked into it. If she is responsive, it also helps if there are tasty vegan choices on the menu that we can recommend.
Of course there will be people who will not be responsive, who cannot reach whatever is blocking them; there may be no way for the vegan to deal with the “Do you mind . . .” question both honestly and in a way comfortable for both (or all) parties present. But if we recognize--or have faith--that the empathy we have acted on is there, buried, in the other who has not yet acted on it, we ourselves benefit. We will know that the situation isn’t our problem but hers or his, and can step out of the line of fire of cold silences or hostile words. We will have the increased inner peace that frees up our compassion for all our sisters and brothers, as well as our suffering animal cousins.
“Teach us to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature as we journey towards your infinite light.”--Francis, Bishop of Rome
--Contributed by Bruce Friedrich, Lorena Mucke
“Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them; and those who are ill-treated, since you also are in the body.”--Heb. 13:3 RSV
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
“As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields.”--Leo Tolstoy
--Contributed by Judy Carman
Ag-Gag Law Adjudged Unconstitutional!Winmill.jpg
The ag-gag bill passed by the Idaho state legislature in 2014 has been struck down by US (Federal) District Judge B. Lynn Winmill (pictured), as violating First Amendment rights of free speech and the Fourteenth Amendment equal protection clause, The Animal Legal Defense Fund, PETA, the Center for Food Safety, and the American Civil Liberties Union are four of the plaintiffs in this case. This is much more important than the defeat of an ag-gag bill by a legislature or a governor’s veto, because it may lead to the striking down of all ag-gag laws. See Free Speech and ALDF
--Contributed by MFA and Lorena Mucke
Letter Column: Lisa Adam
. . . . The new [August] issue of The Peaceable Table (just now in my Inbox) reminded me that I wanted to write you. I am not of the Quaker faith, but I enjoy so much the information and perspectives in this publication. I like to cook vegetarian meals, I enjoy reading and writing poetry, and I support our local and national animal welfare organizations--so you have something in every issue that appeals to my interests.
I appreciate that the perspectives offered in many articles in The Peaceable Table are grounded in history, philosophy, literature, and faith. It's particularly inspiring to read the biographies of many others throughout the decades and centuries who have held similar beliefs regarding our animal brethren. I think this perspective is particularly valuable because I know some people consider vegetarianism merely something current and trendy, a "lifestyle" option, or see animal welfare issues as merely a "feel good" activity separate from, or even secondary to, many other important social issues.
Thank you so much for this inspiring publication, and blessings . . . .
In “The Golden Key” Will Tuttle writes “the deepest yearning of both animals and of humans is to be able to live our lives with the freedom to express our true nature.” While I can appreciate that humans deeply yearn to live our lives in that manner, I question how we can know that animals share this human trait.
. . . . Tuttle specifies how we (vegans) criticize, shame and blame non-vegans. This is true. Once upon a time I had a friend who became increasingly critical. When I told him criticism begets criticism, he became very angry and said he didn’t want to be my friend anymore. . . .
We should be open minded about truths in interaction with others.
. . . . overall I agree with Will Tuttle, that we are here to plant seeds . . . and reap what we sow.
Pioneer: William Metcalfe, 1788-1862metcalfe.jpg
Was Jesus a vegetarian? Must Christians also be vegetarians? The Rev. William Metcalfe and his Bible Christian Church (see book review in PT 72 ) thought so. ] Let us look into who this man was, why he thought so, and what his arguments may mean for us today.
The story really begins in England with the Rev. William Cowherd, 1765 - 1862. (Odd confluence of bovine names in this tale! See a similar pattern in Pioneers of Compassion, PT 105 ). Cowherd started out as an Anglican clergyman, becoming curate to a priest who, without leaving the Established Church, was already a convinced Swedenborgian (see below). Cowherd himself was soon convinced, and went a step further by leaving his former church orders to become minister of a Swedenborgian "New Church" on the outskirts of Manchester. In 1800 he left the Swedenborgians to found the new Bible Christian Church, which promoted total abstinence from meat (though ovo-lacto) and alcohol, as well as pacifism and the abolition of human slavery.
