A Glimpse of the Peaceable Kingdom
“Friend, it’s big enough for both of us!” Kamara, the human in this picture, raised this young orphaned rhino, Kilifi, and others from infancy at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya. See Kamara.--Contributed by Karen Borch and Holly Anderson. Photo © by Ami Vitale
Editor’s Corner Essay: Comfort and the Comfortable
Recently at a noon meeting of my book club at the elegant house of one of the members, we sat down around a table beautifully appointed and spread with all sorts of goodies, most of which included dairy and/or meat. (Usually when approaching such situations, I offer to bring something vegan, but I hadn’t expected a meal, since we usually meet in a public library.) There were many compliments to the hostess on the artistically arranged and tasty treats. Toward the end of the session, which covered a book dealing with aging, we all turned to offering support to our hostess, who would soon be traveling out of state to be with her aged mother dying of cancer.
Having lost my own dear mother and older sister to cancer, and supported two other siblings in anxious but successful struggles with the same disease, I couldn’t help feeling for her and her mother, and thinking an animal-product-centered diet was probably an important part of the cause, as it almost surely was in my family. And I also couldn’t help wondering how many of my fellow members around the table were eventually going to be scythed down by the same slow killer, or another of the chronic diseases that follow silently in the tracks of the standard Western diet. One member, sadly obese and suffering from gout, moved laboriously with a cane when we got up from the table. I can only imagine how trapped in pain she felt. Aside from prayer, I felt there was little I could do to help the sufferers, or to avert the disasters that might slowly be unfolding in the bodies of the others. Certainly the word would be unwelcome at that time and place. And the book club meetings are the only times I ever see these folks (except for one, a personal friend who is already vegan).
Such are often the consequences of eating what many would call comfort foods, like apple pie or cheese. People who are mildly anxious, nervous, or bored reach for them; so do people who have deep psychological pain, including the pathological. Self-medication of this sort is more likely to do harm than good. Of course not all comfort foods are blood-laced; my own favorites are peanuts and fruit, which are not only health-building, but the sort of gifts of the earth that we humans originally evolved to eat (see Eighteen Million), as expressed in the biblical image of a vegan Eden.
“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, . . . Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem,” sings the tenor soloist at the beginning of Handel’s familiar oratorio Messiah. The lines, taken from the King James translation of the book of Isaiah, seem intended to say the same thing in two slightly different ways (a pattern in ancient Hebrew poetry), but to our ears “to comfort” and “comfortable,” don’t at all fit together. (The latter word has, of course, changed its meaning since 1611.) It is clear from the context that God’s people have suffered--they have in fact been conquered by an aggressive and cruel empire, and many have been torn away from home into exile. They are to be told the good news that their captivity is ending--that God will make a way through the wilderness by which they can return home. These are words of comfort indeed, the promise echoing Israel’s founding story of liberation from slavery in Egypt.koalas.jpeg
But “comfortably” applies not to a situation of distress needing help, but a situation of enjoyment, satisfaction, safety, and ease; it may suggest complacency. The two terms may feel like near-opposites; yet, in spite of the contrast in meaning, they remain linked. By comforting those in intense distress, our intent is that they should become comfortable.
Human with rescued infant koalas
At the same time, when people give their primary attention to achieving comfort (in the sense of creature-comforts), they may be tempted to become complacent and shut out any thought of the afflicted. An example may occur with the Danish concept of hygge (pronounced HOO-ga), which has recently become popular in some circles here. It developed out of Danes’ experience of long, cold, dark winters, in which light deprivation can foster depression. They love to burn candles and sit warmly and comfortably dressed in front of a fire in the company of a few close friends or a good book, a hot drink and some sweets at their elbow. A freezing storm outside only adds to the sense of cosiness and safety. Meik Wiking in The Little Book of Hygge includes meat-centered dishes as important elements of hygge, but obviously it did not occur to him that to gain one’s pleasure from another’s pain is, to say the least, a very uncomfortable idea. Wiking admits that a tendency to exclude new persons from one’s circle of intimates is a dark side of hygge.
