By the Waters of Babylon
The Theme of Exile
Exile is a major theme in Western religion. It resonates through Jewish writing; repeated mass captivity or expulsions and experiences of geographic exile over thousands of years have stimulated reflections on all of human life as exile. "By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept . . . . How can we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?" (Ps. 137:1, 4) mourns the psalmist.
Christian mystics and hymnwriters have pondered their individual life's journey as that of an exile or pilgrim: "I am a stranger here, within a foreign land; / My home is far away . . ."
It appears frequently in literature as well. Several of Jane Austen's novels are based on the theme of young women forced out of their homes (or under threat of same) by heartless patriarchal inheritance laws and practices, and thrown on the world with small or nonexistent resources. J.R.R. Tolkien's epic fantasy The Lord of the Rings has a background theme of the age-long exile of the High Elves from their native country. The Lady Galadriel sings ". . . here beyond the Sundering Seas now fall the Elven-tears. . . . What ship would bear me ever back across so wide a Sea?"
In George Eliot's classic tale Silas Marner, the theme has a specifically ecclesiastical dimention that is likely to resonate with some readers of PT. Silas, the protagonist, is thrown out of his church as a result of his closest friend's dishonesty and betrayal, and falls into the black hole of loss of faith. Silas takes up residence among strangers, seeking consolation in a soul-shriveling false god. But a golden-haired orphan girl toddles into his house one winter night, and, to his surprise, he begins to find God's hand at work in his life once more.
Prophets in Exile
Those of us who, finding ourselves called to the role of prophet, have presented the Animal Concern to our Meeting or church or temple and encountered harsh and repeated resistance may, like Silas, feel exiled from our spiritual home. The pain is acute and long-lasting. We may not have been literally excommunicated (and some may continue in their worship communities, though feeling alienated). But many of us shared Silas' experience of anguished astonishment: our fellow Friends or church members, whom we assumed had given their first loyalty to the Good News of Peace/nonviolence and Jesus' compassion for the suffering, seemed more intent on their own security or gratification, careless of the slaughter of the innocent, as well as of threats to their own health and to the earth. Most also seemed unwilling to face the matter honestly. They tend to evade the central question of bloodshed, shutting the whole issue out, or talking defensively about freedom of choice, claiming that that they are being dictated to, or perhaps finding support for their lifestyle in harsh and impersonal evolutionary patterns (that they would never apply to treatment of people)
In all honesty, some of us may have found that we are not be quite so guiltless as Silas Marner. Feeling that we have been maligned and the Good News betrayed, we may have responded uncharitably, even bitterly--if not aloud, among ourselves or in our own minds. The self-righteousness we were unfairly accused of may, after all, make its appearance. And the Friends/fellow worshippers we felt had done the betraying may not all be such villains after all. They may be feeding (flesh-centered) dinners to homeless people in our cities, or, over their own fried chicken dinners, planning and enacting compassionate projects to help human beings in the latest crisis situation abroad.
The Choices of Exile
Where does this state of affairs leave us? To begin with, we cannot count on going home again. It is not impossible that widespread transformation will after all come soon, but as with the movements in England and the US to end human slavery, effective change may well take generations. We do well to learn to live in exile, and we may even find some unexpected blessings there. Our experience and our sympathies are likely to enlarge, as we find friends and wise teachers among prophetic individuals from both our own and other traditions, ranging from Jews and Unitarians to Evangelicals.
How are we to conduct ourselves in exile? The question is a vitally important one; however frustrated and few and marginalized we may often feel in the face of the mainstream, the spiritual alternatives we face are as crucial as those we present[ed] to our fellow worshippers. Dwelling on our frustrations and anger on behalf of the animals and ourselves will increase a bitterness that can do enormously more harm than we realize. A single historical example: first- and second-generation Jewish Christians, thrown out of their synagogues by fellow worshippers who could not accept their interpretations of Scripture as pointing to and culminating in Jesus, allowed their bitterness to seep into their accounts of Jesus' life and teachings, changing the narratives. Significantly, the monstrously cruel and violent Pontius Pilate of history, later recalled by Rome for excessive brutality, was recast by gospel writers as a well-intentioned but weak and vacillating man who was swayed by a Jewish mob to crucify Jesus. The writer of the first gospel even has the mob crying "His blood be on us and on our children!" The poisonous fruit of antisemitism that these libelous themes in the Christian story nourished in nearly two thousand years of subsequent history is horrifying beyond measure. It may be hard to imagine that we might be at at such a historical watershed as these early Christian exiles, and have comparable influence. But the truth remains that all things, all beings are connected, and we do not know what fruit our own rage and bitterness might bear. We cannot afford to cultivate it. We must live as though our thoughts and words will fan out and shape the future to an extent beyond our imagining.
