The Peaceable Table is intended for the mutual support, education, and inspiration of
people of faith in the practice of compassionate love for our fellow animals and Peaceful dining
A Glimpse of the Peaceable Kingdom
At the Taman Safari animal hospital in Indonesia, abandoned primates Nia and Irma have no problem snuggling with Dema and Manis — who happen to be Sumatran tigers. [We aren’t told which two are pictured here.] They enjoy the same activities as their wild brothers and sisters: cat naps for the tigers and rope swinging for the orangutans. Photo: Dimas Ardian.
Editor’s Corner Guest Essay: What’s a Vegan to Do?
By Will Tuttle
Violence Against Veggies
Does this argument sound familiar?
“You object to our culture’s treatment of the animals from which we get meat, milk and eggs, calling it exploitation--slavery, rape, and killing, or even murder. You urge us to eat plants instead. But the same terms of abuse apply to plants, and by eating plants you are committing the same crimes against them. You are just discriminating against a different form of life.”
If we think of people who raise this kind of objection as pre-vegans instead of opponents, and can avoid actually arguing with them, that’s always preferable, though it does take quite a bit of practice. It seems to be a good idea to initially agree or partially agree with whatever objection the person is making. A statement beginning with, “Yes, I understand. I wondered about that for a long time myself,” helps to create a common ground with the person you’re communicating with. You could even reinforce their idea by saying something like, “I read The Secret Life of Plants and have studied the recent literature about plant sentience so I could understand it better, and I understand the reasons people may be concerned about the possible suffering of plants.”
In your response, I’d suggest using primarily “I” statements, just talking about your own adventure of discovery. Here’s an example:
“Yes, I understand your question. Like most people, I was raised eating meat, dairy, and eggs, and I believed the official stories, like the protein story, the calcium story, the human superiority story, and the plants feel pain too story. As I did more research, though, and started questioning the stories that had been injected into my consciousness from infancy, I began to realize that animal agriculture is not only hideously abusive to pigs, cows, chickens, turkeys, fishes, and other animals, but that it is also exceedingly inefficient.
Save the Trees!
“Right now, for example, we are destroying about an acre per second of Amazonian rainforest in order to grow soybeans to feed imprisoned animals for meat, dairy products, and eggs that are consumed right here in this country. Cutting down an acre of rainforest is not just killing trees; it is also destroying webs of life that took millions of years to evolve, resulting in loss of habitat for both animals and plants, and driving the largest mass extinction of species in 65 million years. The oceans are similarly being overfished for fish for both human, farmed-fish, and livestock consumption, similarly driving extinction, climate destabilization, and environmental destruction.
“With more research, I began moving toward a vegan lifestyle, and I learned that forests throughout the entire world have been, and continue to be, destroyed in order to grow corn, soy, alfalfa, and other feedstock for enslaved animals. I discovered that people who research the impact of animal agriculture on forests estimate that a person who switches from a standard western diet to a vegan diet saves at least 100 trees every year! It takes a small fraction of land, water, and petroleum to feed someone eating a plant-based diet, compared with someone eating a typical meat- and dairy-based diet. So it became crystal clear to me that anyone who professes to love trees and other plants is unequivocally called to practice vegan living.
“With further research, I learned, for example in The World Peace Diet, that everyone in our culture is injected with a small repertoire of rationalizations to use whenever the question of meat and dairy eating comes up. This is one of the main ones of course. I realized that it’s not an authentic objection, but merely a cultural device to prevent people from looking more deeply at the effects of their behavior.
“With further reflection, I began to realize how flawed this rationalization actually is. For one thing, most of the plant-based foods we eat do not require harming the plants. Eating apples and other fruits, for example, actually benefit apple trees, creating orchards, and of course we spread the seeds by eating the fruits of the tree. The same is true of most vegetables as well, which are actually fruits, such as tomatoes, squashes, eggplants, peppers, beans, corn, and so forth.
“But what really clicked for me as I thought about it more deeply, is how shameful and absurd this rationalization is. Can you imagine ever using such a rationalization for violence against a human being? That it’s OK to stab another human being because tomatoes don’t want to be stabbed either? Wow! What if this thought process was used to rationalize stabbing a dog? Yet we use it to rationalize stabbing equally vulnerable sensitive beings with fully developed nervous systems who are the subjects of their lives, as we are. For example, if someone were to be charged with animal cruelty for stabbing his neighbor’s dog, and was testifying in court as to why he did this, if he were to say that to him, stabbing a dog and stabbing a tomato are really the same, I think it’s likely such a person would not just be sent to jail, but probably sent to an institution for the criminally insane.