Afflicting the Comfortable?
Ideas of exclusion, in the name of comfort, of anything that might be challenging are certainly not limited to hygge-loving Danes. Such a closed-hearted situation makes more understandable the saying “Our job is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Some animal advocates see their main job as afflicting the comfortable--needling meat-eaters to stop--in order to comfort, or rather rescue, afflicted animals of the future. It’s a tempting approach, because the need to dismantle the whole system of horrors is so urgent. And when one has been freed of the lies, illusions, and violence, many needles--or bayonets--are indeed at hand. Many well-masked facts now stand out starkly: that “fishy” odor around supermarket fish counters as the smell of decaying flesh; dairy and eggs laced with the (metaphorical) blood of baby creatures; the horrifying idea of eating massacred dead bodies, especially when polluted with traces of feces, threatening infections.
Unfortunately, this needle/bayonet approach doesn’t work all that well, as many of us know. As I have mentioned before, a few omnivores may respond to the “yuck” effect, provided the truth is not brought out at a meal that includes the objectionable items; but many meat-eaters, even in neutral situations, become defensive and are ready to project their feelings of discomfort or guilt onto the vegan--that ascetic, joykilling, self-righteous vegan.
Comforts for Animal Protectors
In fact, there is nothing wrong with creature-comforts per se. It is stressful just to keep current on the horrors of the animal-exploitation situation, not to mention wading into it as a rescuer or undercover worker. As Melanie Joy has pointed out, becoming witnesses to animal abuse, directly or through print or pictures, often results in Secondary Traumatic Stress (see Stress). This is a serious condition, and we need to take care of ourselves; thus we do well to resort to creature comforts when we feel the need. Not being Danish, I can’t give an authoritative recommendation on [vegan] hygge, but coming from a Dutch family I grew up with the parallel concept of gezelligheid (pronounced something like heSELLihite, with a slight throat-clearing sound from the back of the palate on the g’s). My parents worked hard on our farm, but mid-morning there would usually be coffee with sweets, in mid-afternoon coffee with sweets, and at bedtime cocoa with sweets. (We had lots of cavities.) Sometimes a good blaze in the fireplace added to the gezellig scene. We seldom burned candles, and had no cats indoors, alas, but since becoming an adult I have amply made up for both deprivations.
I have adopted the practice of spending some time each day expanding my mind and heart by reading a challenging book on the order of The Eternal Treblinka and Why Animal Suffering Matters. But I take care of myself by limiting the time I spend on it. And at some point I settle down in front of the fire with nuts and dried fruit, a cup of tea, a pleasant book, a scented candle alight, and my cats-in-residence Merlin and Taliesin, the one nearby and the other on my lap. They are my healers and sources of refreshment.
--Gracia Fay Ellwood
Lawsuit Against the USDA
Animal defense groups, including PETA, PCRM, and the Beagle Freedom Project, are joining with other organization in suing the USDA for its abrupt removal of the records of 9,000 research labs, dog breeders, and other groups. This disappearance of records protects violators from scrutiny. See Lawsuit .--Contributed by PCRM
Tom Regan Passes OnTomRegan-dog-cat.jpg
Tom Regan (pictured), pioneering philosopher on behalf of animals, died on February 17 at age seventy-eight after a two-year struggle with Parkinson’s disease. His defense of animals was intellectual, emotional, and spiritual--an equal commitment of head, heart, and spirit. See Merritt Clifton’s obituary in Regan .
