A Vegetarian Journal for Quakers and Other People of FaithThe Peaceable Table is intended for the mutual support, education, and inspiration of people of faith in the practice of love for our fellow animals and observance of a nonviolent diet
The Spirit, the Light, and the Animals, Part I
An affirmation of the presence and working of the Spirit of God on earth is something that is shared by virtually all practicing Christians as well as many other people of faith, and is thus potentially a major unifying belief. But it is by no means clear just what "the Spirit of God" means, and how the Spirit's work is to be understood; in some faith communities the belief may quite marginal. However, in Pentecostal and charismatic circles, and in the Society of Friends, belief in the Spirit is prominent or even central, and is experienced by members in concrete ways.
Among Friends, a "leading of the Spirit" is likely to have a strong cognitive element: perhaps a sense that one is being given an insight to share with others in Meeting for Worship; or is, in the tradition of the Hebrew prophets, being guided to take action against social injustice. Yet the presence of the Spirit means more than can ever be put into words. The Spirit is numinous, holy: this Presence exists in all persons, united to each at the deepest level and making us all one in profound ways. This union is why all persons--whether or not they are ever aware of "leadings"-- deserve not only respect as individuals but the reverence appropriate to the Spirit's presence. Thus the rejection of war and violence, the Quaker Peace testimony; any violence is violence to the Divine.
Animals have traditionally been excluded from this picture. The great divide between (rational) humans and other (irrational) beings that we in the West inherit in part from Greek philosophy is a major reason that virtually all people of faith continue to see animals (except for companion animals) essentially as objects. Traditional Thomistic theology declares them to be incapable of being in relation with God; major branches of Protestantism, showing little interest in the subject, have in effect taken the same position. Though Friends like to think of ourselves as having keen noses for cultural evils, most have shared this majority position, and might have defended it by saying that animals cannot receive leadings from the Spirit. In fact, prior to 1975, very few people of faith here in the West would have disagreed.
But would traditional people of faith have actually affirmed that the Spirit is not present in animals? To say that would imply that the Creator, the divine Source, is excluded from some parts of the universe--a position totally out of keeping with the most basic affirmations of the Abrahamic religions, and quite unacceptable. But if we nearly all believe that the Spirit is in fact present in animals, what can this mean? We seem to be back at our initial question.
Many seekers have found it helpful to call to mind the original meanings of the terms in Hebrew, Greek and Latin, Ruah, Pneuma and Spiritus. All three of them have to do with moving air, with wind, with breathing, with life. A conspicuous difference between a living being and a dead one is the fact that the former has breath; when that ceases, the ruah/pneuma/spiritus has departed. Furthermore, all three terms have a transcendent reference. It seemed so obvious that that which is alive cannot come into existence from that which is inanimate; the alive comes instead from the Alive, breath from Breath, spirit from Spirit.
That everything which is alive comes from the Spirit does not, of course, mean that all "why" and "whence" questions about life are to be answered simply by "the Spirit of God." At one time ancient Palestinian peoples may have been satisfied to explain the arrival of lifegiving rain after the hot dry summer by saying that Baal, the powerful God of germination, is coming to us, riding on the cloud (an idea applied to the Hebrew God JHWH in Psalm 68:4, and suggested in Ps. 104:3). Today, however, we know that the visible world has its own complex of reasons, to be explored by the disciplines of science and the humanities. But the ultimate question remains, which the sciences do not ask or answer (though individual scientists may), and which the relevant humanities can deal with only indirectly, symbolically. How can we understand the relationship of living beings to their living Source? (For that matter, we can't be sure we are even asking the right questions, but we can only do our best.)
The important thing to notice in this train of thought about Spirit and embodied spirits is that animals are included as a matter of course. The artificiality of the assumed barrier between human beings and animals (see "The Great Wall," PT 30) becomes conspicuous; how can there be serious doubt that the animals are alive, drawing in the breath which symbolizes their moment-by-moment participation in the Breath? If human beings are worthy of reverence insofar as they are participants in the numinous, the holy Spiritus that originates and sustains our life, the same must be true for our animal sisters and brothers who also draw breath.
