A Glimpse of the Peaceable Kingdom: Friends for Life
BearLionTiger.jpgThis rescued trio--Baloo the bear, Shere Khan the tiger, and Leo (shouldn’t that be Leona?) the lion, have been loving friends since their neglected infancy in the basement of a drug dealer’s house. Rescued and taken to an animal refuge, they have been inseparable ever since. See Three Buddies .
--Contributed by Karen Borch and Marjorie Emerson.
Editor’s Corner Guest Essay: What Would a Chicken Say?
Single-Issue Campaigns and Abolition/Vegan Advocacy
By Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns
“For me the question is whether or not advocates can make the case for abolition/veganism as equal powers simultaneously with the specific case being cited. Can we agree that advocates need to ensure this happens?” – Will Anderson, author of This is Hope: Green Vegans and the New Human Ecology.
So I am in Brooklyn, New York on a fall day looking at a stack of crates on the sidewalk filled with live chickens. Sickened by this scene, do I, as an animal rights activist, just skip over the chickens and proceed to tell anyone who will listen about the importance of going vegan?
What if a passerby is upset about the chickens crammed in the crates without food, water or shelter, and asks what can be done to help them? Do I simply say that these particular chickens are suffering for the annual ritual of Kaporos, a custom practiced by some ultraorthodox Jewish communities in which chickens are swung by their wings and slaughtered for practitioners’ sins, then move on to note that Kaporos, though cruel, is no worse than what chickens and other animals go through in slaughterhouses every day, urge the person to Go Vegan and proceed to expound my philosophy of Abolition or Nothing?
Will ignoring the chickens in front of our eyes advance the abolition of all animal abuse better than if we paid attention to these particular birds who are suffering, including a campaign to try to eliminate the use of all chickens in Kaporos rituals as part of our overall vegan advocacy? For as Fish Feel director, Mary Finelli, wrote in a recent debate on this issue, “Veganism is not solely about not using animals for food but rather is about not causing needless harm to animals. In this way, the campaign against chicken Kaporos IS about veganism.”
For some Abolitionists, all campaigns focusing on particular animals – in this case chickens used for Kaporos – frustrate the ultimate, worldwide goal of Abolition, Animal Rights, and Veganism. My organization, United Poultry Concerns, promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl. This makes us a “single issue” or “single class of animals” organization. Does our focus on chickens and turkeys hamper efforts to liberate all animals from all forms of oppression everywhere on the planet?
A point to consider is that every category of animal, animal abuse or advocacy can be called “single issue,” whether the category is Chickens, Kaporos Chickens, Farmed Animals, Furbearing Animals, Aquatic Animals, Whales, Whaling, Dog Fighting, Squirrel Shooting, Circuses, Rodeos, SeaWorld, Mountain Lion Protection, Anti-Welfare Campaigns, Save the Elephants, Spay & Neuter, Vivisection, or whatever.
Campaigns on behalf of specific human groups have been waged throughout history. Was the campaign to end Apartheid in South Africa a “single-issue” campaign that thwarted the overall effort to liberate all people everywhere on earth from legalized discrimination? What about the suffragist movement or the civil rights movement or the gay rights movement in America? Don’t they constitute “single issues” within the universal drive for social justice? And do they not break down further into specific campaigns for voting rights, equal opportunity in education, anti-housing discrimination, affirmative action and so forth?BehindBars.jpg
If so, then it is important to inquire whether addressing a particular category of animals or animal abuse necessarily precludes an inclusive advocacy on behalf of all animals. Does focusing on chickens prevent me from contextualizing their suffering within a broader range of issues? My experience as a Chicken Rights activist for twenty-five years says that one can develop the skills that are needed to do both while pursuing specific objectives.
One can do both because a single issue and the Big Picture of animal abuse are not separate entities. Cockfighting, for example, is one “detail” within the larger dimension of staged animal fights which in turn fits into the broad category of using animals for entertainment. Using animals for entertainment is part of an entire system of cruelty and injustice in which the individuals of other species are defined by humans as disposable property, objects, commodities and resources, without dignity or rights.
