October 2012

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

Editor’s Corner  Guest Essay:  

The Elephant Wake for a Human Being

by Rod Kirby and Lawrence Anthony

Author and conservationist Lawrence Anthony died on Friday, March 2, 2012.   Early the next week, his family experienced the arrival of a solemn procession of elephants whose presence defied human explanation; a day later, a second herd arrived.  For two days the herds remained at Anthony’s rural compound on the vast Thula Thula game reserve in the South African KwaZulu, to say good-bye to the man they loved.  But how did they know he had died?  The formerly violent, rogue elephants, destined to be shot a few years ago as extremely dangerous, had been rescued and rehabilitated by Anthony, known as the “Elephant Whisperer,” who had grown up in the bush.  Known for his unique ability to calm traumatized elephants, Anthony, author of the best-selling book The Elephant Whisperer and two other books,  had a remarkable bond with the animals which had made him a legend.

There are two elephant herds at Thula Thula.  According to Anthony’s son Dylan, “They had not visited the house for a year and a half, and it must have taken them about twelve hours to make the journey.  The first herd arrived on Sunday and the second herd a day later.  They all hung around for about two days before making their way back into the bush.” Elephants have long been known to assemble to mourn their dead; here it seems they were mourning a human being who they felt had become one of them . . . .

The Original Miracle

The first herd to arrive at Thula Thula several years ago were violent. They hated humans, probably for ample reasons.  Anthony found himself fighting a desperate battle for their survival and their trust, which he detailed in his book  The Elephant Whisperer:

 It was 4:45 a.m. and I was standing in front of Nana, an enraged wild elephant, pleading with her in desperation. Both our lives depended on it. The only thing separating us was an 8,000-volt electric fence that she was preparing to flatten to make her escape.  Nana, the matriarch of her herd, tensed her enormous frame and flared her ears.  “Don’t do it, Nana,”  I said, as calmly as I could. She stood there, motionless but tense. The rest of the herd froze.  “This is your home now,” I continued. “Please don’t do it, girl.”  I felt her eyes boring into me.  “They’ll kill you all if you break out. This is your home now. You have no need to run any more.“  Suddenly, the absurdity of the situation struck me.  Here I was. . . , talking to a wild female elephant with a baby, the most dangerous possible combination, as if we were having a friendly chat.  But I meant every word. “You will all die if you go.  Stay here.  I will be here with you and it’s a good place.“

She took another step forward. I could see her tense up again, preparing to snap the electric wire and be out, the rest of the herd smashing after her in a flash.  I was in their path, and would only have seconds to scramble out of their way and climb the nearest tree. I wondered if I would be fast enough to avoid being trampled.  Possibly not.  Then something happened between Nana and me, some tiny spark of recognition, flaring for the briefest of moments. Then it was gone. Nana turned and melted into the bush. The rest of the herd followed. I couldn’t explain what had happened between us, but it gave me the first glimmer of hope since the elephants had first thundered into my life.

It had all started several weeks earlier with a phone call from an elephant welfare organization. Would Anthony be interested in adopting a problem herd of wild elephants? They lived on a game reserve 600 miles away and were ‘troublesome,’ recalled Anthony.  They had a tendency to break out of reserves and the owners wanted to get rid of them fast. If we didn’t take them, they would be shot.  The woman explained, ‘The matriarch is an amazing escape artist and has worked out how to break through electric fences. She just twists the wire around her tusks until it snaps, or takes the pain and smashes through.’“’Why me?’ I asked.“’I’ve heard you have a way with animals. You’re right for them. Or maybe they’re right for you.’”  What followed was heart-breaking. One of the females and her baby were shot and killed trying to evade capture in the round-up.

When they arrived, they were thumping the inside of the trailer like a gigantic drum. We sedated them with a pole-sized syringe, and once they had calmed down, the door slid open and the matriarch emerged, followed by her baby bull, three females, and an 11-year-old bull.   Last off was the 15-year-old son of the dead mother. He stared at us, flared his ears and with a trumpet of rage, charged, pulling up just short of the fence in front of us.“ His mother and baby sister had been shot before his eyes, and here he was, just a teenager, defending his herd.

