A Vegetarian Journal for Quakers and Other People of Faith
The 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 II
Part I of this essay dealt with the relationship between the aliveness of all living beings, symbolized by their breathing, and the Spirit or Divine Breath, the ultimate Source that animates us all. In Part II, the complementary symbol of Light, central to Quaker experience and thought and important to many people of faith, will be explored with particular reference to its implication for both human and nonhuman sentient beings.
Although some people think of the divine Light as a mere figure of speech, and of course the term may be used that way, it is, like the Spirit, much more than a verbal image. The word points to a very powerful transcendent reality experienced--seen-- by a good many people. Of course we cannot be sure that all who speak of having seen transcendent Light are talking about the same thing; the accounts both resemble one another and differ, and interpretation is always involved. I will cite some examples and make comparisons.
George Fox's Visions of Light
The centrality of Light in the Society of Friends is much influenced by the visions of George Fox, which on several occasions focused on transcendent Light. The best-known is his "ocean of light" experience, from his Journal: "I saw also that there was an ocean of darkness and death; but an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness. In that also I saw the infinite love of God . . . ." Here darkness is equated with death, and light with love; both are vast, but light/love transcends its opposite, and prevails. That the Light is also love suggests that it is, at some level, conscious; love is an abstraction, but it implies that there is a someone who loves. The same is not true of "darkness" and "death," which are also abstractions, but may be ultimately forces of nature. He perceives the Light not only as some powerful reality in another world, but as present in our own world; "I saw it shine through all," which, in the context, refers to all human beings.
Sometimes the Light Fox sees is also Fire, which destroys obstacles to its preeminence:
"when first I set my horse's feet upon Scottish ground [in 1657] I felt the Seed of God to sparkle about me, like innumerable sparks of fire. Not but that there is abundance of the thick, cloddy earth of hypocrisy and falseness above, and a briery, brambly nature, which is to be burnt up with God's Word . . ."
Here the destructive power is in the Light/Fire itself. As seed, it is brimful of incipient life, but as fire, it is to burn up hypocrisy and "a briary . . . nature," which may refer to all that is thorny and hurtful in human nature, in the plant and animal kingdoms, or in all things. In yet another vision Fox sees a great crack going throughout the earth, and smoke issuing from it. He interprets this as something happening in human hearts, but it may in fact also mean exactly what it appears to mean: that the Light/Fire is present in the earth itself, and by implication, in all of nature.
A Biblical Vision
Fox was, of course, deeply influenced by the Christian culture of his day. He believed his revelations were a fulfillment of biblical prophecies of the end time, but he did not understand his visions to be an eruption of something completely new; rather that the Light he saw was the same described in various passages in the Bible. Thus something should be said about the Light/Fire theme in the Bible.
Here is a first-person account of a vision by the prophet Isaiah that is analogous to Fox's visions:
. . . . I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him . . . . And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory." The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said, "Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips . . . yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!"
Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said, ' Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed . . . ."
The story ends with the Lord commissioning Isaiah to proclaim a word of judgment to a straying people who will not listen, turn, and be healed, and who as a result will experience national destruction.
The divine glory that fills the whole earth, and is perceived as earthquake, fire and smoke in the temple, is unmistakably a manifestation of a conscious Being of terrifying power. The fire is presented as cauterizing that which is unclean, diseased, and guilty; it seeks, by means of a painful and destructive action, to bring about healing and transformation to both the prophet himself and to the people as a whole. On the second level, however, it will not necessarily be realized.
Transcendent Light/Fire has great numinous power; many who have seen Light emerge stunned, sometimes trying vainly to express their joy in its unutterable beauty. Those of us who have not seen it can make an attempt to understand it by considering ordinary light, which sometimes rays out in marvelous colors. Ordinary fire has been said to be the most beautiful thing in the world; it certainly has a fascinating quality. Most people in our culture do not need fireplaces for warmth, but many have them anyway. Few can resist the appeal of a fireworks display, which involves both light and fire. Both light and fire are life-giving, but fire, particularly, is also extremely painful and horribly destructive. Some who have seen transcendent Fire report that they felt a combination of fascination and horror.
