A Glimpse of the Peaceable Kingdom
Does anyone have information about this unconventional friendship of duckling and owlet? These young ones do look very comfortable with one another’s company, and the picture doesn’t appear to be photoshopped.--Editor
Editor’s Corner Guest Essay: God’s Rainbow Messengers
By Christa Blanke
(For information about author, see Review)
The Bible tells us how God once decided to give up on humankind and sent a great flood to drown the earthly experiment gone wrong, together with all living creatures. But then he could not go through with his own plan and told Noah to build the ark. And when Noah with his family and animals were rescued, God made a covenant binding himself to humankind and all living creatures for eternity.
. . . . Right up to the present day there are more people who persist in rejecting his love than those who accept it. But the covenant stands. The rainbow still connects heaven and earth for everyone to see. And we are called to match God’s steadfastness with our own and thus become his personal rainbow messengers.
The Bible states that there is an everlasting covenant between God and every living creature. This is one of the basics on which my confidence is built: nothing in heaven and earth can sever the bond between God and the animals. Everlasting means lasting into eternity, a concept I cannot even begin to understand, because it is beyond my capacity to experience. So I have to put my trust in him and become one of God’s own rainbow messengers. I try to live up to his steadfastness, only I would call it more modestly stubbornness.
For people who want to change the world in whatever area they consider most important, stubbornness is an indispensable quality. NGO work in general is not for the lazy who wish for a comfortable life. And people who want to see the suffering of animals terminated will not succeed without consistent work and a good deal of stubbornness . . . . Since animal rights is the toughest issue of our time, because it has to overcome the barrier of species difference, an awful lot of determination is needed here. God’s rainbow messengers are people who stubbornly refuse to give up on the earth and its creatures, regardless of the obstacles, the dangers, and the personal toll it takes.
When I started Animals’ Angels I did not see any possibility of changing the lot of animals destined for slaughter. I “only” felt called by God to be with them on their death roads. So I started to drive behind [transport] trucks. A little later I found people from all walks of life to do likewise. Then we established a charity with the sole purpose of being there with the animals, as our motto says. We became professional, knowledgeable and well respected on four continents. We are known for our dedication, honesty, and incorruptibility. But after eighteen years of stubborn work I still cannot see much positive outcome of our difficult campaign; none of us can. Nonetheless, we continue to travel, to argue, to file complaints, to go to court, to attend conferences, always with the sadness in our hearts and minds, because we continually lose the struggle against human meat consumption. It is completely unspectacular. It may be called . . . single-mindedness by some. I would rather call it persistence and the will not to give up on the animals--ever. The light at the end of the tunnel may still be hidden, but we struggle on through the dark towards the rainbow while trusting in God’s covenant with Creation.
One example: when Dawn started to gather evidence on the maltreatment of sheep in Australia by hauliers on their way to the ports and during loading procedures on the big container ships, she did not see any likelihood of succeeding in ending this horror, but she continued to work tirelessly and under appalling conditions nevertheless. Today, ten years and 11,000 photos and 8.2 million sheep later, she still cannot foresee an end to this trade. But Dawn struggles on, day after day, truckload after truckload, extending Australian mateship to her beloved animals, a true Rainbow Messenger, whose message seems to be unheard but who never gives up.
In Poland once a year a horse market is held in the country town of Skaryszew. The market goes back a long time; it has been held in springtime since 1433 and used to be the biggest in Poland. . . . In 2013 more than 500 horses were brought in for sale and were tied to the trucks for about twelve hours. Many of them were covered in sweat and shivering in the cold without any blanket to protect them. Elderly horses were often in extremely bad condition, neglected and worn out after long years of hard work in the fields . . . ill, starved, and extremely thirsty after long journeys to reach the market. The conditions at the market are appalling. There is no bedding, no food and no water . . . . no effective controls by vets or the police . . . . And sadly this market is no worse than others I visited in Spain, France, and Belgium . . .
But year after year animal welfare people from all over Europe travel to Skaryszew, to verbally abuse the authorities and each other. They have absolutely no respect for the troubled history of Skaryszew, which was ransacked throughout the centuries by Mongols, Swedes, Russians and the German Luftwaffe. The whole Jewish population perished in the Holocaust. To urge animal welfare here needs utmost consideration and tact. Anti-Polish hate mails on the various animal rights websites are not only completely useless but also very offensive . . . . This yearly pilgrimage of so many people . . . is a complete waste of time and donors’ money, and consequently has not resulted in any betterment for the horses, but only in increased resentment and aggression among people . . . .