David, my head ranger, named him Mnumzane, which in Zulu means ‘Sir.’  We christened the matriarch Nana, and the second female-in-command, the most feisty, Frankie, after my wife. We had erected a giant enclosure within the reserve to keep them safe until they became calm enough to move out into the reserve proper.  Nana gathered her clan, loped up to the fence and stretched out her trunk, touching the electric wires. The 8,000-volt charge sent a jolt shuddering through her bulk. She backed off. Then, with her family in tow, she strode the entire perimeter of the enclosure, pointing her trunk at the wire to check for vibrations from the electric current.

Race Against Time

As I went to bed that night, I noticed the elephants lining up along the fence, facing out towards their former home. It looked ominous. I was woken several hours later by one of the reserve’s rangers, shouting, ‘The elephants have gone! They’ve broken out!’ The two adult elephants had worked as a team to fell a tree, smashing it onto the electric fence and then charging out of the enclosure.  “I scrambled together a search party and we raced to the border of the game reserve, but we were too late. The fence was down and the animals had broken out.  They had somehow found the generator that powered the electric fence around the reserve. After trampling it like a tin can, they had pulled the concrete-embedded fence posts out of the ground like matchsticks, and headed north.

The reserve staff chased them – but had competition.  We met a group of locals carrying large caliber rifles, who claimed the elephants were ‘fair game’ now.  On our radios we heard the wildlife authorities were issuing elephant rifles to staff. It was now a simple race against time.  Anthony managed to get the herd back onto Thula Thula property, but problems had just begun:

their bid for freedom had, if anything, increased their resentment at being kept in captivity. Nana watched my every move, hostility seeping from every pore, her family behind her. There was no doubt that sooner or later they were going to make another break for freedom.

Then, in a flash, came the answer. I would live with the herd.  To save their lives, I would stay with them, feed them, talk to them. But, most importantly, be with them day and night. We all had to get to know each other.

It worked, as the book describes in detail, notes the London Daily Mail newspaper.  Nana’s family was finally safe and was healing, but there was more to be done.  Anthony was later offered another troubled elephant–-one that was all alone because the rest of her herd had been shot or sold, and who feared humans.  He had to start the process all over again.  And as his reputation spread, more “troublesome” elephants were brought to Thula Thula.

So how, after Anthony’s death, did the reserve’s elephants — grazing miles away in distant parts of the park — know?  “A good man died suddenly,” says Rabbi Leila Gal Berner, Ph.D., “and from miles and miles away, two herds of elephants, sensing that they had lost a beloved human friend, moved in a solemn, almost ‘funereal’ procession to make a call on the bereaved family at the deceased man’s home.”

If there ever were a time, when we can truly sense the wondrous ‘interconnectedness of all beings,’ it is when we reflect on the elephants of Thula Thula. A man’s heart’s stops, and hundreds of elephants’ hearts are grieving. This man’s oh-so-abundantly loving heart offered life and healing to these elephants, and now they came to pay loving homage to their friend.

His sons say that their father was a remarkable man who lived his life to the fullest and never looked back on any choices he made.  Lawrence will be missed by all.        

The Elephant Whisperer is available through Amazon.

Reprinted with permission from the website The Delight Makers; substantially edited.

The lead photo shows one of the elephant families approaching Anthony’s house to hold their wake.

Unset Gems

“A nut grows into a nut tree.  A seed of God grows into God . . . . “--Johannes “Meister” Eckhart

"A small body of determined spirits, fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission, can alter the course of history." ~ Mohandas “the Mahatma” Gandhi

“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them.  But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.  And who is willing to destroy a piece of [her or] his own heart?” --Alexander Solzhenitsyn


Mini-Debate on Vegan Nutrition in NY Times

Colin Campbell, professor emeritus of Cornell University, and Nancy Rodriguez, professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Connecticut (Storrs), each have an essay in the September 18 NY Times, one pro and the other contra the superior health benefits of a vegan diet.  See Debate .  One thing the section doesn’t mention is the respective debaters’ funding sources.  According to interviewer Rebecca Critchfield’s website, Rodriguez receives funding from (among other sources) the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the American Heart Association, the National Dairy Council, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and the Egg Nutrition Center.  See Rodriguez

--Contributed by Fay Elanor Ellwood

Rosie O’Donnell Adopts Veg Diet

Rosie O’Donnell is yet another celebrity who decided to make the life-changing decision, for the better, to adopt a plant-based diet. Following the example set by ex-President Clinton, O'Donnell was prompted by her recent heart attack to make the dietary changes. See Rosie

Celebrities can do much to get the word out.  We can hope that both Clinton and O’Donnell will go on to develop compassion as their deepest motivation for continuing this life-giving way of eating.