“As I have continued on this journey of vegan living, I’ve learned a lot about how our culture programs all of us to discount the suffering we cause others. I’ve come to realize that nonhuman animals are clearly recognized by researchers today who study them in their natural setting to be profoundly capable of suffering, both physically and psychologically, and that they have complex intelligence and emotions that are devastatingly abused by the confinement, mutilation, and cruelty inherent in animal agriculture, including aquaculture.
Numbed to the World’s Wounds
“We animals, being mobile, are, unlike plants, equipped with bodies with pain receptors for our survival; but even if plants are in some way able to feel distress, we as vegans, harm a tiny fraction of the plants that eating the flesh and secretions of animals requires. Eighty to ninety percent of all the corn, soy, alfalfa, wheat, oats, and other grains we grow are fed to animals. Although we grow enough food to feed 12-15 billion people every year, and we have 7.2 billion people on the planet, at least one billion of our brothers and sisters are chronically hungry. Many, especially children, are dying of hunger-related diseases, or actually starving. This is because we feed most of our grains and legumes to imprisoned animals in order to support the animal-based diets of those living in countries with higher-powered economies.
“Animal agriculture, which is exceedingly wasteful, traumatizes animals, wildlife, ecosystems, hungry people, and slaughterhouse and factory farm workers, who are forced to do work that creates extreme stress and brings out the worst in them. They suffer high rates of injury, and some get post-traumatic stress disorder.
“As a vegan, I’ve grown to realize that I was programmed by my culture to disconnect from the violence I was inflicting on others in a variety of ways. For example, we are taught to use language, such as “harvesting” animals, which numbs and disconnects us from the realities of killing or murdering them.
Coming Alive Again
“Now, as a vegan, I can see that in my earlier days, I was desensitized to our culture’s relentless abuse of animals, and I can see how this numbness is a devastating affliction, because it leads, when widespread as it is today, to a society-wide lack of caring about the things that really matter in our world. I have found that vegan foods are not only delicious, but that vegans have a much lower rate of obesity, heart disease, cancer, autoimmune disease, kidney disease, and the other afflictions that plague people today, as well.
“I am deeply grateful to the people who have exemplified vegan living for me. I now realize that the only reason I ever ate meat, dairy, and eggs was because of the community I was raised in, and the examples and stories in my upbringing. It’s now clear to me that compassion and justice for animals brings greater compassion and justice for all others: for plants, for other people, for ecosystems, for future generations, and even for my own bodily organs, my mind, and my spiritual awareness. Discovering people who questioned the dominant culture’s routine violence toward animals has opened my eyes, and inspired me to do my best to live a life of lovingkindness and respect for others, and the benefits of this are incalculable. It’s like waking up from a trance that I didn’t realize I was in, till I woke up!
“Thanks for this opportunity to reflect and respond to your important question.”
Will Tuttle, Ph.D., author of the acclaimed best-seller, The World Peace Diet, has been vegan since 1980, was formerly a Zen Buddhist monk, and is co-founder of Circle of Compassion. This is an online group whose members daily send healing-and love-energy to all beings. He can be reached through his website at http://worldpeacediet.com.
Letter: Rosemary Carlson
Dear Peaceable Friends,
Thank you for the insightful article about refugees.
The divide and conquer tactic is working in America. In a dysfunctional world, our focus has been shifted from the crises originating at the top to those who will risk their lives to emigrate to the U.S. Which mother or father among us would send their child alone to another country? Only desperation and hopelessness of change allows for such a brave and anguished decision. Ultimately, we will all stand or fall together.
I pray for all of us.
Merry Christmas and a Healthy New Year.
“God loved the birds and invented trees. Man loved the birds and invented cages.”--Jacques Deval
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
God’s Creatures in Paradise
The pope, comforting a little boy whose dog had died, told him in effect that “Paradise is open to all God’s creatures.” This incident has been reported as happening last November, with Pope Francis as the speaker, but apparently it is based on an event of over thirty years ago, and the compassionate father in question was Paul VI. See Animal Heaven and Sorry, Fido Whichever pope starred in this story, we can rejoice that it aroused so much attention; we can hope that Francis will ponder his predecessor’s compassionate message.