Paradoxically, instead of a “detail” versus “dimension” scenario (single issue versus total picture, Save the Whales versus Go Vegan), the dimensions are in the details and vice versa, similar to the paradox of individuality and ecology. “I am in the world, the world is in me,” is how the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead summarized the cosmic interaction between the Unit and the Ubiquity.
Not all single issues are the same, anyway. Some are closed circles. An example of a closed circle approach to helping animals is where one group of exploited animals is used as bait to win funding and favor for another. A fundraiser for dogs and cats featuring a chicken dinner, [or] reassuring your member of Congress that while you oppose experimenting on animals you have no objection to hunting, fishing or eating them – this type of advocacy deserves the opprobrium of “single issue.” By contrast, even though United Poultry Concerns focuses on the plight of domestic fowl, we would not hold a fundraiser featuring a lobster dinner or raffle a fur coat to raise money for our chicken sanctuary. We would not lobby Congress for chickens at the expense of other animals. “Help these animals and to hell with the rest.” That is not our policy or attitude.
Thinking Like a ChickenAldo-relaxing_color.jpg
Reviewing the Abolitionist arguments against campaigns on behalf of specific groups of animals, I am struck by their similarity to arguments prevalent in environmentalist thinking in which individual animals are dismissed and ignored in favor of Species and Ecosystems. The key metaphor for this type of holism is Aldo Leopold’s call to environmentalists to Think Like a Mountain. In the 1990s I published an essay, Thinking Like a Chicken: Farm Animals and the Feminine Connection, in which I analyzed the conflict set up artificially between the Individual and
Aldo Leopold the Whole in environmentalist philosophy. I asked, “How is it possible, as the environmentalist asserts, to worry about ‘all the plants and creatures’ of a system while managing to avoid caring about each and every one? Why would anyone want not to care?”
It seemed to me then, and still does, that the ethical result of all Monolithic Thinking and Advocacy, whether in environmentalism or in Animal Rights, is that the individual animal is morally abandoned and the lives of individual animals are trivialized and patronized as inconsequential compared to the abstract entity or goal. Individual animals, groups of animals, specific campaigns and caregiving – all projects and beings are swept aside or stepped over in the march toward Idealized Existence. “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!” Well, yes, but not all sufferers will refuse (or should be refused) a wisp of comfort – a soothing breeze or some bedding to lie down on instead of cement, if this is all they can ever hope for before dying.
Diehard Abolitionism holds that all single-issue campaigns by animal advocacy organizations function mainly as fundraisers infused with false assurances to the public that any relief for institutionalized animals means that these animals are now being treated humanely, so it’s all right to continue abusing them. In this view, exploited animals are further exploited by their so-called advocates for cynical objectives that aid and abet animal abuse instead of alleviating it.
Whatever may be true for others, United Poultry Concerns does not choose campaigns based on cynical incentives. Situations arise that fit our mission, and we strive to address as many as possible, as best we can. Some situations become campaigns. For example, when we learned how rooster feather hair extensions are obtained, we developed a campaign (The Truth About Feather Hair Extensions) against these products and successfully lobbied the beauty care company Aveda to stop carrying these fashions for which roosters are caged and gassed to death with carbon dioxide in order to pluck a few feathers from their tails after they have died in agony.
Every campaign for animals provides an opportunity to promote the vegan message and the goal of animal liberation. I personally like the term animal liberation better than abolition because animal liberation is a positive sounding goal featuring the animals themselves as opposed to the more abstract and negatively framed objective in which we, instead of they, are the focus. Perhaps it is fitting that a philosophy in which individualized animals and campaigns are more or less frowned upon should define itself verbally in a way that obliterates the animals from view. Abolition, Veganism. It is easy for the animals to disappear in closed-circle discourse about Ideology and Food. As animal advocates, we cannot let this happen.
