Can't read this issue? Want to print? Click here
“All Together Now . . .” Authorities in a Belgian zoo, concerned to entertain its family of three orangutans, as well as the otters who live in the river running through the zoo, have made it feasible for the otters to climb ashore on the apes’ island. The two species have formed a strong bond, and apparently have fun together. Here is Ujian, the father of the orangutan family, who looks as though he is directing a mini-choir of absorbed otters. For more pictures, including one of a young orangutan playing peekaboo with some otters, see Friendship --Contributed by Robert Ellwood Guest Editorial Essay: A Gigantic Library By Les Mitchell . . . . Stand with me on a pebbly beach in north Wales and look east to see a little harbour with small fishing craft and beyond it, low hills, giving way to higher ground and eventually the mountains of the Snowdonia National Park. Drystone walls meander all over the lower slopes while clusters of stone buildings with slate roofs are scattered about and look out over bright green fields. The stone walls, buildings, fences and gates seem to grow organically out of the soil as if they have been here forever. It is all incredibly beautiful. Attractive though it is, this is a landscape steeped in a history of suffering. The fields were once thick forests, home to living beings of all kinds, but were cleared to provide grazing for captive animals; the drystone walls were built to prevent the movement of those captives and protect the wealth which their bodies promised. The cluster of buildings today house the equipment, supplies, food and people who make their livelihood from exploiting the bodies of these nonhumans. Benign though the view appears, it is, like so many others, actually a landscape of the damned. The ideology of human minds is manifested here through physical changes made to the world, which facilitate the practice of the exploitation of animals’ bodies--a practice which has been carried out for many thousands -- --of years. It is so normalised today that justifications -- --are seldom offered; it has simply become ideological -- --common sense. Before we leave this scene, we must not forget that the little picturesque harbour and the colourful boats mentioned earlier are also everyday artefacts of another of our longstanding and bloody pursuits. Even a scenic English canal with its canal boats and tow paths is a text which tells a history of hours of monotonous work carried out by horses pulling large boats hour after hour, day after day. The canal boats were big, normally seventeen feet . . . wide and one hundred-plus feet . . . long. The loads themselves could weigh anywhere between forty and eighty tons. Once the loading was accomplished, the rest of the work was then turned over to the mule and the horse: who had the ominous task of having to tow these sizable barges. Often, they would be hauling coal which had been dragged out of the pit by “pit ponies” who were really small horses, exploited for the purpose, and who seldom saw the light of day, living lives of terrible hardship. It was not only horses but mules, donkeys, oxen, dogs and sheep who were forced into work of all kinds; and humans were also part of this story, with many people being exploited relentlessly from their early childhood, and in the same vicious economic system. But there would come a time when emancipation for humans would begin, using the collective strength of the workers through the trade unions and via political action. This struggle continues to this day, but for the animals there has been no liberation; and sadly the political left, with a few notable exceptions, seems unable or unwilling to make the obvious comparisons and calls for serious action . . . . The physical texts of our world are a gigantic library for us to read. . . . This excerpt is from Les Mitchell’s recent book Reading the Animal Text in the Landscape of the Damned, pp. 16-17. ©️ 2019 by Les Mitchell. Permission to reproduce sought. The lead picture is from Nature Picture Library; the photographer is Phil Savoie. NewsNotes Transitioning Away from Animal Ag Miyoko Schinner’s plant-based dairy, the Swedish firm Oatly, and Mercy for Animals are offering a program to animal agriculturists who want to switch to plant-based ag. See Transitioning Contributed by Robert Ellwood Shooting the Messengers A tornado April 12 destroyed one of the huge sheds of a chicken-CAFO in Murray County. Georgia, killing thousands of birds and leaving others trapped in the wreckage. Rescuers were allowed to save some of them, but when they returned to get more, a huge number had been bulldozed. Later rescuers were arrested on charges of trespassing. Unnecessary cruelty to animals is illegal in Georgia, but the sheriff won’t act. See Chicken Hell . --Contributed by UPC and IDA Critical Infrastructure On April 28, Mr. Trump signed an executive order invoking the Defense Production Act to keep meat “processing” plants open. Fireman, Save My Child! Here is a short video clip of a worried mother who convinced two uniformed men to save her children from grave danger. See Ducklings --Contributed by Cynthia Overweg Unset Gems Reality leaves a lot to the imagination. --John Lennon . . . . Go, go, go, said the bird: Human kind Cannot bear very much reality. . . . . T. S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton” Pioneer: Tokugawa Tsunayoshi 1646 - 1709 Premodern Japan--from 1185 until the "Meiji Restoration" of 1868 -- --abolished the title Shogun and set the island -- --nation on its course toward modern nationhood--owned an unusual form of government. The emperor, -- --theoretically sovereign, had only one requisite -- --function connected to that role: at the beginning of -- --each year he would officially appoint a shogun (the -- --title means something like "military dictator") to -- --govern in his name, and that surrogate