The Inner Home
The most important refuge we can find, the indispensible source of life and of the universal compassion we are called to incarnate, must be within. A psalm attributed to Moses, who was born in exile and never set foot in the promised land, begins with the line "Lord, you have been our home throughout all generations" (Ps. 90:1). Still another psalm, perhaps by an exile who had once thought God dwelt only in one locality, celebrates a God who is found wherever she or he may set foot: ""If I ascend to heaven, thou art there; / If I make my bed in Sheol, lo, thou art there!" (Ps. 139:8). We can only live with grace in exile, and faithfully fulfil our prophetic calling, by turning daily, even hourly, to this inner Home, this Beloved. It is after all this Source of Love who has called and inspired us in the first place to speak and enact Her/His love and liberation for all: for these, the least of all our brothers and sisters, and for the recalcitrant who still insist on killing and eating them.
Gracia Fay Ellwood
We invite responses to editorials or any other feature of PT for our next issue's letter column: email@example.com.
Plans are afoot to translate Gracia Fay Ellwood's booklet "Are Animals Our Neighbors?" into Spanish. Maria Rosa Martinez de Garcia, who has done other translations, will go on to arrange for an edition to be printed in Argentina. If any readers of PT are in a position to distribute copies of it, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Illegal soybean production in the Amazon forest has been increasing the threat of rapid deforestation there. This forest is home to 1 in 10 of the world's mammals and 15% of all land-based plant species in addition to containing more than half of the world's fresh water and being Earth’s largest carbon sink, providing a vital check on the greenhouse effect. The soybean produced in the Amazon is not being used to feed humans but animals raised for food. On July 26 Greenpeace announced that “Thanks to enormous pressure from the thousands of emails and letters sent to their European headquarters by you, our supporters, McDonald's has agreed to stop selling chicken fed on soybeans grown in newly deforested areas of the Amazon rainforest.” This news means hope that other mega food industries might change their attitude and decide to respect God’s creation and honor it, for the sake of all God’s creatures. To read the full article please visit www.greenpeace.org.uk/forests/forests.cfm?ucidparam= 20060725095242&CFID=5480509&CFTOKEN=67787551.
--From Take Heart, daily newsletter of the CVA
Kangaroos on the Pill
Kangaroos, the national symbol of Australia, have been increasing in numbers to the point where they are perceived as a threat to human interests. According to an August 23 online Reuters essay by James Grubel, there are an estimated 57 million wild kangaroos in Australia, or about three times the human population; they are perceived as a threat to motorists and as competing for foodstuffs with "livestock." In 2004, says Grubel, kangaroos were responsible for 600 car accidents in the neighborhood of Canberra, the capitol. Grubel does not indicate how the kangaroos felt about which side is responsible for this toll.
The customary way to deal with the competition for space and food posed by the kangaroos (who, nobody denies, were there first) has been to "cull"--i.e., kill, massacre--substantial numbers of them. It hasn't worked at all well; the surviving animals keep having more babies. Now, however, as a result of an uproar fostered by animal rights activists against a plan to kill 800 kangaroos in the Canberra area in 2004, an alternative is about to be launched: birth control. Contraceptives will be spread on the grass in low-lying grazing areas. Since previous contraceptive efforts have not worked, let us hope and pray that this time the combination of prophetic courage and charity with scientific expertise will be successful in bringing Peace between the human and kangaroo cousins.
--Submitted by D. S.
Book Review: Blessing the Animals
Blessing the Animals: Prayers and Ceremonies to Celebrate God's Creatures, Wild and Tame. Edited and with Introduction by Lynn L. Caruso. Woodstock, VT: Skylight Paths Publishing, 2006. Hardcover, $19.99. xii + 239 pages.
How do we relate to animals? A far-reaching question. The extent to which our fellow-creatures on this planet, the animals, have been loved and hated, caressed and horribly abused, by our human race causes the mind to boggle. The great Jewish philosopher, Martin Buber, often cited in this book, spoke of I-Thou and I-it relationships: those based on true intimacy, regarding the other as a real being like oneself; and those that are merely instrumental, considering the other simply as something, not someone, to be used or abused.
In this beautiful little book, Lynn Caruso seeks to raise our awareness that animals, as centers of consciousness and feeling like ourselves, are always entitled to I-Thou relationships. "Animals possess their own intrinsic worth and goodness," she says, "their own unique map of experience." "And in Genesis," she reminds us, "God created animals with the same breath as humans, blessed them, and declared them good. Their blessing was not conditional upon any relation to us." (p. xi) Nonetheless, a freely given and received mutual relationship can exist, for we are kin, children of the same Parent, sharing the same home.
After an insightful introduction along these lines, Blessing the Animals consists mainly of poetic and other short pieces by various authors, under the categories of "Blessings for Companion Animals," "Blessings for Wild Animals," "Blessings from Animals," and "Rituals and Ceremonies." While not all are benedictions in the strict sense of the word, all will open minds and hearts to the rich blessings to be received in our lives through openness to animal life, or which we in turn can import to them.
This attractive volume will itself bless many. It would make a wonderful gift.
