Human Boy Saves Fawn
This very young fawn (a newborn?) was drowning in a flood. A Bangladeshi boy spotted him or her and carried him safely to shore. One can see from the first picture that it wasn’t a snap, and that the boy was willing to endure a lot of discomfort to do so. God bless and keep all rescuers!
Editor’s Corner Essay: Original Sin--Against Animals?
It All Started with Eve, Didn’t It?
Most people don’t know exactly what the theological idea of original sin is about. There are many variations of affirmation and rejection of the concept, but two ideas are common, neither of them at all helpful. Perhaps the best-known one is that all people are considered sinful in God’s sight (and even deserving of hell!) because of Adam and Eve’s eating of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. In this most extreme form, the concept takes the myth of the Fall to be history, and gives a reprehensible God who blames many people for a deed done by a pair of ancestors. The primary fault is often laid at the door of a woman and an animal. It’s not hard to see that two oppressed classes are here singled out for special blame for all the world’s ills.
The other conception is that original sin is strongly linked to, or the same as, sexual desire. This idea, or family of ideas, originates with the writings of Augustine of Hippo, and is in keeping with a strong suspicion of sexuality by committed Christians in the late Roman Empire and much of the Middle Ages, appearing as late as the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It is evident that this second explanation is no improvement on the first. Sexual situations can certainly be abused to exploit or harm others, but so can many other kinds of situations.
Both these unfortunate explanations stem from an intuition that the evil in the world is more than a matter of individual actions. The basic intuition is sound. But as attempts to develop the insight, both ideas not only fail, but do harm. The first treats a myth as history and makes God into a vengeful monster; the second also makes God into a monster, not the source of all love and life, and tends to cause people to throw their energies into a blanket suppression of what is essentially a good part of human nature.
But if we look at particular instances of such evil, we can see the reliability of the intuition that more is involved than individual actions. Often such actions are embedded in culture-wide patterns: e.g., the oppression of women by men and the prejudicial treatment of Blacks by Whites. Both lead to countless evil acts that darken the lives of the oppressed and the oppressors alike. I knew of a disturbing example showing both that took place in the late 1960s, when a close friend of mine named Faith was working at a bookshop in Los Angeles. Faith had been seriously traumatized by her upbringing in a tempestuous family in which the father was given to rages against the mother, verbally venting against her the stress caused by his financial anxieties, his sense of inadequacy, and, probably, his own unprocessed trauma at the hands of an abusive father.
The shop owner and Faith’s fellow clerk happened to be at lunch when a young Black man, whom I will call Tyrone, came into the store. That he had been as at least as seriously traumatized (if not more) by situations of white supremacy in his own past was almost immediately clear from his behavior. Whether he had intended to shop when he came in was unclear; he took one look at her White face and went into a rage very much like those she had endured from listening to her father verbally batter her mother. Faith could not escape to the back room and leave the merchandise unsupervised. Her psychological wounds from childhood, largely still unhealed, were deepened; she was left white and shaking. Tyrone’s own future welfare was also endangered; rage out of control, vented on whoever reminds one of the original wound, tends to worsen over time, as shown by studies of both systems of victimization. His self-control would probably be further weakened, and verbal abuse might well escalate into physical abuse of others in the future, possibly leading to his receiving still more abuse from the court and prison systems. The original cultural sins of male supremacy and white supremacy, showing themselves in individual evil acts fanned out in more and more harm to both oppressed and oppressors.
Or Did it Start With the Snake?
The form of original sin that most concerns us here is, of course, the vast systems of enslaving, massacring, and eating animals. The agony humans have visited on millions of chickens, cows, pigs, sheep, ducks, and other animals, as we know only too well, is horrendous, beyond most people’s imagining. In the process, the unfortunate workers, especially already-stressed immigrants who could find no other jobs than killing and packaging these animals, were being harmed also, as well as their close family members. The stress these men endured at work would in many cases build up over time, showing up in the symptoms of perpetrator PTSD: exaggerated startle reactions, chronic tension, insomnia, nightmares, explosions of rage vented on whomever is at hand, usually family members. Children traumatized by such behavior in their fathers have been known to vent their own anger on playmates in bullying and violent play. Indeed, one scholar studying the behavior of children living close to these slaughterhells in their long-ago days in Chicago has remarked that the young ones seemed unable to engage in any play that was not violent.