 --Contributed by Lorena Mucke


McDonalds Will Open Vegetarian Restaurants in India

McDonald's has announced the opening of its first two vegetarian restaurants in India in 2013, one in Amritsar, which has a Sikh pilgrimage site, and another in Katra, which has a shrine sacred to Hindus.  India, a country of over 1 billion inhabitants, perhaps a third of them vegetarians, provides much incentive to McDonalds to offer vegetarian meals in order to capture the market.   The new restaurants will feature a sandwich with a mashed-potato pattie and another made with vegetables and paneer cheese.  See Veg McDonald’s

--Contributed by Lorena Mucke

Vegetarianism, which has a long and prestigious tradition in India, has been eroding in recent years due to Western influence.  Is this new venture of McDonald’s to be commended for reinforcing the ancient tradition?  Or is it likely to mostly reinforce the name-recognition of McDonald’s, whose other 270-plus restaurants in India do sell sandwiches based on flesh (lamb, chicken, and fish)?  One Hindu nationalist group announced that it will fight the plan because McDonald’s is so strongly associated with cow-killing.  Another factor is that both sandwiches contain dairy (mashed potato usually includes it), whose main protein, casein, has been shown by Colin Campbell and colleagues to promote major cancers.   We invite readers’ comments.

Pioneer:  Alvise “Luigi” Cornaro, 1467-1566

A contemporary of Leonardo da Vinci, Venetian nobleman and man of letters Luigi Cornaro is known for sharing da Vinci’s commitment to vegetarianism.  But if Leonardo acted primarily from empathy with the suffering of food animals, Luigi was thinking of his own health and welfare when he first took up the meatless diet.

According to his own accounts, he came to this enlightened way of eating the hard way.  As a young man, he says, he was a gluttonous wastrel:  between the ages of thirty-five and forty he was in constant pain from colic, gout and a perpetual low-grade fever with accompanying thirst.  “From these natural and acquired disorders the best delivery I had to hope for was death, to put an end to the pain and miseries of life.”

As a last resort in his despair, he decided to accept the advice of his physicians and try a regimen of simple food, giving up his habit of eating large quantities; he cut out all meat and his former practice of drinking three or four bottles of wine nightly.  To his amazement, he enjoyed renewed health, and after several more months was entirely cured.

After this success, Cornaro not only permanently abstained from flesh and alcohol, but also avoided any other influences that might damage his health, such as extremes of heat, cold, and fatigue.  In short, he followed the sober, quiet life, lived to be 98, and in the end became, as he describes it, “my own physician.”

Cornaro records his story in several autobiographical essays.  He wrote the first,  A Treatise on the Sober Life (also translated as The Sure and Certain Method of Attaining a Long and Healthful Life), at age eighty-three; it went through numerous editions.   A Compendium of a Sober Life followed at age eighty-six;  An Exhortation to a Sober and Regular Life appeared when he was ninety-three; and finally, when he was ninety-five, Letter to Barbaro.  His essays, commented eighteenth-century author Joseph Addison, in his periodical The Spectator (No. 195) “were written in such a spirit of cheerfulness, religion, and good sense, as are the natural concomitants of temperance and sobriety.”

This Renaissance man certainly had the word that the millions of people painfully trapped in the epidemic of obesity and degenerative illness today need to hear.  Unfortunately, his titles can hardly be described as snappy, and his works, not easily available today,  are likely to go unread by those who could best profit from his experience.

--Gerald Niles with Gracia Fay Ellwood

My Pilgrimage:  Being a Vegan Kid

Original, from 2006

Hi, my name is Ellen Green.  I’m twelve years old, going into seventh grade, and  have been vegan all my life.  To tell you a bit about myself, my parents are Anne Green and Matt Ball, and I have a pet guinea pig named Sunny. I love animals, particularly wolves, horses, dogs and cats. I’m interested in mythological creatures, dragons especially. I’m also a big fan of Harry Potter and Star Wars. I enjoy reading, surfing the internet, drawing, and writing. I . . I have a few close friends, none who are vegan but all of of whom are really nice, smart kids.  Lastly, I think factory farming is much worse than Voldemort, the Death Eaters, Dolores Umbridge, Emperor Palpatine, Darth Vader, and Jar-Jar combined.

