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 Peace-full diet
A Glimpse of the Peaceable Kingdom
I dreamed I was in your arms, and when I opened my eyes . . . .
Editor’s Corner Essay: Something . . . Doesn’t Love a Wall
Walling In and Walling Out
Why do people build walls?
“Before I built a wall I’d ask to know / What I was walling in or walling out,” says Robert Frost’s narrator in our March poetry selection “Mending Wall.” Right now, as I write this I’m sitting within four walls, and I don’t need to ask what I’m walling out; the outside door next to my desk is rattling nonstop in the chilly wind outside. The walls of my house not only keep me reasonably warm, they provide a place for my computer, books, and supplies, and enable many of the ordinary activities of my daily life. If I were still living near Fairbanks, Alaska as I did for a year when I was of college age, I would soon be dead in the winter without such an enclosure. Even here in much milder southern California, the thousands of people who do not have four walls--as a result of mental illness, addiction, a job loss, a steep rental hike, whatever--are in compounded trouble, and find it almost impossible to return to normal life without a well-considered boost. For virtually everyone, walls are vitally necessary for a decent and creative life.
But walls built to provide needed protection, safety, and comfort can also become means to exclude, to estrange those who are safely walled-in from the destitute, those out in the highways and byways. Many justify the exclusion by reflecting that the plight of “the homeless” is their own fault, because if they just got jobs, they’d be okay. (A certain percentage of homeless people actually do have jobs, and cars, but still can’t afford walls.) As the destitute and near-destitute suffer from the absence of protective walls, they also suffer from the presence of invisible walls that dehumanize them: most bypassers avert their eyes, pretending the street person isn’t there. It’s as if the loss of their homes also meant the loss of their names and their individual stories; they’ve been edged out of the human family onto a permanent margin. The soul gets very cold on the human margins, as all who have been there know.
Other groups of people may be walled out by processes of scapegoating. When a population suffers from pervasive anxiety due to wartime dangers, defeat in war, economic stress, rapid social change, and/or loss of values and meaning, many of them become susceptible to incendiary demagogues who demonize a certain group or groups as the villains who are causing all the problems. Propaganda pictures the scapegoated group, who in fact probably just have ordinary human flaws and virtues, as a powerful, secret cabal of political or financial manipulators, or as traitors, or vermin, as spies, as subversives, as rapists and criminals. At the same time that an invisible wall dehumanizes them, they may be registered, rounded up, imprisoned within literal walls, deported, or even massacred.
Animals and Walls
Animals, as we know well, also suffer from an invisible wall that excludes them from the moral community in the eyes of the vast majority of human beings. Homeless animals, especially cats and dogs, at least aren’t usually scapegoated or blamed for their own suffering. But many cities still deal with “strays” by arresting and imprisoning them, and if no one offers to adopt, executing them. Of course the place of confinement isn’t called a prison but a shelter, and execution is called euthanization. (Encouragingly, more people than in the past are now adopting “shelter” animals, and some cities are moving toward “no-kill” policies.)
Numerically, by far the greatest number of animals suffer not from homelessness, shelters and regretted “euthanization,” but from coming into the world inside the walls of a prison and spending their short lives there miserably, until their pre-set date of mass execution. Their crime is being who they are: not sentient beings with personalities and feelings like love and fear, but food and/or food-producing units. They are property. The invisible wall shutting them out from moral consideration justifies the unjust process; after all, the creatures aren’t humans, they’re only “it’s,” so it’s okay. By means of euphemistic (or contemptuous) definitions, society avoids the discomfort of facing its monstrous, violent realities.