--Contributed by UPC and Kate Carpenter
Piglet Chase Cancelled
In apparent response to petitions, the annual Nova Scotia Provincial Exposition has cancelled its “pig scramble” event, which involved children chasing traumatized half-grown piglets about in a pen until they caught them. See Pig Scramble
--Contributed by Marian Hussenbux
United Poultry Concerns Conference
On March 11 supporters of UPC will gather in Berkeley, Calif., for the seventh annual Conscious Eating Conference. The theme of the afternoon presentations will be the impact of religions on the animal protection movement. There is still time to sign up. See UPC Event
Bloopers in the press can enable us to smile and relieve stress. The following (with drawing) are taken from It Must Be True by Denys Parsons:drunkdog.jpg
“Dyke stated in his complaint that the defendant owned a large dog that walked the floor most of the night, held noisy midnight parties, and played the radio so that sleep was impossible.”--Australian paper
“Miss Dorothy Morrison, who was injured by a fall from a horse last week, is in St. Joseph’s Hospital and covered sufficient to see her friends.”
--Morristown [N.D.] News
“One main event in London was Cruft’s Dog Show. For two days dogs and dog-owners from all over the country crowded the huge halls and galleries, barking at one another in fierce competition.”--Aberdeen Press and Journal
“Dog Bets to Get Money for Marriage.”
--Headline in Surrey Paper
“Colonel Hamilton said there had been no appreciable increase in the number of lions within the last three years, and he attributed this to the higher morality among young lions.”
--South African paper
“Capital Pet Animal Hospital--Dogs called for, fleas removed and returned to you for $10.00.”--Ad in Washington paper
Jonathan Balcombe. What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins. New York: Scientific American/ Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016. 288 pages. $27.00 hardcover.FishKnows.jpg
My father never hunted, but he enjoyed dropping a line with baited hook into a drowsy Midwestern lake of a summery day. Once in while the calm would be broken as the bobber sank, the water frothed, and the pole shook with struggles at the far end of the line. In time it would be over. A bluegill or catfish would be pulled out, in agony and desperately trying to breathe in the strange deadly aerial environment in which the creature now found herself.
As a child I often went fishing with him. In answer to my questions, he assured me in effect that a fish is not much more than an automaton, that “it” really feels little pain, and its battle for life is only an instinctive reaction.
Nonetheless, as I grew up I ceased fishing, though I have maintained an interest in aquatic life, especially in watching documentaries on deep-sea life. Indeed, that realm, only a few miles from some of us, is virtually as alien to us air-breathers, and in many ways as unknown, as a distant planet. Every human visit so far -- and there have been only a few -- to the forbidding sunless abyssal plain two to three miles down which covers more than half the planet has discovered new species of life there, many strange beyond imagining.
Not only life, but knowledge -- not knowledge of everything, but (such as we have also) of what one needs to know to survive, mate, and even enjoy life as that species. The extraordinary new book by Jonathan Balcombe, What a Fish Knows, summarizing recent research on their ancient branch on the tree of life, leaves no doubt of that. There is widespread certainty now that the common assumptions of my father's generation about fishes* fell far short of the reality.
Fishes do feel pain as acutely as any other animal; they devise complicated strategies for feeding and defense; they can recognize one another as friends; and they can carry long memories of such traumas as being hooked, if they break free or are released. The manta ray can apparently even recognize himself in a mirror, generally considered a sign of high intelligence, and the male of a puffer fish off the Australian coast builds elaborate geometric nests in the sand for his Intended as a part of courtship. Some fishes speed through the water or leap out of it in obvious acts of exuberance or play. There are remarkable examples of interspecies cooperation among fishes, from the partnership of the grouper and moray eel in hunting, to the work of the cleaner wrasse, whom client fishes allow in their mouths to do his appointed task. But of all this little is known on land.Fish.jpeg
The reasons for this lack of human awareness are not far to seek. Most of us see very little of the daily life of fishes, unless in the very artificial environment of an aquarium, even compared to that of land animals we also exploit. Furthermore, fishes are not built to display facial expression like some land animals, or humans, and so may seem unfeeling. Nonetheless fishes have full emotional lives, and have shown favoritism to humans who have helped them in dangerous situations. Balcombe cites the primatologist Frans de Waal as wondering "if there really is anything a fish cannot do." (p. 167) Fishes can even make tools, not in the beak-held or hand-held sense considered advanced in birds or mammals, but in a way appropriate to their own environment, by skillfully making just the right waves or ripples in the water to accomplish a task.
