The Peaceable Table

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 vegetarian diet

Intend to Have Joy to Offer



A novel by English writer Charles Williams that I first read in the early '60s has lingered in my mind ever since. The book, Descent Into Hell, is a thriller in which a magical-spiritual reality underlies the ordinary world in a manner somewhat akin to the Harry Potter creations. A group of thespians in an artsy town called Battle Hill are having a good time preparing to stage an outdoor play. The pleasure of one of the actors, Pauline Anstruther, is disrupted when she learns that her ancestor, John Struther, was burned at the stake in the sixteenth century on the very site now occupied by their theatricals. How, she asks the playwright Peter Stanhope, can we continue to enjoy ourselves on the very place where such a horror took place?

Peter responds by first educating her as to the nature of the spiritual world: All times, and all souls, meet in an Eternal Now. Our consciousnesses are not each encapsulated in our own skins but flow together in a web of Exchange in which we telepathically share joy, can bear one another's burdens of fear or pain and thus heal one another, or inflict harm through feelings of hostility or depression. This principle of Exchange operates even across time; Pauline is to learn that a lifelong private phobia of her own stems from a direct link with the anguish of John Struther anticipating the stake. Because of this omnipresent network, none of our feelings are limited to ourselves. Therefore, Peter tells Pauline, although we should not pretend the horrors in this web are not there, we should intend to have joy to offer to those who suffer. At the climax of the story, Pauline experiences a retro-cognitive vision of her ancestor's death, and learns that by her longterm phobic terror she has taken over the agony of his fear and enabled him to die in triumphant joy.

Spiritually motivated vegetarians need not believe that the world operates in exactly the way Williams depicts it to find this story helpfully "true to life." Most people unconcernedly go about their ordinary lives, daily eating chunks of severed flesh, unaware that right beside us, hidden, so to speak, only by a fine theater scrim, are the hells of the animal death camps that provide them. Persons who find out about these facts are likely to be, like Pauline, deeply shaken and depressed, especially if their friends will not listen to them or join them in the boycott. Even if we ourselves stop financing these monstrosities, how can we continue to enjoy ourselves once we know?

Here Peter Stanhope's counsel is profoundly helpful. We do well to accept the joys, large and small, that life offers us. We should savor them, and let them help us deal with the grief, for they are not our private property; we are continually offering them to others in the web of Exchange. Our joys can help us to love both friends and opponents, and strengthen us to put our compassion to work, as can be seen in the life of Gandhi, our Pioneer for this month. After mastering the paralyzing fears of his youth, he developed a playful sense of humor that served him in good stead. At both surface and deep levels, our joys have a direct impact on all those who are involved in our lives, including many we may not know consciously. They increase the power of our prayers and meditations on behalf of the whole world, including its suffering animals.

Let us intend to have joy to offer.
—Gracia Fay Ellwood

Recipes


Sweet Potato Beginnings

2 baked yams or sweet potatoes
20-25 grapes
1 apple, cored and chopped
1/2 teas. gound cinnamon

Peel and chop the baked yams or sweet potatoes Combine with the grapes and apples; mix in the cinnamon. Heat briefly in a microwave oven (or somewhat longer in a conventional oven). Serve warm.

—Mary McDougall, from the McDougall Newsletter

Tex-Mex Potatoes

6 large red potatoes
2 15-oz cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup fresh salsa
1 4-oz can diced green chilies
1 onion, chopped
1 or 2 cloves garlic, crushed or chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teas. chili powder
1/2 teas. ground cumin
1 tomato, chopped
1/4 cup corn kernels
2 green onions, chopped
Taco-tofu topping (optional--see below)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Scrub the potatoes and cut lengthwise into wedges. Place on a baking sheet and bake until lightly browned, about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the beans, salsa, chilies, onion, garlic, 2 tablespoons of the cilantro, the chili powder and cumin in a saucepan. Cook over low heat about 15 minutes.

Combine the tomato, corn kernels and the remaining cilantro. Set aside.

To assemble: Place the baked potato wedges on a serving platter. Spoon the warm bean mixture over the potatoes and top with the fresh tomato mixture. Garnish with several tablespoons of Taco-tofu topping, if desired.