I’m going to be blunt: being a vegan kid is going to severely decrease the number of people willing to be your friends.  Even if you don’t advertise and promote the fact that you are vegan, this fact is going to make you less likely to get “cool” (cool being used here as a derogative term . . . . ) friends. This is a benefit, in my opinion. If you advertise and promote the fact that you’re vegan, the people who are willing to be friends with you are more likely to be uncool, and therefore nicer people who are more likely to be good friends. With your friends, as long as they know why you’re vegan and find it reasonable, you’re good to go--you don’t need to convert them to veganism then and there, just giving them a positive attitude towards veganism will make them more likely to be converted in the future. Also, if you have your friends over, introducing them to some of the things you eat is a plus.

As a vegan, you are likely to get a lot of questions, such as “What is a vegan?”  “Why are you vegan?”  “What do you eat?”  “How do you get protein / calcium / nutrients?”  “Aren’t your shoes leather?”  “What’s wrong with milk / eggs?”  “Can you eat _______?”

To all of these questions, if you are in a hurry, you can just hand them a leaflet and say, “Here’s some information, if you’re curious.” I try to always have some Vegan Outreach booklets in a folder. If you do have some time and they are genuinely concerned, it’s always good to talk to them about the question, and then give them a booklet if they’re still curious. If they don’t seem genuinely concerned, try to just answer them quickly with a yes / no answer if possible, or tell them to “Talk to me later.” (Unless they are really concerned, they almost never do.) In all cases, try to be as polite as possible.

You are going to get teased.  It’s a plain and simple fact.  However, it’s always good to know that the fact these people are teasing you is a testament to their lack of awareness and kindness, and because of this they won’t be able to succeed--you will. . . . . That being said, here are some facts about teasing and how to deal with it.

Bullies are highly unimaginative. They will use one method of teasing for years, even after it is clear that it has no effect on you whatsoever. The favored form of teasing that I’ve encountered is the “I ate / killed a (type of animal or type of meat) last night” type. The bullies I know have been using that with minimal variations (such as “I will eat / kill a…” “I went / am going hunting / cow tipping” “I killed a (animal). I (describes method of killing)” “Mmmmmm (type of meat)”) since about second grade! How stupid can you get – that affected me for about two milliseconds, and they’ve been using it for five years!

There are three main ways of dealing with teasing.

1) Ignore them. This can be done by sticking your head in a book (or something else to that effect) and pretending they don’t exist. However, a lot of the time this does not work as well (and isn’t as fun) as the other two.

2) Use a witty remark, such as:  “Please, stop, you’re hurting my feelings.” (Said in a dull monotone)“. . . . (Your name) is not here right now. Please leave a message after the beep.  Beep!”. .

(Wave hand) “You do not want to say something stupid in a useless attempt to annoy me again.” (Wave hand) “You want to sit down and be quiet.” (Jedi mind trick)
“Luke, I am not annoyed.” (Speaking like Darth Vader)
“Annoying me, you are not. Find a better use of your time, you should.” (You can do this in non-Yoda talk too.)
. . . . Or any others you can think of. Another one that has been suggested to me is to repeat their comment with, “I think it is great that....” So, if they say, “I ate a deer yesterday!” reply with, “I think it is great that you ate a deer yesterday.”

3) Weird them out (say something totally weird and strange that creeps them out) such as:. . . . “How ‘bout them Chudley Cannons?” (Ron’s favorite Quiddich team, from Harry Potter)“Kneazles and Nifflers and Puffskeins Oh My!” (Creatures from Harry Potter)
“Are you going to put your name in for the Goblet of Fire?” (Harry Potter)
. . . . “I just realized it – I love Jar-Jar! (Star Wars)
“Yousa talkin to mesa?” (Star Wars Jar-Jar talk)
“Will someone please get this big walking carpet out of my way?” (Princess Leia Organa, Episode

4). . . . Have fun with it! Take note of weird things you hear for later use. Take pride in original and funny responses! You can make getting teased fun! (I know how weird that sounds, but it’s true – I know from experience.)  Bullies can’t get you down if you have fun getting teased! One more bit of advice – don’t bother going to teachers, it’s useless. In the vast, vast majority of cases, they’ll waste your time telling you to ignore them and you’ll be right back where you started.