In a recent debate about single issue campaigns, prompted by an Abolitionist critique of the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos (a project of United Poultry Concerns), Alliance member Rina Deych, of Brooklyn, New York, wrote: "While I completely agree that veganism should be promoted, I do not agree that so-called single issue campaigns and the promotion of veganism are mutually exclusive. In fact, many people (including myself) became vegan after becoming sensitized to the individual issues. Not all of us can relate to the concept of tens of billions of animals being slaughtered for their flesh or secretions. For many of us it becomes a reality when we see one animal suffering (and, hopefully, ultimately being saved). It's harder to block out that one image than one of a sea of animals we can conveniently blur into one blob and tuck away, compartmentalize, into our unconscious mind and ignore." (For an essay in PT 43 by Rina Deych about an iguana-kitten friendship, see Rina D .)
The poet William Blake said that we must learn to see the universe in a grain of sand. Similarly, animal activists must strive to integrate and insinuate vegan advocacy and animal liberation into all of our efforts to help nonhuman animals. It isn’t Either Or. We must advocate passionately for the mountain – for the ultimate goal of Animal Liberation – and we must advocate with equal justice, passion and conviction, and do the very best we can, for this bird who is alive in the flesh, just as we are, in the here and now.karen.jpg
VINE Sanctuary cofounder pattrice jones’s new book The Oxen at the Intersection: A Collision (Lantern Books, 2014) is a stimulating case study of the complexities and ironies of a “single-issue” campaign to save two oxen, Bill and Lou, from slaughter in 2013. One irony implicit in this tragically instructive situation is the convergence of the polar opposites of Abolition and Welfare in prioritizing abstract calculations over “saving just two lives.”
–-From United Poultry Concerns Newsletter, 17 July 2014. Used by permission.
Karen Davis & friend
--Photo of chicken and baby from Backyard Chickens, http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/364103/the-new- human-baby-thread/470 . Permission to reproduce sought.
--Photo of chicken behind bars by Carol Guzy of Washington Post.
“Every day forty thousand children die in the world for lack of food. We who overeat in the West, who are feeding grains to animals to make meat, are eating the flesh of these children.”
--Thich Nhat Hanh
'If it is not necessary for health that I should demand living creatures . . . to be slaughtered, and their flesh to be cooked for food for me, then it is murder, and a crime for me to a party to such cruelty . . .
--Margaret Gillespie Cousins
“We are put on earth a little space, that we may learn to bear the beams of Love.”
Mercy for Animals Doing Its Job
Footage taken by a brave undercover investigator for the advocacy group Mercy For Animals shows egregious cruelty to animals at Mississippi livestock markets. The investigator witnessed and documented workers violently kicking, punching, beating, and shocking animals; goats, sheep and pigs being callously picked up by their ears and necks; workers pulling tails and carelessly dragging animals by their hair; and animals routinely denied food, water, and proper veterinary care. See Dreadful Deeds sign their petition, and hold all parties in the Divine Light.
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke and Mercy for Animals
Fish in Schools?
New studies strongly suggest that fish cognition in some cases equals or exceeds that of other vertebrates, including primates. See Smart Fish
--Contributed by MFA
Empathy in Chickens
A carefully controlled experiment shows that hens show empathy toward their chicks. The study involved chicks being exposed to a puff of air. As a result, the hens’ heart rate increased and eye temperature decreased. They also changed their behavior by being more alert, preening less and vocalizing more. See I Feel For You
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
The Suffering of Slaughterhell Workers
Many studies indicate how devastating it is to work at a slaughterhell, because aside from the physical dangers associated with killing animals, the psychological burden these workers endure is really terrible. New evidence shows that some of these workers suffer from PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, which not surprisingly very often lead to severe anxiety, domestic violence, social withdrawal, and drug and alcohol abuse. See PTSD
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
Foie Gras Banned in India!