did all the -- --ruling from then on out. The emperor, thus relieved -- --of political duties, returned to other, perhaps more -- --agreeable, tasks: writing poetry, officiating at -- --Shinto rituals, and engendering a suitable heir. From 1600 till 1868 the shogunate was held by the Tokugawa house, and was essentially a lifetime role, passed on within the family. Among the most famous (or notorious) of those incumbents was Tokugawa Tsunayoshi (the surname is given first in the Japanese style), who ruled 1680-1709. Traditionally he has been portrayed, in both Japanese and Western histories, as tyrannical and eccentric if not downright unbalanced. Much of this was associated with his Laws of Compassion, issued throughout the reign. These forbade any harm or mistreatment to animals. They started with rules against the abuse of dogs (hence the shogun's popular nickname, the "Dog Shogun"), but went on to prohibit cutting the sinews of horses, dragging fishing hooks through the water, dog fights, and finally deliberately killing any animal. Writers averse to the shogun then and later claimed that hundred of people were executed daily for animal mistreatment, that peasants were starving because they could not destroy pests who were devouring their crops, and above all that the samurai aristocracy were unable to pursue their traditional sports of hunting and falconing. The claims of executions for abusing animals, and peasants starving due to insects, are unlikely to be true. The last charge is the key to the criticism of Tsunayoshi’s reign. Revisionist historical studies of the ruler -- e.g., in -- -- English, Beatrice M. Bodart-Bailey, -- -- The Dog Shogun -- have appeared recently to show that exaggerated criticisms like these have stemmed mostly from writers close to the aristocracy, who felt themselves threatened in many ways by this shogun. Tsunayoshi's concern for animals undoubtedly came out of true caring and the Buddhist virtue of compassion for all sentient beings. His Laws of Compassion not only forbade harm and killing of dogs (which was routine among the aristocratic hunters), but required that sick animals be cared for and strays rounded up and put in shelters. This shogun was no less concerned about his human subjects; he saw care of animals and care of the ordinary people as aligned. In a letter to the magistrates of his capital, Edo (modern Tokyo), he wrote: "The shogun issued these orders because he wished to promote feelings of benevolence in people. . . You must observe the instructions issued from time to time and administer them so that feelings of charity arise in people's hearts." He forbade the all-too-common practice of infanticide, built orphanages and promoted foster homes, and required officials to care for sick travelers. He seems well aware of the precept of many, more recent observers, that mistreatment of animals is often a first step to callousness and cruelty toward humans, that compassion in one sphere is related to compassion in the other. So it was also that more than most other premodern Japanese rulers, Tsunayoshi truly cared for the well-being of the lower classes of society, and during his period their levels of education and financial well-being rose significantly. Moreover Tsunayoshi advanced capable persons of all classes in the government, much to the outrage of samurai who thought they should have privileged access. Tsunayoshi's broad-minded views may be related to the fact that while his father was a Tokugawa prince, his mother was the daughter of a grocer (adopted into a noble family), who seems to have imparted to her young son much first-hand awareness about how the common people really lived. Her son's shogunate embraced the so-called Genroku era (1688-1704), considered by nostalgic Japanese of later times to be an absolute high point of traditional art, poetry, and theatre; popular Kabuki actors were as wildly adulated, and lived lives as raucous, as rock stars today. Much of this effervescence was the result of greater and more widespread prosperity than before. The great Japanese Confucian philosopher, Ogyu Sorai, lived under Tsunayoshi's government and praised its policies as in accordance with the best philosophical ideals. And it is said that the peasants, though they may have found ways to evade any prohibition of killing pests, were in fact grateful for the stopping of aristocratic hunters who would ride across their fields, as often as not destroying the crops. Historians, and often general readers as times and values change, frequently modify up or down assessments of various historical figures. Few, however, have in my experience undergone as dramatic a revision of Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, and it is interesting that animal issues play a real part in his story. His detractors probably made much of his Laws of Compassion toward animals in their propaganda because then as now, prioritizing animal welfare generated strong emotions, but their primary concern was no doubt the privileges of their class. There may also have been an element of shoot-the-messenger resentment of his reminder that the activities they wanted to resume were cruel.--Robert Ellwood Sources: Beatrice M. Bodart-Bailey, The Dog Shogun: The Personality and Policies of Tokugawa Tsunayoshi. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2006 "The Laws of Compassion," Monumenta Nipponica, 40/2 (Summer 1985), pp. 163-189. Review: Inside Animal Hearts and Minds Belinda Recio, with Foreword by Jonathan Balcombe, Inside Animal Hearts and Minds: Bears that Count, Goats that Surf, and Other True Stories of Animal Intelligence and Emotion. