In 2019, four tiny baby squirrels in Bakhchisaray, the Crimea were abandoned (or orphaned) by their mother. They were taken to a wildlife park. The keepers put the infant squirrels with a queen cat who had recently given birth. The little squirrels were wary of her at first, but she offered them the love and care they needed, and they accepted it and her.
Editor’s Corner Essay: “Of Course--Come In, Come In”
For many years--probably millennia--marginalized people have been intentionally insulted by comparisons with animals. It is still going on; outsider persons are abused by being called any number of animal names, from “snakes” to “sheep. “ The very word “animal” has been made into a term of abuse for a human. Obviously, the assumption is that animals are inherently contemptible. In writing this essay about rescuers of people and of animals, I know there is a danger that some reader will assume that this comparison puts down the humans in question. However, I believe that most, probably all, readers of The Peaceable Table would reject this assumption because they hold both vulnerable animals and endangered human beings in deep compassion and respect, and thus will be open to finding insights in comparing the psychology of rescuers of Jewish refugees during the Holocaust/Shoah with rescuers of animal today. (Karen Davis has led the way with her study “The Holocaust and the Henmaid’s Tale.”)
The Rescuer Self
“Of course, come in” was the spontaneous response of Magda Trocmé (pictured), a woman with international experience who was the wife of André Trocmé, leader of a Protestant church with Huguenot roots in the small town of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, in the hill country of south-east-central France. The words of heartfelt welcome were spoken in the early 1940s, and were offered to a Jewish woman who had come to her door seeking refuge from the murderous functionaries of the Nazi machine then ruling the area. Magda responded to the situation from her heart and that of her spouse; their foundational message to all was “You are one of us; your need is ours.” (In fact, the Trocmés were pacifists, convinced that all humans were of infinite value, that violence of any kind was never acceptable even when the motive was a good one.) She did not share André’s strong faith in God, but in their values, centered in their innermost selves, they were one.
Magda was not calculating the risks; she was not thinking “I’m committed myself to be a Rescuer, to endanger my life and my family’s to save these strangers.” But she soon found out that she had in fact made such a commitment, for herself, her spouse, and their four young children; in fact, the Trocmė parents became leaders, together with others, in a concerted effort by the whole town to save all the Jews who came asking for help. The word got out, and refugees came in a steady stream. Some stayed in the houses of parishioners in town; some on nearby farms; many were helped to neutral Switzerland.
Estimates of the number of people the Chambonais saved over the course of the war range from 2,000 to 5,000. One of the rescuers and a small number of Jewish guests were captured and killed. But, amazingly, the rescuers got away with nearly all of it, although it was generally known throughout the region that there was a “nest of Jews” in Le Chambon; and other towns doing much the same work were essentially destroyed. One reason for the Chambonais’ success was that someone in the local Nazi headquarters helped them. There would be a phone call at the Trocmés from time to time; a voice would say “Attention! Attention! Tomorrow morning!” and hang up. André would activate the town’s phone tree, and when the Nazi raiders arrived the next day, no Jews were to be found. (When the raid was over, of course, they came back in.)
But the “righteous Nazi officer” is not the whole answer. The fact that the town’s residents joined together to operate almost as a single individual has to do with the residents’ strong identification with their persecuted Huguenot ancestors--another reason for their success. There were other factors as well, but even when all is taken together, the outcome was still deemed by many to be scarcely less than “miraculous.”
Analogies to Animal Rescue
No doubt what makes the story of Le Chambon so dramatic and unforgettable is the life-threatening danger to the rescuers as well as their guests, their courage in facing it, and their remarkable degree of success. Present-day rescuers of animals do not place themselves in comparable danger, but there are analogies nevertheless. This story took place during the days when conquered Europe was awash in Nazi propaganda demeaning Jews as vermin, glorifying “Aryans” as the ones at the top of the heap, and promoting other suffocating fascist values. But the rescuers quietly and steadfastly resisted the message, instead keeping alive and well their empathy with the targets of widespread abuse.
Few people relish being a small minority in any area of society, standing outside in the social cold (from being in this realm so much during my childhood and youth, I feel for those who fear being pushed out here); there is much more psychological safety in being part of the majority, holding its views, and perhaps joining the rest in acting on them. So even when resisting is not a matter of risking arrest, torture, and execution, the pressure to conform can be considerable; it can take courage to resist the message of our culture that animals, especially “food” animals such as pigs and chickens, should be regarded with contempt for supposedly being greedy or filthy or cowardly. That message is propaganda, generated by the culture as a whole to salve the consciences of ordinarily decent human beings in the face of the cruelty and injustice of the food system they’ve been born into and been pressured from all sides to support: the system that enslaves animals in order to exploit them for their “products,” to kill them so that humans may eat their bodies.