Film Review: The Ant Bully
The Ant Bully. Animated Film by Warner Brothers, based on the book by John Nickle, adapted by John A. Davis and Dave Reynolds. Directed by John A. Davis. Starring Julia Roberts as Hova, Meryl Streep as the Queen Mother, Zach Tyler Eisen as Lucas, and Nicolas Cage as Zoc the Ant Wizard. Rated PG.
The protagonist of the story, Lucas Nickle, is a bright but much persecuted boy, the victim of vicious cruelty by a very nasty bully. Being only human, Lucas passes on his pain to those weaker and smaller than himself, the ants. His water-pistol attacks on the anthill, as seen from the formican point of view, are horrifying scenes of apocalyptic devastation. To his victims, Lucas is The Destroyer. Buty they also overhear his mother calling him "Peanut"--so he becomes "Peanut the Destroyer."
Zoc the Ant Wizard, after much labor and many dead ends, produces a powerful magic potion that brings Peanut the Destroyer down to ant size. We--and Lucas' paranoid grandmother--get to see a squad of ants abducting (or arresting) a microscopic, unclothed little human--about the most surrealistic scene I've ever see on a movie screen. Luckily for Lucas, the Queen Mother is wise and compassionate, and orders that Peanut not be eaten but rather taught the ways of the Ant. The lovely Hova, Zoc's beloved, enthusiastically takes her up on this. (Yes, we know that ants to don't experience romantic love, that the Queen is the only female who can reproduce, etc., but who cares?)
Particularly appealing is the fact that the ants, living in a matriarchal society, also have a matriarchal religion. They worship the Mother, and often say things such as "Praise the Mother" and "Mother help us!" It is made clear that they do not mean the colony's Queen, but their great ancestress, the Mother of All Ants.
Lucas is at first reluctant, rebellious, and selfish. Soon, however, he proves himself smart and resourceful--qualities that can be very helpful to the colony (or Queendom) of ants. But it seems extremely unlikely that he can actually attain the basic formican abilities: to place the community above one's own wants or even needs, to lift and carry several times one's own weight, to climb up a smooth vertical surface. Will the power of Love be enough to endow him with such superpowers? Will the ants, the wasps (their former mortal enemies) and one miniscule boy, be able to put aside their differences and unite to defeat an unscrupulous exterminator who intends to massacre them all? Will Lucas ever return to the human world, and if so, be able to use the lessons he learned from the ants to overcome the injustice in his life?
The Hindus have an old story of a wise teacher who took a disciple to an anthill to learn a lesson. Similarly, the book of Proverbs says "Go to the ant . . . consider her ways, and be wise." This delightful animated film provides a vivid way to heed the counsel of these ancient sages.
Film Review: Over the Hedge
Over the Hedge, a DreamWorks animated film based on the comic strip by Michael Fry and T. Lewis. Directed by Tim Johnson and Karey Kirkpatrick. Starring Bruce Willis as R.J. Raccoon, Gary Shandling as Vern the Turtle, Odid Djalli as Tiger the Cat, William Shatner as Ozzie the Opossum, and Steve Carrell as Hammy the Squirrel.
Ric De La Torie once said "Raccoons eat whatever they can find. And if they can't find anything, then they eat something else." As if to illustrate this zoological-ethological wisdom, we see R. J. Raccoon at the start of the film trying to pry a bag of chips from a vending machine. He is frustrated to exasperation by the futility of the enterprise, and conceives a most injudicious plan: To steal the food supply of Vincent the Bear--a most ferocious beast and not the least bit cute. Vincent's comestibles have all been liberated from humans: the bear, like so many others of his kind, no longer forages naturally, but scavenges human discards--which is very profitable, humans being so wasteful, but not very healthy.
R.J. almost gets away with his audacious plan, bue he commits one fatal mistake, one he is doomed, fatally, to repeat. The huge stack of junk food is therefore destroyed. R.J. and Vincent strike a Fauastian-Mephistophelian bargain: R.J. will replace all the food by the full moon (one week!) or else he will himself be Vincent's breakfast.
Meanwhile, a onetime-happy community of woodland creatures--opossums, porcupines, turtle, skunk, squirrel--are faced with a crisis of their own: Half of their forest home has been destroyed while they were hibernating, stolen by Humans to build a suburb of identical box houses, separated from the remnant of the woods by a hedge. The wily R.J. sees an opportunity: he will persuade and teach the forest foragers to liberate the plethora of food hoarded by the selfish humans ("we eat to live; they live to eat") and thus acquire payment for the satanic Vincent. This project is opposed by Vern the Turtle, the leader of the forest extended-family, a cautious and conservative (in the good, old-fashioned meaning of the word) fellow.
The critters reject Vern's wisdom and follow R.J., especially Hammy, a very sweet and very frenetic squirrel, whose hyperactivity provides hilarious comedy in a manner very similar to that of his cousin in Hoodwinked (except that it is even funnier here).