As long as we are finite, embodied beings, the continuity of our breath with the Infinite Breath is not directly perceptible to most of us, and we often feel we cannot get enough air to live abundantly. Partly as a result, those who have power are wont to put tight leashes around the throats of those with little power, people and/or animals, as though by constricting others' airways they could get more breath for themselves! (Of course they may get what they think they want-- the rich food they crave, prestigious research grants, bigger figures in their bank account, still more power--but hardly abundant life.) It is this folly and callousness and cruelty that we seek to end, especially in regard to our gasping animal kin.
Sometimes the structures of oppression, need, and violence seem utterly impregnable, and any real change impossible. But "The Spirit still is blowing, / And breathes in every breath!" We could not seek and work for abundant life for every living thing if the Living One, the Abundant Life itself that pushes every shoot out of the earth, were not already here sustaining us, nearer than hands and feet, moving and working through us and those we long to empower.
"The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind."
--Gracia Fay Ellwood
More on Methane Emissions
Methane, a global warming gas, is produced in large quantities by industrial agriculture. Environmentalists are trying to draw attention to this emission, since this gas is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in the US alone, cattle emit about 5.5 million tons of methane per year into the atmosphere, accounting for 20 percent of US methane emissions. Stephan Singer, head of World Wildlife Fund's (WWF) European Energy and Climate Policy Unit, said "What worries me is the increased methane coming out of the stomachs of ruminants, mainly for increased beef consumption within an increasingly wealthy world. The diet of the West has a big impact on the atmosphere." To read the full article please visit The heat is on for greenhouse gas methane (Dairy cows are of course also part of this threat.)
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
Eye to Eye
Writing in a dairy industry trade journal, of all places, veterinarian Brian J. Gerloff admonished those that oppose changing cruel agribusiness practices. He believes that people involved in animal agriculture "need to objectively look at our animal-husbandry practices as an outsider would. And we must look beyond the emphasis of profit and performance." Gerloff wants everyone to ask themselves: Can we look them in the eye, assured that we are doing our best as their caretakers?"
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
Slaughter of Horses in Illinois banned
On May 24, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich signed legislation that bans the slaughter of horses in Illinois for human consumption. The governor stated, “It’s past time to stop slaughtering horses in Illinois and sending their meat overseas. I’m proud to sign this law that finally puts an end to this practice.” To read the full article please visit Gov. Blagojevich signs legislation banning the slaughter of horses in Illinois for human consumption.
This brutal slaughter in the state of Illinois ended thanks to the pressure of animal advocate groups and compassionate consumers. We look forward with hope to the day when more people will realize that the killing of a cow, a pig or a chicken is no different from the killing of a horse. All of God's beloved animals deserve to live free from human exploitation.
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
Tenors and Baritones Only
According to an essay by musicologist David Rothenberg in the May 31 New York Times, scientists have discovered that among humpback whales, only the males sing. The researchers' first assumption was that their songs were mating calls--but a closer investigation showed that females paid no attention at all to the prolonged, haunting melodies. (Well, some folks have no ear for music.) Then are the songs meant to ward off competing males? Wrong again, apparently; male singers have brief friendly interactions with other males. Could it be--radical thought--that they sing partly because they enjoy the beauty of their song?
Even more remarkably, during a single season the whales across a single breeding ground, in some cases as large as the North Atlantic, all sing the same tune, which may be as much as twenty minutes in length. Furthermore, as the season progresses they collectively revise it, adding and removing parts of the melody--though they are much too far apart to get together for jam sessions! How on earth--or rather, under the sea--do they all know what the new sequences are?
"We are compelled by the commandment of love contained in our hearts and thought, and proclaimed by Jesus, to give rein to our natural sympathy for animals. We are also compelled to help them and spare them suffering." ~ Dr. Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965)
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened."
"Then a brand was placed upon him, to remind him that he no longer belonged to God, but to a man." So says Olaudah Equiano, former African prince and former slave turned activist and author, in the film Amazing Grace (and a real historical person). As he says these words, he opens his shirt to reveal the scar of the iron that seared his flesh, claiming him as someone's property.
Branding is still carried on today; yet we all, human and nonhuman animals alike, are daughters and sons of God. The prophet Malachi had a word for it: "Will a man rob God?"