Present-Day Visions of Light
One could cite many visions by otherwise ordinary people of an overwhelming and transforming divine Light that is also love, particularly from the records of Near-Death Experiences (NDE's). Here is an excerpt from a taped account by one Tom Sawyer (his real name) of his encounter with the Light during an NDE. The pauses record Tom's struggles to control his tears as he describes something very like George Fox's ocean of light:
It's an extremely brilliant light. It's pure white. It's just so brilliant . . . . And then, before you is this--excuse me [he pauses here]--is this most magnificent, just gorgeous, beautiful, bright, white or blue-white light [another pause]..It is so bright, it is brighter than a light that would immediately blind you, but this absolutely does not hurt your eyes at all . . . . so beautiful . . . . It's almost like a person. It is not a person, but it is a being of some kind. . . . It is something to communicate to and acknowledge. And also in size, it just covers the entire vista before you. And it totally engulfs whatever the horizon might be . . . . You have a feeling of absolute, pure love. . . . It can't be compared to the love of your wife, the love of your children or . . . a very intense sexual experience as love . . . . It couldn't even begin to compare. . . . (Kenneth Ring, Heading Toward Omega, 57-58)
(I might add that Tom's NDE resulted in a major life transformation; he want from being an unreflective and pugnacious person to one with a great love for others and a passion for learning. He told me that had had been a wife batterer, but now sometimes led therapy groups for other wife batterers. He did not, alas, become a vegetarian, though a substantial number of NDErs do.)
There are also contemporary accounts of experiences of a numinous Fire, although they are far fewer in number; and it must be acknowledged that in some cases, Light, or Fire, is not necessarily perceived to be conscious. It is possible, however, that either one could be a manifestation of a Consciousness even without being so perceived. It is hardly possible to deal responsibly with such a huge topic in this short space; one can only be suggestive. (Readers who want to pursue this topic further may begin with my 2001 monograph The Uttermost Deep: The Challenge of Near-Death Experiences.)
An Eastern Visionary of Light
I would like to move beyond Western cultural boundaries by citing the vision of a Hindu saint, Ramakrishna (1836-1886), that also bears remarkable resemblance to Fox's experience of the ocean of light. Ramakrishna was an impassioned devotee of the folk goddess Kali, "the Mother." Although Kali is usually depicted in images as a violent being with a necklace of skulls and with tongue hanging out to lap blood, Ramakrishna believed that this reflects a great misunderstanding--that Kali is in fact "infinite happiness." In his youth he suffered an intense agony of desire for the Mother. This climaxed in a vision in Kali's temple in his twentieth year, when he was a priest there. He describes his experience as follows:
There was an unbearable pain in my heart. . . . I was dying of despair. . . . . Suddenly my eyes fell on the sword that hangs in the temple. I decided to end my life with it, then and there. Like a madman, I ran to it and seized it. And then--I had a marvelous vision of the Mother, and fell down unconscious . . . . . It was as if houses, doors, temples and everything else vanished altogether . .. . I saw an infinite shoreless sea of light; a sea that was consciousness. However far and in whatever direction I looked, I saw shining waves, one after another, coming towards me. They were raging and storming upon me with great speed. Very soon they were upon me; they made me sink down into unknown depths. I panted and struggled and lost consciousness." Christopher Isherwood, Ramakrishna and his Disciples, p. 65).
This vision initiated further 0nes; sometimes he would see, like Fox's sparkling seed, "particles of light like swarms of fireflies . . . "; sometimes "light covered everything on all sides, like a mist . . . ," or silver waves of light flowed through everything (p. 66). He also frequently heard and saw Kali as a human figure, a young girl running merrily up the stairs in her temple, then standing on the balcony with wind blowing through her hair. (p. 66). Perceiving his beloved Mother in all things, Ramakrishna became childlike, a holy fool unconcerned about proprieties, embarrassing and alarming his friends. His nephew Hriday reports that "One day, at the time of the food-offering, Uncle saw a cat. . . . come into the temple, mewing. He fed it with the food which was to be offered to the Divine Mother. 'Will you take it, Mother?' he said to the cat" (p. 67). Sometimes he would invite dogs to share his dinner (p. 85), and eat out of his plate; he liked to dance with drunkards he saw in the street.
Implications for Human-Animal Relations
Many people of faith, including Friends, much prefer that visions of Light/Fire remain locked up in old sacred books; Light is acceptable to them as a figure of speech representing a generalized force for good, but they become uncomfortable with unusual and powerful phenomena of this sort coming close to their own personal zones. Such things threaten to disrupt their lives, with their assured ways of doing things. For others who dislike such phenomena, transcendent Light, angels, spirits and the like are believed to be other-worldly snares and distractions from the important business of creating, loving, working in and mending the world.
In fact, however, visions of this kind often lead to just the opposite result--a powerfully transformed way of being in the world. They certainly were so for George Fox and many early Friends. The same is true for many Near Death visionaries; they are likely to go from being conventional people with conventional pleasures and problems, to being keenly alive, living much more in the present, open to God's presence, to nature, and to other people, and oriented to service.