They can also show curiosity. Balcombe tells of a honeymooning [human] couple who believed they were alone underwater near an isolated beach in Jamaica and began some amorous behavior, only to realize they were being surrounded by a complete circle of fishes of several species, whose inquiring minds were presumably puzzled by what this strange other species was up to. Or maybe they suspected?
Sadly, as Balcombe also lets us know, this fabulous world may be destroyed almost as soon as we truly get to know it. Between 1970 and 2012, global fish populations decreased by about 50 percent, and many species are faced with extinction in the near future. All this is due to human fishing combined with serious pollution of the oceans, yet because it is mostly out of sight, many of us will be unaware until fishes stop appearing in the supermarkets, and the greater cycle of life is seriously disrupted.
Ocean Floor Moonscape
Yet there is also hope. Balcombe ends with this: "Is there any good news for fishes? Yes. Over the past quarter century, we have begun to take an unprecedented interest in animals as subjects of moral and ecological concern, and fishes are finally being swept into the current." (p. 229) This book is a major landmark in that change. What a Fish Knows is a must-read for all committed to animal betterment as it expands their circle to another two-thirds of the earth. To its credit, this book devotes more attention to making fishes interesting and sympathetic than to the gory details of their exploitation, though it does not overlook the latter. It should thus appeal to a wide range of readers. Highly recommended.
*Though "fish" is one of those English words which can serve as both singular and plural, Balcombe employs "fishes" as the plural in all cases (albeit that word is commonly used only when referring to two or more kinds or species), saying the usage is "in recognition of the fact that these animals are individuals with personalities and relationships."
By Jim Weiland
It's interesting how many of us place others in categories that seem to fit our prejudices. Certainly someone who supports animal compassion is young, skinny, liberal in his/her politics, hates sports, and is New-Age-like when it comes to religion. Well, I am lean but that's due to my change of diet over seven years ago. Until then I was pretty pudgy. It was at that time I stopped “cold tofurky” eating all animal products (aka became vegan).
Jim and Jan Weiland with furry friends Carob, Sootie, and Ethan
This came about when I watched an almost three hour video from Hallelujah Acres' George Malkmus. After this my wife Jan and I became health ministers with this organization and several years later I became a certified Naturopath, Master Herbalist, and Health Counselor. I'm fast approaching my sixty-seventh birthday and feeling very healthy, taking no drugs, and my vitals look great. My almost-sixty-five-year-old wife does even better.
Just a few years ago I began checking out animal compassion. I grew up having dogs and horses but never considered myself as an "animal lover." To be honest, I always thought people that didn't eat meat and went ga-ga over animals to be weird. Little did I know that I was becoming one of them. It's a natural fit that when you quit eating animals, you start liking them more. In fact, it seems strange to me that if a person eats animals (aka dead flesh), that he or she can really like them. I consider myself to be conservative in my politics, enjoy sports, fundamental in my faith, and still looking forward to the future while not hung up with the past. I can't think of one good reason why people should become vegan. . .I can think of five: 1) animal compassion; 2) health; 3) environment; 4) world hunger; and 5) the Bible--time began with humanity being vegan and will become so again upon Christ's return). To me, animal compassion is neither a liberal or a conservative view, as cruelty to any of God's creatures, whether it be human or beast, should not be tolerated nor should we support it. My taste buds have changed so much that I salivate whenever I think of various vegan meals and am repulsed at the idea of eating flesh.