The harm to human health from eating animals is also incalculable. Eating animals and the products stolen from them--milk and eggs--are usually large factors in the major destroyers of human health in the West, heart attacks and cancers, and myriads of less common blights that carnivorous human flesh is heir to. The connection is almost always unseen by the victims. But even if it is pointed out, most people who rely heavily on eating these insidious destroyers seem unable to stop, as though trapped by addiction.
But the appearance of an animal (though not one commonly eaten) as the tempter in the Eden story suggests an unconscious knowledge of the connection. The blame-the-victim tendency in human nature shows itself too often to be merely coincidental in this (or any other) case. And blaming the victim unfortunately serves to excuse the evil behavior of this form of original sin, to prevent the perpetrators from recognizing their responsibility and changing their ways.
Hope is the Thing With Feathers
Seldom can one shout or shame a perpetrator into changing his or her ways. The only tactics that might succeed are a combination of insight-sharing and sympathy. “I” narratives can help: “I found that I was being manipulated . . .” No one wants to suffer pain, physical or psychological; no one likes being manipulated, whether by advertising or addiction.
The sinfulness of killing and eating animals may sometimes be killed by kindness.
“I dream of a better world where chickens can cross the road without their motives being questioned.”--Anonymous, taken from How to Speak Chicken
“Bidden or unbidden, God is here.” --Erasmus
Movie Glorifying Rodeos Cancelled
After protests by IDA, SHARK (Showing Animals Respect and Kindness) and individual activists, the Disney company has cancelled their plans to make a film from the book Aloha Rodeo, about three Hawaiian cowboys who travel to Wyoming in 1908 to compete in a steer roping competition. (That very brutal rodeo is still held regularly, unhappily.) See Rodeo
--Contributed by Judy Carman
Ohio Cops Rescue Cat
A family emerging from a restaurant heard a cat calling for help from the wheel well of a car he had crawled into and gotten stuck in. The family called the police, who removed the wheel of the car, pulled the trapped creature out, and replaced the wheel. The cat is now recovering from leg bruises at a foster home, where he will be until a permanent family is found to take him in. See Rescue
Pioneer: Alice Paul, 1885 - 1977
Quaker, suffragist, and vegetarian: for many readers of The Peaceable Table, that might seem like an excellent combination. For one woman of the 19th and 20th centuries, Alice Paul, it certainly did exist. A birthright Quaker, very active in the struggle to pass the 19th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution granting women the right to vote, she came to see that the recognition all sentient life deserves equal honor is not limited to (human) males and females, but ought to extend to animal life as well.
Alice Paul was born in New Jersey January 11, 1885, the daughter of a wealthy Quaker businessman and his spouse, Tacie Parry. No doubt in large part out of their Quaker background, both parents embraced gender equality, education for women, and the improvement of society. Tacie Parry was herself a suffragist, and brought her daughter to meetings of the movement from an early age. Alice Paul later attended Swarthmore College, a Quaker school cofounded by her grandfather, then received an M.A. in sociology in 1907 from an institution now part of Columbia University.
She next went to England to study social work, and while there joined the suffragist movement, learning its militant tactics, including picketing and hunger strikes, at the time more advanced than those of the American suffragist counterpart. After returning to the U.S., Paul joined the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Always intensely busy, Paul managed also to receive a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1912. Later, in 1922, she obtained a law degree. At the time only a very small percentage of the US population--much less of women--reached such advanced educational achievements.
Paul took up leadership of the NAWSA in Washington, DC, emphasizing the work of lobbying Congress for a constitutional amendment. The NAWSA preferred state-by-state work; this led Paul and others to withdraw from it to form the National Woman’s Party, which stressed the national struggle for a constitutional amendment.