The key is the openness to the transforming power of the Divine presence--Light/Fire, Consciousness, Love--in all things. For George Fox and other Friends, this orientation expresses itself in a commitment especially to realizing nonviolence and equality among all human beings as bearers of the Light. But there are further and deeper implications, still unrealized by most Friends and other people of faith, of the reality of the divine glory that fills the whole earth, the ocean of Light and Love. One is that we must work as we are led for the healing of our sacred Earth in its growing crisis. A related implication was spontaneously expressed by Ramakrishna when he addressed the cat as "Mother" and offered the sacred food to him. Both as individuals and as nations, sentient animals are incarnations, or temples, if you will, of the Divine Light, the Divine Presence. As people of faith, we must love these fellow God-bearers as ourselves--beginning with refraining from reducing them to mere things to be killed and eaten.
--Gracia Fay Ellwood
European Parliament Votes Against Cat- and Dog- Fur Imports
The European Parliament (EP) have voted to ban the "horrific" trade in cat and dog fur in the EU (European Union), in response to campaigns to outlaw a practice which many consider unethical. The ban, which has to be formally approved by EU governments, will take effect in 2009.
The import and export of fur, mainly from China, is estimated to claim the lives of two million cats and dogs a year. They are treated with great callousness, suffer terribly in confinement, and are very cruelly killed, all for a luxury item. It is very significant that this step has been taken, considering the economic power of China and the wish of governments to maintain its favor.
Conservative Member Struan Stevenson, a long-time campaigner, says, "The horrific trade in cat and dog fur is about to meet its Waterloo.
Millions of EU citizens who signed petitions, sent emails and wrote letters have persuaded Europe's political law-makers to act."
--Contributed by Karen Borch
Taiwan Criminalizes Animal Abuse
The Legislative Yuan of Taiwan passed amendments to its animal protection law that would make abuse of an animal resulting in severe injuries or death punishable by up to one year in jail. This includes guardians who abandon their companion animals or fail to provide health care for them when sick or injured, and unauthorized slaughtering of "food" animals.
--Contributed by Marian Hussenbux
Quaker Concern for Animals
Oregon Law Bans Use of Sow Gestation Crates
While Arizona and Florida have passed sow-crate banning laws by public referendums, on June 28 Oregon became the first state to pass such a law through representative government. Farmers will have until 2013 to eliminate the 2 foot by 7 foot stalls that confine breeding sows during gestation.
In the U.S. Congress, Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-4) has introduced a similar bill to stop inhumane treatment of farm animals: H.R. 1726, the Farm Animal Stewardship Purchasing Act, which would require meat, dairy, and egg products purchased for federal programs to meet a basic set of animal welfare standards, including not confining breeding pigs in gestation crates.
--Contributed by Steve Kaufman
Christian Vegetarian Association
More people adopt a plant-based diet in the UK
According to the government’s latest agricultural figures produced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), significantly fewer chickens, turkeys and pigs are being killed for meat in the UK. About these encouraging numbers, Viva! Campaigns manager, Justin Kerswell, said, “Almost a billion animals are still killed for meat each year in the UK, most of them living appallingly short lives in squalid conditions and facing a terrifying death. So we clearly have a long way to go but we are winning. Concerns about animal cruelty, health, and the state of the planet are growing daily . . . .” To read the full article visit http://www.arkangelweb.org/international/uk/20070529britain
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
Of a Boy and a Bunny
With Apologies and Thanks to John Steinbeck
A meadow with birches, willows, wild flowers, and an abundance of green grass. Sitting on the grass is a small boy, about ten or eleven years of age in appearance, slim and frail. His skin is pale peach in color; his hair is dark brown, thick and unruly. The sounds of a man walking through the underbrush are heard from one side.
Boy: Is that you, George?
A man enters through the willows and birches. He is tall, with snow-white hair, beard, and eyebrows, and a brown face. The boy steps backwards, his big gray eyes wide in fear. The man raises his hands in a gesture of reassurance and benediction.
Man: Don't be afraid, Lennie. I'm your friend.
Lennie: Where's George?
Man: He's back on earth. I'm Carlos.
Lennie: Back on earth? But we're on earth, ain't we?
Carlos: No, we are not.
Lennie: Then wh . . . . Does that mean I'm dead?
Carlos: Everybody back on earth thinks you're dead. But in reality, you are free.
Lennie: Free? I wasn't free before?
Carlos: No, you were not. You were trapped in a body that was way too big for you. But that nightmare is over. You have a body that fits you now, and this time we're going to get you right. You are going to get yourself right.
Lennie: Sounds great. When can I see George?
Carlos: In a few years. Very soon.