In 2012, Animal Equality carried out an investigation into the foie gras industry in the European Union. The investigation revealed the shocking reality of life for ducks and geese confined and force-fed for foie gras production in France and Spain. As a result, on July 3 India’s Directorate of Foreign Trade proclaimed that the importation of foie gras is prohibited. See No More
--Contributed by Marian Hussenbux
Cheesy Jalapeño Pepper Bean Dip
• 1 can (15 oz) or 2 cups cooked white beans (cannellini, navy or Great Northern)
• mild-flavor cooking oil
• 3 large jalapeños, seeded and diced
• 1 large Anaheim chili, seeded and diced or 1 can (4 oz) diced mild green chilies
• ½ medium onion, diced
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 and ¾ cup non-dairy milk (soymilk works best)
• ¼ cup tapioca flour (starch)
• 2 T nutritional yeast flakes
• 1 T mellow white miso paste
• 2 tsp fine sea salt or kosher salt
• 2 tsp lactic acid powder or 2 T fresh lemon juice
• 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
• ½ cup panko bread crumbs or plain, dry breadcrumbs
*Note: Use protective gloves when handling jalapeño peppers; or wash your hands thoroughly several times after handling.BeanDipjpg
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a small, shallow baking dish with cooking oil and set aside. If using canned beans, rinse thoroughly until all traces of foam disappear. Drain well and set aside.
Add 2 tablespoons of cooking oil to a skillet and place over medium-low heat. Add the jalapeño, fresh Anaheim chili, onion and garlic with a pinch of salt and “sweat” the vegetables until softened (if using canned mild green chilies, set aside for later). If using canned green chilies, add them at this time. Increase the heat to medium and sauté until any liquid has evaporated and the onions are translucent and lightly golden – do not brown. Transfer to a mixing bowl to cool.
In a small saucepan, whisk together the non-dairy milk, tapioca flour, nutritional yeast, miso, salt and acids. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of cooking oil and place over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture is hot, cheesy, bubbly and smooth (the cheese sauce will be somewhat salty at this stage but will balance out when mixed with the bean purée and vegetables). Keep warm over low heat.
Place the white beans into a food processor and process into a paste. Alternately, mash the beans thoroughly with a potato masher or ricer. Transfer to the mixing bowl. Add the cheese mixture to the mixing bowl and stir all ingredients thoroughly. Transfer to the greased baking dish, spread evenly and top with the panko crumbs. Season the topping with coarse ground black pepper and mist with cooking oil spray. The oil will help the crumbs brown in the oven. Place on the middle rack of the oven and bake uncovered for 45 to 50 minutes or until browned and bubbly. To enhance browning if necessary, place under the broiler for about 1 minute.
Serve hot with warm tortilla chips, chunks of crusty bread or crackers. The dip will be saucy when very hot but will thicken substantially as it cools.
--Recipe and photo from The Gentle Chef, http://thegentlechef.com/blog/?p=1288
Letter: Carl Sheppard
Dear Peaceable Friends,
. . . . I think my favorite piece [in the June/July PT] was the report on the Sandpoint Vegetarians. This really shows how small grassroots groups can, I believe, slowly but surely integrate society, and eventually lead to real change. In friendly social settings amongst neighbors and community associates, people will feel more comfortable and they will feel as though they are part of the group, rather than like they are the strangers in the crowd, as they begin to make positive changes in their diets and in their understanding.
I applaud Mr. Willey and I hope this article will encourage others to begin such groups . . . .
God bless us, every one,
Did You Miss This One? Look a Lion in the Eye
Kathryn Hulme, Look a Lion in the Eye. Boston: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1974. 223 pages.
Kathryn Hulme (1900-1981) is one of my favorite authors. She wrote of her life, and the lives of people she knew, in an engaging, virtually page-turner kind of way. Those were natural subjects, for she enjoyed an interesting and varied life, together with a knack for meeting fascinating people worth books in themselves.