To make the topping, process 1 package of light silken tofu in a food processor until very smooth. Transfer to bowl and combine with one package of taco seasoning mix. Chill for several hours for the best flavor. This also makes an excellent dip for cooked, chilled potato chunks or raw veggies.

—Mary McDougall, from the McDougall Newsletter

Maple-Apple Rice Pudding

Lightly mix together:

2 cups cooked brown rice
2 apples, peeled and sliced
4-6 Tbsp. maple syrup
1/4 cup raisins

Place in oiled casserole, cover, bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes (until apples are very tender).

Prepare the rice by adding 1 cup of uncooked rice to 2 cups water; cook on low for about half an hour.

—Priscilla and Stan Baker from the The Friendly Vegetarian

Review: Hitler: Neither Vegetarian nor Animal Lover


Hitler: Neither Vegetarian nor Animal Lover. By Rynn Berry, with an Introduction by Martin Rowe. New York and Los Angeles: Pythagorean Publishers, 2004. ix + 81 pages. Softcover, $10.95.

"But wasn't Hitler a vegetarian?" How many times have we vegetarians heard this conversation-stopper from non-vegetarian friends! This proposition is supposed to trump the argument, since presumably no one would want to endorse a practice also followed by the figure epitomizing all evil in the twentieth century.

One could, of course, respond by asserting that Stalin was a carnivore, not to mention Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun, and query if this means one should instead shun the kind of food touched by their blood-stained hands. But vegetarian historian Rynn Berry, in this short but hard-hitting work, goes a step further to prove decisively that Adolf Hitler was not a vegetarian at all. While he sometimes went on vegetarian binges, he also loved and indulged in such favorite German dishes as sausages, liver dumplings, and stuffed squab, tastes well attested by his cook and other intimates. The vegetarian claim was merely part of a scheme concocted by his propagandist, Joseph Goebbels, to portray the F├╝hrer as in all respects ascetic, unconcerned about himself or his appetites, utterly dedicated to the German people.

Berry makes clear that the idea that Hitler and his regime were animal-friendly is likewise spurious. In it vegetarian organizations and periodicals were banned or severely restricted. The Third Reich's legislation in the animal welfare area was ineffective, was enacted mostly for public relations purposes, and certainly did not stand in the way of the totalitarian state's waging total war and pursuing "final" racial liquidation, regardless of the unimaginable cost in both animal and human suffering. Indeed, Hitler's machinery of mass human extermination was indirectly inspired by the pitiless methods of modern stockyards and dis-assembly-line slaughterhouses, as is further suggested by the notorious use of cattle-cars to convey victims to the death camps.

As valuable as is Berry's laying-to-rest of the "But Hitler was a vegetarian" gambit, the Introduction by Martin Rowe alone is worth the price of the book. This essay, representing nearly a third of the volume, deals very insightfully with the larger question of what, exactly, would it prove if one could affirm that certain major historical figures were, or were not, vegetarian. Gandhi was; his great American disciple, Martin Luther King, Jr., was not; King's widow and son, after his death, became vegetarian; Gandhi's grandson, though an advocate of non-violence, did not. Arguments continue about the likelihood of Jesus' having been vegetarian.

But Rowe tells us forcefully that such historical issues, while no doubt significant, cannot take the place of our deciding, in our own time, for ourselves what is right. The world is changing; the need to live lightly on the land is inceasingly imperative, while the horrors of meat-production are becoming more and more evident and vile. No reference to another time or person can relieve us of our responsibility to respond for ourselves now.

This fine book, easily read but not easily forgotten, is highly recommended. It belongs in the library of all serious vegetarians.

—Robert Ellwood

Pilgrimage: An Innocuous Picture


The photo looked completely innocuous until I looked more closely at the picture and then read the header. There was a rope tied around the kitten's neck, attached to a long pole lying on the ground.

The caption read: "Boiled cat meat is considered a delicacy in many parts of the world"

I am one of those fortunate people in the world who was lucky enough to look at that photograph and get it immediately. Having lived with cats and kittens all my life, having my roommates always include cats and kittens, having my best friends be cats and kittens, I immediately realized that every cow and every pig was as unique and special as each and every cat or kitten I had ever known.