There are approximately forty markets in Poland, where week after week animals are treated very badly. But nobody ever ventures out there. There are “only” forty horses, fifty to eighty cows, a hundred calves . . . . And of course there is no television crew eager for dramatic footage and interviews replete with bad language. But the suffering of these other animals is as tragic and painful as that of the horses in Skaryszew, or even worse, as nobody is watching or inspecting.
If only animal welfare people would plan their activities properly and coordinate with each other, all these markets could either be controlled and made better for the animals, or closed down. So it is only Animals’ Angels and Viva! Poland who now carefully monitor all markets. Our activities are scheduled for a year in advance, with a clearly defined budget and a well structured timetable and subsequent evaluation. This is unspectacular work, tiring and very cold in winter, but our first success in court shows that we are moving in the right direction.
God’s covenant with Creation is unbreakable; of this we can be absolutely sure. But to work in compliance with him we need to match our steadfastness and our reliability accordingly. And this often means budgeting, even when we feel very inhibited by all this constant planning and optimizing. There are times when all my precious creativity seems to be swallowed up by planning . . . But God’s rainbow messengers cannot simply storm ahead and follow their emotional desires, while paying absolutely no attention to the efficacy or sustainability of their work. God is the most reliable being I know of. And so I at least have to show as much reliability as I can muster . . . .
The Ultimate Security
Until this very day God has never given up on humanity. And there have always been people who answered his loving call and responded with love and commitment of their own. I, for example, steadfastly believe that he has not given up on me and never will. He is interested. He worries. He loves. He calls out to me. This represents the ultimate security, because it rests in him and not in my efforts, which can be so easily weakened by all sorts of circumstances.Angels.jpeg
And as God does not give up on me, so I cannot and I will not give up on the animals. He is my strength. Without him I would have given up long ago. But I trust in the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature, and I act in his name and with his support. And when I make mistakes or commit errors, he is always there at his most loving to help and correct.
God himself has unwavering faith in me. And I try to answer with my own faith, my stubborn belief in him and his love, even if all the suffering I encounter daily threatens to make me bitter and resentful. I find it very hard to live with so many unanswered questions regarding God’s covenant with man and beast. Why does he not protect the innocent? Why does he not punish the wicked? Why does he, the Almighty, not prevent evil? What is this covenant worth at the end of the day, in a world racked by misery and evil?
At present there are no answers to these questions. Maybe there will be in eternity? Believers in all times asked these questions as well and got no answers, but kept faith in God’s everlasting covenant regardless. And sometimes, when I am at my lowest, all energy spent and hope nearly gone, I feel the solidarity of my Christian forebears. Their support helps me to ignore these questions, to overcome lethargy and depression, and to continue a struggle that I cannot win to make my message heard. When there is no one else, then it must be me who is called to uphold God’s covenant with all living creatures. When there is no one else to be with the animals on the death road to slaughter, to comfort them and to contend for their dignity, then they have to make do with my small efforts and limited abilities.PigTruck.jpeg
God’s Rainbow Messengers are not supposed to be heroes such as we find with Greenpeace activists, chaining themselves to the profitable sources of poison and destruction. We do not need to exercise the physical courage it takes to put oneself between whales and the harpoon, like the valiant crews of Sea Shepherd’s vessels. God’s Rainbow Messengers work on a much smaller, less spectacular scale. We nurture and care. We write letters to the editor and approach our member of parliament. We are vegan and promote this lifestyle. We do whatever it takes to make the animals’ voice heard in our surround- ings, and for this we use whatever is at our disposal. And of course we pray for the animals’ delivery from evil, even if, or especially when, our prayers are not answered as we thought they should be.
The strength and security of God’s Rainbow Messengers ultimately do not rest in their own resolve and ability, but in God’s promise to keep the covenant once given. And likewise, the security of the animals rests with him and not in our attempts to protect them. This is a matter of faith and impossible to explain. I can only bear witness to the fact that often it was only faith that kept me going through heart-rending experiences and that it was only faith that kept me sane in a world gone crazy with greed. There are days when I strongly feel God’s love surrounding the animals on their death road with a golden shimmer. And there are days when I have only have my stubborn trust in his covenant, seemingly nowhere connected with everyday experience, and then I have to content myself with trust.Noah'sArk.jpg
--Excerpted from Chapter 11 of Let My People Go by Christa Blanke; minor editing in consultation with author.
Painting of the Ark by Zach Kinkade (Thomas’s nephew), 2015. Used with permission.