So beginning about 1913 Paul and her associates organized parades and pickets on the British model. Her first, on March 3, 1913, the day before President Woodrow Wilson’s inaugural, brought some eight thousand women marching from the Capitol to the White House with banners and signs. A crowd of a half-million cheered (or booed) them. But when Paul was able to meet Wilson later in the month, he said it was not yet time to promote a constitutional amendment. From then on, including after the U. S. entered the First World War in 1917, she and over a thousand “Silent Sentinels” picketed the White House with their signs and banners. That was seen as an extremely radical move in those years.
The police took a dim view of these activities. After the war began, security tightened in the capital and the protesters were arrested for “obstructing traffic.” The District of Columbia Jail to which they were sent offered only poor sanitation, often spoiled food, and poor quarters. In protest Paul began a hunger strike. She was moved to the prison’s psychiatric ward and force-fed raw eggs through a feeding tube. Asked about this much later by an interviewer from American Heritage, she said, “Seems almost unthinkable now, doesn’t it? It was shocking that a government of men could look with such extreme contempt on a movement that was asking nothing except such a simple little thing as the right to vote.” Perhaps the motivation of the men in question contained much fear as well as contempt.
But the abusive treatment was counter-productive. News of it produced growing public sympathy for that cause and its leaders. In late November 1917 the incarcerated women were released, and in early 1918 President Wilson announced his support for female suffrage. The nineteenth amendment, granting it, was finally enacted and took effect for the 1920 election. After that triumph Ms. Paul devoted her energies to the proposed Equal Rights Amendment, as of today still proposed but not yet ratified.
As for vegetarianism, Paul said in a later interview that she started this practice after the 19th Amendment was ratified. At that point, “It occurred to me that I just didn’t see how I could go ahead and continue to eat meat. It just seemed so–cannibalistic to me,” she declared. “And so I’m a vegetarian, and I have been ever since.” I am not aware of any other statements by her about her nonviolent diet.
It seems clear that for Alice Paul, vegetarianism, while it was a matter of conscience and was consistently observed, was not her central commitment in the way that equal rights for women was. This is worth noticing. Not all compassionately-motivated vegetarians are primarily devoted to the cause of the animals, nor need they be, since many worthy causes of world betterment are out there; some activists will be drawn chiefly to one, some to another. All such worthy causes deserve their enthusiasts. But whatever one’s main calling in life, whether as educator or physician, advocate for orphans or for elephants, one can follow it while also quietly eating food from plants rather than from animals when meal-time comes. We can learn this from Friend Alice Paul.
Review: Melissa Caughey, How to Speak Chicken
Melissa Caughey, How to Speak Chicken. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing, 2017. 144 pp. $16.95 softcover.
During the World War II years, when I was a boy, I was responsible for a chicken house and pen in a corner of our large lawn. I fed and watered the birds, and collected their eggs every morning. I am now ashamed to say that in the fall, just before the harsh Illinois winter set in, most were sold or slaughtered and new chicks obtained in the spring. I can only say that during their brief hour in the sun these chickens had the freedom of adequate quarters. I could spend hours just watching them in their complex interactions, their daily routine, from morning crowing to evening roosting.
Melissa Caughey commences her work with words reflecting a similar passion for her Cape Cod backyard chicken lot, though with no mention of slaughter. “What started out as a journey to teach my child about sustainability and responsibility, while providing our family with fresh eggs from our own backyard, has turned into something magical.” The magic shines through the balance of the book. Caughey quickly learned that chickens have more than two dozen recognizable “words” having to do with territory, mating, distress, danger, happiness, finding food, and nesting. As with humans, these expressions may be communicated through gestures and body language as well as vocalization. The author also found that the fowl are behaviorally complex, with a rich social structure and unmistakable ability to learn.
The process begins as the broody hen, having laid her clutch of eggs and incubated them for a few weeks, talks to her offspring still taking form in the egg, mother bonding with chick through coos, clucks, and mutterings, welcoming them to this uncertain world. We then proceed to the chicken language used in mating, feeding, befriending one another, and enforcing the well-known pecking order, all the way to how chickens deal with mourning, loss, and their own deaths. Here and there in the volume are two-page inserts by other writers with happy chicken experience (including Sy Montgomery, whose The Good Good Pig and How to Be a Good Creature have been reviewed in The Peaceable Table).