--Contributed by Benjamin Urrutia
Film Review: Firehouse Dog
Firehouse Dog. A film by New Regency Pictures. Produced by Michael Colleary et.al, directed by Todd Holland. Starring Josh Henderson as Shane Fahey, Bruce Greenwood as Connor Fahey, and "Arwen," "Frodo," "Rohan" and "Stryder" all playing Rexxx/Dewey.
Previous films we have reviewed have looked at the plight of animals endangered by hunting (Open Season), by fishing (Happy Feet), by suburban sprawl (Over the Hedge), by idle, wanton malice (The Ant Bully), and by evil symbolized by supernatural forces (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). Firehouse Dog deals with another common threat to the well being of a substantial number of animals: show business. Many dogs, elephants, horses, and the like are forced to forsake their natural ways and to adopt strange behaviors in order to entertain humans.
Rexxx is one such animal. He does not behave at all like a normal dog, but like a neurotic Hollywood star. Seemingly pampered, he is actually exploited; he is forced to do his own stunts. When the script calls for him to parachute off an airplane, that is what he does; there is no question of the use of computer-generated imagery or an animatronic stunt dog. Unfortunately for Rexxx, at the very instant he leaves the plane, a bolt of lightning hits--Deus ex machina, or firebolt from Zeus--and separates him from his parachute. He plunges down, the Dog who Fell to Earth, and hits--another Deus ex machina intervention--a truckload of tomatoes. This saves his life, but changes his appearance from well-groomed professional to a scraggly, smelly mess.
He reaches a city that was once thriving but is now (like himself) looking distinctly shabby, and there he meets Shane, the boy who is destined to be his soul mate.
But Boy and Dog do not hit it off right away. The kid has a mind bright as a supernova, but he has Issues. His mother ran off years ago; his beloved uncle died in a fire; his driven father, a fire captain, is much too busy to give him more than a fraction of the attention he needs. So Shane has become an angry and rebellious underachiever, and is playing hooky on that fateful day. Rexxx effectively captures the truant (by jumping on his chest and knocking him down), when he would otherwise have gotten away. The chagrinned Wunderkind puts up posters that say "Found: Ugly Stinking Mutt." None too surprisingly, nobody responds, and boy and dog are a pair.
Shane discovers that Rexxx is a very talented canine, and enters him in an agility contest for firehouse dogs, which he almost wins--not quite, because of amorous distraction. But right after that, Rexxx achieves a far greater moment on the heights, as it were. Captain Fahey is feverishly but futilely digging in a pile of rubble for another fire captain, a woman both brave and beautiful. The dog with vigor and velocity digs in the right place and effects a notable rescue.
That heroic act is a major turning point in the lives of Rexxx,
Shane, Captain Fahey, and the whole of Fire Company 55. The movie also has a major turnaround, from screwball comedy to a serious and intense family drama.
(The wonderfully satisfying outcome of Rexxx's search for the fire captain is not, unhappily, always the case for rescue dogs. Those who are set to look for survivors after a disaster such as 9/11 and find only corpses suffer deep emotional distress. As Konrad Lorenz said, human beings have spent so many thousands of years breeding Canis familiaris to be brave and loving and loyal that by now they are braver, more loving, and more loyal than we are, and thereby experience enough sorrow to fill an ocean).
Firehouse Dog tells a story that can only help animals in their relationship to those who, as a species, enslave them. While a friendship between a dog and a boy is not exactly ground-breaking material, nor is our Firehouse Dog the first heroic rescuer, the film reminds viewers that animals can do some important things better than we self-congratulatory humans can, and reinforces the love that has so often grown up between us and certain of our four-legged cousins.
May it live long and prosper.
Book Review: Animals Are Smarter Than Jack
Animals Are Smarter Than Jack: 91 Amazing True Stories Connecting Animal Lovers and Helping Animals Worldwide. Compiled by Jenny Campbell, art by Arja Hone. 152 pages, 2006. $11.95.
These reader-friendly animal stories, gathered from Canada, the USA, the UK, Australia and New Zealand, do much to spread the awareness that animals have much more potential than humans usually give them credit for.