And here it also helps to save the day. Also helpful is a feisty lady skunk, who seduces the house cat in a hilarious parody and reversal of the Pepe Le Pew cartoons. Unexpectedly, that subplot has a happy ending: The cat, a Persian named Tiger, is anosmic, which means that he has no sense of smell. (I can really relate: I'm anosmic too.) Ergo, there is no insurmountable impediment to their marriage. More help comes from the opossums, a single Dad and his daughter, who have perfected the art of playing dead. Papa Possum really hams it up: "I must go into the Light!" (More evidence that Humans are not the only animals who know about NDEs. . . )
Porcupine triplet infants, the Huey, Dewey and Louie of the porcupine world, have learned to drive from playing a video game, and are able to follow the instructions of the GPS, such as "Make an illegal U-turn." (Apparently the same warped mind designed both the GPS and the video game.) Thanks to the triplets' driving skills, and the contributions of the other critters, the Family survives, stronger than before, and increased by one cat and one erstwhile loner raccoon. "If you had told us you needed the food to pay an angry bear, we would have given it to you," Vern tells R.J. "That's what families do." The raccoon loses his cynicism and learns what love is. At last, he is able to reciprocate Hammy's loving hug.
While the story does not offer practical solutions to problems of urban sprawl, it is helpful in giving us humans practice at taking the View from Below, and in keeping strong our faith in the power of kinship and laughter.
Book Review: Harvest for Hope
Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating. By Jane Goodall with Gary McAvoy and Gail Hudson. Published by Warner Books, 2005. 296 pages, $24.95.
Although Jane Goodall is a vegetarian herself, to my great sorrow and disappointment, she does not provide a strong endorsement of vegetarianism in this book, whose primary focus is showing the threats to the future of the planet and to human health from the reprehensible practices of agribusiness, and presenting planet-friendly and health-friendly alternatives. The author does list vegetarian books and websites at the end of the volume, and praises those who have moved toward a plant-based diet, but she does the same for organizations that promote the alternative of raising animals in "free range" mode and then inflicting upon them individualized deaths.
There is a story of a tenderhearted lady who asked the butcher "How can you be so cruel as to kill the poor little animals?" The man replied "Well, it would be more cruel to eat them alive, wouldn't it? Well, yes, it would, and certainly death in an Auschwitz of a slaughterhouse after being raised in a Treblinkan factory farm is more cruel than individualized killing after a life in free range. But "to be better than the worst is not quite the same as being righteous," as a Roman saying has it. Why not go all the way from cruelty to justice and compassion? Why assent to halfway measures? Jane Goodall would do well to heed the word of the sometimes-maligned Konrad Lorenz, (who never advocated killing or eating animals), that one ought not to kill if one has the slightest emotional scruple against it.
So, alas, I cannot quite recommend this book or endorse it. Let us hold the author in the Light and prayer so that she will come to put her great and well-earned influence with the public solidly behind a nonviolent diet.
Book Review: Owen and Mzee
Owen and Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship. Picture book by Isabella Hatkoff (age 6), Craig Hatkoff, and Dr. Paula Kahumbu. Photographs by Peter Greste. New York: Scholastic Press, 2006. Unpaginated: iv + 30 pages. $16.99.
This beautifull, well-illustrated children's book can be read in fifteen minutes, but is bound to stick in the minds of young readers for many years, imbuing them with a sense of the diverse personalities and exceptional relationships of which animals are capable. It tells the story of a young hippo stranded alone on a reef off the coast of Kenya after all the rest of his pod (extended family) had disappeared in the great tsunami of December 26, 2004. Local people, together with a brave visitor named Owen Sobien--hence the hippo's name, "Owen"--managed to rescue the terrified and very strong infant, and take him to an animal sanctuary near the city of Mombasa. There he was placed in a large enclosure along with various other animals, including a giant tortoise named Mzee.
Then a wonderful and extraordinary thing happened: Owen and Mzee became close friends, even though Owen was a toddler by hippo standards and Mzee thought to be already about 130 years old. Owen snuggled up to Mzee as though the giant reptile was his mother, and Mzee reassured the orphaned child, helping him to resume eating and to recover from being separated from his mother. Now they are inseparable. They swim together, eat together, drink together, and sleep next to each other, with Owen sometimes nuzzling Mzee's neck. It might be pointed out that Mzee was also alone before this relationship; he is of a kind of tortoise sometimes found in groups on the Aldabara Islands far out in the Indian Ocean. Like Silas Marner and the child he came to adopt (see editorial), both animals were exiles, separated from their homes and their own kind. No one knows whether Owen thinks of Mzee as his mother, his father, or just as a good friend. The point is that despite being from different species, and even different classes (mammal and reptile), they are deeply bonded.
This narrative, supported by splended photos, will help readers of all ages to realize that animals are capable of rich and complex emotional lives, and like us can form life-saving bonds of love. It may be that Mzee had been kidnapped from his island a century or more ago by the crew of a sailing ship to be made into soup, but managed to escape, perhaps in a shipwreck, and was saved for a better purpose. How many, both human and animal, are killed before they have given all the love they have to give, or have taught us all the lessons they have to teach!
