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
Fox and Owl
“Well, we’re the same color--sort of . . . .”
This picture of fox cub and owlet friends is from the Cater website; no information is given about photographer or location. Their (literal and metaphorical) closeness appears to be genuine.
Editor’s Corner Essay: Turkeys and Humans
--By Robert Ellwood
Many years ago, as a very young minister just out of seminary, I took charge of a little parish in a small rural town in Nebraska. About half the parishioners were real dirt farmers, the other half townspeople whose businesses depended on farmers and the farm economy.
During my first service in that church (pictured) in June of 1957, when I gave my first sermon, the heavens opened in a tremendous deluge. I got word that the Senior Warden--the head layman of an Episcopal church--would not be able to attend because he was a turkey farmer and he had to get his fowls into shelter. I understood, but felt that nonetheless I needed to see him and his spouse, so after church I drove through the rain on muddy country roads out to his farm. I think they were impressed with my taking the trouble to do that. I recall his saying that turkeys were not as smart as chickens; the latter would move into shelter on their own, but turkeys would just stand in the rain and take it unless they were driven under a covering. By the time I got there most of them were secure.
This was long before I had become vegetarian (later vegan) myself, a stance which would not have been appreciated in the Nebraska of the 1950s (or later). But I cared about animals instinctively, once in that town rescuing a bird that had broken a limb, and I was impressed with the gentle yet firm way the turkey farmer cared for his flock. Of course they were money to him, but it was clear that so long as they were living creatures in his charge, they were also like minor wards, calling for concern, even care. Perhaps that had something to do with this couple's solid religious faith.
(I think of another parishioner, a young man whose inherited business was shipping cattle from the ranches of western Nebraska to feedlots in the eastern part of the Beef State, to end in the slaughterhells in Omaha. He was devout and gentle, close to being a real mystic, with a certain light in his face; he talked with me about wanting to radiate his faith more. Yet I never heard him question his job. I have no explanation or resolution for such things; they just were, and still are.)
From our present perspective, a huge part of this picture is dark. Though these turkeys, unlike present-day ones, were not raised caged, stuffed with hormones, bent out of all natural shape so that they were in constant pain, they were nonetheless destined for killing in the fall, likely to be the centerpieces of as many American Thanksgiving dinners. This grim reality we thought about as little as possible while watching them enjoy farm life on the sunny days of summer after the storm had passed.
Two thoughts come to my mind. One is that there is nothing gained in heaping blame on conscientious meat-animal farmers of yesteryear for following a career they probably inherited, that seemed all right to them, and that they pursued as humanely as they could. (Others were and are considerably more brutal, to be sure.) Yet one senses an unconscious duplicity or compartmentalization of consciousness here. We learned to think about meat or dairy or egg animals one way one time, another way another. We didn't see the pastures and the bloodshed at the same moment, and didn't want to. Even now, we can keep farmers in our thoughts and prayers, but need to realize that the coming broad cultural change to veganism--I am confident it is coming, though this bright dawn may still be a matter of decades off--will start with consumers rather than farmers. More on this in a moment.
The next thought is that in moving toward that day, people need to get beyond the process of thinking, as I tended to then, about turkeys in the sun and cattle contentedly grazing on their ranchlands, so that we face the killing itself without flinching. Why are millions of people still so sure we need to kill and eat them in the end? We know now (and could have known earlier) that meat is not necessary in a diet, or as healthy as plant-based fare. Yet the majority still do it, and think of it as food that is especially celebrative, as on Thanksgiving. This may be because once--sometimes even now--it reflected prowess in hunting and so was seen as deserving a place of honor. Perhaps it was (and is) the killing, not the food itself, that is the secret focus of such a table.
Not a few vegetarian thinkers, from Pythagoras to Gandhi, have declared that killing other people, as in war, and killing animals to eat, are part and parcel of one another. We are not likely to get beyond the one till we have left the other behind.
I have recently been impressed by the writings of the biblical scholar/ theologian Walter Wink on what he calls the “Myth of Redemptive Violence”--which, put simply, means the idea that the way to solve a problem is with a gun, that is, by fighting and killing. Wink rightly points out that, whatever Christians say in church, this is what we see and affirm over and over, in myths and novels, in comic books, in television stories, in movies, in video games, in political rhetoric, till it permeates the conscious and unconscious thinking of children and adults alike. Goodness is boring; violence sells. Think of all the war movies and superhero films in which the good guys win, and thereby solve the problem, through fist and fire-power. Never mind that at least since 1945 nearly all wars have been ambivalent, and what real peace there has been has come more by peaceful than violent means. Most of the successful revolutions of recent decades--the overthrow of Marcos in the Philippines, the end of apartheid in South Africa (thanks partly to the diffusion of Walter Wink’s little book Jesus’ Third Way), the fall of communism in many countries--have been generally non-violent. The same with domestic issues like civil rights and feminism. Think of Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, the Suffragists. Yet how many movies are there about them compared to the endless celebrations of redemptive violence and the power of the gun?