Though a native of the U.S., she resided for a number of years prior to World War II in Paris, where she was associated with some of the famous expatriate writers of that era, and also studied with the famous spiritual teacher G. I. Gurdjieff; these experiences are described in The Undiscovered Country: A Spiritual Adventure (1966). After the war she returned to Europe to administer a sprawling, chaotic camp for displaced persons, of which she wrote in The Wild Place (1953). It was there that she met as a coworker the Belgian nurse and former nun Marie Louise Habets, whose tale, lightly fictionalized, Hulme told in The Nun's Story (1956), a bestseller which became a celebrated film with Audrey Hepburn in the title role. Louise Habets had served as a medical missionary in the former Belgian Congo for seven years, but was sent back to the home country on the eve of WW II on a special errand. Unable to return to the Congo, she endured the German occupation and, after her beloved father, a prominent physician, was killed by the Nazis, left the convent so she could join the Resistance. She and Kathryn Hulme became lifelong companions, eventually living in Hawaii.marie louise habets.jpg
In 1971 “Lou” Habets, Kathryn Hulme, and another friend, Juliet Rice Wichman, decided to go on safari in East Africa--a strictly photographic safari, in a Land Rover. As indicated, Lou had lived and nursed in Africa long before; Juliet, a horticulturist, had visited the continent twice, but for Kathryn it was a first trip to the land of elephants, zebras, lions, and Louise Habets giraffes. (Before the native companions realized that Lou understood Swahili, the lingua franca of black Africa, from her previous tour of duty, she was amused by listening in on some of their unknowingly frank comments in that tongue about their white-faced charges.)
It is Kathryn Hulme's acute observations of animals that most interests us here, a relationship suggested by the title of the book. Far more than a sightseeing tourist, she perceived Africa's fabulous animals as real beings with lives of their own quite apart from what humans make of them, and with souls one could begin to penetrate by looking deeply into their luminous eyes. We might start with lions. "Lions encountered in the wild were totally different from any preconceived ideas about them." She caught their dignity and laziness, the frank honeymoon affection of apparently newlywed couples, the ‘king of beasts'’ power to capture and hold the human gaze indefinitely, even when doing nothing but sleeping." "All the ancient lore about lions that stressed only their savagery now had to be revised." (p. 41)
She also discovered in herself a surprising affection for the hyena, an often despised animal, but one she found irresistible, particularly a family of cute cubs and their mother's obvious protective love for them as the intruder approached their den. The mother blocked the entrance with her body and pretended to sleep. "Every time I thought of how that great ugly-beautiful beast had received us in absolute trust on the very threshold of her den, and entertained us like a worldly matriarch showing her way of protecting her young, I was thrilled with joy and gratitude." (p. 146)
Kathryn & Lou in the “wild place”
The visit climaxed with the party's going up to Ngorongoro, a spectacular, misty volcanic caldera
in Tanzania a hundred square miles in size, protected by two-thousand-foot-high mountain walls. Carefully guarded and requiring an ascent of seven thousand feet to enter, it was a paradise of virtually untouched animal life, including lions, rhinos, hippos, and zebras, which unlike those in less fortunate places showed no fear of humans, but only curiosity. Some have claimed that Ngorongoro is the true Garden of Eden. Hulme, in a line that might interest Friends, offers "my own fixed idea that it was the inspiration for the American [Quaker] painter, Edward Hicks, when he was producing his series of Rousseau-esque paintings, all entitled The Peaceable Kingdom." (p. 188) While this is not possible historically, you get the idea.kathryn-hulme1.jpg
As the journey drew toward its end, as all must, and Kathryn prepared to take final "magic" pictures of a rhino and her calf, and zebras, at Ngorongoro, she recalled words she had heard twenty-five years before from Gurdjieff: "The animals are waiting for us to move up so they can follow." (p. 197). She applied the climbing image to the “Jacob’s Ladder” of evolution and involution. "This," she says, "was the answer I had been unconsciously groping for ever since my first confrontation with Africa's wildlife. This surely was why the animals' long, slow stares had been so deeply affecting to me even from the beginning of the safari." (p. 198) We ourselves need to be able to
receive and understand those slow stares, whether in Africa or from farmed animals or our own companion animals. They are saying they want us to move ahead in our evolution, no doubt above all in our moral and spiritual evolution, so they can follow. Kathryn Hulme's classic animal narrative, Look a Lion in the Eye, is a splendid inspiration for taking that adventure.
Review: Trusting Calvin
Sharon Peters, Trusting Calvin: How a Dog Helped Heal a Holocaust Survivor's Heart. Guilford, CT: Lyons Press, 2012. 184 pp. $19.95 hardcover.