--Contributed by Robert Ellwood
Bluefin Tuna Threatened
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature, based in Switzerland, has pronounced the Pacific Bluefin Tuna to be threatened with extinction. They credit the many sushi and sashimi consumers in Japan as chiefly responsible. See Bluefin .
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
“Sharecropping” Chicken Farmer Blows Whistle on His Own Farm!
In a radically new development, Craig Watts, one of Purdue’s “sharecroppers”--the smaller suppliers who actually raise the animals and risk the losses for the huge flesh companies--was so incensed by Purdue’s lies about the supposedly humane treatment of “their” chickens that he invited a Compassion in World Farming group to make a video of the terrible state of the chickens on his own N. Carolina farm! When this video was aired, Purdue claimed that Watts’ farm is an unusual situation and is auditing the farm. See Whistleblower and Audit .
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke and Maria Elena Nava
Former Burger King Bigwig Starts Veg Food Company
Brian Swette, formerly board chairman at Burger King and a former top executive at PepsiCo, has turned his back on the junk, and with his wife Kelly has formed a natural-foods company, Sweet Earth Natural Foods, which now has sixty-five employees. The Swettes calculate that they have saved about 260,000 chickens. See http://upstart.bizjournals.com/companies/startups/2014/11/30/burger-king-bigwig-goes-for-veggie-startup.html?page=all
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
Animals, Including Fish, Have Feelings
Jonathan Balcombe, Director of animal sentience research at the Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy, explains that animals feel, that they are sentient and therefore perceive the world through an array of rich emotions, both negative and positive. Balcombe explains that animals care about their lives as much as we care about ours, and that they clearly experience fear, joy, pain, sadness, etc. In short, animals are much more like us than most people think, and this knowledge brings tremendous implications in regards to our relationship to those animals we abuse for our benefit, such as those we call “food”. See Feelings
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
Light Healing Soup
½ cup burdock root
½ cup carrot root
½ cup lotus root, fresh or dried and soaked (optional)
1-2 teas. sesame oil (optional)
Pinch of sea salt
4-6 cups spring water
½ cup sweet winter squash
1 T. sweet young white miso
1 T. dark aged barley miso
Chop very finely the burdock root, carrot, and lotus root (if using lotus root). Lightly brush sesame oil in the bottom of a pan (or add a small amount of water if not using oil), and heat on a medium high flame.
When oil or water is hot, sauté the burdock for 2 to 3 minutes. You may add a pinch of salt. Layer the lotus root (optional) and carrot on top of the burdock.
Cover all vegetables with spring water. Bring to a boil. Lower the flame, cover, and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes (until all vegetables are very soft). You may need to add water from time to time.
Add very finely chopped onion and sweet winter squash, and cook further until the onion and the squash become very soft.
Mix the two kinds of miso and dilute some in the soup broth. Slowly add enough of the miso for a pleasant taste, gently stir, and simmer for another 5 minutes.
This soup should be like a hearty stew. The combined ingredients have a blood-strengthening effect. It is part of a menu whose further instructions can be gotten from email@example.com .
This soup recipe was inspired by the late Michio Kushi, a respected major voice in the field of macrobiotics. Kushi died December 28, 2014 at the age of 88.
My Pilgrimage: Harold BrownIn my long journey growing up on a farm raising primarily “beef” cattle--we also raised rabbits, pigs, and dairy goats, as well as engaging in hunting--I was indoctrinated about where animals ranked in the hierarchy of the cycle of life. Indoctrination is defined as “to inculcate (to teach or impress thoroughly), to instruct.” In other words, it involves being given information that one is not expected to examine critically. My relationship to farm animals and free living animals began, of course, with my family, then my community, church, 4-H, a land-grant college; it was reinforced every time I turned on the TV. Every commercial break has at least one commercial selling flesh, dairy, or egg products, and if they are inventive they can cram all of them into one sandwich. When I saw this I thought that what I was doing was a good thing, providing food for my family and others.
It wasn’t till I had a health crisis that I began to look seriously at the cause-and-effect of my lifestyle choices: I had a heart attack when I was eighteen years old. At the time, I didn’t know what had happened. I was home alone while the family was on vacation; I was sitting in front of the boob tube watching a movie and eating a half-gallon of ice cream. All of a sudden the left side of my neck started to hurt, then my left jaw and shoulder, with a radiating pain down my left arm. The next thing I knew I was on the floor and couldn’t breathe. It seemed to last forever, but I now realize that it probably lasted a few minutes. I didn’t know what had happened; I didn’t know the symptoms of a heart attack. The experience scared me--scared me enough that I didn’t tell my family about it.