So also desperate family conflicts are resolved better by reconciliation than by verbal or physical violence. Read the "Ask Amy" or other advice columns. But the myth of redemptive violence, winning with a gun or brutality on the part of family members,, still resonates in our minds, almost as though we want it to be true. Else why do we in the US have so many guns in our society, though they kill more innocent people than bad guys, and why do we love so many movies that end in killing? I recently saw The Meg [from megalodon, giant shark] -- beautiful ocean views and exciting scenes, but did the big fish really have to be killed, rather than allowed him to live in his native extreme depths where few humans go anyway? Even the powerful 1985 film Witness, with much of its action set in an Amish community that explicitly rejects violence, ends with a shootout.
Like butchers, movie makers give their consumers what they want, and too often what they want is bloodshed, just as in the ancient Roman coliseum. Change must start on the buyers' end, and when it does the world will never be the same again. Historians concur it was mainly Christianity that brought an end to the terrible Roman "sport," which included animals killing and being killed, and human gladiators fighting to the death. (At roughly the same time, unhappily, the church abandoned its 300-plus-year commitment to Jesus’ rejection of all violence, in favor of the concept of the Just War.) Can we do it again today in regard to our own equivalents?
Therefore I propose that killing animals, from turkeys to the megalodon, comes under the myth of redemptive violence as well. Just as we need to kill people to win, we say, we must kill animals to eat and survive. But we ought instead to think of a coming “age of gold / When peace shall over all the earth / Its ancient splendors fling,” and this roseate morning will not be stained by killing even in the darkness before dawn. In it both sides of killing, human and animal, will have faded into the past together as they must.
Let us live now as though we were in that golden age.
The quotation is from Edmund Sears’ carol, “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”
“There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”
--Cornelia ten Boom, 1892 - 1983 (Hero of the Dutch Resistance, Survivor of Ravensbruck
“Past all / Grasp God, throned behind death . . . .”
Gerard Manley Hopkins
Millions of Animals Perish in Florence
Sanderson Farms, aone of the many factory farms in North Carolina, began a statement of their situation after the devastation of Hurricane Florence in September by saying that they had experienced “no loss of life.” Human life, that is. The million-plus chickens who were abandoned and died in their cages, mere property, apparently died “without loss of life.” The caged animals who survived the devastation continued to die afterwards as a result of absence of food and (ironically) water. See No Loss of Life Thousands of pigs also died.
--Contributed by Karen Borch
Boost for Plant-Based Meal Options
Governor Brown of California signed Senate Bill 1138, requiring that prisons, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities must provide healthy plant-based meal options to patients and imprisoned people. The PCRM was one of the promoters of this bill. See Options
--Contributed by PCRM
US Organized Medicine Endorsing Plant-Based Diet!
Not only has the Kaiser system recommended plant-based diets to their 25,000 participating physicians (in 2013), but the AMA and the American College of Cardiology have both passed resolutions recommending plant-based diets.
--Contributed by PCRM
Cruelty-Free Cosmetics in California!
The Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act has been signed into law. It will forbid the sale of any cosmetics sold in California that have been tested on animals (or that have ingredients tested on animals) after Jan. 1, 2020. Since California is both large and influential, this act will greatly diminish animal testing throughout the United States. See Kind Cosmetics
--Contributed by PCRM
Grizzly Bears Win Court Case
EarthJustice, in a court action sponsored by the Northern Cheyenne Nation, the Sierra Club, and several other groups, defeated a decision by the Trump administration to take grizzly bears off the endangered species list, and to allow trophy hunting. Their protected status has been restored. See Bears
Cowspiracy Facebook Page Censored
In June Cowspiracy’s page on Facebook was taken down. The makers of the film tried to find out what happened and why, but received no answers. In August they were told that the case is closed. Because many similar deletions have taken place, they suspect this is a result of pressure from Big Ag groups. See Deletion
--Contributed by JoAnn Farb
Driftnets to be Phased Out
California Senate Bill 1017, which will phase out the use of multi-destructive driftnets, has been passed and signed into law by the governor. California has been the last state to permit the use of these “walls of death” that kill not only the fish targeted but sharks, birds, turtles, and dolphins. See Driftnets
Pioneer: Leo Tolstoy, 1828 - 1910, Part I
Leo Tolstoy was born at Yasnaya Polyana ("Sunny Meadows"), the large ancestral estate of a wealthy aristocratic family. He was the fourth of five children. Orphaned at the age of nine, he was reared by his aunts.
Leo was a intense, impassioned person with acute joys and sorrows, often torn by inner conflicts. As a child he loved reading, but when he went to the universities of Kazan and later St. Petersburg, he wasted his time with gambling, frivolous women, and drunken parties. He despised himself for his profligacy and quit repeatedly, but kept returning to it.
In 1851, at age 23, he went with his brother to the Caucasus and joined the Russian army, which was perpetually battling Muslim mountain tribes. Later he fought in the Crimean War. This horrifying bloodshed, and the insights and disillusionment it aroused, became material for his early fiction, which soon brought him admiration in St. Petersburg society.