. . . . I found your three-part article on animal after-life interesting [see issues 20, 21 and 22]. I was especially pleased that you dealt with the consequences of such belief. I am reminded of Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land in which the protagonist, completely certain as to the existence of an immortal soul in human beings, thought that it was therefore perfectly appropriate to kill evidently bad people, since it was a fairly trivial affair, just like "sending them to the showers for unnecessary roughness" in a game. Obviously that line of reasoning could be applied to animals, and you were thoughtful enough to anticipate and comment on it. I also appreciated the piece in the July issue with regard to the real quality of animal life in the wild. Your dealing in such depth with these spiritual and moral issues sets a very high standard for The Peaceable Table. The other content is also very interesting, especially the book reviews.
I was also recently reading the influential (but disappointing) paper "Sacrificio-sacrilegio: il Trickster fondatore" by Greek religion expert Walter Burkert, in which he speaks of the "unearthly" status of animals from the point of view of Greek religion. A status hinging, unfortunately for them, on their being objects of sacrifice which can therefore unite the human and divine realms, but only on condition of their own deaths. That does not, strictly speaking, relate to their possible after-lives, but does somehow seem to be related. . . .
--Bradius V. Maurus III
To my mind, Michael Valentine's opinions in Stranger in a Strange Land reveal the dangers of a little learning. Sending "evidently bad" people off into the afterlife may seem to get them out of the way, but it isn't necessarily going to give them needed showers! They may end up hanging around the earth scene invisibly and foisting their problems and hostilities on the living (assuming that survival of death is a reality), or if they do go off into another world, may end up in a situation like a very bad prison that makes them worse, resulting in greater harm than ever. What I "know" about the afterlife from my work in Near-Death studies has really strengthened my opposition to the death penalty. As Gandalf says about the subject in The Lord of the Rings, "Be not eager to deal out death in the name of justice . . . Even the very Wise cannot see all ends."
--Gracia Fay Ellwood
The Nonviolent Mother Goose
A New Song of Sixpence
Sing a song of sixpence
A pocket full of rye
Four and twenty blackbirds
Eating blackberry pie
When the pie was finished
The birds began to sing
And for their happy audience
The princess and the king--
The queen was in her counting-house
Counting out her money
The prince was in the parlor
Eating bread and honey
The maid was in the garden
Hanging out the clothes
Down flew a blackbird
And kissed her on her nose.
--Adapted by Benjamin Urrutia
The Rewards of Fortitude
Upon being told by doctors that he would die of his illness if he refused to eat meat, George Bernard Shaw replied:
"My situation is a solemn one: Life is offered to me on the condition of eating beefsteaks. But death is better than cannibalism. My will contains directions for my funeral, which will be followed not by mourning coaches, but by oxen, sheep, flocks of poultry, and a small traveling aquarium of live fish, all wearing white scarves in honour of the man who perished rather than eat his fellow-creatures. It will be, with the exception of Noah's Ark, the most remarkable thing of its kind ever seen."
--Submitted by Marge Emerson
Shaw, in fact, recovered to live more than fifty years longer. It is said that while commenting on this incident in his nineties, he was asked what the Harley Street physicians who had darkly predicted his demise should he persist in his vegetarian ways had to say about him now. He replied "Oh, they all died years ago."
Healthy Advice from Piraro
For a delightful 5-minute animated message from the cartoonist of "Bizarro" showing the reasons from human physiology for being vegetarian, go to www.bizarro.com/vegan/index.htm and click on "Talking Pig Video."
Kate Carpenter (r) and Gracia Fay Ellwood participating in an animal charades game at Orange Grove Meeting
I am Kate Carpenter, currently the clerk of the Animal Kinship Committee (sponsor of The Peaceable Table), an ad-hoc committee of Orange Grove Meeting in Pasadena. Here is my story.
How I came to the concern for animals
I have known Gracia Fay Ellwood at Orange Grove Meeting since the early 1990s. At that time, I didn't understand about compassion for animals in slaughterhouses, or about the values of a vegetarian diet for us in America (regarding health), for starving people in other countries (regarding distributive justice), or about how a commitment to vegetarianism helps the environment. I remember that Gracia Fay and the Animal Husbandry Committee (as it was named at that time) would occasionally show videos for interested people after Meeting. One time I was leaving through the library when such a video was being shown. Gracia Fay asked me if I would like to stay; I said "No," and probably made some excuse. Somehow, the memory of that moment has stuck with me (even though Gracia Fay doesn’t remember the incident). I wasn’t ready to let the concern speak to me.
Then in 1995 my husband, Randy, died suddenly from a heart attack, which, as we know, is linked with clogged arteries and a flesh-based diet (the diet we had been eating). It was very traumatic. Randy's death, and my memory of my denial of Gracia Fay's appeal, jolted me into thinking, and during the next year I read John Robbins' Diet for a New America. As a result of these three factors, my eyes and heart were opened, and I realized that eating animals was wrong. So I contacted Gracia Fay and said I wanted to join her committee. I think this was in 1996. That was the beginning of a strong friendship.