Mending the Wall
When Robert Frost wrote “Mending Wall” more than a century ago, “Confined Animal Feeding Operations” had not been heard of, but the definition of most animals as property was in place, virtually unquestioned, as it had already been for centuries. The poem’s narrator, who doesn’t really like walls (though even he is ambivalent about them), suggests that the stone wall between his land and his neighbor breaks down at times because the earth--nature itself--rejects walls; “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, / That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it / And spills the upper boulders in the sun, / And makes holes even two can pass abreast.” The two neighbors arrange a day to get together, staying one on each side of their wall, to put the fallen stones back in place. The neighbor in the poem, however, isn’t interested in what nature might be implying by these holes. He just repeats an axiom he learned from his father, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
But the narrator isn’t willing merely to follow the maxims of forefathers. He points out mischievously that in some places, like this where the neighbor’s pine woods are next to his own apple orchard, the wall is needless; his apple trees will not cross over and eat the other’s pinecones! Instead of suspiciously keeping the neighbor at arms’ length, he is suggesting, they might befriend one another. Furthermore, the poem’s repeated use of the term “neighbor” calls up the Great Commandment, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” He counters the “good fences” adage with “Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it / Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.” Of course we need walls to confine our bovine property, he is implying. Some readers might reflect that the wall in question is a chest- or waist-high unmortared wall around a green field, not the windowless cement wall of a CAFO with its unbearable crowding, so the system of animal keeping was more humane back then. But we know that, thanks to walls, the cows of 1914--after having grieved the loss of half of their calves in this “humane” system of exploitation--ended up in a slaughterhell just as surely as do those of the twenty-first century. They produce food, and are food.
Nature itself may indeed want such walls down, but not all the forces that breach walls are benevolent. The poem’s narrator acknowledges that some of the broken-down places in the wall are the caused by hunters with hounds: “The work of hunters is another thing; / I have gone after them and made repair / Where they have left not one stone on a stone, / But they would have the rabbit out of hiding, / To please the yelping dogs.” There’s something sinister going on here. On the surface, this sounds as though the hunters are galloping through and carelessly breaking down the walls just to oblige their dogs, who, after all, only want to do what dogs do in nature when they’re hungry.
But the hounds don’t need the help of mounted hunters, of course. The poet is suggesting that the savage baying of the dogs intent on their prey is also the expression of something savage in the heart of the hunters, who don’t have the excuse of hunger and inability to empathize with their victims--something irrationally, wildly, violently destructive. Like the frozen-ground-swell, that grim “something” is also impatient with walls. This interpretation is supported by the poet’s allusion, in “not one stone on a stone,” to the biblical passage in which Jesus predicts that Jerusalem’s massive buildings, especially the Temple, will be devastated: "Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down" (Mark 13:2). The author of the gospel, probably writing about the time of the hellish Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, understood Jesus to have been predicting these horrors (described by the Romanized historian Flavius Josephus in The Jewish Wars). The hunters, like the Romans, regard no protective walls, no barriers to their greedy and cruel purpose; whatever they want is theirs for the taking, the torturing, the killing.
To build, to dismantle?
So do we want to build and maintain invisible walls to protect the vulnerable and innocent--to protect even the earth itself--from the rapacity of the imperial mind, the fearsome cruelty of the hunter mind? Or do we want to take our signals from the something in nature, in our own deepest heart, that doesn’t love a wall and wants it down, that seeks amity and Friendship with all the living? The answer, of course, is both. The part played by walls in the two images may be at odds, but at their best and truest, the desire to build walls and the desire to dismantle them both stem from a sense of the kinship of all the living, because all draw life from the one divine Breath, and what we do to another we do to ourselves..
“There is a season for everything . . . a time to scatter stones, and a time to gather stones together.”--Eccl. 3:1, 5
--Gracia Fay Ellwood
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” --Lev. 19:18
CEO of HSUS Resigns
Wayne Pacelle, CEO of HSUS since 2004, was accused of sexual harassment by several women in the organization. The board gave him a vote of confidence, but after complaints by staff members and major donors, Pacelle has resigned. See Resignation
--Contributed by Robert Ellwood
Four Ducks Find a Home
Four feathered persons rescued from a hoarding situation--Reginald, Daryl Duck, Jewel, and Jamaica, have taken up residence in Karen Davis’ United Poultry Concerns bird sanctuary. . . Ahh, that bath feels good!