Good Luck!  May the Force be with you.

2012 Update: Thoughts on Being Vegan-–Now with 50% More Experience!

. . . . I graduated high school this year as the captain and resident geek of my cross country team, and I’m heading off to California to attend Pomona College. Before I go, I thought I would give my parting advice for vegetarian and vegan kids after the experience of high school, mainly by addressing the most common questions and responses I’ve found to peers finding out that you are veg*n.

First off is the obvious one, “Why are you veg*n?” Of course, this is going to vary from person to person, but my main advice is be brief, be polite, and be enthusiastic as possible. Something simple such as “Well, I know I don’t want to suffer, so I don’t want to make animals suffer” is sensible--you don’t need to go into a whole spiel about the practices on factory farms, although having some details in mind if you’re asked isn’t a bad idea. Be polite, as well --the last thing you want to do is come across as accusatory. Again, show enthusiasm-- to do your best for the animals, you want to present as positive a picture of veg*nism as possible. This can occasionally be frustrating when you get the question every time you sit down to eat with a new group of people, but just try to be prepared, and realize it’s a great opportunity to be a representative for the animals.

The next one is the usual follow up, “What do you eat?” Again, this is going to vary from person to person, but you want to emphasize variety and desirability--I don’t think any of us are actually living on kale and raw soybeans, but people seem to think that’s the case on occasion. If you’re a big faux-carnivore like me, you might want to point out the variety of fake meats that have been developed in recent years, and are now widely available. If you have the opportunity to go to banquets or bring in food in other situations, I highly advise doing so--people are always surprised at the quality of veg meats and baked goods. You don’t even have to be an expert--Boca Chik’n Nuggets have been huge hits at Science Olympiad banquets for me.

The third response, and the one that has become more common recently, is “Oh, I could never be veg*n.” This is the one I, personally, have the most trouble answering, but I think one way to approach it is to say, “It might not be as hard as you think,” and elaborate a little on how veg foods have become more available (and tasty!). One point that it’s important to emphasize, though, is that it’s never an “all or nothing” proposition. Maybe mention things like Meatless Mondays, or cutting back on chicken--options that people tend to find more approachable.

Lastly are the aggressive responses that you may get – although, of course, the more veg*nism becomes mainstream, the less this happens, so with luck, you might be able to skip this paragraph! In any case, aggressive responses can vary from the weird thought experiments such as, “What if you were stranded on a desert island with a cow?” to “I just ate a hamburger, nyeh nyeh nyeh nyeh.” There’s no catch-all response for these, but my main advice is don’t get angry. I’m going to say that again, because it bears repeating: don’t get angry. Be polite, be rational, be focused. The issue is the animals, not personal purity, not moral superiority. It always, always, always has to come back to the animals’ suffering. There are some arguments you can’t win and some jibes that will make you furious, but you want to do your best to be a polite and reasonable representative for the animals.  It’s not a question of persuading the person you’re arguing with, necessarily, but a question of whether the people around you will see you as that angry, uptight vegan who yells all the time, or a polite, fairly normal kid. None of these people are your enemies –-they are the ones who have the potential to make the change for the animals, and the impression you make can have a big influence on that.  It’s a hard thing to do, and you will make mistakes--I spent a lot of elementary and middle school in “angry vegan” mode – and it’s not the end of the world.  It will get better, both as you move into high school and people are often more open-minded and aware, and as veg*anism becomes more and more mainstream.

Enjoy the ride!

Ms. Green’s father, Matt Ball, is the co-founder of Vegan Outreach.

Reprinted with permission of Vegan Outreach’s newsletter and the author.