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“When the Earth is ravaged and the animals are dying, a new tribe of people shall come unto the Earth from many colors, classes, and creeds, who by their actions and deeds shall make the Earth green again. They will be known as the Warriors of the Rainbow.”Voltaire.jpg
--Native American prophecy contributed by Lorena Mucke
“People must have renounced . . . all natural intelligence to dare to advance that animals are but animated machines . . . . Such people can never have observed with attention the character of animals, not to have distinguished among them the different voices of need, of suffering, of joy . . . . It would be very strange that they should express so well what they could not feel.”
--Voltaire (Francois-Marie Arouet, pictured)
Contributed by Benjamin Urrutia
“We perhaps know more than we care to admit, keeping it down in the dark places of our memory--[that] when we eat factory-farmed meat we live, literally, on tortured flesh. Increasingly, that tortured flesh is becoming our own.” Jonathan Safran Foer
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
“Drowned” Dog Found AliveDog.jpeg
On February 10 Luna, blue-eyed dog friend of San Diego State University student Nick Haworth, fell from his boat two miles from San Clemente island off the California coast. The island houses a naval installation. Luna was a strong swimmer, and Navy people helped Haworth look for his beloved friend for several days, but they finally gave up, presuming she had drowned. Then on March 15 Luna turned up beside a road on the island, thin but cheerful and in good health. See Alive Again . Connor Lamb (left), a friend, about to take charge of
--Contributed by Marjorie Emerson Luna until Haworth returns from a trip.
SeaWorld Ending Killer Whale Breeding
In response to widespread criticism and declining attendance, SeaWorld has announced the end to its program of breeding killer whales, and will also phase out its circus-like show. Instead it will move toward displays highlighting the whales’ natural behavior.
Even better would be to release the orcas into an ocean sanctuary, as PETA is urging. See Change .
--Contributed by Robert Ellwood
“300 Tonnes of Farm Animals”
Canada’s Ministry of Agriculture reports the horrifying results of many recent mega-barn fires in Ontario by the tonnage of animal bodies rather than acknowledging that living beings died agonizingly as a result of human neglect of preventive measures. And they refuse activists’ request for new laws to prevent such tragedies. See Tonnes
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
Pioneer: Aventine of Troyes, ca. 470 - 538 CEAventinus-of-Troyes.jpg
Aventine of Troyes is first heard of as treasurer and almoner of the funds of the cathedral at Troyes, a city on the river Seine in what is now north-east-central France; in this position he was esteemed and beloved by the bishop. In the next scene he is abbot of a monastery in or near the same city (monastic communities such as his during this period would probably have been vegetarian as part of a simple lifestyle, in reaction to Roman aristocrats’ excesses). Here too, he appears in connection with distribution of funds to those who were suffering; he spent as much of the group’s money as he could buying the freedom of human slaves. In one incident he saw a string of captives being led past his door, including a young boy. His heart went out to the little one, and he ransomed him. This child, Fidolus, became his beloved son, and grew up to become a gentle and devout person, who himself joined the monastery. In time Aventine, with the consent of the monks, handed over to Fidolus his responsibilities as abbot so that he himself could retire to a hermitage for a more contemplative life.
Not surprisingly, it is when he was living in his semi-hermitage (he had a companion), apparently in a wild area, that his loving encounters with animals are described as taking place. Some of the stories have a commonplace, homely nature that is rather convincing historically despite the general uncertainty of the sources’ reliability. For example, once he inadvertently trod on a snake, who as a result seemed to be seriously injured. Aventine “cherished” the snake, perhaps in the process laying hands on him, and after a time the snake recovered and glided away. In another connection, his companion would bring pitchers of water for their use from a nearby river or lake, at times including small fish. Instead of killing and eating these fish, Aventine carried them back to the body of water and released them, which tells us that by this time his (probable) vegetarianism was not an institutional policy of simple living, but motivated by compassion. He had a tenderness for birds, and would extend his arm through the window with a handful of crumbs; his small feathered friends would come flocking and perch on his fingers to eat the crumbs. AventineBirds.jpg
It is significant that his compassion embraced not only appealing creatures such as birds, but fish and snakes, who seem so different from us humans that most people still consider them utter aliens with no feelings, to be killed at our slightest inclination. The saint’s compassion for the snake is doubly important in view of the fact that the serpent-as-tempter in the Eden story has resulted in their identification with Satan, fostering mindless hatred and violence toward all snakes by millions of Christians over the centuries.