This appealing little book, by a journalist who was author of the popular Pet Talk column in USA Today, tells the story of Max Edelman. Max (originally Moshe) was just a Jewish teenager when, after the German invasion of his native Poland, he was seized by the conquerors and spent five years in brutal work camps. It was all he could do to hold onto life, but unlike many others he somehow managed to survive, though at the cost of his sight, lost through unspeakable torture.
After the war, despite his disability he married and immigrated with his bride to America, where they settled in Cleveland. There, even though difficulties arose owing to his lack of English fluency, blindness, and Jewishness, it was nothing like the terrible years in Europe. He finally found a job in a hospital x-ray darkroom, had two fine sons, and lived a long life.
For several decades he would rarely speak of the experiences of 1940-45, and then only in vague allusion. Those years were still with him, however; nearly every night he cried out, soaked in sweat, as they came back out of the darkness in nightmares. He once commented that though the Nazis lost the war, in another sense they were undefeated, for those who knew them could never forget them as inner demons however hard they tried. Max's tale, in both its almost unbearable horror and later joys, is told in a flowing, highly readable style.
It should be mentioned, though, that toward the end of his life the blind survivor began speaking more about what he had been through to various audiences. Indeed, in 2008 he accepted an invitation to return to Flossenbürg Concentration Camp in Germany as a survivor, a tiring and emotionally grueling visit, to speak to a Youth Conference held there. One question he received from a student was this: "Having suffered so much in the Holocaust, do you hate us Germans?" His answer: "One of the things I have learned in the eighty-six years of my life is that hatred is not beneficial. The younger generation of Germans has no reason to feel guilty for the crimes committed by your grandparents' and great-grandparents' generations. Feel ashamed, feel a sense of national responsibility, yes, but no guilt."
The real climax of the book, though, is Max's relation to a series of seeing-eye dogs, after his retirement and the illness and death of his wife. He was told, and believed, that a guide dog would not only provide friendship, but would help him get around--Max liked to go out and hated being confined to quarters in the absence of a human companion. There was just one problem: Max had a real phobia of dogs. Back in the camps, the Germans had patrolled with fierce dogs straining at the leash, dogs trained to bring down and kill a prisoner at a single word of command. He had seen this happen.
But he did bring himself to visit the New York campus of Guiding Eyes for the Blind, and talk with Charlie, one of the trainers. "No human being is born evil," Charlie told him. "Some become evil. No dog is born vicious. Give us a chance to prove to you that the dog you will get here will guide you safely, love you, and protect you." Getting the dog was no easy process; Trusting Calvin gives very interesting details, new to me at least, about the elaborate process of training a guide dog and matching just the right dog to the right person, for a unique interspecies relationship that is far more than friendship.
He got Calvin, a fine mahogany-colored Labrador retriever. Early on, the connection did not always go well. For all his effort, Max was not entirely comfortable with living so closely with a dog, and the highly sensitive Calvin could tell. At first the animal seemed to think he just needed lightening up, and would try to play games like hiding his human's socks. But as the human continued to seem anxious and awkward in the relationship, Calvin started losing weight, perhaps worried he was not rightly doing the job for which he was so well trained, and which he had eagerly welcomed at first.
A vet, then Charlie, told Max that nothing physical was wrong with Calvin. Rather, no doubt because of trauma in years gone by, the man was too emotionally distant from the dog. "His behavior is a reflection of your behavior." Max needed to show Calvin how much the two were bonded, and that the dog was liked and trusted as a real partner. Max worked hard at creating the sought-after shift in the connection; it was a long, slow process. Then something happened.
One warm September afternoon, Max and Calvin were taking a walk through their neighborhood. They stepped into an intersection, and suddenly the dog stopped and jerked Max violently backward. Tires squealed as a speeding car roared off. In a moment Max realized what had happened--he had come within an ace of being hit by a car, and Calvin had saved him. Real feeling welled up. For the first time Max knelt, hugged Calvin, and offered him full unrationed affection. Within days it was as though there had never been a problem between them.