The Experiences of the Animal Kinship Committee
It has been slow going for the Animal Kinship Committee to bring this concern to members and attenders at Orange Grove Meeting. Most people don't want to think about our violence to animals or, if they do think about it, they don’t want to change the way they eat. We have tried two times (about five years apart) to get Meeting to experiment with having a vegetarian potluck before the monthly business meeting, but some Friends resisted trying an experiment even for a month or two. It was claimed by some that we on the committee were trying to impose rules and that it would be “unfriendly” if Meeting had to tell a person who brought flesh that it was not allowed. Other people were fine with the idea (even if they were not vegetarians) and supported it in an effort to keep our community together (the Animal Kinship folks and the Meeting as a whole). Quakers have a practice of honoring each others’ heartfelt concerns, which was one reason why the Ministry and Worship Committee joined with our committee the second time we tried to have a vegetarian potluck. (In Quaker process, we don’t vote in our business meetings, but speak to issues and hope that the spirit of the meeting (or Spirit) will lead us to unity. It is a beautiful process because it means that everyone owns a part of the decision. But we didn’t reach unity on this issue.) When we tell of this experience to Friends (Quakers) in other Meetings, they are surprised because some Meetings actually do have monthly vegetarian potlucks, and there seemed to be no fuss about it.
So the Animal Kinship Committee for now is not going that route. We have also tried over a period of 14 years to educate the Meeting community. For example, we put short articles in the Meeting newsletter, but received little response. We have conducted several adult education sessions in which members of the committee tell their spiritual journeys in coming to the concern, and then outline the main reasons for a vegetarian/vegan diet. But these sessions have been poorly attended, and the people who resist the idea of a vegetarian potluck don’t come.
Consequently, we have decided to branch out beyond our local Meeting to connect with people elsewhere, both Friends and those of other faith traditions (or of no faith tradition). We understand that change occurs slowly, and that we must not be discouraged. Now into its fifteenth year, the committee meets faithfully once a month, enjoying a vegan potluck lunch and mutual support. We discuss our several projects, including the electronic publication of The Peaceable Table, and the printing and distribution of Gracia Fay's essay "Are Animals Our Neighbors?" soon to be published in Spanish (how exciting!). We plan occasional Meeting events such as a bake sale or a cooking class or a visit to Animal Acres, a farm animal shelter in the area.
A personal note
Five years ago my father died, and I told my mother, then 88, that I could look after her if she came to Pasadena. So for the past four years I have been living with my mother and managing her care. At first she was interested in the animal concern and read the materials I gave her. She tried some of the vegetarian food. It was exciting for me that we were having a conversation about the issue. But then she reached a point where she began to resist and insisted adamantly on continuing to have her meat. I have to buy it and sometimes prepare it as well (though several part-time caregivers help with cooking it). This situation where I must continually violate my conscience is stressful for me. However, I must remember that we are all in different places on our spiritual journeys and that I must show loving-kindness to my mother.
My Experience at Friends General Conference
As I write this, I am in Tacoma, Washington, attending the annual gathering of Friends General Conference, a week-long get-together of North American Quakers. Last night's plenary speaker was ecological theologian Sally McFague. She spoke of the earth as the body of God and ecological work as both religious and economic. To care for the earth, we must change our lifestyles here in the West and work for distributive justice and sustainability everywhere.
After the talk, someone asked Sally if a vegetarian diet is a step we can take in changing our lifestyles. She said yes, adding that her daughter was a vegan. I mention this because what we eat is hardly ever discussed publicly by Quakers, by those who profess to follow Testimonies of Equality, Simplicity, Community, Integrity, and Peace. Sally is not a Quaker, but as a Christian she sees the importance of a vegetarian diet. I find it very disturbing when I attend gatherings such as this one to see quantities of flesh piled on the plates of peace-loving Quakers. I wonder how to open a dialogue about it.
The workshop I attended at the Conference was on global water issues and Quaker values. During the discussion I mentioned my distress in seeing the broken bodies of my animal brothers and sisters on the plates of my fellow Quakers. Meat-eating actually relates directly to global water shortages, but no one responded, and I felt way out of line. I think I need to step back from attending Friends General Conference until I feel strong enough to let my truth speak.
I know Quakers are active in many concerns, such as global warming, the healthcare system, the criminal justice system, the death penalty, the war in Iraq, the Patriot Act--the list of concerns goes on and on. However, there is something that takes no time which caring people can do right now in their own homes. They can make a political statement with every meal. I have not completely become a vegan (I am addicted to caffe lattes), although I want to be. I feel hypocritical because I know what is the morally right thing to do, but I don’t always do it. In that way, I am like many people. However, I want to continue to bother myself about whether the seeds of violence are to be found in what is on my plate. I ask Spirit for guidance and for compassion for all sentient beings, even those who kill people and animals.