--Contributed by UPC
Notice of Tuttle Presentations
Will Tuttle, musician and author of the best-selling book The World Peace Diet, will be giving a mini-course April 10-13 at Krotona Institute in Ojai, California, about sixty miles northwest of the Los Angeles area. Attenders from out of town can stay in the student apartments in Krotona’s guest house at minimal cost, doing their own cooking. For further information, contact Krotona School, email@example.com , or write to Krotona School, 46 Krotona St., Ojai, CA 93023.
Dear Peaceable Friends,
[The February essay “Blessed are the Peacemakers”] really hit home . . . I found so many insights about untreated PTSD and the lasting damage, as well as the healing way to look at [perpetrators] as broken and needing healing too.
The examples of people justifying eating the corpses of dead animals . . . is absurd and shocking but even comical because they are so desperate to justify, the unjustifiable.
The vitriol is astounding and it permeates [almost] every part of American life, even to the point of many accepting the reckless concept of "alternative facts” . . . . But I have hope. I think this is stirring up in the hearts of many, a “backlash” of virtue and goodness, because this MUST NOT STAND.
Karen Borch is the author of Farewell With Love and a forthcoming cookbook.
Pioneer: Joshua Evans, 1731 - 1798
Quaker Joshua Evans was born to Thomas Evans and Rebecca Owen Evans in Evesham Township, N.J., where he attended Haddonfield Meeting. There he married Priscilla Collins in 1753. Following a powerful spiritual experience in about 1754, he devoted his life to concerns for the abolition of human slavery , the suffering of victimized native Americans, the abuse of animals, war, and other social evils. The following is excerpted from the late Joan Gilbert's essay, "Joshua Evans: Consistent Quaker," in The Friendly Vegetarian, No. 13, Spring 1986 and reprinted from the January 2005 PT.
Joshua Evans, . . . one of the human agencies through which the divine inspiration reached John Woolman . . . gave up the use of slave-grown products in 1761 . . . [and] abstained from animal food, as he did also from the use of leather and the skins of slaughtered beasts . . .
These lines from Reginald Reynolds' book, The Wisdom of John Woolman, should intrigue any Friendly vegetarian and foster a desire to know more. Reynolds does not offer a lot--merely that Evans was a farmer, born in 1731, eleven years after Woolman, and was for a decade or so his neighbor and a member of the same Mount Holly, N.J. meeting. At the age of 28, Evans was certified a minister . . . .
For us, Evans has a special fascination because his concern for justice extended to animals. Where did such sensitivity come from in an 18th Century Quaker Farmhouse era when even the sight of human suffering was inescapable wherever one looked? How did anyone live in the 18th century without animal products? What did he eat and what did he wear on his feet?
Alas, there are no full answers. Reading the version of his edited journal published in 1837 is of limited help. Here he refers to his diet only occasionally, mainly with satisfaction about how it simplified life, especially when traveling, since he could get along well on only bread and milk or water. At least once he remarked that his stamina matched or exceeded that of fellow travelers who dined more richly and plentifully. . . .
Evans' journal does contain discussion of why "I did believe it was God's requiring of me, for causes best known to himself, that I should be cautious in taking life, or eating anything in which life had been." Evans quoted Genesis I: 26, 29 and 30 which many a vegetarian has taken as mandate, God's supposed words to Adam about fruit [and other plant products]: "to you it shall be for meat [food]." He also quoted what all animal lovers love in Isaiah about the coming time when "none will hurt or destroy in all God's holy mountain." And he said,
"I thought I saw, and had to believe, that life was intended to be at the disposal of him who gave it . . . that as all creatures, even the smallest insects, have generally a sense of danger, therefore, as we cannot give life, let us be very cautious of taking it away . . . . those who refuse to take life or partake of animal food can hardly be thought offensive to God and ought not to be censured or condemned by men. . . . my mind was enlarged in love of God and to my brethren, my neighbors and fellow creatures throughout the world . . . I considered that life was sweet in all living creatures . . ."