When the fact that the message is propaganda is revealed by seeing someone reject it and practice compassionate veganism, when participants in the system are forced to face up to what they have been supporting, some of them can become angry. It is uncomfortable to feel accused of being a supporter of evil; it eases the mind to find some reason to blame and attack the vegan instead.
This pressure can be particularly strong in families; members (typically, parents and grandparents) can be either manipulative or heavy-handed in pushing it: “I’ve worked so hard making this meal for you . . . (sniff)” or “You’ll eat what the rest of us eat, or I’ll know the reason, young man,” / “young lady.”
This kind of pressure has been lessening somewhat in the last ten-fifteen years, as knowledge of the ecological and health benefits of vegetarian diets has been spreading. Although vegetarians and vegans are still few and far between, it is not hard now to cook a meal without animals and their products stolen from them; meat substitutes are plentiful, tasty, and easily available; many more people are having meatless meals here and there throughout the week. We may keep working and hoping for the best.
But the process of becoming an activist, like that of becoming a rescuer, is still hard. Whether people swallow the propaganda or not, few want to hear about or see what needs to be faced: the disagreeable--agonizing-- details of what happens in the death houses. Even if we know that mass killing is taking place, most people would rather convince themselves that it is quick and painless, and think about something else. And even activists who know and cannot un-know, in many cases engage in this avoidance as part of a practical stance; they push the horrors out of their minds and get on with the daily business of rescuing what victime they can.
The Righteous Among the Nations
Of course there are other analogies, and other important differences; for lack of space I will cut off the comparisons here, making only one more point. Unfortunately, when the word righteous is heard, many persons from Christian traditions (perhaps most) hear “self-righteous.” This couldn’t be more wrong. One of the richest meanings of “righteous” in the Hebrew Bible is “life-giving;” the most important association with the term is that righteousness is often attributed to our life-giving God. It is the opposite of self-righteousness; it suggests a kind of self-forgetfulness in the interests of promoting distributive justice. It is looking out for the interests of those who have been forgotten or deliberately excluded--or, even worse, stamped on with the intention of stamping them out.
As beings made in the image of the life-giving God--in Quaker language, bearers of the divine Light--we are committed to be rescuers and supporters of rescuers. We must say, with the residents of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon eighty years ago, “Your need is ours.”
For more information about the psychology of rescuers of Jews from the Nazis, see Eva Fogelman, Rescuer Self To learn more about the welcome offered to Jews in Le Chambon during WWII, read Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed by Philip Hallie. (This title comes from Deut. 19:10)
"Art can …evoke reverence for the dignity of every [person] and for the life of every animal, can make [people] ashamed of luxury, of violence, of revenge, or of using for their pleasure that of which others are in need . . . . “
--Leo Tolstroy, What is Art? Contributed by Anita Krajnc
‘Our’ cows produce food, until they become food.
May my love
Texas has been practicing a form of blood-free bullfighting on a small scale for over a decade. In some cases the fight is ended when the “matador” / “matadora” takes a flower that has been fastened to the bull’s back. See “Matadora“
The Honorable Mr. Adams, Vegan Activist
Eric Adams, expected to become the next mayor of New York, is a vegan activist. A number of good things, including police reform and emphasis on healthy food for people dependent on public food programs, are expected from his administration. See Mr. Adams
--Contributed by Kate Carpenter
Pioneer: Gina Cerminara, 1914-1984
Born in Milwaukee, Gina Cerminara was of Italian descent, her father an attorney and an agnostic, her mother, she says, “a perpetual student of religions and movements.” For a long time mother and daughter attended the Theosophical Society in Milwaukee; this was Cerminara’s main religious influence in youth. At eleven, she decided she wanted to be a writer. Cerminara was a modern Renaissance woman; among her many interests were reincarnation, spirituality, Theosophy, general semantics, parapsychology, and vegetarianism.
Her degrees, through the Ph.D. in psychology (not an easy achievement for a woman in pre-Second Wave days), she earned at the University of Wisconsin, where she later taught. Other college work was done at Northwestern and the University of Rome; other teaching at a Milwaukee high school and the Latin American Institute of New York.
Her studies in the work of Edgar Cayce led her to affirm that reincarnation is a reality; she believed in Cayce’s ability to help people heal themselves by understanding past lives. Her first book, Many Mansions, published in 1950, was about him and his work. It sold 900,000 copies in 11 languages. Cerminara’s supportive analysis of Cayce’s work takes reincarnation from the category of bizarre beliefs, to which it was then largely relegated, to that of a logical ethic, helpful in living and not really in conflict with Christianity. Like all Cerminara’s books, this one is so rich in thought-provoking material that it needs multiple readings. Samples of Cayce’s ideas: “It is a sin to do violence to our own bodies through intemperance or neglect . . . Love does not possess; love is . . . no effort is ever wasted; all striving and compassionate desire enriches the universal pool of resources available to all . . . frustration is the mother of creation . . . knowledge not lived is sin . . . selfishness is the basic sin.”