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2017. xv + 159 pages. $24.99 hardcover. This large-format, lavishly illustrated book has it all in one place for those who are fascinated by all of the new information that has been coming out about the ways animals, like humans, can think things through, show complex feelings, communicate, enjoy humor, use tools, even create art and display apparent religious activity. While there may still be some holdouts, long gone are the days when animals could be regarded simply as machines guided by "instinct." Instead, in the words of Henry Beston cited near the beginning, words like a keynote for this book, "They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth." So it is that we read in Inside Animal Hearts and Minds of Derek, a crow who visited Amanda, a wildlife rehabilitator, nearly every morning bearing gifts of leaves, acorns, even a key the woman had lost long before. Amanda had once done Derek a favor, and it was not forgotten. Nor are such interactions limited to humans. We learn about Shooter, a giant elk in the Pocatello, Idaho, zoo, who went to considerable trouble to rescue a marmot in danger of drowning in his water trough. We observe an experiment by the eminent primatologist Frans de Waal that involved giving food to two capuchin monkeys in exchange for stones. One received a grape, the other a piece of cucumber; the grape was clearly far more desirable from the primates' point of view. The animal who got the cucumber immediately saw this as unfair and went into a tantrum, throwing the undesired vegetable back at the experimenter. What is of still more interest is that when this experiment was performed with "higher" subjects, chimpanzees and bonobos, even those who got the grapes were clearly uncomfortable with the obvious unfairness, sometimes refusing a grape for themselves if the others of their species present did not receive one as well. The remarkable caring behavior of elephants is becoming increasingly well known. We read that if a member of a herd is evidently in distress others will come over to that companion, caressing her with their trunks and vocalizing softly. Female elephants will care for one another's calves, and support the old and injured. When a fellow elephant dies, or even if a pachyderm's body is found, others will sniff and touch the remains, and stay quietly as a group for a time. Those who are able to go to one of the celebrated elephant graveyards to leave this life. Primates also appear to have awareness of death; they will remain with the body of a deceased comrade as if holding a wake, gently touch the remains and just be there. Koko, the celebrated gorilla taught sign language by Penny Patterson, was once asked by the trainer, "When do gorillas die?" and got the response in sign, "trouble, old." When Penny persisted in asking how they feel about death -- happy, sad, or afraid -- the animal responded, "sleep"; and when further asked where they go when they die, Koko signed, "comfortable hole, bye." Nor should it be thought that such aware and caring behavior is limited to birds and mammals. Rattlesnakes are not generally considered warm and cuddly, yet they seem to develop friendships, visiting certain other snakes apparently for no reason other than that they enjoy the other's company. Females will even babysit another's young. There is also mention of the remarkable accomplishments of that unexpected high intelligence of the deep sea, the octopus with its eight brains in its eight arms. This is only the merest sampling of the scores of such accounts in Recio's volume. While the stories are told simply for the general reader, it is important to note that all are documented at the end of the book in the form of specific scientific books and articles for each case, all so far as I can determine from highly respected journals and publishers in the field. I have no doubt Recio's examples are as reliable as could be expected. Finally we should mention evidence of spirituality among animals, something that also might not have been expected some years ago, yet is there. Primatologist Barbara Smuts, who lived with baboons in the wild for two years, once observed a group coming back home to their sleeping trees and encountering pools of still water. Without any particular sign, they stopped all together and sat on the edge of those ponds gazing at the water for about half an hour, all quiet, even the juveniles. Then they got up and proceeded on. Smuts called this a "baboon sangha," from the Buddhist term for an assembly that engages in meditation together. But it seems to me, given the spiritual background of The Peaceable Table, that it could equally well be called a baboon Quaker meeting. Inside Animal Hearts and Minds is, frankly, a book everyone in our society should read. We desperately need its perspective. I cannot imagine anyone normal person who could read it and still countenance killing, eating, enslaving, or abusing members of those wonderful other nations sharing with us the splendor and labors of the earth, whom we need to get to know better and better. Read it, give it to others, recommend it, above all take it to heart. --Robert Ellwood Recipe: Raspberry Pie 9-inch baked pie shell 2 T. vegan butter 1 qt. fresh raspberries 1 c. water 1 c. sugar 3 T. cornstarch 3 drops red food coloring, if desired [Note: Avoid Red No. 4, which is made from crushed insects.--Editor] Place raspberries in baked pie shell. Cook remaining ingredients, except the food coloring, stirring constantly, until thick. If you use food coloring, add to the thick syrup. Pour over raspberries while hot. Cool well before serving. May be topped with vegan whipped cream and garnished with additional raspberries. --Lois Wythe From The Peaceable Kitchen, A Vegetarian Cookbook, created by Sandpoint, Idaho Friends Poetry: Ralph Hodgson, 1871 - 1962 The Bells of Heaven ‘Twould ring the bells of Heaven The wildest peal for years, If Parson lost his senses And people came to theirs, And he and they together Knelt down with angry prayers For tamed and shabby tigers And dancing dogs and bears, And wretched, blind pit ponies And little hunted hares.