Cannellini and Butternut Squash

Serves 4 -6

2 cups dry cannellini beans, soaked in water overnight, drained

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into fingers or chunks

1 medium yellow onion, sliced

1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed

1 sweet red pepper, cut into fingers or chopped

2 T. extra virgin olive oil

5 T. Earth Balance Buttery Spread

4 ½ cups spring water

2 T. vegetarian chicken broth powder

1 T. tomato paste

¾ tsp. dry rosemary powder

1 large sprig fresh sage

1 tsp. sea salt, or to taste

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven 325° F.  In medium skillet, sauté onion until translucent; add garlic and red pepper in 2 T. Earth Balance.  Place cannellini, butternut squash and sautéed vegetables in large Dutch oven.  Add spring water, olive oil, remaining 3 T. Earth Balance spread, vegetarian broth powder, tomato paste, sage and rosemary; stir with a wooden spoon to combine well. Bake in oven 1 hour.  Remove from oven, season with sea salt and black pepper.  Return to oven and bake until beans are tender, about another 30 minutes.  Add additional boiling water while baking if the dish starts to become dry.  This dish should not be a soup, but it should not be too dry.  The consistency of a thick stew is best.

This is an interesting variant on the recipe of the same name in the November 2006 issue.

--- Angela Suarez

Warm Spice Treats for Canine Friends

makes about 3 dozen treats

2 cups organic whole wheat flour

½ tsp. ground cinnamon

¼ tsp. ground ginger

⅛ tsp. ground cloves

⅛ tsp. freshly ground nutmeg

1 T. molasses

1 cup soy milk

2 T. safflower oil

Preheat oven 350° F.

In a large bowl mix together dry ingredients.  Using a wooden spoon, stir in soy milk. If dough seems too stiff or thick, add just a little water to form a firm dough.   Stir well to mix and let the dough rest in a warm place for 15 minutes. Add oil and allow to sit another 30 minutes.  Shape tablespoons of dough  into balls and slightly flatten to form little “spice cakes.”   Bake for 30 minutes. Turn off oven and allow to cool in the oven with the door open.  Store in airtight containers after completely cool.

These treats contain an assortment of aromatic spices that are particularly pleasing in the autumn and winter months.-- Angela Suarez

 Young Readers’ Book Review:  Chomp

 Carl Hiaasen. Chomp.  NY:  Alfred A. Knopf (an imprint of Random House), 2012. 290 pages, hardcover. $16.99.  

Following HOOT, FLUSH, and SCAT, Carl Hiaasen has created a fourth book for young readers about Florida animals and the smart, brave young people who love them. We meet the fearless young teenager Wahoo Cray, named after a wrestler, who in turn is named after a fish.  He is the son, and the capable assistant, of Mickey Cray, an expert animal wrangler. Mickey is incapacitated by a freak accident:  an iguana, frozen to death, falls on him and gives him a concussion. (This is one more piece of evidence that it was a terrible mistake to introduce iguanas to Florida. They are meant for warmer climates where they are safe from untimely frosts.)  

As the title suggests, the animals featured in this story are a far cry from the harmless, appealing burrowing owls of Hoot.  An intrusive species that does not really belong in Florida is discussed in the book:  the Burmese python, which is now a deadly threat to the local wild fauna of Florida, and, to some degree, to humans. The creature cannot swallow a full human, but may inflict a non-poisonous but painful bite.  Wahoo has suffered mutilation from a native Floridan beast:  his right thumb was bitten off and eaten by Alice, an Alligator mississippiensis. Wahoo, who is no Captain Ahab, blames himself for having been careless while feeding Alice, and holds no grudge against the reptile.

Soon we meet Wahoo's classmate Tuna Gordon, a very smart girl, the admirable daughter of a very poor representative of Homo sapiens--in fact a downright evil man. On the run from this dangerous biped, she is given sanctuary by Mickey and Cray. She has a very interesting hobby:  to learn the scientific names of all animals. (From her we learn that the crafty racoon is called Procyon lotor [page 90]. A colorful snake was labeled Coluber fasciatus by Linnaeus, but later renamed Nerodia fasciata [page 131]).  I find myself in sympathy, because in my preteens and teens I also sought to learn as many scientific names of animals as possible.

Wahoo and Tuna are not happy about their fishy-sounding names, so they call each other "Lance" and  "Lucille." It is a Hiaasenian irony that the real names sound like nicknames, and the nicknames sound like real names. The two young people are classmates and casual acquaintances to begin with, but while surviving dangerous adventures they become Best Friends Forever.   Things may get romantic eventually.