Several of them are "Lassie"-type narratives: a brave and intelligent dog, or another animal, runs for help on behalf of a human or animal friend or relative who is ill or injured. This is wonderful enough, but even more amazing is the tale of a little dog who seeks assistance, not for a beloved family member, but for a neighbor who is no more than a casual acquaintance. Furthermore, the brave little animal does not go to his own humans, as might be expected, but to the son of the injured man! This action cannot stem from instinct or reflex; it is the work of genuine intelligence, motivated by altruism.
The same can be said, even more strongly, about the actions of a female Doberman who ran about a mile to save a kitten who was being drowned by some desalmado (soulless man, psychopath). Her human companion wonders if this was a case of ESP. Strictly speaking, there are ordinary explanations. If there were a wind blowing in the right direction, it might have carried the smells and sounds to the sharp ears and even sharper nose of the dog. But it seems unlikely that sounds and scents could have told the dog that the kitten's distress was something she herself could remedy. For that matter, how many humans would run a mile to save a kitten, or even a fellow human being, whom they do not know personally?
Another story initially appears supernatural also: The sounds of the exercise wheel of a departed companion mouse were heard late at night from his tenantless cage. Was this the Case of the Rodent Revenant? No, the perpetrator turned out to be a little brown field mouse who had squeezed through the bars under cover of darkness, and was amusing himself on the exercise wheel of the deceased white mouse.
These stories, taken together, are anecdotal evidence that nonhuman animals are perfectly capable of making choices and making plans. They can act with bravery, compassion, and love: in short, they show signs of both intelligence and morality. Zoologist Marc Bekoff (who, incidentally, has a story in this book--written in more cautious language than the others, as befits a scientist) has said that "the plural of anecdote is data" and that anecdotes, though they are not hard scientific evidence, can be, in volume, a fertile basis for research. Collecting anecdotes has been called "proto-science."
Some of the stories will give the reader a spiritual uplift; some are humorous and entertaining; some are both. All are educational. Many contain e-mail or street addresses in order to help build an international community of human friends of animals. Profits from selling this book and others in the series go to benefit animals in need. When have we seen a book that gives us so many good reasons to buy and read it? And here is one more reason: the illustrations at the foot of each page constitute a flip book animated cartoon.
Since so many of these accounts are from Australia, I was hoping for more encounters with the exotic fauna of that continent. But no, they are mostly about dogs and cats. We do have a report of three kangaroos who are fans of Australian football! As soon as an amateur outdoors match they are watching comes to an end, these eager fans move over to watch the next one. There is also an amusing and enlightening story about a bushy-tailed opossum (a creature I did not even know existed) and a heartwarming narrative about Galahs, amazing birds who resemble lovebirds but are actually cockatoos.
We can hope that future volumes in the series will include stories from more countries, and include more species of animals.
Thai Corn Chowder
Serves 4 -5
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 cup of sweet bell pepper, chopped (use a combination of red, yellow and green, making sure to use at least ½ cup red)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bag frozen corn
1 T. Thai chili (or red curry) paste
1 can organic coconut milk
3 cups spring water
½ tsp. sea salt, or to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 T. chopped fresh basil
3 T. chopped fresh cilantro
In medium size soup pot, warm olive oil and add bell peppers, onion and garlic. Sauté until tender; add corn and chili paste. Stir to mix well. Add coconut milk and water; bring to a light boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Remove from heat. Using a slotted spoon remove 1 cup of the vegetables and process them in a blender or food processor. Return to soup pot with remaining vegetables and broth; add basil and cilantro. Reheat and serve immediately.
Delicious served over basmati rice.
Make one 9 inch square pan to share with friends.
¾ cup evaporated cane juice (organic sugar)
⅓ cup safflower oil
2 T. organic vanilla flavored soy milk
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. orange extract
¾ tsp. chili powder (without salt)
½ cup organic fair-trade cocoa powder
¾ cup organic unbleached flour
⅓ cup fair-trade vegan chocolate chips
Preheat oven 350° F.
In medium size mixing bowl, using a wooden spoon, stir together sugar and safflower oil. Then stir in soy milk, baking powder, salt, orange extract and chili to mix well. Add cocoa powder, stirring with a wooden spoon just to combine. Then stir in unbleached flour to combine. Finally stir in chocolate chips, being careful to not over mix.
Pour and spread into a 9 inch square baking dish. Bake in oven 22 minutes. Remove and allow to cool at least for awhile before serving.