If Evans was much upset by animal sufferings seen in his travels, these comments were almost entirely edited out. One time there is mention of passing by a bull-baiting, "a shameful sight . . . those looking on, no doubt professed christianity" . . . Once, when commenting on the despoiling greed for land, he noted that it caused suffering and death among the Negroes and Indians "and even the poor beasts of the field and the birds of the air." He preached against westward expansion, because of the suffering it was causing. [Evans traveled extensively, visiting] "all the Friends' meetings I know of in North America, except the four smallest. . . ."
. . . . [W]herever he went, Evans was acutely sensitive to all suffering. He would visit any Indian village near his route, relaying the needs he found there to whatever Meeting he was visiting, suggesting members take action, which they usually did. He often preached "something is yet due the Indians for land wrongfully taken," and he liked to compare the blood of Abel, calling out for revenge, to the blood of slaves and Indians . . . . Evans' actions against slavery, at home or traveling, included visiting Quaker slave owners and "laboring with them" over the issue and the practicalities of extrication. . . .Joshua Evans also took his stand against war early in life; at twenty-five he declined military service and gave everyone great pause by also refusing to pay substitutes to kill for him. . . .
These stands, and his singular diet, naturally often brought him into conflict with others, even, he said, his parents and some of his best friends. He acknowledged that he often had to struggle to live out his convictions, especially at first. But for each time we see "I felt a scruple," we usually see "Great was my peace in having attended to my tender scruples." Nothing could dampen his zeal for consistency.
A little more data about Evans exists in some papers [written] by Donald Brooks Kelley, chairperson of the history department at Villanova University. . . . These men, all of whom Quaker Family (Benjamin West)
Kelley says were vegetarians in adulthood, included Woolman, Evans, Anthony Benezet, George Churchman and others. They seemed to share a conviction that consistency requires extending the same respect and compassion to all the oppressed. Benezet was especially concerned about ravages on the natural world; Woolman, as we know, referred often in his journal to the sufferings of animals and longed for the day when they and their owners would be less burdened. . . .
[W]hy is it that Evans, a farmer, became ultra-sensitive to animals when farming seems to have just the opposite effect on most people? Why is it that in brutal times some people are made more callous and some are made more tender?
Perhaps during our lives we will see completion of the reform Evans and his friends almost effected. Perhaps not. But even if we never know what he did for shoes, Joshua Evans is one of those far-ahead-of-his-time Quakers we can take pride in and revere as a role model. He showed us exactly how to live the enlightened, disciplined and--above all else--the consistent life.
Did You Miss This One? The Amish Way
Donald B. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt, and David L. Weaver-Zercher. The Amish Way: Patient Faith in a Perilous World. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010. xvi + 267 pages. hardcover.
Most readers of The Peaceable Table will probably be vaguely familiar with the Amish, if only from movies like the 1985 Witness, or from visits to Amish country. If nothing else, they will have seen sober dress and horse-drawn buggies instead of automobiles, visited Amish shops with their mouth-watering pies, heard "Pennsylvania Dutch" [actually German] expressions attributed to them, and acquired a general impression of the Amish as paradoxical opters-out from the modern world, but steady, hard-working farmers nonetheless. One may wonder, however, why a review of a book about them belongs in The Peaceable Table.
The answer lies first in those horse-drawn buggies and their life as traditional farmers generally. The second connection is in the fact that the Amish come out of the Mennonite lineage, which is something of a continental European sister of Quakerism in England, although Mennonites were Anabaptists, believers in adult baptism, rather than rejecting "outward" sacraments like the Friends. (It was founded by Menno Simons, 1496 - 1561, who became a radical during the Reformation, founding the sect named after him; it prospered mainly in German-speaking central Europe, but then settled in many places from Russia to the Americas in search of religious freedom.) The sort of Christians who take the nonviolence of the Sermon on the Mount seriously and eschew war and official ties to the state, the Amish and the Mennonites, together with the Religious Society of Friends, are prominent on the very short list of Christian "Peace Churches," those which denominationally endorse pacifism. (The Amish were established by Jakob Ammann (1656?-1730?), a later Swiss Mennonite leader who called his community to a more decisive separation from the world.)