This book does not deal directly with the painful issues of egg consumption and chicken dinners. It merely treats of “Why Your Chickens Do What They Do & Say What They Say,” in the words of the subtitle. It is hard to imagine, however, that even a person with a subpar moral I.Q. could go from writing or reading these sensitive pages to beheading a chicken for food. Many of us, like the writers in The Peaceable Table, also have given up eggs, though there are those otherwise vegan who accept the ovoids of strictly free-range backyard chickens. In any case, How to Speak Chicken gives you the facts on the birds’ incredible language, learning, and doing–you take it from there.
How to Speak Chicken is a brief but beautiful book, with vivid colored illustrations of bird behavior on virtually every page. It would make a wonderful gift for the right persons, including oneself. Even those just beginning to open to real appreciation of animal emotion and experience will find that burgeoning realization fabulously yet painlessly enhanced in these pages. As Anatole France said, in a line here cited, “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
Recipe: “I Can’t Believe It’s Vegan” Chocolate Cake
1 1/2 cups organic, unbleached flour, sifted
3 Tablespoons organic cocoa powder, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup evaporated cane juice (organic sugar)
1/4 tsp salt
5 T canola oil (may substitute safflower oil)
2 tsp raspberry vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract or 1/2 tsp almond extract
1 1/4 cup vanilla soy milk (if batter seems too thick, add an extra 1/4 cup of soy milk or water)
Place flour, cocoa, baking powder and soda, sugar and salt in a medium size mixing bowl. Whisk to combine. Pour the soy milk, oil, vinegar, and vanilla into the flour mixture.Whisk the wet and dry ingredients together until smooth, then pour into a 9 x 9 inch baking pan. (Spray cake pan with nonstick cooking spray before pouring in cake batter.)
Bake at 350 F for about 25 - 30 minutes; test with a toothpick. It is done when toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a cooling rack, then remove from pan. I find that cakes easily slip out of glass baking dishes once they have thoroughly cool.
“I have made this cake and served it at many social functions where the people were not vegetarian, let alone vegan; and every time it was very well received. I was even once asked if I was sure there were no eggs in it-- of course I was sure; I had made it in my own kitchen where there are never any eggs.
It is important to use good quality cocoa when baking. The raspberry vinegar gives the cake a delightful hint of raspberry flavor. This cake is moist enough to be served without frosting, although with frosting it is delicious. It is also good with fruit and vanilla soy yogurt. This is an original recipe that was inspired by many vegan desserts.”
Reprinted from the June, 2005 issue of PT
Poetry: Robert Frost
An ant on a table cloth
Ran into a dormant moth
Of many times his size.
He showed not the least surprise.
His business wasn’t with such.
He gave it scarcely a touch
And was off on his duty run.
But if he encountered one
Of the tribe’s inquiry squad
Whose work is to find out God
And the nature of time and space,
He’d put him onto the case.
Ants are a curious race;
One crossing with hurried tread
The body of one of their dead
Isn’t given a moment’s arrest--
Seems not even impressed.
But he reports to any
With whom he crosses antennae,
And they no doubt report
To the higher up at court.
Then word goes forth in Formic,
“Death’s come to Jerry McCormic,
Our selfless forager Jerry.
Will the special Janizary
Whose office it is to bury
The dead of the commissary
Go bring him home to his people.
Lay him in state on a sepal.
Wrap him for shroud in a petal.6
Embalm him in ichor of nettle.
This is the word of your Queen.”
And presently on the scene
Appears a solemn mortician,
And taking formal position
With feelers calmly a-twiddle,
Seizes the dead by the middle,
And heaving him high in the air,
Carries him out of there.
No one stands round to stare.
It is nobody else’s affair.
It couldn’t be called ungentle.
But how thoroughly departmental.