Lennie: But--how can that be? Years take a long time.
Carlos: You'll find that there isn't any time here. But right now there's another friend you will see. Baltashkhit!
A white-and-brown rabbit comes hopping through the brush. Lennie's eyes light up.
The rabbit hops up to Lennie, who picks him up and holds him lovingly.
Lennie: I ain't squeezin' you too hard, am I?
The rabbit seems to shake his head no.
Lennie: He's talkin to me! Hey, I can tell what he's thinkin'! Wow!
Carlos: So you know that he's telling you you can't hurt him. He knows what you're thinking, too. His name is Baltashkhit Bunny.
Lennie: Ba . . . huh . . . Can I just call him Bunny?
Carlos: Yes, of course. Come, let's take him to where his carrots and lettuce grow, so he can eat. Then we'll have a special breakfast to celebrate your coming.
Lennie: Bunny eats before we do?
Carlos: That's right. In Paradise, everyone puts their neighbor before themselves. And Bunny's our neighbor. . . . What would you like to eat?
Lennie: Can I have beans with ketchup?
Carlos: Yes, of course. I like beans too. Beans with rice is my favorite.
Lennie: I ain't never had rice with my beans.
Carlos: You haven't? Well, there's part of your problem right there. No proper nutrition. Tell you what: After we've fed Bunny, we'll have beans with rice and ketchup. Would you like that?
Lennie: Yeah, sounds nice.
Carlos: Good. So let's be going.
Carlos takes Lennie's hand. Exeunt omnes, Lennie still carrying Baltashkhit Bunny against his chest.
by Benjamin Urrutia
Film Review: The Last Mimzy
The Last Mimzy. A film directed by Robert Shaye, produced by Robert Shaye et al., written by Toby Emmerich et. al., from a story by Lewis Padgett. Starring Chris O'Neil as Noah Wilder, Rhiannon Wryn as Emma Wilder, Joely Fisher and Timothy Hutton as their parents, Michael Clarke Duncan as the government investigator, and Rainn Wilson as the science teacher.
This film will be released on DVD July 10.
Early in the narrative, Mrs. Wilder and her two children are depicted eating lunch as the Cooking Channel, playing on a giant screen, shows the killing of a lobster. Little Emma vents her indignation at this injustice, a creature who has done no evil being killed to satisfy another's appetite. But big brother Noah, who's older (all of ten) and wiser, mischievously responds with "What about that chopped-up cow you're eating?" "What chopped-up cow?" "What do you think hamburger is?" So Emma spits out the ground flesh she has been chewing. At this point I clapped and cheered--and quite rightly, for the child's action is the beginning of a train of changes that bring about the salvation of the world.
The children find a box on the beach which contains mysterious devices that have been transmitted from the future--a hideous future in which the world has suffered ecological collapse--sent by an elderly and weary scientist. The artifacts enhance their knowledge and intelligence astronomically; Noah goes from bright underachiever to genius; he learns to communicate with arachnids, and learns from them secrets that allow him to become a brilliant engineer. But his little sister will far surpass him. She is a Tulku, a pure and perfect enlightened spirit who will lead the world to its redemption. But she could not have done it if she had not chosen to respond to her brother's teasing comment by becoming vegetarian.
At one point, Noah's science teacher shows his students a two-headed snake, preserved in formaldehyde. The poor creature's DNA was messed up by industrial pollution. "Why don't they do something about it?" a girl demands. "Good question," replies the teacher. "And who are they? They are us. Little does he suspect that one of his students has already done something about it.
Some viewers have complained than this film is a bit too reminiscent of E.T. In both films, children play around with anti-gravity forces and are badly frightened by scary government agents--who in fact really have no sinister intentions and are just doing their jobs. These are prominent elements, and are not found in the original short story by "Lewis Padgett" (pseudonym of spouses Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore). The premise of that tale (which I read some forty years ago) is that the poem "Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll is really an encoded message from the future. Very little remains of that premise in the film, except that it is shown that Alice Pleasance Liddell (much beloved as the Alice of the Wonderland stories) also got a "Mimzy," a special toy bunny like the one Emma gets out of the magic box (the one Noah lets her have without any dispute).
The central point of the film is one that did not come from Lewis Caroll, Lewis Padgett, or E.T.: Earth is in danger of catastrophic ecological collapse, and the only thing that can save us from a horrible fate is for all of us, especially the young children, to wake up, stop consuming animals and start listening to them instead, and begin building a better balanced, more spiritually oriented society. This overlaps unmistakably with the message of The Peaceable Table, so we say Amen to that, and may as many children as possible, young and old, see this film and take its message to heart.