I was instantly vegetarian.

Six months later, during which I had not eaten a morsel of flesh, a wild pigeon (later named Peaches by me in honor of an infamous cat experimented on at University of California, Los Angeles) appeared in my life, wounded, almost dying. She recovered under my care very nicely, sleeping in a cage at nights and walking or jumping or flying wherever she wanted all day.

I woke up one morning and removed the bright blue blanket from her cage where she had spent the night. She stretched her right foot back as far as she could and yawned, and then she stretched her right wing as high as she could and yawned again. And then she stretched her left leg as far as she could and yawned, and then she stretched her left wing as high up as she could and yawned.

And again, immediately, I was fortunate enough to realize, "Oh my god, battery hens . . . ."

That had me be vegan instantly. I didn't even need to think about dairy after that. I was sure that the realities of dairy cows and their children would be just as earth-shatteringly awakening to me as the kitten by the "hot tub" and Peaches' stretching had been.

We cannot really "be vegan" in this world of animal pieces in car tires or elsewhere, but we can read labels and we can ask questions and we can always say very graciously, "No, thank you, but I don't eat animals" to anyone, under any circumstances, anywhere.

I am not a strict vegan. There is nothing strict or rigid about what I eat or drink or use. I am a committed, compassionate human being always thinking about the opportunity I have to be an example for others.

—Veda Stram

A native Californian, now living in Puyallup, Washington, Veda Stram has worked for animal rights since 1988. Since then, she has volunteered with Orange County People for Animals (www.ocpausa.org), the Northwest Animal Rights Network (www.narn.org), the Animal's Voice Magazine, and is currently working for The Animal's Voice Online (www.animalsvoice.com).

Reprinted from Voices from the Garden: Stories of Becoming a Vegetarian, edited by Daniel Towns and Sharon Towns, BookLight, 2001. Used by permission. Available from www.lanternbooks.com.

Odds and Ends: Good Books Cheap


For folk of a reflective turn of mind, we have duplicate copies of four books on animals by philosophers and theologians, available for $5.00 each plus postage (or, if you are on a limited income, postage only). They are:

  • Hartshorne and the Metaphysics of Animal Rights by Daniel Dombrowski
  • Babies and Beasts: The Argument from Marginal Cases by Daniel Dombrowski
  • Of God and Pelicans: A Theology of Reverence for Life by Jay B. McDaniel
  • Good News for Animals? Christian Approaches to Animal Well-Being edited by Jay B. McDaniel and Charles Pinches

First come, first served. You may contact me at graciafay@vegetarianfriends.net.

—Gracia Fay Ellwood, editor


Pioneers: Mohandas "the Mahatma" Gandhi


Early Years

The future Mahatma ("Great Soul") was born to a strictly vegetarian family in Porbandar in the province of Gujarat, India, in 1869. His family was Hindu, but his devout mother was much influenced by the tenets of the Jain religion, which was prominent in Gujarat. Jainism stresses ahimsa (non-injury to living beings), fasting for self-purification, and tolerance between members of different sects.

Once in his boyhood he was told by a schoolfellow that the reasons the British were able to dominate India was the strength they gained from eating meat. He tried it, afterwards suffering from nightmares in which the goat bleated piteously from inside his stomach. He was also oppressed by filial guilt for violating his parents' principles until he confessed his misdeed to them.

Spiritual Influences

Although an indifferent student, at age nineteen Mohandas had an opportunity to go to England to study law at the University of London. Before leaving he promised his mother to refrain from meat and alcohol. Finding adequate meatless fare was extremely difficult until he found a vegetarian restaurant, and, in its window, a copy of A Plea for Vegetarianism by Henry Salt (see Salt as "Pioneer," October, 04), a book that deeply influenced his thinking. From this point on he was a vegetarian by conviction and principle. He joined the Vegetarian Society, became one of its officers, and in this context met Theosophists who encouraged him to return to his Hindu roots. He read the Bhagavad Gita for the first time, and was convinced by its central idea of doing one's duty not to gain the fruits of our actions, but only out of love for God.