After a period of travel he settled down on his estate, and started a school for the children of the peasants. At age 34 he married the teenaged Sofia Bers; in the course of their 48-year marriage the had thirteen children, eight of whom survived to adulthood. The early years of the marriage were happy and liberating to Tolstoy. Sofia strongly supported him in the writing of his two great novels, Anna Karenina and War and Peace, copying out his many drafts day after day. Quickly the two novels were (and still are) acclaimed as among the greatest works of Russian literature.
Concern for the ignorance and suffering of the peasants was present early in Tolstoy's life, but it gathered strength as time passed. Winters spent in Moscow at Sofia's behest to enable his sons to attend school and his daughters to "come out" socially gave him opportunities to investigate the abysmal depth of suffering of the city's very poor: filth, hunger, cold, child prostitution. The contrast with his own wealth and comfort gave him acute pain. The result was the book What Then Shall We Do? which reported, analyzed, and offered, as solution, not charity but sweeping social-political changes.
The death of his brother from illness triggered a period of depression and despair for Tolstoy, sometimes bringing him to the cliff-edge of suicide. If his beloved brother could be extinguished, if human society was so hopelessly mired in cruelty, injustice and misery, supported by a corrupt church and state, what meaning or hope could there be? In an attempt to find a resolution, Tolstoy studied the Gospels with fierce, consuming dedication. He found an answer in the nonviolent way of the Sermon on the Mount, which the established church had betrayed. To follow Jesus' way meant to erase the artificial divisions between high and low, rich and poor; to reject all violence, capital punishment, and war. This stance was carried further in 1885 as a result of a seemingly chance conversation with one William Frey about the wrongfulness of killing animals to eat their flesh. Tolstoy's immediately and permanently committed himself to vegetarianism. These values had great influence on Gandhi through Tolstoy's work The Kingdom of God is Within You, and through a long correspondence.
This radical position restored to Tolstoy a meaningful world, but it did not bring outer peace. His writings propounding Jesus' way and condemning church and state for their corruption and violence brought him both adulation and vilification. His family life was disrupted by streams of admirers. He was excommunicated by the Orthodox Church. His home life became increasingly stormy as he refused to be served by servants, worked alongside the peasants, brought home vagrants, and gave away large sums of money, leaving the leadership of and financial responsibility for the estate to Sofia, who did not share his radicalism. A sexual hangup on his part and jealousy on hers resulting from one of his past affairs with a peasant woman fueled the fire. Their mutual suspicion and verbal violence became intolerably painful, both of them behaving badly. Tolstoy knew that he was unable to live up to his ideals with any consistency, another source of inner distress.
In November 1910, at the age of 82, he left Sofia and Yasnaya Polyana, and set out by train, perhaps intending to go to a monastery or become a wandering ascetic. However, he became ill on the train, and died about a week later. His estate is an international pilgrimage site for those who revere him as a Russian cultural hero and spiritual teacher. (To be continued)
Derived from "The World of Tolstoy," National Geographic, June 1986, and online sources.
This part is reprinted from the June 2016 PT. Part II (new) will appear in the December issue.
Recipe: “Pumpkin” Pie
1 1/2 cups mashed baked winter squash
3/4 pound mashed firm tofu
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp each ground nutmeg and ginger
1/8 tsp each ground allspice and cloves
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 unbaked 9 inch pie crust (see below)
Combine the squash, maple syrup, tofu, spices and salt in the food processor.
Pour the filling in the pie crust. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Let it cool down at least 2 hours before serving.
1 and 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup rice flour
1/4 tsp salt
½ C. safflower oil
1/2 cup maple syrup or barley malt
Place the oats, rice flour and salt in the food processor, run the processor several seconds and start adding the oil and the maple syrup with the machine running, until well mixed.
Roll out the dough between two pieces of wax paper Press the dough into a pie pan.
—Maria Elena Nava
Reprinted from the November 2005 PT
Poetry: Janet Tucker, Gracia Fay Ellwood
Even the cat
Eschews chicken fat,
Preferring to gnaw
Choosing grassy treats
Over animal meats
A taming of domesticated wild
Our furry, whiskered surrogate child
Soaking in sun
Finding the stairs a stimulating run
Finding in cat-mint herbs
A source of delirious fun
Only the cat can tell
The time of day
Without a piece to wear
That ticks away the peaceful hours--
Instead she purrs, content
Our cosy home
Her island continent.
Thanks Be to God
For Finnian Scott Horn Ellwood
Thanks be to God for apples red,
For home and hearth and daily bread,
For all the bounty her hand has wrought--
Thanks be to God.
Thanks be to God for stars and seas,
For trilling finches, flowering trees,
For freshness that cannot be bought--
Thanks be to God.
Thanks be to God for faith’s long sight,
For hands that work for peace and right,
For every healing act and thought,
Thanks be to God . . .
Thanks be to God who guides our ways
From loss to Love, from pain to praise,
For you, love’s priceless gift long sought,
Thanks be to God--
For Thee, the Gift of gifts unsought--
Thanks be to God!
(To be sung to the tune of “Thanks Be to God” by Stanley Dickson, repeating music of first stanza.)
--Anonymous (Stanza 1), GFE, Stanzas 2-4, 2013