A few years later my dad had a heart attack and by-pass surgery; I then learned what a heart attack really was. This caused me some concern, but being young and invincible, I figured it couldn’t really happen again. But when the cardiologist met with my dad, brother and myself in the ICU step-down, we were told that we had a genetic predisposition to heart disease. Again, being a person who followed the cause-and-effect line of thinking, I watched and followed the advice given my dad: no smoking (never did that), take the salt shaker off the table, and keep my saturated fat intake to 30% of total calories. My dad followed the guidelines and a few years later had another heart attack and his second by-pass. Still later he had a stroke that took his ability to speak, and after that an abdominal aneurysm that nearly killed him.
There is an old saying, “Either your life is an outstanding example or a terrible warning.” The warnings were all around me. Lifestyle choices had caused serious health problems and death in my family, but I didn’t know any better.
In the late 1980’s I was working in the dairy industry. I injured myself on the job. and since we were unionized I went to the union doctor. He fixed me up then asked me how long it had been since I had had a physical. It had been about 10 years, so he gave me a complete physical and also a full panel blood test. A few days later he called me and said we needed to meet…it wasn’t something he wanted to discuss over the phone. When a doctor say something like this you know it can’t be good. I went to his office and he asked if there was a history of heart disease in the family, I said yes and explained what had happened to my grandfather and my dad. He asked who my dad’s attending physician was, called him, and had my dad’s preoperative blood work faxed over. He sat there studying and comparing. Needless to say, his furrowed brow and occasional expression of, “hmmmm” and “I see” were making me nervous. These little signals never bode well.
After several minutes he flatly stated that if I didn’t make some changes in my lifestyle I would probably have my own by-pass by the time I was thirty-five. I asked him what to do, and he handed me a pamphlet about heart health. As we discussed it he said that the number one food I had to get out of my diet was ice cream. Yikes! I was addicted to ice cream! My blood work showed that both my dad and I had the same problem, good cholesterol (about 180) but very high triglycerides (mine were a shade over 700) which were much higher than my dad’s. The pamphlet said to start by giving up ice cream and red meat. It didn’t suggest being a vegetarian at all; besides I wouldn’t have known what the word meant . . . had never heard of it before.
I took the pamphlet home and my wife and I stood in the kitchen and read and discussed it. She said that we could make the transition together, bless her heart. So we did.
About a year later my brother bought the farm from our grandmother and we moved to Cleveland, Ohio. It was there that I learned what a vegetarian was, and that I could reverse my heart disease with diet. (Of course exercise is a big part of the lifestyle too, but I have always been active either working, running, playing sports, or practicing the martial arts.) We joined a local vegetarian club and developed close friendships with some very amazing people. Through their mentoring and my reading everything I could get my hands on about the relationship of diet and disease, I became a vegetarian, and a year later committed myself to a compassionate vegan ethic.
After reading and meeting doctors like Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn (see Esselstyn ) and Dr. Michael Greger (see Greger ), who specialize respectively in reversing heart disease and in plant-based nutrition, I realized that if I was going to create homeostasis in this thing I call a body, then the responsibility is totally upon me. It depends not on a pill or surgical procedure but upon the choices I make every time I eat. I find it interesting that all physicians have to take the Hippocratic oath when they graduate, but know so little about the teachings of Hippocrates. One of his prime teachings was "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Good advice!￼￼
Animal consciousness didn’t come to me until a few years later; you can get the details about that from the Tribe of Heart documentary Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home. Through meeting a Guernsey steer named Snickers, I came to realize how I had developed coping mechanisms that allowed me to view animals as objects of utility. I had an immediate image in my head of a light switch over my heart that I could turn on or off depending on who or what I was dealing with. I also realized that the cue for that coping mechanism was the phrase ‘I don’t care.’ I now understood that when I made a choice that was not in alignment with my authentic self, out of tune with my heart, I would say “I don’t care,” and uttering it would put me in a place where I was disconnected emotionally, psychologically, and even spiritually from the “other.”
At that moment I knew that I could no longer be part of anything that took a life, and that I could never use that phrase again. What I learned then was that if I choose not to say “I don’t care,” then I was in a place where I had no alternative but say “I care.” I will call it unconditional caring, but it might be better understood as unconditional compassion. It has profoundly changed my life. It has required a tremendous amount of hard work to practice emotional honesty--something our culture does not teach folks and particularly males.