* * * * *
We on the Animal Kinship Committee are looking for the way forward with this concern among Friends. We ask readers of The Peaceable Table to hold us in the Light and in prayer as we seek the guidance of the Spirit.
Kate is currently working on an MA in philosophy, writing her thesis on the Western philosophical roots of our alienation from nature, which includes the ethics of human relations to animals.
Gnoccata al Pomodoro (Soft Semolina Pizza)
3 cups soy milk
1 ½ cups fine semolina
1 ½ T. Earth Balance Buttery spread, stick
1 ½ T nutritional yeast + 3 T soy milk
¼ cup vegan Parmesan
½ tsp. sea salt
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. Roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped
2 T. fine dry bread crumbs
1 T .chopped fresh oregano or 2 tsp. dried oregano
fresh chopped Italian parsley, for garnish
Preheat oven to 400° F.
In a medium size saucepan, stir semolina into soy milk, stirring all the time, bringing to a boil. Reduce heat, cook and continue to stir for about 20 minutes, until it pulls away from the sides of the saucepan. Stir in nutritional yeast, soy milk, Earth Balance buttery spread and vegan Parmesan.
Brush a 13 x 9 inch glass baking dish with olive oil. Turn the semolina mixture into the baking dish; spread it to cover the bottom using a rubber spatula. Top with the chopped tomatoes. Dust with bread crumbs and oregano. Sprinkle with remaining oil.
Bake pizza for 20 - 30 minutes until golden brown. Garnish with fresh parsley.
This is a Roman version of Neapolitan pizza. The crust is smooth and soft and usually can be eaten with a fork. This is a delightfully different type of pizza. The semolina flour gives the pizza an essence of a comfort food.
Orzo e Ceci (Pasta and Chickpeas)
½ lb. chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained
1 medium yellow onion, whole and peeled
1 medium carrot, cleaned, cut in half cross-wise
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, whole but crushed
½ tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste
freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. orzo pasta (sometimes called “Riso” because it looks like grains of rice)
4 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
3 T. fresh chopped parsley
Place chickpeas, onion, carrot, bay leaf and garlic in enough water to cover by 2 inches; cook over low heat for 2 hours. add ½ tsp salt at one hour. Drain and remove vegetables and bay leaf. Place chick peas in large bowl; cover to keep warm.
Cook orzo in boiling salted water until tender (cooking times may vary depending on the brand of pasta used). Drain pasta and add to chickpeas. Stir in olive oil, minced garlic, & parsley. Season with additional sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve.
This pasta and beans dish is delicious room temperature; and may even taste better the second day. It is incredibly buttery tasting, even though only olive oil is used. Chickpeas may be rinsed, boiled for 10 minutes, then left sitting in the cooking water for about 2 hours instead of soaking overnight. Just drain and use, as if they had soaked overnight. This is a quicker method and works well; however, I think the full and best flavor comes from the overnight wait and soaking.
Use fresh parsley, if at all possible, the flavor is at its best and is necessary for making this recipe a success.
The vegetables, which are removed from the chickpeas after cooking, are not needed for the remainder of the recipe. But I try not to waste or throw out good food, so I usually eat the vegetables with my pasta and ceci, or my husband eats them as a snack.
Insalata di Funghi e Arugula (Arugula and Mushroom Salad)
Serves 2 - 4
1 lb. fresh mushrooms, stems removed
4 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 T. fresh squeezed organic lemon juice
1 T. finely chopped Italian parsley
sea salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 cups fresh arugula, cleaned and roughly torn
¼ cup walnuts, chopped
Clean mushrooms; slice caps as thinly as possible.
Whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice until creamy. Sprinkle in the parsley; season to taste with salt and pepper.
Gently mix mushrooms and arugula in a salad bowl. Lightly toss with dressing. Scatter walnuts on top; gently toss and serve.
Fresh bread is a must with this delightful salad; the combination will make a wonderful light lunch or late evening meal. Arugula is very easy to grow in a family garden, especially if space is limited. It can be planted very early in the season and be harvested throughout the summer. Arugula also grows well in cold frames during the winter. I love harvesting some for a fresh salad in January. I recommend reading Eliot Coleman’s Four Seasons Harvest to learn more about having fresh organic vegetables available all year long.
Pasta di Mandorle (Marzipan)
Makes 1 ¾ lbs. marzipan
2 cups whole blanched almonds
⅓ cup evaporated cane juice (organic sugar)
⅓ cup spring water (less may be needed; use enough to make a workable dough)
¼ tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
confectioner’s sugar for dusting
In a food processor, process almonds and 2 T. organic sugar until very fine, nearly powdery. Add the remaining sugar, water and flavoring extracts. Process until very smooth. Remove to a work area dusted with confectioner’s sugar; the work area should be as cold as possible. A marble slab is ideal.
Knead briefly, wrap in plastic and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
I use much less sugar than traditional marzipan recipes. It can be used in recipes or cut in pieces and eaten as a sweet confection with a cup of afternoon coffee.