His teaching converted the twenty-one- year-old Metcalfe, originally an accountant. The following year Metcalfe married Susanna Wright, the daughter of another New Church minister, the Rev. J. Wright, and became his curate or assistant, while also working with Cowherd in an "Academy of Science" designed to instruct in New Church values. Susanna shared William's life, work, and values for forty-four eventful years. They had a son, Joseph, whom they raised vegetarian. The Metcalfes had to deal with many gloomy admonitions and predictions that their child would die of malnutrition, but--surprise, surprise--he thrived. A vegetarian all his life, he joined his parents in their work, became the Rev. Joseph Metcalfe, wrote his father’s biography, and lived long.
The English church and educational work was only temporary, however, as William and Susanna Metcalfe prepared for the major event of their lives, leading a group of 41 members of the Bible Christian Church in 1817 from England to Philadelphia in the new American republic to establish a church there. Unfortunately, jobs in the Quaker City were not plentiful at the time. Many of the immigrants had to disperse to other parts of the vast nation, where some gave up the Bible Church and its disciplines. A loyal core remained with the Metcalfes, however, and the church persisted into the twentieth century. Metcalfe himself, holding with the apostle Paul that ministers ought to support themselves rather than depend on the church for a salary, opened a school and also published two small newspapers, which needless to say provided outlets for his provocative opinions. Although he met with much resistance and little success, he persisted in his teaching. Despite this frustration, he was said to be congenial, pleasant, and well-liked as an individual. (The picture of him doesn’t reflect this affability; the photography of the time, which required the subject to hold still for a long period, is no doubt responsible for his stiff, formidable look.)
Metcalfe inspired two other better-known American vegetarians, Sylvester Graham, of graham cracker fame and sometimes labeled the father of American vegetarianism, and Dr. William Alcott (uncle of Louisa May Alcott), who was also influenced by the colorful British physician George Cheyne (see PT 38 ), a prolific medical writer on behalf of "diet reform." Both Graham and Alcott became veg around 1830. In 1850 Metcalfe, Graham, and Alcott, together with others, convened an American Vegetarian Convention, which in turn established the longstanding and influential American Vegetarian Society.
Let us now turn from Metcalfe's busy life to his teachings on Jesus and scripture, particularly as found in his booklet, Bible Testimony, On Abstinence from the Flesh of Animals as Food.1 The author early cites noble lines from the Latin poet Ovid, as translated by John Dryden:
Men of the Golden Age, who fed on fruit,
Nor durst with bloody meals their mouths pollute;
Then birds, in airy space might safely move,
And tim'rous hares on heaths securely rove;
Nor need fish the guileful hook to fear --
For all was peaceful and that peace sincere.
(See PT 43 for more of this section of the poem.)
The Bible Church minister's concern, though, is not with some classical Golden Age, but with the commencement of biblical creation. The foundation of his argument is in Genesis: "Behold I have given to you, even every herb bearing seed which is upon the face of the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for food." (Gen. 1:29.) Metcalfe insists that this declaration from the sixth day of creation is still valid and fundamental for all humans. The concession to Noah of Gen. 9:3, often cited by meat-eaters: "Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you," carries little weight for him. First, it is patently ridiculous, since virtually no one eats everything that moves -- some nations beef, others pork. And "every moving thing" would include the cannibal's feast, prohibited elsewhere by "Thou shalt not kill," which Metcalfe takes as absolute (requiring pacifism) and including animals. For the next objection is that this line, taken literally, is countermanded by the next, Gen. 9:4: "But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof shall ye not eat," for when does one not eat flesh without taking life and spilling blood? He goes on to suggest that the "every moving thing" of 9:3 would better be translated as "every creeper," that is, every vine bearing grapes or berries.