I served these to friends one evening as dessert; and they were a great success! Be adventuresome and give these brownies a try.
Edamame & Quinoa Salad
1 bag frozen organic shelled edamame, cooked according to package directions and drained
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup corn (fresh or frozen)
½ red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 cups quinoa, cooked (see below)
3 - 4 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 T. seasoned rice vinegar
In a large serving bowl, toss all ingredients together. Allow to sit at room temperature at least 20 minutes before serving to allow flavors to blend.
I have been enjoying cooking with quinoa, a delicious whole grain, and pairing it with a variety of beans. This is a recent creation, a very simple and delicious salad that makes a wonderful meal to share with friends, or it can conveniently be taken on a picnic.
Easy cook quinoa:
1 cup quinoa, well-rinsed
2 ½ cups water
¾ tsp. salt
Place water, salt and quinoa in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low. Cook until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes.
Lorena Mucke and son Christopher
I was born in Bolivia in a very loving family. Since I was a little child, God’s animals have been an important part of my life. Growing up I would bring home any injured animals I would find, as well as stray cats and dogs. Even though my parents and two brothers were understanding of my feelings, they labeled me as too sensitive. Witnessing animal suffering affected me terribly and shaped me deeply. My parents tell me that as a child I would ask: “Are you sure they treat those cows in a nice way?”, “Don’t you think that those stray dogs are cold?” and “Why don’t people care about their animals?” I still remember so clearly every Christmas when a roasted pig, or a stuffed turkey, would be on the dinner table and I would think, “That’s it. I’m becoming vegetarian!” However, my family and friends would say that my feelings were “irrational” and that I needed meat to grow healthy. Becoming a vegetarian didn’t happen until much later.
I grew up wanting to protect and help animals and already, at an early age, I had made up my mind that I wanted to become a veterinarian. Hence, I enrolled in college, at Texas A&M University, as an Animal Science major. My first year was an eye-opener for me and changed my life. We were required to visit slaughterhouses, dairy farms, and poultry farms. Coming from an underdeveloped country, I had never heard or seen anything about factory farms. The pinnacle of my shock took place when they demonstrated the “standard” practices on a piglet. Witnessing the pain and suffering the little piglet went through while being mutilated without any pain medicine made me want to run away from this world and disappear. I was disappointed with humanity and I was angry at God for allowing such torment. I didn’t understand why the other students didn’t feel as I did, but instead accepted such callous victimization. I felt lonely and alienated. I even took the courage to ask a counselor if there was a mental illness that was characterized by what I was feeling toward animals. He assured me that I was just fine, and to this day I laugh at my worries!
My journey to become vegetarian, and later vegan, had begun. I started to make connections between what I ate and how it affected other creatures. I had witnessed that unnecessary suffering of a piglet, who, for the sole purpose of taste and pleasure, was abused and destined to end in someone’s plate. Not only did I consider the treatment of farm animals appalling and brutal, but also felt in my heart and in my mind that even though some farm animals might have been treated less abusively/more humanely, there was no love, respect and compassion if the animals ultimately suffered the same fate – slaughter - which they fear and avoid just as we would.
Since I did my best to refuse to dissect animals, or experiment on them, my four years of college were a challenge; professors weren’t always understanding. I had switched majors to zoology and was relieved that I was not required to deal with farm animals anymore. I had to give up my dream of becoming a veterinarian because I knew that I would not be able to
Lorena Mucke and longtime friend Pascal
carry out some of the practices required on animals at veterinary school. The scenes I had witnessed would haunt me for ever. I joined different animal advocacy groups and started to meet people with whom I could relate. I no longer felt lonely or alienated, but started to understand my “calling” to alleviate animal suffering. After finishing college I decided to pursue a graduate degree in “Ecology and Sustainable Development.” I was living in Argentina then, and I was fortunate to be able to work with animals in the wild, studying their behavior and their habitats. I also matured in my faith and understood I was a participant in helping reconcile God’s Creation.