In another book, Many Lives, Many Loves, 1957, Cerminara discusses a California psychic named Fred Kimball, who apparently could “read” animals and diagnose their physical and emotional problems. She adds her own ideas about the real worth of animals and our responsibilities toward them:
“I can no longer look into the eyes of any living creature without feeling that there sits a being of dignity and worth, who looks back into my eyes with grave, sometimes timorous, but always intelligent awareness.”
“Animals are not only souls evolving in their own right . . . they are also the materials upon which all of our own tendencies are exercised, the tests upon which the Power and Superiority aspects of our own souls are given searching examination . . . they represent an index . . . to the degree of spiritual evolvement of the people who stand in relationship to them.”
Cerminara’s life’s work and thought were gathered in 1973 into Insights for the Age of Aquarius, published in hardback in 1973 and later in paperback. Here Cerminara sets forth the ethical system she felt our species must adopt for survival. Universal vegetarianism was only one change she saw as an ethical and practical necessity. Accepting animals as a part of the ethical system was another essential step she saw on the route to human justice. Basic to her projected world would be justice and safety for children, women, people of all races and all degrees of disability. This is impossible so long as most people feel the sufferings of animals do not matter, so long as the meaning of “others” in the Golden Rule does not extend beyond our own immediate group. And Cerminara would have violence dealt with systematically; any display of cruelty, she said, would be seen as a cry for psychiatric help.
Cerminara lived her theories (“a life of compassion and sanity,” one friend said), helping to found and operate an animal shelter in Virginia Beach, Virginia where she lived for some years. She participated also in human aid programs such as a soup kitchen and in gratis teaching and prison visitations. In one-to-one relationships, too, she made herself a positive and helpful force, one not reserved for close friends. Mere acquaintances have credited her with changing their lives, some even with saving them from suicide.
Cerminara lived much of her life in Santa Barbara, California and died there in 1984.
She has so very much to say to us and to all who follow us that her work should be sought out, studied, and preserved. One editor said that if civilization lasts for another hundred years, it may be because of the wholesome, compassionate ideas Cerminara’s book injected into the muddied and violent streams of twentieth century thinking.
Reprinted by permission, shortened and edited, from the Spring, 1992 issue of The Friendly Vegetarian. Also appeared in PT in the Jan-Feb. Issue, 2013.
Did You Miss This One? The Last Rhinos
Lawrence Anthony with Graham Spence, The Last Rhinos: My Battle to Save One of the World’s Greatest Creatures. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2012. 334 pp., illustrations. $19.99 softcover.
How would you like an adventure in the exotic heart of Africa, battling against evil about as bad as it can get alongside one of this planet’s truly indomitable and active warriors for good – a man who has been called “the Indiana Jones of conservation”? You can, vicariously, through perusing this book by that superhero, Lawrence Anthony, and participating in his struggles on behalf of the white rhinoceros, as well as endangered elephants and other African animals. Readers of The Peaceable Table may recall our review of Anthony’s The Elephant Whisperer, set in Thula Thula, the reserve he founded in South Africa, and its splendid pachyderms whose intimate lives he came to know and share about as well as anyone ever has. Sadly, Anthony died (of a heart attack) in 2012, the year of the present book’s issue; final preparations for its publication were done by his journalist friend, brother-in-law, and co-writer Graham Spence, who added a fine epilogue honoring the original author and his work. Anthony was survived by his French-born widow, Françoise, whose own wonderful book about managing Thula Thula after the loss of Lawrence, An Elephant in my Kitchen, has also been reviewed in these pages.
The Last Rhinos commences with Anthony’s concern for the few remaining white rhinos in central Africa. The species has been viciously devastated by well-financed professional poachers mercilessly killing them for their horns, which fetch a high price in East Asia where they are (mistakenly) thought to have medicinal and aphrodisiac value. Anthony’s plan was to stun specimens in a large isolated national park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC, the former Belgian Congo), then evacuate the large mammals by cargo helicopter. Unfortunately the DRC administration was very weak, barely in control of its home territory at best. What government there was in the distant capital, Kinshasa, was torn by bureaucratic infighting; in seeking permission and support for his plan, Anthony found himself getting endless runarounds from government officials, the UN peacekeeping force in the area, and nonprofits already on the ground, even as time was running out.
Lawrence Anthony had another idea, so bizarre that it amazed even himself: he considered getting support not from the unreliable DRC but from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the real military force in the area, as well as in Uganda and South Sudan. The LRA, much in the news at the time, was supposedly Christian but self-poisoned by militant themes in the Bible, together with strong injections of native African ideas of good and evil spirits possessing its leaders, ruling according to their interpretation of the Ten Commandments, and tribalism. In practice the LRA was not only terribly unholy but even hellish, torturing and killing its supposed enemies in vast numbers, kidnapping children, making some of them into monsters by forcing them to become soldiers, wiping out whole villages. The child soldiers created horrible news in the rest of the world.