We cannot here present more of Metcalfe's often interesting and ingenious treatment of subsequent passages in the Old and New Testaments. Suffice it to say, he held that although sometimes tolerated by God in the earlier days of his people, the Lord never commands the eating of flesh, and the temple sacrifices are denounced in turn by the prophets. The flocks and herds so prominent in biblical narrative are intended only for the harvesting of their fruits, wool and milk, like the picking of fruit from a tree without cutting it down, never for meat. While this will not satisfy vegans, Metcalfe's convictions are definitely far ahead of those of most Christians of his times, as well as ours. His interpretations of passages allowing meat-eating may be historically questionable, but he captured the spirit of the matter, which is kinship and love among God’s creatures. Over all hangs the great vision of Isaiah 11:9, with which he ends: "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."
William Metcalfe did not convert the world or even many in the wider Christian church. He was ridiculed and abused; some predicted he would waste away and die, others that he should be locked up as insane. But he had influence both through a few individuals and the important American Vegetarian Society of which he was a major founder. He and Susanna deserve to be remembered as brave pioneers, an important link in the chain of those who carried the light through times when others were blinded.swedenborg.jpg
Footnote: Swedenborgianism and Vegetarianism
Since the remarkable Swedish scientist, theologian, and visionary Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772, pictured) was so much of a background influence on William Cowherd, William Metcalfe, and the Bible Christian Church, and is not as well known today as he ought to be, a few words on him might be in order. The son of a Swedish Lutheran bishop, Swedenborg started life as a mining engineer and scientist in several fields. After certain powerful spiritual experiences, his attention turned toward detailed accounts of angelic beings, heaven and hell, and the inner meaning of the Bible. Still more the scientific observer than the rapturous mystic, Swedenborg's descriptions of the afterlife and its various planes, for example, are careful and precise, while at the same time liberal for his age, seeing the otherworldly scenarios as flexible and educative rather than punitive. All his ideas and insights were written up in numerous Latin tomes; interestingly, the learned William Cowherd has been said to be only person actually to have read all of the Swede's voluminous work in the original Latin. Swedenborg had a marked impact on early nineteenth-century America through such persons as John Chapman ("Johnny Appleseed," himself a Swedenborgian and vegetarian; the Transcendentalists; and William James, whose father was a dedicated student of Swedenborg.
Swedenborg himself lived a simple, almost ascetic, life, virtually vegetarian (though ovo-lacto). He did not, however, himself make diet a major thrust of his teaching. Cowherd and others with him, however, must have been familiar with his elaborate system of "correspondences," or symbolic meanings, in the Bible. Did Jesus actually cook and eat fish (John 21:9)? According to the Swedish sage, water represents truth; large fish stand for important general truths, and small fish for specific natural truths of the scientific sort, and also for natural human sensuality. Fire, on the other hand, is the transformative power of love. Thus Jesus' laying fish on the fire had nothing to do with eating fish necessarily, but with the transformation of the natural man by divine love.
-- Robert Ellwood
1William Metcalfe, Bible Testimony, on Abstinence from the Flesh of Animals as Food. Philadelphia: J. Metcalfe, 1840; reprinted, London: Forgotten Books, 2015. This reprint is available online and recommended to interested readers.
--Fruit still life by Jan Van Huysum
Lemon Meringue Pie DSC09494
1 nine-inch non-dairy and egg-free pie crust
1 carton (12.3 oz.) Mori-Nu™ extra-firm silken tofu, or similar brand
1 and ¼ cup organic sugar
1 cup water
¾ cup fresh lemon juice
5 T cornstarch or unmodified potato starch
1 T fresh grated lemon zest
¼ tsp fine sea salt
½ cup plus 2 T organic sugar
Liquid from 1 can (15 oz.) cooked white beans (Great Northern, cannellini or white navy) or garbanzo beans (chickpeas), preferably salt-free* (Let the liquid drain off very slowly, getting the last drops.)