I met a wonderful man to whom I am now married, and moved to Atlanta, Georgia. We had a son, Christopher, and I put work aside for a few years. In the meantime, I was still involved with animal advocacy groups and had another life changing experience: I learned about the Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA) and immediately started volunteering for them. A couple of years later, I joined the CVA staff and felt more than ever that I was actually serving and obeying God by following my calling and witnessing Christ’s love for all Creation. It was then that I made the transition from vegetarian to vegan. I felt I had enough knowledge and faith to take this next step, which proved not only attainable but extremely enjoyable. I was also given the opportunity to start a Humane Education Program, and help inform high school students on the issues surrounding modern agriculture and its devastating consequences for our health, animals, and the environment.
My journey as an advocate of God’s Creation has been one filled with sorrow and joy, taking two steps forward and one back. It has been filled with frustration and disappointment, but also with hope and satisfaction. The one aspect of which I am certain, is that in taking this journey I am fulfilling God’s calling for me.
Note: Lorena produces Take Heart, the daily newsletter sent to all CVA sustaining members. The archives may be consulted at
Pioneer: Isaac Bashevis Singer
Isaac Singer, prominent writer of novels and stories in Yiddish and staunch vegetarian, was born in 1902 or 1904 in a small, largely Jewish town in Poland, where his father was a rabbi. (He later gave himself the pen name Bashevis, after his mother Bathsheba.) During his childhood he moved to several other places in Poland, including Warsaw, where his father served in various rabbinical offices. But though Isaac studied for the rabbinate himself, he did not take to it, and ended up working as proofreader for a Yiddish literary periodical in Warsaw, considering himself largely a failure.
Nonetheless, he occasionally composed Yiddish stories for this and other magazines. They were moderately well received. In 1935, fearing the ominous rise of fascism in Europe, he immigrated to New York, where he worked for a Yiddish newspaper. Then, after a period of despondency owing to a failed marriage and, as much as anything, to the “culture shock” of life in the New World, around 1945 he began writing fiction again. His tales were often set in the traditional Yiddish-speaking Jewish communities of Eastern Europe which he knew so well from within; some, on the other hand, featured immigrants from back there, but now across the Atlantic, usually as torn between two worlds as he was himself.
Here in the United States, with its large Jewish and general reading public, Singer found his real audience. The warm, close-knit, highly orthodox Judaism of his old-world childhood had just been incinerated by the Holocaust, but that made many readers all the more eager to recapture it on the printed page. At the same time, Singer's stories are far from mere exercises in nostalgia, or charming Hasidic parables. His characters, limited as well as empowered by their shtetl environment, suffer, sin, experience agonizing doubt and temptation, and in general are simply human beings in a special setting. But that setting comes alive as a major player in the tales, and the human figures therein are redeemed not so much by their virtue, or even their piety, as by the deep understanding with which their author portrays them.
Singer's religion was his own. Though he called himself a skeptic, he valued his inner links to orthodox Judaism. Eventually he came to what he called “private mysticism,” saying that, “Since God was completely unknown and eternally silent, He could be endowed with whatever traits one elected to hang upon Him.”
For the last thirty-five years of his life, an important part of that endowment was certainly vegetarianism. In one of his stories, “The Slaughterer,” he depicts the anguish felt by a sensitive young man who, for reasons he in that time and place could not refuse, was appointed the ritual killer of animals for meat in a small Polish-Jewish community. When he expressed doubts, wise rabbis told him that God himself not only killed animals but ordered them killed in the Law, and a man may not be more compassionate than God. But Yoineh could not help but see the fear and the desire to live in the eyes of those beasts whose throats he cut, and whose blood covered the floor. Eventually he was driven mad by the utterly blasphemous suspicion, finally certainty, that he himself, a mere man, was in fact more compassionate than God. He was found drowned in a nearby river – perhaps by accident, perhaps by half-conscious suicide.
In “The Letter Writer,” the protagonist, a lonely immigrant from the land of the Holocaust, in which he had lost all his loved ones, addresses the mouse who shares his cheap apartment and is his one true friend: “What do they know – all those scholars, all those philosophers, all the leaders of the world – about such as you? They have convinced themselves that man, the worst transgressor of all the species, is the crown of creation. All other creatures were created merely to provide him with food, pelts, to be tormented, exterminated. In relation to them, all people are Nazis; for the animals it is an eternal Treblinka. And yet man demands compassion from heaven.”