Aventine’s more dramatic contacts with animals are of the sort that have been attributed to other hermit saints as well, and thus seem more likely to be legendary. In one of the stories a stag, exhausted from being pursued by hunters, ran to Aventine’s hut, and the saint took him inside to safety, closing the door until the hunters had gone by. Similar deer-sheltering tales feature the saints Giles in the seventh century and Godric in the twelfth (see PT46 ). Another Aventine account tells of a bear with a thorn or splinter in his paw, who came storming up to the saint’s dwelling. Fearful for his life (something we wouldn’t expect of a holy man), the hermit darted inside and “armed himself with prayer.” The next morning when he opened the door he found the bear still there, crouched near the threshold and now extending his paw. Feeling a rush of compassion, as well as embarrassment because of his earlier fear, Aventine apologized to the bear, sat down, took the paw onto his lap, discovered and removed the splinter, and bandaged the wound. Then he gave the bear his blessing, after which the beast departed. A similar story of a saint removing a thorn from a bear’s paw was told of St. Gallus, who lived some decades after Aventine. Saints Jerome and Gerasimus are both said to have removed thorns from lion’s paws, and still earlier, the legendary pagan character Androcles starred in the tale. Thus his historicity of both the deer and the bear episodes is questionable, but the latter remains Aventine’s “signature” story, with pictures portraying him ministering to the bear.
Despite these objections, the very fact that such tales are told about this man and other saints says something important. Even in the chaotic early Middle Ages, when violence was endemic, a widespread ideal of the truest and best human life can be found, one that rejects violence and flesh-eating, and shows an Edenic kinship to animals. Besides, in addition to these stories of holy compassion, many obscure monks were vegetarian out of a desire to live simply or even austerely.
The main modern source for Aventine’s life is Vol. 1 of Sabine Baring-Gould’s Lives of the Saints. He gives his own sources as a crudely-told early account, and also mentions references in the writings of Gregory of Tours and in two versions of the life of Fidolus.
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Sweet Potatoes au Cleanse
5-6 sweet potatoes
1 cup VOLUME of cashews* (to keep things consistent)
1 cup of water
2-3 cloves of garlic
Juice from 1 Meyer Lemon (they’re sweeter than regular lemons)
1/4 sheet of seaweed
6-8 fresh leaves of sage, finely choppedYamBake.jpeg
Peel sweet potatoes and steam them. While they're steaming, fill blender with 1 cup of water, add 1 cup volume of cashews*, bringing the total measurement to 2 cups. Add 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, the juice from a Meyer lemon, and a little seaweed for saltiness along with a few leaves of sage. Finally take a half of a steamed sweet potato and add it to the mix as well. Blend. You’ll have a cheezy mixture; taste and adjust the garlic and seaweed.
Peel and slice your steamed potatoes a little thinner than ¼ inch. Layer in casserole dish with cheeze and sage. Add the rest of your sauce to the top, smooth it out with a spatula, and sprinkle with a little more sage. Cover with tinfoil, and bake at 350 F for 15 minutes. Remove the tinfoil and bake for another 25 minutes. Remove from oven, cool thoroughly, and enjoy.
--Request for permission in process
Letter: Catherine Albanese
Dear Peaceable Friends,
I very much enjoyed Robert Ellwood's piece on the Fillmores and Unity. I knew Unity was originally vegetarian, but the detail and nuance his article provided to that generalization is rich and informative. Indeed, the article points clearly to the current obliviousness of the denomination on issues around food and plant-based eating.
And it all struck home. I spent nine years as a member of the local Unity church in Santa Barbara. The community was quite loving and caring on so many issues. Yet the then-minister (who is gone now) had a Buddhist and vegan son, and used her relationship with him as a way to poke gentle fun at veganism from the pulpit. Potlucks were meat-lucks and cheese- and dairy-lucks. Baked goods, with their hidden animal ingredients, abounded at snacks after Sunday services. Since I am myself macrobiotic and very much aware of the energy in food, I did not care to indulge. Nor was I able to do much to raise consciousness and awareness around food. People were happy to eat the alternatives I might occasionally bring, but that wake-up feeling never came. This is to my regret because they are all lovely people. Cathy 2.Dec14.jpg
By contrast, at the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara, where I am now a member, I was almost immediately asked to teach an adult education course on "Ethical Eating," and I quickly learned that the denomination had a sub-website with extensive resources on the same topic. The most recent issue of the church magazine contains a large ad for the controversial DVD Cowspiracy. Meanwhile, I head the "Healthy Snack Committee," which supplies (with a weekly budget from the church) vegan, organic, and gluten-free snacks for the congregation in the social time between services. Still more, the minister is moving toward a monthly plant-based potluck and has asked me to coordinate it.