½ tsp guar gum, xanthan gum or sodium alginate
(food gum stabilizes the meringue and discourages deflation when baked)
1 tsp real vanilla extract
*In my opinion, Great Northern beans possess the mildest flavor which is ideal for this recipe.
In a DRY blender process the meringue sugar (½ cup plus 2 tablespoons) until finely powdered. Set this powdered sugar aside in a small bowl. This will be used for preparing the meringue and is not added to the pie filling mixture.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake the pie crust for 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Remove and set aside to cool.
In the same blender, process the pie filling ingredients until smooth. Pour the blender contents into a large saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently with a flexible spatula. The mixture will be foamy and milky in appearance. Stir constantly as the mixture begins to thicken. Keep stirring until it begins to bubble and the milky and foamy appearance transforms into a thick and gelatinous lemon curd.
Pour the filling into the pie crust, smooth the top gently with a rubber or silicone spatula or the back of a spoon, and place in the refrigerator uncovered for a minimum of 2 hours until the top of the pie is firmly set.
After the pie has chilled for a minimum of 2 hours, preheat the oven to 200°F while preparing the meringue.meringues-stiff-peaks1.jpg
Preparing the Meringue
Strain the liquid from the can of beans into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle in the food gum and begin whipping on high speed for 3 minutes.
Gradually begin to incorporate the powdered sugar, in increments, while whipping. Continue to whip the mixture until soft peaks begin to form. Add the vanilla and continue to whip the mixture until it is voluminous and stiff peaks begin to form.
Spoon and spread the meringue onto the surface of the pie, avoiding the edges by ½-inch. Create soft peaks in the meringue using the back of a spoon. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. To lightly brown the meringue, set the oven on “Broil” and position the pie on an oven rack close to the flame source. Keep the oven door open while doing this and watch the meringue carefully – it will brown quickly and can burn easily. Rotate the pie as needed until the peaks are evenly browned.
Remove to cool for about 5 minutes and then place the pie in the refrigerator to chill thoroughly for several hours until completely set before serving. Keep the pie refrigerated but do not cover or the meringue will turn into a gooey liquid.
--From The Gentle Chef , with thanks
Our Recipe Editor, Angie Cordeiro, made this pie for Robert and me for our 50th wedding anniversary August 28. Scrumptious! The meringue is tastier than the kind made with egg whites.--Editor
Film Review: Jurassic World
Jurassic World. A 2015 film based on characters and concepts by Michael Crichton and Steven Spielberg, directed by Colin Trevorrow. Screenplay by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow. Starring Chris Pratt, Vincent D'Onofrio, Bryce Dallas Howard, Nick Robinson, and Ty Simpkins.
For Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), chief of operations at Jurassic World, the dinosaurs are "assets"-- investments that are expected to yield profits. For Vic Hoskins (Vincent D'Onofrio), the more dangerous dinosaurs are potential weapons. He wants to send them, with their jaws that bite and claws that catch, against the enemies of the nation. This seems a very bad idea to Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), animal trainer. For him, the dinos are animals, living beings like you and me, who should be treated with respect. Out of necessity, he puts on a very impressive demonstration of his philosophy and methods. It has to be seen to be believed.
Another amazing show is the 'Sea World' portion, in which a dead great white shark is eaten in one bite by a Mossosaurus, much like a seagull eating a sardine. (How can they afford to feed this Leviathan??) In their never-ending chase after profits, the geneticists of the park have cobbled together a chimera from the DNA of various creatures, including the Tyrannosaurus Rex, but with larger arms, higher intelligence, and more ferocity. In short, Godzilla made flesh. Compared to these scientists, Dr. Moreau and Dr. Frankenstein are prudent and cautious people. The clever creature outsmarts her jailers and escapes; she eats several humans. She also mauls some poor Apatosauri. Owen and Claire give one poor dying animal what comfort they can. I had never thought or dreamed I would weep tears for a dinosaur, but I certainly did.