Singer himself, whatever doubts he may have had about God, had no doubts about vegetarianism and the rights of animals. When asked if he became a vegetarian for reasons of health, he responded that the answer was yes -- “for the health of the chickens.” Perhaps thinking of Yoineh's problem from another angle, he said, “When a human kills an animal for food, he is neglecting his own hunger for justice. Man prays for mercy, but is unwilling to extend it to others. Why should man then expect mercy from God? . . . If there would come a voice from God saying, 'I'm against vegetarianism!' I would say, 'Well, I am for it!”
Some Jews like to point out that Judaism is the only religion in which you can argue against God -- and of course in the Hebrew scriptures we do have the examples of Abraham, Moses, and Job, among others, doing just that and sometimes prevailing. Unfortunately, for Yoineh there were no organizations such as the Jewish Vegetarian and Ecological Society and Jews for Animal Rights, now very active, nor could he foresee the present growing awareness of vegetarianism in the Jewish world.
Isaac Bashevis Singer received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1978. He died in Miami in 1991.
Derived from The Collected Stories of Singer and online sources.
. . . . Tak any bryd, and put it in a cage,
And do al thyn entente, and thy corage,
To fostre it tendrely with mete and drynke
Of alle deyntees that thou kanst bithynke,
And keep it al so clenly as thou may,
Al though his cage of gold be never so gay,
Yet hath this bird by twenty thousand foold
Levere in a forest, that is rude and coold,
Goon ete wormes and swich wrecchedness:
For ever this brid wol doon his bisyness
To escape out of his cage, if he may;
His libertee this brid desireth ay. . . .
from Canterbury Tales
. . . . Take any bird and put him in a cage
And show your warmest kindness, to engage
And raise him tenderly with food and drink
And all the delicacies you can think,
And always keep it freshly swept and clean;
Although his cage be gold of brightest sheen,
Yet would the bird, by twenty-thousand-fold
Rather into a forest dark and cold
Go to eat worms and all such wretched fare:
Forever he will struggle all he dare
To find some way to break free of the wires;
Above all else, liberty he desires. . . .
--Translated by Gracia Fay Ellwood et al.
. . . . For lo! the gentil kind of the lioun;
For whan a flye offendeth him, or byteth,
He with his tayl away the flye smiteth,
Al esily; for of his genterye
Him deyneth nat to wreke him on a flye. . . .
from The Legend of Good Women
. . . . Behold the noble lion, Aristocrat!
For should a fly annoy him, bite his back,
He flicks his tail, and thus with airy ease
Brushes it off; why should the Monarch of Beasts
Descend to wreak dread vengeance on a fly? . . .
--Translated by Gracia Fay Ellwood
Hymn of the Earth
Tune: Aurelia ("The Church's One Foundation")
Our world was green and singing
And sometimes garden-fair
With promise always springing
Of Peaceful Kingdom there;
But threats of flooding chill it
And fields grow desert-dry;
Come, Blessed Sower, fill it
With life that cannot die!
The world grows dark around me
Mid ghosts of towers tall,
And echoing fears surround me
To find no home at all . . . .
These omen-shapes that blind me,
Are they the shadow-play
Cast by a Light behind me
That follows all my way?
Like airs from Eden flowing,
Spring-fragrant, far from death,
The Spirit still is blowing
And breathes in every breath!
Our grief is thy heart's bleeding,
Our hands and hope are thine
And Love is still completing
It's infinite design.
--Sr. Faith Bowman
Photo of Humpback Whale by Art Wolfe
Photos of Lorena Mucke and friends by Ken Mucke
The Peaceable Table 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 its example, and sometimes borrowing from its treasures, we publish articles for toe-in-the-water vegetarians as well as long-term ones, 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 July issue will be June 27, 2007. Send to email@example.com or 10 Krotona Hill, Ojai, CA 93023. We operate primarily online in order to save trees and labor, but hard copy is available for interested persons who are not online. The latter are asked to donate $12 (USD) per year if their means allow. Other donations to offset the cost of the domain name, server and advertising notices are welcome.
Editor: Gracia Fay Ellwood
Book and Film Reviewers: Benjamin Urrutia & Robert Ellwood
Recipe Editor: Angela Suarez
NewsNotes Contributors: Marian Hussenbux & Lorena Mucke
Technical Architect: Richard Scott Lancelot Ellwood