As I reflect on the difference between my experience with the two congregations, I think that the contrast comes from the relative lack of interest in social issues in Unity and the central interest in the Unitarian Society. So we might say that there are theological reasons for the difference and that, on social issues at least, Unity affirms culture more than challenges it.
Catherine L. Albanese
J.F. Rowny Professor Emerita in Comparative Religions
University of California, Santa Barbara
Book Review: Let My People Go
Christa Blanke. Let My People Go: Claiming the Bible for the Animals. Frankfurt am Main: Animals Angels Press, 2014. 119 pp paperback. Available to activists at no cost, but all profits from the sale of this book will be donated to Animals’ Angels. In the US, copies can be ordered from Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org .
It is well known that there is decided disagreement on the animal issue among Christians who hold the Bible to be an important or a central resource, with many claiming that it guarantees to humans the right to dominate animals just as they like. But this small book by Christa Blanke, German Lutheran clergyperson and founder of Animals’ Angels, takes its stand among those who “claim the Bible for the animals,” as her subtitle declares. She shows that there is a strong biblical theme of compassion for and liberation of the oppressed, applicable not only to humans but also to our oppressed animal kin. Like Teresa of Calcutta, whose ministry to the poorest of the poor was motivated by faith that God is present in them, Ms. Blanke sees God in the animals, especially those doomed to terrible suffering and death. Together with her colleagues, she feels called by God to accompany them on their death roads, giving what small relief and support they can.
As expressed in the book’s title, the Exodus story of Israel’s liberation from slavery in Egypt provides the central text grounding this endeavor. In it God says to Moses, “Go tell Pharaoh, ‘Let my people go, that they may worship me.’” The animals are also God’s people, meant to worship their creator by living, in freedom, in accordance with their natures. When they are enslaved and horribly abused, their cries of anguish are the reverse of praise. And the results of the demonic system are environmental disasters analogous to the Ten Plagues--pollution, diseases upon humans and animals, and death. But, like Pharaoh, the powers that be in animal agriculture refuse to listen and to release them. Christa.jpg
Like Moses, we hear the voice of God commanding us to go to the Pharaohs who hold his animal people in slavery, and tell them to unlock their victims’ chains. Whether the demand is for an unconditional “Freedom now!” or for a law prohibiting some particular abuse, such as egregiously long transportation practices, today’s Pharaohs shut their ears. Greed rules now as then; the animals continue to be abused and murdered, and our earth continues to suffer the plagues of environmental breakdown. Like Moses, we have to ask again and again. But in time, planetary plagues will become so intolerable that the slave-owners will have to heed the message and let the animals go: God’s will cannot be thwarted forever.
The ensuing chapters take up a number of other biblical passages and themes, and reflect on their implications for the cause of liberating the animals. “Bear one another’s burden,” “Seek first the kingdom of God and God’s justice,” “Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn . . .”
“Nothing in all creation can separate us (including animals) from the love of God,” “Whatever you did to the least of these, you did to Me,” “A bruised reed [my servant] will not break, until he brings forth justice,” “Knock and it will be opened,” and “God’s Rainbow Warriors,” (which the author now modifies to “Rainbow Messengers,” as in her guest essay above taken from this chapter). There is a particularly interesting chapter offering highly original reflections on the little-known passage in Exodus in which God instructs Moses to throw a log into the bitter water of Mara, which becomes sweet, drinkable. Following each chapter is a prayer on that theme, claiming its promises for suffering animals and those of us who suffer with them and work to liberate them. The book is illustrated throughout with appealing line drawings of animals by György Lehosczky, with a wonderfully profound and eloquent painting by him on the cover, artwork whose depths I am still exploring.
I strongly recommend this short book for animal activists and supporters of Christian background, and others whose experiences with Christianity have caused them to doubt that it has anything helpful for the animal concern.
--Editor Click here to discuss this Book Review on our Forum
Poetry: Anonymous Spiritual
“Go Down, Moses”SlavesWorking.jpg
When Israel was in Egypt's land,
Let my people go--
Oppress'd so hard they could not stand,
Let my people go.
Go down, Moses,
Way down in Egypt's land,
Tell old Pharaoh,
Let my people go!
No more shall they in bondage toil;
Let my people go.
Let them come out with Egypt’s spoil,
Let my people go. (Refrain)
“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”
The road is long
With many a winding turnBoyAndDog.jpg
That leads us to who knows where . . .
But I'm strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain't heavy, he's my brother
So on we go
His welfare is of my concern
No burden is he to bear
We'll get there
For I know
He would not encumber me
He ain't heavy, he's my brother . . .
--Bob Russell, 1969