Gandhi also encountered Christians who introduced him to the Sermon on the Mount, and though he remained a Hindu, he came to espouse it more deeply than the vast majority of Christians ever have. The writings of Tolstoy had a particular impact on him. These things, more than his studies in law, went into the making of his work as a prophet of Satyagraha ("Truth Force") and ahimsa.

Putting Love to Work

Gandhi's genius manifested in taking religious precepts that were largely considered unrealistic ideals, and making them into a political force. Thoreau's essay "Civil Disobedience" was helpful to him in this regard. He did not merely use nonviolence as a method to embarrass racist powers in South Africa and British rule in India; he was committed to ahimsa as a total way of life, within and without. Galvanized by the injustices of entrenched racism and exploitation, he affirmed his own dignity while simultaneously appealing to his opponents as fellow human beings whose arrogance hid an inner core of goodness shared by all. He spoke up for India's outcastes, whom he renamed "Harijans" (Children of God), as well as showing love and respect for animals. He did consume milk; he tried several times to stop, but found that he could not recover from his illnesses without it. Of course, cows were not so badly treated in his culture as in ours. He would certainly have abhorred our present system of factory farming.

Gandhi was not perfect. As a young lawyer he was so frightened and tongue-tied as to be useless in court, and had to give it up. At home he was harshly domineering over his wife Kasturbai in the early years of their marriage (his abusiveness no doubt linked to his professional anxieties), and had to learn to treat her as a partner. He was wary of sexual pleasure, and gave up marital relations when he and Kasturbai were in their thirties. But these flaws only show that he was human, and like the rest of us had to labor mightily to fulfill his calling.

Gandhi's Legacy

His leadership was one of the main factors in bringing about the liberation of India. He inspired Martin Luther King Jr., and though him, the Civil Rights movement in the United States and the liberation movements in Latin America and elsewhere. His teachings on vegetarianism influenced Tom Regan and other leaders of the animal rights movement that awakened in the 1970s. The title Mahatma is clearly appropriate for him.

Like Jesus whose teaching he venerated, Gandhi died by violence in January 1948, shot by a Hindu radical who saw him as a betrayer. His martyrdom put a seal on his sanctity and helped to elevate his principles of satyagraha and ahimsa into forces to be reckoned with by history.

Poetry



The Seeds of Eden
Epithalamion for Maria and Douglas

The earth is dry.
The brooks are threads, the branches crack and fall,
Songbirds are silent, deer tremble with thirst,
The wind soughs faintly through the stiff dead grass
And hopes of freshness fail. But deep within,
The seeds of Eden live, and wait . . . .
And in your eyes, Beloved, that gaze in mine
I find a glimmer of the fadeless green,
I see the dew eternal, the imprisoned Light.
Deep joy wells up within me, overfloods
To join your heart's cascading, spreading joy.
I give my hand, I take your hand in pledge:
Within the center of our melded lives
To clear the ground of thorns and thistles all
That Paradise may sprout and bud anew.
Our hands shall till and keep the burgeoning life;
The birds will trill amid the blossoming trees,
The apples of our garden will refresh
Our neighbors as ourselves; the ragged stray
Will find a tasty dish beside our door,
The homeless pilgrim rest beside our fire.
The Child of Galilee, whose healing hand
Draws death forever from the adder's fangs,
Makes lion graze in grass beside the ox,
And wolf and lamb lie down in warm embrace,
Shall lead us all.

—Gracia Fay Ellwood, 1992

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 April issue will be April 5, 2005. Send letters and articles to graciafay@vegetarianfriends.net or 10 Krotona Hill, Ojai, CA 93023; send reviews to fayellen@vegetarianfriends.net. We hope to operate primarily online in order to conserve trees and labor, but hard copy will be available for interested persons who are not online. The latter are asked to donate $12 (USD) per year. Other donations to offset the cost of the domain name, server and advertising notices are welcome.

Image credits: "Garden of Eden" by Andrew Annenberg

Website: www.vegetarianfriends.net
Editor: Gracia Fay Ellwood
Book and Film Review Editor: Fay Elanor Ellwood
Recipe Editor: Maria Elena Nava
Technical Architect: Richard Scott Lancelot Ellwood