Tuna's (or "Lucille's”) mother is in Chicago to help an ailing relative (and to get away from her abusive husband). Wahoo's (or "Lance's”) mother is in Shanghai, teaching Mandarin to Foreign Devils.  With his father semi-disabled and his mother so far away, and with the bank making threatening noises, Wahoo/Lance takes it upon himself to accept jobs, for his father and himself, wrangling the wildlife for a "Reality" TV show. The so-called "Reality" is closely scripted and often faked. Worse yet, the star of the show, Derek Badger (not his real name) is arrogant, demanding and pompous. And those are his better qualities. His worst quality is that he is a glutton, with a terrible habit of eating animals for his show. Mickey Cray, who loves animals deeply, is very unhappy about that. But his medical condition and his family’s financial straits force him to accept the job and have Wahoo on as his assistant, while doing what they can to protect the animals from the show's pretentious star. Also, with the mothers of both families absent, father and son take Tuna along with them when the show heads into the Everglades.

Into the Everglades they are chased by Jared Gordon, Tuna's horrible father--the kind of truculent, trigger-happy bully that gives bullies a bad name. Soon everybody is chasing everybody else around in the swamp, having hair-raising adventures, which, in the interest of avoiding spoilers, I will not describe.

Though the book is meant primarily for young readers, I recommend it whole-heartedly to readers of all ages, from very young to very old. The reader will find these attractions: 1) Lots of excitement and wild chases, and lots of chomping (yes, the book lives up to its title). 2) Lots of comedy, from slapstick to satire (Hiaasen makes fun of "Reality" TV, of the mania for vampire movies, and other contemporary phenomena). 3) Some educational content, including the dangers of intrusive species and the scientific names of many animals. 4) A definitely pro-animal viewpoint, as we expect from Carl Hiaasen. The good and smart people love animals and want to protect them, while the evil and stupid want to exploit them. Smart people also know that there are no vampire bats in Florida.

-Benjamin Urrutia

Poetry:  Frederick W. Harvey, 1888-1957


From troubles of the world I turn to ducks,                      

Beautiful comical things

Sleeping or curled

Their heads beneath white wings

By water cool,

Or finding curious things

To eat in various mucks

Beneath the pool,

Tails uppermost, or waddling

Sailor-like on the shores

Of ponds, or paddling

- Left!  Right! - with fanlike feet

Which are for steady oars

When they (white galleys) float

Each bird a boat

Rippling at will the sweet

Wide waterway . . .

When night is fallen you creep

Upstairs, but drakes and dillies

Nest with pale water-stars.

Moonbeams and shadow bars,

And water-lilies:

Fearful too much to sleep

Since they've no locks

To click against the teeth

Of weasel and fox.

And warm beneath

Are eggs of cloudy green

Whence hungry rats and lean

Would stealthily suck

New life, but for the mien

The bold ferocious mien

Of the mother-duck.

Yes, ducks are valiant things

On nests of twigs and straws,

And ducks are soothy things

And lovely on the lake

When that the sunlight draws

Thereon their pictures dim

In colours cool.

And when beneath the pool

They dabble, and when they swim

And make their rippling rings,

0 ducks are beautiful things!

But ducks are comical things:-

As comical as you.


They waddle round, they do.

They eat all sorts of things,

And then they quack.

By barn and stable and stack

They wander at their will,

But if you go too near

They look at you through black

Small topaz-tinted eyes

And wish you ill.

Triangular and clear

They leave their curious track

In mud at the water's edge,

And there amid the sedge

And slime they gobble and peer

Saying Quack! quack!

When God had finished the stars and whirl of coloured suns

He turned his mind from big things to fashion little ones;

Beautiful tiny things (like daisies) he made, and then

He made the comical ones in case the minds of men

Should stiffen and become

Dull, humourless and glum,

And so forgetful of their Maker be

As to take even themselves--quite seriously.

Caterpillars and cats are lively and excellent puns:

All God's jokes are good--even the practical ones!

And as for the duck, 1 think God must have smiled a bit

Seeing those bright eyes blink on the day he fashioned it.

And he's probably laughing still at the sound that came out of its bill!

Issue copyright © 2012 by VegetarianFriends