Dog lovers, and all who care about animals, will relish this and many other stories that reveal the truly remarkable bond that can exist between the blind and their seeing-eye guides, and the almost unbelievable intelligence and intuitive understanding the latter can display, both in emergencies, and in the everyday relationship of two beings of different species who truly respect and bond with each. At the end of the book, Sharon Peters tells us more about guide and other service or assistance dogs (there are also mobility dogs, hearing dogs, and psychological-assistance dogs), their training and remarkable accomplishments. One story is worth telling here: a woman suffering from a neuromuscular disorder that weakened her muscles including breathing, had fallen unconscious. Her assistance dog apparently concluded from her very shallow and ragged breathing that she wasn't just sleeping. Then the phone rang; he knocked it off the cradle and barked into it incessantly until the caller realized something must be wrong, and sent someone to investigate.Calvin&Max.jpg
If you love animals and are concerned about animal issues, but (like me until now) did not know as much as you should about the fabulous gifts of assistance dogs, this is the book for you. Read it, relish it, and give thanks.
Pioneers of Compassion: James Cousins (1873-1956) and Margaret Cousins (1875-1954)
James Henry Cousins and Margaret Elizabeth Gillespie Cousins were a remarkable Irish-born couple of high cultural achievement and profound spiritual and moral sensitivity. They moved from their native land to India in 1915, essentially spending the rest of their lives in the subcontinent, though traveling widely. A number of fields seized their attention as the years went by. James was a poet, playwright, actor, critic, editor, psychical researcher, and teacher, whose poetry and literary critical works, including those comparing Asian and European works, continue to be highly regarded. Margaret (often called Gretta) was a musician, a college teacher in India, a suffragist, and, later, an advocate for Indian women and children. She was also psychically gifted. In 1922 she became the first woman magistrate in British India. Nevertheless, in 1932 she was arrested for speaking against certain oppressive measures, even as much earlier, in 1910, she had been arrested in a demonstration for women's right to vote, and in 1913 in a demo on behalf of Irish home rule. A gifted composer, initially she studied music in Dublin; among her many later accomplishments was co-composing with Tagore the music for the Indian national anthem, "Jana Gana Mana.”
Though of Protestant rather than Roman Catholic background, James and Margaret were thoroughly Irish, and, like most of their countrymen and women, held few illusions about the British Empire. On the positive side, they manifested abundantly the verdant island's tremendous energy, independence of mind, sense of justice, and a truly Celtic love of wandering, words, and wonders. They became Theosophists, and early adopted a deeply-felt commitment to the vegetarian and anti-vivisectionist cause. In this short piece, we cannot hope to cover all of such varied and committed lives. We will therefore concentrate, appropriately, on the vegetarianism. Material is essentially taken from their remarkable co-autobiography, We Two Together (1950).
It was James who first turned to a meat-free diet, before their marriage. Working as a young man in Dublin, he had severe indigestion and several other health problems which led to his being turned down for insurance. But as he wrote, "The rejection by the insurance company proved my physical salvation." He tried several then-faddish cures, before reading about vegetarianism and deciding to give it try. Fortunately, a vegetarian restaurant had just opened in Ireland's capital near his office; he started eating there one day a week. "My first veg day-a-week gave me such a comfortable afternoon that I soon increased it to two and thence to six." Sunday remained a problem, because he ate with his host and hostess who, though pious and kindly people, served "what they called 'meat' but I came soon to regard as 'dead animal.'" But they, and also his parents, eventually found his improvement so obvious that they could no longer attribute his dietary eccentricity, as they did at first, to "softening of the brain." He even got the insurance he wanted from a second application and medical exam, at which the doctor was duly impressed with his excellent condition.
James and Margaret were married April 9, 1903. Although Margaret of course was aware of her bridegroom's vegetarianism, he had put no pressure on her to adopt the same, and she did not so declare herself until the wedding itself. Then, in James' words, "At the wedding breakfast, the new 'Mrs. Cousins,' when the customary dainties fabricated from tortured and murdered creatures began to be served, gently but conclusively announced, in presence of parents and relations and guests, that from that moment she joined her husband as a vegetarian."