Last Friday night my wife and I had a Nazarene pastor and her husband for dinner. We are also Nazarenes and admire John Wesley greatly. Most people, including Nazarenes, do not realize Wesley's views on health and animal compassion--see Pioneer, PT 131 . (After reading his book Primitive Physick written over 200 years ago, I was convinced that he had to be a Naturopath, as his view toward medical science closely matched my own.) Understand that the pastor was fifty-eight years old, a diabetic, trying to recover from a massive stroke less than two months ago, and is obese. It seemed to me that she would have embraced the ideas presented to her by us if for no other reason than to improve her health. But to our chagrin she flatly rejected them. Her faith is in medical doctors with all the drugs and surgeries they have to offer. I told her that last year we lost a lot of friends about her age due to sickness (all of them professing Christians). I'll be surprised if she lives too many years more; if she does it will be a life with pills, following one disease after another. We believe in the power of prayer but if we continue to test God we will discover that he "is not a respecter of persons." I suppose I need to remember how old I was at the time of my "conversion." (My mother-in-law was in her eighties when she became vegan--that’s another story. )
As we continue to look forward, we are planning to build a vegan health store with a cafe along with an animal sanctuary. If God will permit we hope to include RV's and cabins down the road.
For those who still eat animal products--including dairy which is terrible for your health--please be encouraged to make the change to a vegan diet. Don't make excuses; know there are many individuals and groups out there that will support you in your new venture. You'll feel good about yourself and you will also just feel good.
Recipe: Chickpea and Fingerling Potato Soup
1 15-ounce can chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup onion (diced)
1 red bell pepper (large dice)
8 ounces fingerling potatoes
2 garlic cloves (minced)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger
(peeled and finely chopped)
2 teaspoons harissa
3 cups vegetable broth
2 teaspoons Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base
¾ cup unsweetened coconut milk
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon cilantro (chopped, for garnish)
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and bell pepper and cook, stirring, until browned - about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes, garlic, ginger and harissa and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the broth, bouillon, and chickpeas and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until the potatoes are tender – about 15 minutes.
Add the coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper (if needed). Sprinkle the stew with cilantro and serve while still hot.
Chickpeas, commonly called garbanzo beans, have long been valued for their fiber content and are one of the world’s healthiest foods. If you like chickpeas, this vegan recipe is for you.
It’s a hearty vegan stew that takes advantage of canned chickpeas and quick-cooking fingerling potatoes to make prep quick and easy. The addition of unsweetened coconut milk and the subtle heat of North African harissa spices make it tasty.
I like to serve this with naan or bhatura bread on the side.
--Randy Graham, author of Ojai Valley Vegan Cookbook. Used with permission.
Poetry: Richard LehnertCat&Person.jpg
Essay on Compassion
The cat wound tight against my foot idles himself to sleep
I tell myself he loves me past food and shelter
Past my fingers’ rough massage
I think I know this to be true but say I tell myself
To show how carefully I assume nothing
To prove I am no sentimental fool
When I cut my hand this same cat lapped
The blood that pooled like cooling grease
But when I cried for what I thought was loss
Of what again I thought was love
He touched my cheek with one dry paw
Stared into my eyes until I looked away
The newspaper says a giant sea turtle
Carried a shipwrecked woman most of two days
Before delivering her up to a fishing boat
How to explain the turtle’s choice
That [he] rose beneath the woman twice
Before she let herself ride that cold back
That in two days the turtle did not once dive
How would a biologist dismiss this as
Some odd coincidence of instincts
The woman saved without the turtle caring
I saw and mostly do not trust that the turtle
Saved her life because [he] wanted to
I say too with all the certainty of one
Who never made or saved a life
This must have been compassion
That well fed in calm salt water one turtle
Had no stronger thirst that day than to try on
A cast off human goodness to see if it would float
When this deaf and aged slack ribbed cat
Gets up to walk his bones across the room
Stops and seems to slowly reconsider
Then limps back to where he’d started
I think it’s better for us all that I assume
That when he seems to think he thinks
That when he seems to love he loves
That the turtle knew exactly what [he] did
And what would happen if [he] didn’t
The story can be found in Turtle and Sea Turtle. The event took place near the Philippines in 1974; the woman’s name was Candelaria Villanueva. The photo, taken at a 2014 seaside wedding, shows a “wedding-crasher” in the form of a giant sea turtle coming ashore to lay her eggs. From Huffington Post