Book Review: Twinkie, Deconstructed
Steve Ettlinger, Twinkie, Deconstructed: My Journey to Discover How the Ingredients Found in Processed Foods are Grown, Mined (Yes, Mined) and Manipulated into What America Eats. N.Y.: Hudson St. Press, 2007. 283 pages, $23.95 hardcover.
This book was conceived when 6-year-old Chelsea Etlinger asked her father what "Polysorbate 60" was, and where it came from. Steve did not know, most people do not know, and even my computer does not know--it did not recognize "Polysorbate" as a legitimate word in the English language. Mr. Ettlinger felt compelled to investigate the nature and origin not only of Polysorbate 60, but of all the ingredients that go into making a Twinkie (which is recognized by my word processor as a real word, but only if spelled with a capital T).
The resulting book has been widely praised for its educational value, but also criticized for not going far enough: it does not investigate the effects on human health of consuming all these chemicals, fats, sugars, etc. To his critics, Steve Ettlinger, who does care about his own and his children's health, responds: "If you want to eat healthy, eat fruits and vegetables. End of story."
With all due respect, that is not quite the end of the story. As that great man, Isaac Bashevis Singer, used to say, it is not enough to think only of one's own health; we must think also about the health of the chickens. And Twinkies are horribly bad for chicken health. "Twinkies bakeries use a million eggs a year" (page 105), and that means a million horror stories of wretched female birds enslaved in tiny cages a-laying until they can no longer lay enough to please their masters, after which they are massacred en masse and transformed into soup for humans, and food for pigs and other animals destined for the same dreadful fate (page 109).
Not all the news is bad. Monoglycerides and diglycerides (two more words my computer does not recognize, though I have spent so much time hunting for them in the tiny print of labels) are now, in the USA, made exclusively from vegetable oils, no longer from the fat of cows and pigs. Why? To "keep it kosher" (page 182). Jewish people who faithfully observe the Law of Moses have here performed a service to both animals and humans.
Finally, I must make a confession: I have not eaten a Twinkie in over a third of a century--not so much because of my regard for the animals' or my own health, but mostly because I find the little yellow treat too cloyingly sweet.
Book Review: The Reindeer People
Piers Vitebsky, The Reindeer People: Living with Animals and Spirits in Siberia. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005. $15.95 paper.
To understand ancient connections between humans and our animal kin, one could do far worse than consult this book, which has become an instant anthropological classic. The author, an anthropologist based at Cambridge University in England, visited and lived with the Eveny people of northern Siberia – whose homelands include the coldest spot on earth – over some twenty years. The first westerner to be permitted to do such fieldwork in Siberia since the Russian Revolution, his contact with the Eveny began with perestroika in the late 1980s. Traditionally a hunting and reindeer-herding people, the Eveny's religion centered on their animals and on the Siberian shamanism which, largely as described by pre-revolutionary scholars, is a staple of such influential works as Mircea Eliade's classic study Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy.
Those of us who are vegetarians and animal defenders certainly could not approve of certain central aspects of Eveny culture. Their domestic animals, and the wild animals they hunted, undoubtedly were exploited as they were milked, killed, skinned, eaten. Yet the traditional Eveny mentality toward them was far different from that of the modern hunter who simply goes out with a high-powered, telescopic-sighted rifle hoping to bring down a “trophy,” or the modern farmer who sees himself as merely exercising his right to an unexamined “dominion.”
With the Eveny, the relationship of human and animal is more complex. Even domestic animals, Vitebsky tells us, are not seen as subordinate but as another race whose purposes run parallel to those of humans. A skilled caretaker can know as many as 2,000 of his herd by name, and speaks to them about plans and movements. Each tribesperson may even have a particular reindeer consecrated to him or her as a personal kujjai, an animal “double” who shares the human's life on some unimaginably profound level. The eyes of this sacred quadruped have, for his human, the magical depth of a shaman's; she protects his human in supernatural ways, and if she dies, it probably means the reindeer has given herself in place of the person, who is thereby saved and eternally grateful to his kujjai.
Even more mysterious are wild reindeer and other game animals. Killing is not a “right,” for the hunt rather involves engagement with Bayanay, the “master of animals.” Under his divine direction all wild animals migrate, feed, breed, and die. It is said the animals are his “pets” or “children,” but more profoundly he is the animals, his incarnations or manifestations. One can only take an animal if he offers himself at the request of Bayanay. The Lord of the Wild will do so only for a hunter who treats the animal's body and soul correctly, with honor and reverent use. Various signs, such as a crow crying (a signal to turn back) or a dream of Bayanay's daughter the night before (an auspicious sign) may tell whether the Master of Animals will open or close the forest to a particular hunt.