The obviously proud husband went on to say, "I had not asked, not even suggested, her doing so. I had not even hoped that my assurance to her of complete freedom in all our relationships would be met by any concession from her side. I had reached the conviction that only in such freedom . . . could the unity of spirit and feeling be engendered through which richness of character, benignity of action . . . with their inevitable [fruit] of peace and happiness, would grow. I had sensed her nobility of spirit, her natural idealism, her impulse to disinterested service . . . ; and I had made up my own mind that our marriage would be, on my side, . . . a high privilege and spiritual responsibility. Her voluntary determination to join me in the purification of our physical lives, and setting ourselves right with the creatures that shared life with us on the planet, was to me an invisible marriage, deeper and more binding that the ritual of conventional respectability through which we had just passed."
Margaret, in her part of the joint autobiography, says that at first in their long courtship she had disliked Mr. Cousins' vegetarianism, even though he "did not draw attention to it or preach it." "Somehow he managed to get enough vegetables, fruit, nuts, cereals, to satisfy his hunger and keep him healthy." Then, one day, she "suddenly realised as in a blinding light of unarguable Truth: 'If it is not necessary for health that I should demand living creatures, small and large, to be slaughtered, and their flesh to be cooked for food for me, then it is murder, and a crime for me to a party to such cruelty and wickedness, and as soon as I am free to order my own food I will be a vegetarian.'"
The conviction was first tested on their honeymoon, in a small hotel near Killarney in the wild and hilly west of Ireland. They had sent word in advance that they "did not use flesh-foods of any kind." The cook's "brilliant idea of alternatives was a combination of cabbage, rhubarb and cheese" -- hardly an appealing plate. Fortunately they also had a large slab of wedding cake with them!
In 1905 the Irish Vegetarian Society was formed, with Margaret as its first secretary. This, she reports, brought her in touch with like-minded persons in England and elsewhere, including reading a letter from George Bernard Shaw at a Society banquet, in which the great playwright said, "I have not tasted a fellow-creature for twenty-five years." The Irish Vegetarian Society was also, she remarks, notable for the non-vegetarian names of its first officers: president, Henry Ham; vice-presidents, Mrs. Jonathan Hogg and Miss Maude Joynt. At least, she says, such curiosities got them into the news.
Finally, Quaker readers will be interested in the one reference to the Society of Friends in We Two Together. Here is a passage from a section by Margaret about a trip to America; this occurred in Quaker-founded Philadelphia.
An item in our programme was a Quakers' Meeting. Jim was conducted to a seat on a platform; I was put in a pew on the floor of the meeting-house, a squarish undecorated room with none of the usual signs of "church." Just why we two together were separated I learned later. Jim had been as curious as myself, and asked the usher why he was given so prominent a position. He presumed he was on a speakers' platform. Correct. "But I didn't know you anticipated speeches. I thought you waited for the spirit to move a speaker." "So we do usually, but on this occasion we are hopeful that he spirit will move you." And it did. After some men and women had spoken briefly of personal spiritual experiences he stood up, moved by something, and gave a short talk on his favourite text, "Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord," a plea for repose and meditation as a means of realizing, rather than just mentally understanding, one's real nature and the nature of the larger life on which this life depends.IMG_20140803_164746.jpg
For vigor, idealism, and commitment Margaret and James Cousins can hardly be equaled, either singly or as a married couple living their ideals together as far too few do. Their joint vegetarianism was a vital part of their wedded state -- or rather wedded activity, a far better term for this dynamic and devoted couple. They will long be an inspiration to vegetarians and many others.
SOURCES: Wikipedia and James H. Cousins and Margaret E. Cousins, We Two Together. Madras, India: Ganesh & Co., 1950.
Poetry: Eden Phillpotts, 1862 - 1960
Brocks snuffle from their holt within
A writhen root of black-thorn old,
And moonlight streaks the gashes bold
Of lemon fur from ear to chin,
They stretch and snort and snuff the air,
Then sit, to plan the night’s affair.
The neighbours, fox and owl, they heed,
And many whispering scents and sounds
Familiar on their secret rounds,
Then silently make sudden speed,
Paddling away in single file
Adown the eagle fern’s dim aisle.
--Photo by Paul A. Butler
“Brock” is a Celtic word for badger.