Nonetheless Anthony, driven by passion on behalf of the rhinos, bravely sought out leaders of the LRA. To his surprise he was well received; one gets the impression that the LRA “generals” were no less astounded that an outsider like a white South African would even want to meet them. They agreed to help with the rhinos, but first they wanted something else from Anthony: help in brokering peace with several of their enemies. After some three decades of ghastly killing, the LRA itself was getting tired of war. This peacemaking the adventurous and lifegiving Anthony, with his range of useful African contacts, was able to facilitate.
In the end the white rhinos of the DRC were, unhappily, not saved; time and other setbacks took their deadly toll. But, very unexpectedly at the outset, Anthony’s collateral efforts on the human side contributed greatly to the end of the LRC wars. From a religious point of view, one might see the experience as an example of how God’s grace can use one (failed) noble endeavor to assist in the accomplishment of another (successful) noble cause.
The Last Rhinos tells this story, and many others involving animals and humans along the way, in an engaging manner, humorous when humor is called for, always respectful-–except of course toward the poachers and the LRA at their worst. A special prefatory note strongly condemns those Asian governments that have not done all they should to end the use of rhino horn; Anthony's abysmal opinion of the actual poachers goes without saying.
I am happy to be able to say that now, nearly ten years after the appearance of The Last Rhinos, figures for poaching of elephants and rhinos are much in decline compared to what they were then, though still more than they should be. African nations have slowly stabilized and become more efficient in controlling poachers, while Asian governments have slowly become more effective in banning imports of their deadly products. But vigilance continues to be required. Those who are particularly concerned with rhinos should check out Save the Rhinos International, an organization which has an attractive website. While the northern white rhino of Lawrence Anthony’s efforts seems to be extinct, southern white rhinos and black rhinos still survive in some, though inadequate, numbers, largely in South Africa. I might also mention that the Lord’s Resistance Army seems now to have fallen to only about a hundred members.
Lawrence Anthony’s final book is a fascinating read, and a real tribute to a great laborer on behalf of animals, one who understood them and their way of thinking at very deep levels. It is highly recommended.
Recipe: Potato-Leek Ragout
3 Tbsp. olive oil
4 large potatoes, diced
1 lb. asparagus or green beans, cut in 1-inch pieces
2 large leeks, white and pale green parts only, washed and diced
1 lb. mushrooms, chopped
1 cup green peas
1 cup vegetable broth
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped parsley (optional)
In a large pan, heat 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil. Add potatoes, salted, and saute until golden, about 10 minutes. Set aside. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in the same pan. Add leeks. Sauté several minutes until golden. Set aside. Heat remaining oil in the same pan. Add the asparagus or beans and sauté several minutes, and then add the mushrooms and sauté. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes, leeks, and peas. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley.
NOTE: This ragout is good with varying amounts of potatoes, leeks, asparagus or green beans, mushrooms, and peas. Experiment and see what amounts of each you like (or have on stock). The original recipe calls for 1/2 cup dry white wine that is added with the vegetable stock and is then cooked away. This adds a nice flavor but is not necessary. Serves 4.
Adapted and slightly further modified from The One-Dish Vegetarian Cookbook by Maria Robbins
Poetry: William Blake, George MacDonald
Auguries of Innocence
To see a World in a grain of sand,
And a Heaven in a wild flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an hour.
A robin redbreast in a cage
Puts all Heaven in a rage.
A dove-house filled with doves and pigeons
Shudders Hell thro’ all its regions.
A skylark wounded in the wing
A cherubim does cease to sing.
The gave-cock clipt and arm’d for fight
Does the rising sun affright.dbreast in a cage
Puts all Heaven in a rage.
A dove-house fill’d with doves and pigeons
Shudders Hell through all its regions.
A dog starv’d at his master’s gate
Predicts the ruin of the State.
A horse misus’d upon the road
Calls to Heaven for human blood.
Each outcry of the hunted hare
A fibre from the brain does tear.
The game-cock clipt and arm’d for fight
Does the rising sun affright . . . .
A Christmas Prayer
Loving looks the large-eyed cow,
Loving stares the long-eared ass
At Heaven’s glory in the grass!
Child, with added human birth
Come to bring the child of earth
Glad repentance, tearful mirth
And a seat beside the hearth
At the Father’s knee --
Make us peaceful as thy cow;
Make us patient as thine ass;
Make us quiet as thou art now;
Make us strong as thou wilt be.
Make us always know and see
We are his as well as thou.