-- Angela Suarez
Pioneers: George Bernard Shaw, 1856-1950
George Bernard Shaw, who was was born in genteel poverty in Dublin, left school at 15 and later educated himself in the British Museum. He became well known as a music critic, social reformer, and playwright. Moved to compassion by injustice to and suffering among both human beings and animals, Shaw voiced his critiques in wit both memorable and caustic. He was a vegetarian most of his life.
When a man wants to murder a tiger, it's called sport; when the tiger wants to murder him it's called ferocity.
- The Revolutionists Handbook
Custom will reconcile people to any atrocity; and fashion will drive them to acquire any custom.
- Killing for Sport (Prefaces)
... Darwin popularized Evolution generally, as well as making his own special contribution to it. Now the general conception of Evolution provides the humanitarian with a scientific basis, because it establishes the fundamental equality of all living things. It makes the killing of an animal murder in exactly the same sense as the killing of a man is murder. . . . this sense of the kinship of all forms of life is all that needed to make Evolution not only a conceivable theory, but an inspiring one. St Anthony was ripe for the Evolution theory when he preached to the fishes, and St Francis when he called the birds his little brothers. Our vanity, and our snobbish conception of Godhead as being, like earthly kingship, a supreme class distinction instead of the rock on which Equality is built, has led us to insist on God offering us special terms by placing us apart from and above all the rest of his creatures. Evolution took that conceit out of us; and now, though we may kill a flea without the smallest remorse, we at all events know that we are killing our cousin. . . .
- Preface to Back to Methuselah
Once grant the ethics of the vivisectionists and you not only sanction the experiment on the human subject, but make it the first duty of the vivisector. If a guinea pig may be sacrificed for the sake of the very little that can be learnt from it, shall not a man be sacrificed for the sake of the great deal that can be learnt from him? . . . .
Public support of vivisection is founded almost wholly on the assurances of the vivisectors that great public benefits may be expected from the practice. Not for a moment do I suggest that such a defence would be valid even if proved. But when the witnesses begin by alleging that in the cause of science all the customary ethical obligations (which include the obligation to tell the truth) are suspended, what weight can any reasonable person give to their testimony? I would rather swear fifty lies than take an animal which had licked my hand in good fellowship and torture [him]. If I did torture the dog, I should certainly not have the face to turn round and ask how any person dare suspect an honourable man like myself of telling lies. Most sensible and humane people would, I hope, flatly reply that honourable men do not behave dishonourably even to dogs. . . .
If you cannot attain to knowledge without torturing a dog, you must do without knowledge.
- Preface to The Doctor's Dilemma
Lord, Purge Our Eyes
Lord, give us eyes to see
Within the seed a tree,
Within the glowing egg a bird,
Within the shroud a butterfly.
Till, taught by such, we see
Beyond all creatures, thee
And hear in every voice thy Word
And heed its "Fear not; it is I."
Holy Holy, Holy! God of Love almighty,
Early in the morning my song shall rise to thee;
Holy, Holy, Holy, Wings of warmth and safety,
Late in the night my soul shall rest in thee.
All thy works are holy; even the atom bears thee;
Every gnat, each grain of sand enfolds infinity;
Matrix of things mighty, Galaxies indwell thee;
Worlds crammed with heaven, each bush on fire with thee.
Holy, Holy, Holy, Cloud and darkness hide thee;
Though distracted human eyes they beauty may not see,
Only thou art holy, there is none beside thee;
None can endure thy burning purity.
Holy, Holy, Holy! God of healing mercy,
Who will be thy messenger, and who will go for thee?
Holy, Holy, Holy! God of blazing glory!
I give my all: Lo, here am I, send me.
--Reginald Heber and Faith Bowman
The Peaceable Table is
a project of the Animal Kinship Committee of Orange Grove Friends Meeting, Pasadena, California. It is intended to resume the witness of that excellent vehicle of the Friends
Vegetarian Society of North America, The Friendly
Vegetarian, which appeared quarterly between 1982 and
1995. Following the latter's example, and sometimes borrowing from its
treasures, we publish articles for toe-in-the-water
vegetarians as well as long-term ones, news notes, poetry, letters, book
and film reviews, and recipes.
The journal is intended to be
interactive; contributions, including illustrations, are
invited for the next issue. Deadline for the October issue
will be September 30, 2006. Send to email@example.com
or 10 Krotona Hill, Ojai, CA 93023. We operate primarily
online in order to conserve trees and labor, but hard copy
is available for interested persons who are not online.
The latter are asked, if their funds permit, to donate $12 (USD) per year. Other
donations to offset the cost of advertising notices, domain name and server are welcome.
Editor: Gracia Fay Ellwood
Book and Film Reviewers: Benjamin Urrutia & Robert Ellwood
Recipe Editor: Angela Suarez
NewsNotes Editor: Marian Hussenbux
Technical Architect: Richard Scott Lancelot Ellwood