(The dangerous beast is called an "Indominus" but the proper Latin should be Indomitus,
"untamed, unconquered." I don't think "Indominus" is correct Latin.)
Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins) , Claire's nephews, are brave and intelligent boys--but being boys, they are also a bit injudicious, and almost get themselves eaten by the monster.
Hoskins comes up with a brilliant plan: use the Raptors (Deinonychi) against the chimera. The plan almost works, but their opponent, who shares some of their DNA, can communicate with them and recruit them to her side. (This is not scientifically believable. Common DNA is not enough to establish communication; some socializing is also needed. Chimpanzees share ninety-eight percent of human DNA, but can communicate with us only if they are taught sign language.) At any rate, Hoskins' plan fails. Do I need to tell you what happens to him? I think you have already guessed it.
Gray (Ty Simpkins) comes up with a great idea of his own: "We need more teeth." Claire turns this into a plan: Sic the resident T-rex on the Godzilla chimera. I will not give you a spoiler on the outcome, but when the battle concludes, I had to say: "I did not see that coming."
We learn some important lessons: Treat animals with respect, as Owen says. And do not create monsters in test tubes and petri dishes. I recommend the film, but only for those who are not too tender-hearted, and who, in fact, like to be given a good scare now and then.
Book Review: Death Before the FallDeathBeforeFall.jpg
Ronald E. Osborn. Death Before the Fall: Biblical Literalism and the Problem of Animal Suffering. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014. 195 pages. $25.00 softcover
This concise but thought-provoking book is addressed primarily to readers for whom the traditional Christian worldview is important, and biblical literalism a problem with which one must wrestle. But Osborn's intellectual sympathies are wide-ranging, his thinking trenchant, and his ability to discuss the original meaning of certain key biblical terms impressive. Readers of many spiritual perspectives who are caught up in the age-old issue of why there is suffering in the world, both animal and human, will find his book offering fascinating ideas, whether persuasive in the end or not.
Despite the title, more than half the book is focused not on the problem of animal suffering as such, but is a forceful rebuttal of fundamentalism or biblical literalism by one for whom the Bible is clearly of deep religious importance. The argument centers on the creation narrative at the beginning of Genesis, to be sure, but for many pages is less concerned with animal suffering than with establishing that one can be a biblical Christian and still accept scientific evolution. Osborn claims that the opening lines, "In the beginning God created. . . " could also be read as, "God began to create. . ." as an ongoing, perhaps evolutionary, process, commencing in the sea over which the spirit of God first brooded. He shows that Adam was made of the earth, the name being related to a Hebrew word for earth or soil, and that he was told to subdue (military term) the earth, indicating that it was not already perfect even if "good" or potentially good.
Moreover, it is claimed that God's saying to Adam that "I have given you every green herb" to man and other animals does not necessarily apply to predatory animals. The "great sea monsters," for example, could hardly have found enough green herbs in the depths of the ocean to sustain their vigorous life. Right or wrong, Osborn is clearly setting up a backstory of Darwinian evolution from sea to land, air-breathing fish to dinosaur and dinosaur to bird, and humankind first appearing out of the same process.
What are we to do then about the voraciousness with which those creatures of wave and woods consumed other creatures, as well as green herbs? Osborn intriguingly lines up the options. It is assumed at this point, for the sake of argument, that animal as well as human suffering is the result of human sin, of Adam and Eve's fall in the Garden of Eden. For "young earth" creationists, of course, this is no problem, since the great sea monsters and other predators arose only a few days before Adam; however, the young-earthers may have many other problems. Others accept millennial evolution but say that emergent life was cursed retroactively by human sin. There are also those who contend that animal life was peaceful and happy until Adam bit into the forbidden fruit, when as a kind of by-blow God placed sharp incisors in the sea monsters and talons on the raptors, so only from then was nature red in tooth and claw. (This was intended as a kind of "moral pedagogy" for humans, to show us the ultimate consequence of our rejection of God and the loving, care-taking way of life he enjoined upon us.)