Our word "shaman" comes from the Eveny and related languages, and the traditional shaman was not only a central figure in Eveny religion and their relation to Hovki, the sky god, but also to their reindeer. The shaman's costume contained reindeer antlers as well as feathers suggestive of the wizard's magical flight. He was nursed by a white reindeer during his initiation, and he flies astride the sacred beast into the upper heavens in sacred missions on behalf of his people.
Vitebsky found that during the Soviet era this spiritual pattern was under assault. Traditional shamanism and attitudes toward animals were considered “unscientific” and “unprogressive.” Most shamans were forbidden to practice or simply shot. Every attempt was made to husband the reindeer in collective farms, with no concern other than the efficient production of meat and skins. Many Eveny children were forcibly separated from their parents and sent off to harsh boarding schools, where they received “proper” indoctrination. The Eveny were even required to deliver supplies to one of Stalin's notorious gulags, from which few inmates left alive.
With the collapse of communism, difficulties remain owing to the present regime's corruption and inefficiency. As with many indigenous peoples, alcoholism has become a serious problem, as merchants imbued with the new free-enterprise spirit deliver vodka by the truckload. International economic interests threaten Eveny terrain because of possible mineral and oil deposits. On the other hand, the Eveny are now more or less left alone spiritually. Old folk tales and beliefs, kujjai relationships, and much else, never really forgotten, are being talked about openly again.
Vitebsky ends his wonderful chronicle with the first-hand account of a shamanistic seance in 2001 performed by an old shaman who had survived living as a recluse deep in the forest for many years. Garbed in the garments of reindeer and other animals, this frail old man came alive as he went into trance. Guided by animal spirits, he proceeded to heal the sick around him. One woman was suffering as a result of an ancestor's having killed a sacred piebald reindeer; the shaman murmured about this, and, strengthened, she arose and walked down to be with her son. But the enterprise of dwelling in two worlds, as always, exhausted the medium. As he came out of trance, he sank down on a carpet of reindeer skins.
Because traditional cultures such as the Eveny's are sustainable, as our own is not, some persons are inclined to romanticize them as the ideal way to which we should return. This will not do, for they have their own evils and flaws. Perhaps someday we will come to a way of being with animals that is better than both the archaic and the modern, free from the exploitation and violence of both. But for the time being, knowing what the archaic way – still living in parts of the world -- was like will help us in gaining a perspective on the terrible evils of modern “animal husbandry,” and will also help vector us toward a better future. For that knowledge, The Reindeer People is a good place to start.
Recipes: Salads for Summertime
Broiled Eggplant Salad
serves 4 - 6
3 medium eggplants, peeled, sliced thin lengthwise
½ tsp. sea salt, or to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. fresh salad greens (such as arugula, romaine, mâche, assorted lettuces, escarole)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
¼ cup finely chopped Italian parsley
Sprinkle eggplant slices with sea salt and black pepper; drizzle with plenty of olive oil. Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes. Place eggplant on broiler pan, that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Broil 3 minutes each side. Be careful not to burn, but broil until golden. This will need to be done in batches. As each batch of eggplant is removed from the broiler, place it on top of the greens which have been arranged on a round shallow salad serving dish. Salt very lightly, if desired. Combine garlic and parsley; sprinkle over the eggplant; drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
This salad has its origins in Provence. It is simple and when eggplants are plentiful, you may find that you want to eat it every day.
Green Bean and Olive Salad
This is a perfect way to serve green beans grown in your home garden. The flavor is lively with a delightful blend of herbs and tender crisp cooked green beans. Serve with crusty bread and bask in the joys of summer.
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
4 tsp. red wine vinegar
5 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. sea salt, or to taste
2 lbs. fresh green beans, trimmed
1/3 cup fresh Italian flat parsley, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
¼ cup Vegan Parmesan
2/3 cup Niçoise o Gaeta olives
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a large salad bowl, whisk together mustard, vinegar, olive oil and salt. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan cook green beans in boiling water until tender crisp – about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and drain. Add the beans to olive oil mixture in salad bowl; toss in parsley and garlic. Toss well to combine. Sprinkle with Vegan Parmesan and olives. Gently toss again to combine. Season with freshly ground black pepper and serve.
This is a perfect way to serve green beans grown in your home garden. The flavor is lively with a delightful blend of herbs and tender crisp cooked green beans. Serve with crusty bread and bask in the joys of summer.