The authors of The Amish Way appear to be close to the Mennonites, and present a generally sympathetic though not uncritical picture of the Amish community. They were the authors of an earlier bestseller, Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy, about Amish mercifulness toward the perpetrator following the horrific shooting of ten Amish schoolgirls, and they open this book with the painful yet heartwarming story of an Amish schoolteacher who was killed on an icy day by a pickup truck that spun out of control. The Amish community, though devastated, reached out to the devastated driver of the truck, sending him more than eighty sympathy cards and welcoming him to the funeral along with the family of the victim.
Less favorable publicity about the Amish has recently appeared in the news stories about drug use and dealing among Amish young people. Kraybill, Nolt, and Weaver-Zercher attribute this abuse to the Amish policy of Rumspringa, allowing teenagers, after a very sheltered childhood, to "run wild" for a few years. While there are supposed to be limits, the stormy season enables the young to experience riding in cars, partying, and generally seeing what the outside world is like before deciding whether to stay with it and never come back, or accept baptism and Amish life. According to these authors, eventually about 90 percent choose baptism and the way of their parents, but without compulsion; the others join different less demanding churches, or become secular.
Going on to the animal issue, these authors emphasize that at the foundation of their special way of life, the Amish are conservative biblical Christians whose view of animals is based on a common interpretation of the "dominion" passage of Genesis 1:26; they believe it means that humans "have both the ability and the obligation to manage nature -- farming its fields, mining its resources, and domesticating its animals." But among Amish as well as other Christians just what this means is contended. "Some Amish farmers treat their cows like milk machines, work their horses too long without water, and raise pet-store-bound puppies in cramped kennels," only interested in squeezing as much human benefit as they can from their beasts. (One source has claimed that the animal exploiters among the Amish are few, but gain disproportionate media attention.)
Other Amish farmers take a different approach. An article in the Amish magazine Family Life is cited: "the animals that share the earth with us are flesh and blood like we are. They have feelings of thirst and hunger, tiredness and pain just like we have. . ." One thoughtful Amish bishop remarked that "The horse is our pacer"; the four-legged coworker's speed and need for rest can determine the pace of human life, diligent but not frenetic, as well. This leader particularly liked a line in an Amish prayer book: "and help us be gentle with your creatures and handiwork so that we may abide in your eternal salvation and continue to be held in the hollow of your hand."
A significant fact that The Amish Way does not mention is that many of the horses who pull their buggies are rejected or retired racehorses who cannot compete on the track, whom the Amish thus save from being shipped south to slaughterhells. (See Racetrack and Amish Country )
One Amish farmer quoted in The Amish Way stated, “When I am cultivating corn on a 75-degree, late June day with a team [of horses] that responds perfectly to my voice, and I listen to the cheerful flight songs of the bobolinks in the hayfield nearby, I think we farmers must be the most fortunate people on earth.” How different from sitting in the cab of a noisy diesel tractor! Another Amish writer: “I often joke that if tractors can plow a six-acre field in two hours, I figure on two days, but my time includes listening to vesper sparrows and meadow larks and watching clouds scud across the sky.” And, as the authors point out, Amish families know how to enjoy nature. With no television, internet, video games or even cars to dash here and there, they still know the world of nature near at hand which too many of us have lost.
The concern for animals among most of the Amish unfortunately does not extend to diet. So far there is no historic overlap between the "peace churches" and the no less short list of churches encouraging vegetarianism (the Bible Christian Church [no longer in existence], Seventh-Day Adventism, the Liberal Catholic Church), though the fine Wikipedia article on Christian vegetarianism mentions that some Friends are moving toward that diet as an expression of non-violence, and offers a link to The Peaceable Table. In the meantime, many readers of this periodical may enjoy The Amish Way not only for its reflections on characteristic animal issues, but also for its engaging presentation of a well-known but not always well-understood form of Christianity.
Thanks to Benjamin Urrutia for informing us about Amish use of “spent” racehorses
Poetry: Robert Frost, 1874 - 1963
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go,
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’
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