As bizarre as theories like these may seem, at least to outsiders to the literalist world of discourse -- and there are Christian churches and colleges where hypotheses like these can be argued intensely -- we are still left with the problem of why animals, both in nature and at human hands, must suffer through no fault of their own, and perhaps without even beginning to comprehend why. Here again Osborn, widely familiar with the relevant literature, surveys various ideas. C.S. Lewis, for example, in The Problem of Pain, made quite a distinction between sentience and consciousness. Animals, being sentient, can feel pain and instinctively react against it, but lack the capacity of human consciousness also to stand outside it, try to understand it, remember, compare, and anticipate pain past, present, and future, which makes it so much more of an issue for us. For Osborn Lewis' discussion is interesting, but in the end he finds the sentience/consciousness distinction inadequate as a final answer to animal suffering. (To be sure, as the later writer is well aware, Lewis went on to put this contention into the context of his larger drama of war in heaven between cosmic principles, and persons, of good and evil.)
Where does Osborn end up? He is gripped by the Book of Job, the "other" biblical book about the creation, and in some ways one more profound, as well as more poetic and philosophical, than the first chapters of Genesis; here, although there is a cosmic drama set piece, creation is splendid past our ability to comprehend, Job himself acknowledging that he talked about things far beyond his understanding. (42:3) Osborn also refers to Karl Barth's statement that the Bible is not God's revelation, but a witness to God's one real revelation, Jesus Christ. The point is that the meaning of creation, including animal suffering, is not subject to some doctrinal formula, but is itself an ongoing revelation begun in Genesis, continued in Job, perhaps fulfilled in Christ--but our understanding of the incarnate Logos or "Word" of God too is ongoing, not to be finalized until the End of Days.
For Osborn the best answer we can have is in the concept of kenosis, or the self-emptying of God into Christ and the creation (Phil. 2:7), together with the ancient patristic notion of theosis, or its returning to, and indeed becoming, God at the end. God's life was poured into the universe at the first word of creation, and its subsequent course was not entirely determined, but as Job testifies it was spectacular at the onset, still is, and will be even more so at the end. But because of the one becoming the many, and freedom being of the essence of their magnificent journeys, pain there may often be along the way, until all tears are wiped away at the safe landing of the climax (Rev. 21:4). This view has much in common with that of Teilhard de Chardin (see review in PT 106 ) and the Process theology of A. N. Whitehead and his disciples like John Cobb and David Griffin, (although these Christian philosophers are not discussed in Death Before the Fall) as far as I can understand them.
I hope, however, that this will be enough to show how interesting this book may be for people of cognate spiritual / theological interests. It may even induce those of other philosophical or religious perspectives to work out their own answers, open-ended as they may be, to the problem of animal suffering. The world is vast in its dimensions, and no worldview could possibly be even remotely complete that does not take this horrible fact of all life into account, and show ways to alleviate it. Considering these truths, how can animal suffering be ignored?--even though it often is. This book is a good starting point.
Poetry: Eamon Grennan, 1941-
I am watching Cleo listening, our cat
listening to Mozart’s Magic Flute. What
can she be hearing? What
can the air carry into her ears like that,
her ears swivelling like radio dishes that
are tuned to all the noise of the world, flat
and sharp, high and low, a scramble of this and that
she can decode like nobody’s business, acrobat
of random airs as she is? Although of course a bat
is better at it, sifting out of [his] acoustic habitat
the sound of the very shape of things automat-
ically--and on the wing, at that. The Magic Flute! What
a joy it is, I feel, and wonder (to the end of this little scat)
does, or can, the cat.