--- Angela Suarez
1 ½ cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained
1 bay leaf
1 sweet white onion, chopped
1 sweet red pepper cut in narrow strips
1 ripe tomato, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
¼ cup chopped flat- leaf parsley
1 tsp. fresh winter savory
4 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 T. red wine vinegar
½ tsp sea salt, or to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Place chickpeas and bay leaf in large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and cook gently until tender, about one hour. Allow to sit in cooking liquid for 30 minutes then drain. Remove bay leaf. Allow to cool before adding to remaining salad ingredients.
In a large ceramic salad bowl, mix all ingredients. Chill at least 2 hours. May be served on a bed of fresh Romaine or oak leaf lettuce.
This is a delicious and satisfying summer salad. Enjoy.
--- Angela Suarez
Pasta Salad for Companion Animal Friends
2 cups organic whole wheat fusilli pasta, cooked al dente
1 cup mixed vegetables (such as carrots, peas, corn, green beans, beets), cooked very tender or puréed
¼ cup vegetable broth, very low or no salt
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
Place pasta and vegetables in a mixing bowl. Toss to combine. Add vegetable broth and olive oil; toss again. Scatter top with whole wheat croutons (see below). Serve. Enjoy lunch with your favorite animal companions.
Whole Wheat Croutons
½ cup 1 inch whole wheat bread cubes
2 tsp. safflower oil
Preheat oven 350°F.
Coat bread cubes with olive oil. Place on baking tray. Toast bread in oven 10 -15 minutes until crunchy. Turn once while baking.
Serve this yummy salad treat with crunchy whole wheat croutons (recipe follows).
My companion cats love pasta. Cats often prefer the vegetables puréed.
One Step at a Time
There isn’t a time I can remember that I didn’t have a sense of the preciousness of living things. One notable memory from my childhood is when I spotted a butterfly waning in the grass on the side of the house when I was 7. I spent the next couple of days going out to check on my butterfly, sitting beside her, praying that she’d live. Though the butterfly died, my innate sense of tender care for all living things never has.
I have often pondered the reason some seem born to these sentiments, others journey toward them, and still others never experience them at all from birth to death. Did my sense of connection with all living things have a genetic component, stemming from my Cherokee heritage, or perhaps an ancestor who roamed the foothills of Tuscany, or in the rolling hills of Wales, who also communed with butterflies? Or is it perhaps a form of spiritual DNA we don’t yet understand and can’t measure? Could the latter be the key to comprehending the extremes of compassion and savagery seen in the human species?
No solid answer has ever come. But one can’t take credit for something that is inherent, and is more a gift than a choice, and so I’ve always been filled with gratitude to possess the mind and heart I have toward God’s creatures. My evolution to vegetarianism was a rather rapid one, though it may have seemed slow at the time. Sometime during my adolescent years, I decided I could no longer eat cows. I may have been 12 or 13 then, but precise memory fails. Whether it was their soulful eyes or their placid demeanor, something about them tugged at my heart. Then one day, at age 14, I was visiting my first farm. It was a small farm and two pigs were behind the fence outside of a little barn, nuzzling my hand. Witnessing their delight as I scratched their rough ears, and experiencing our connection, I realized these animals were not at all different from my beloved dog at home. I was struck with horror that these creatures are killed and eaten. From there, the reasoning couldn’t fail to extend to chickens and turkeys. (Since I had never cared for seafood, fish were already missing from the menu.) With perhaps a few backsliding incidents that may have taken place for a brief time (again, memory fails), from that point on, I was vegetarian. It was 1965 and I was 14 years old.
At that time, no one in my circle of life experience had ever met a vegetarian, much less been one, so this was a radical decision that alarmed my mother. She expressed her concerns to the pediatrician, who had been my doctor since the day I was born. His easy response was, “Oh, it’s nothing to worry about. Just feed her more lima beans.” Why lima beans is anybody’s guess, but I will always be thankful to him for his casual reassurance and support of my decision. Mom never felt concerned about it again, which made things much easier.
Over the ensuing decades, I have been eminently pleased to see the vegetarian population grow. Many have turned in that direction for health reasons alone, but I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth: if the end result is that fewer animals suffer, that’s all that matters. As happens with truth, it reveals itself, and so awareness of animal welfare has become an increasingly compelling mainstream issue. I’ve never stopped believing that human evolution cannot fail to eventually mean vegetarianism will be the common rather than the uncommon way. Meanwhile, we each do what we can, one voice and one step at a time.
Pioneer: Ruth Winsten Harrison, 1920-2000
A Tribute to Ruth Harrison
In her youth, Quaker Ruth Winsten had dreamed of a career in the theatre. That dream was interrupted by World War II hospital service in the Friends Ambulance Corps post-war service in Germany. But soon thereafter she graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Her career as an actress and director was on its way—helped by coaching by a neighbor, George Bernard Shaw. She also absorbed his views on a hypocritical society, especially when it came to fox hunting and meat eating.
Her father, Stephen Winsten, was a friend of Shaw’s and authored three books about his life. Both men—like Gandhi—looked to animals’ greatest unsung champion, author of Animals Rights, Henry Salt (1851-1939). Oct. 2004 PT (Gandhi entered Ruth’s life when her mother, Clare Winsten, painted his portrait.)
Her promising theatrical career met a roadblock in 1960 when she received a leaflet on the plight of veal calves. She had been a vegetarian all her life, and her first reaction was to think that any facet of the meat trade was nothing to do with her, so she put it aside. But 'in doing nothing I was allowing it to happen', so she sent a copy of the leaflet to every Friends meeting in the country; she received only twenty replies. All but two said there was enough suffering among humans without getting involved in that of animals. A sympathetic Friend then advised her that if she was going to campaign about animal rights she must learn about animal suffering.
She began to visit the" farms," or rather heart-breaking prisons, especially those of crated, infant, male dairy calves taken from their mothers soon after birth, tethered in small, dark stalls, not allowed to suckle anything, given little water, fed antibiotics and iron deficient artificial milk to fatten them and keep them anemic so they could be killed at 12 weeks to fill the plates and satisfy the palates of customer-preferred, tender, white meat. She also described in detail the overcrowding of caged laying hens, broilers and pigs.
Ruth pointed to the economic forces behind it all. “Life in the factory farm,” she wrote, “revolves entirely around profits, and animals are accessed purely for their ability to convert food into flesh or ‘saleable products’.” She also reported on the feeding of antibiotics, growth stimulants, hormones and tranquilizers with no regard to the consequences to the human consumer.
She sent her completed manuscript, entitled Animal Machines, to Rachel Carson, whom she had never met, and asked her to write the foreword. Stunned by what she read, Rachel asked a mutual friend, Christine Stevens, “Could it be true?” Christine replied, “Indeed, it is true” and encouraged her to write the foreword, which she did. The book was published in 1964.
Carson’s endorsement, a good publisher, her husband’s graphic photos and serialization in a London newspaper helped to spread the word. The public reaction was so intense that the Ministry of Agriculture ordered an investigation chaired by Professor F.W.R. Brambell. The Brambell Report led to an Act of Parliament governing farm animal welfare. It wasn’t long before the veal crates were abolished in England and better conditions were provided for chickens and pigs. Of course a great many abuses remain. Until her death from cancer in 2000 at age 79, Friend Harrison was deeply involved in the development and acceptance of alternative methods of raising "meat" animals, and many other contributions to animal welfare.
Despite her modest manner, Ruth was a genuine “whistle blower.” But she never dreamed that her “radical” efforts would be rewarded by inclusion in the 1986 Queen’s Order of the British Empire honors list.
“Wherever it is read" says Carson's introduction to Animal Machines, "it will certainly provoke feelings of dismay, revulsion, and outrage. I hope it will spark a consumers’ revolt of such proportions that this vast new agricultural industry will be forced to mend its ways.”
—Ann Cottrell Free and Colin Spencer
Edited by Gracia Fay Ellwood
It is really profound to think of the creation as God giving breath qua spirit to all living things. My personal thought has often been that YHWH when spoken sounds like the wind, and I wondered if people thought God was in the breeze they felt on their faces (which is what I think sometimes). Also,
those nature scenes were spectacular . . . .
The Chaucer poems were so delightful! There's just nothing like his phrasing and the sweetness of the Middle English. And of course I liked Sr. Faith Bowman's work . . . Really beautiful . . . .
--Fay Elanor Ellwood
Lo! from quiet skies
In through the window my Lord the Sun!
And my eyes
Were dazzled and drunk with the misty gold,
The golden glory that drowned and crowned me
Eddied and swayed through the room...
To left and to right,
Hunched figures and old,
Dull blear-eyed scribbling fools, grew fair,
Ringed round and haloed with holy light.
Flame lit on their hair,
And their burning eyes grew young and wise,
Each as a God, or King of kings,
White-robed and bright
(Still scribbling all);
And a full tumultuous murmur of wings
Grew through the hall;
And I knew the white undying Fire,
And, through open portals,
Gyre on gyre,
Archangels and angels, adoring, bowing,
And a Face unshaded...
Till the light faded;
And they were but fools again, fools unknowing,
Still scribbling, blear-eyed and stolid immortals.
--Rupert Brooke, 1887-1915
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 August-September issue will be July 28, 2007. Send to firstname.lastname@example.org 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