Make no mistake; I didn’t take this journey alone. If it wasn’t for my loving wife and an amazing community of friends in Cleveland, I may have not found the peace that I have today. The vegetarian club I joined in Cleveland consisted of people dedicated to personal growth and self-actualization. If they hadn’t provided me with a safe space to explore the deep emotional traumas of my life I probably wouldn’t have come to understand some very important truths.
One of these truths is the practice of ahimsa, doing no harm. Most people can understand this as karma or, as we say in the west, what goes around comes around. How we live our lives and the things that we do or don’t do have everything to do with the reality we create. Since I was a kid I had observed that farm animals sought comfort, pleasure, good food, shelter, and community. But I never allowed those observations to trump the values of the dominant culture that I lived in. When I allowed myself the moral imagination to include these animals in my moral universe, it became clear that the most simple observations we make about animals we call pets are no different for farm animals. When I made the choice to live a conscious life, it demanded of me that I question long-held assumptions. It also demanded that I think critically about what I had observed earlier in my life and how I was to integrate the two opposing sets of ideas.
Beyond these more or less intellectual pursuits was the harder task of coming to terms with how I truly felt. Emotional honesty: here is where the hard work would be.
And so it has been. Not only is emotional honesty counter-intuitive to males in our culture, but is usually seen as a sign of weakness. But in my heart of hearts I knew that this was where I needed to be, how I needed to show up in the world. And if I was to make any sort of difference for a better world I had to live this truth. Animal rights, to me, is quite simply a matter of respecting animals as the sentient beings that they are. This means that they are on this Earth for their own reasons, not ours. That they have their own self-interests just as humans do, and insomuch as they do, they should be respected for that and left alone.
But this is also the proverbial uphill battle animals face. They are the legal property of humans and this dynamic puts them at a grave disadvantage, in particularly in a free-market capitalist system where animals are owned and traded openly as commodities, as economic units.
Until we question this entangled relationship, which has existed for some 10,000 years we will have great difficulty seeing animals with new eyes.
Used with permission, and edited. Learn more about Harold Brown and his work from his website http://www.farmkind.org/
Book Note: Really Important Stuff My Dog Has Taught Me
Cynthia L. Copeland, Really Important Stuff My Dog Has Taught Me. New York: Workman Publishing, 2014. 170 pages. $12.95 softcover.
If we are very involved in dealing with the terrible side of the animal concern, as any real activist must be at least some of the time, the sadness of that world may cause us to lose sight of the fun and playfulness of the animal world. This delightful little book could serve as an essential corrective to one-sided somberness, as well as being an unforgettable primer in some basic truths about life. No doubt inspired by similar books about such temples of learning as kindergarten and the farmers' market, it draws on dogs' wonderful capacity for loyalty, enthusiasm, forgiveness, and playfulness to communicate home truths.
Take for example, "Greet loved ones with enthusiasm, whether they've been gone ten minutes or ten months," "A well-spent day brings happy sleep," "Leap higher than you have to," or "Every day, remind those you love how you feel about them." Every true human companion to a dog will recognize how well dogs can exemplify maxims like this, not seldom better than many humans. They leave no doubt that their love is unfeigned, and their energy filled with joy. This book consists of little more than such sayings in large print, sometimes with a paragraph offering a relevant story, and a magnificent dog picture that needs no more words.
Really Important Stuff would make a splendid bedside book or small gift for a dog-lover, whether child or adult--and as dogs are well aware, “size matters not.” Check it out.
Book Review: The Great Grisby
Mikita Brottman, The Great Grisby: Two Thousand Years of Literary, Royal, Philosophical, and Artistic Dog Lovers and Their Exceptional Animals. New York: HarperCollins, Publishers, 2014. 275 pages. $25.99 hardcover.
What does a human relationship with a dog tell us? About the person? About the dog? About relationships? About the nature of a universe in which such relationships occur? These are the kinds of questions this unusual and remarkable book puts forward and leaves dangling in our minds, perhaps half-answered, half left as tantalizing mysteries as such connections are explored A to Z.
For this is, along with much else, an alphabet book. Its 26 short chapters each deal with a dog whose name began with the respective letter, from Atma, the canine companion (or rather series of companions all of the same name) of the notoriously misanthropic but dog-loving philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, to Zémire, moniker of the favorite greyhound of Catherine the Great of Russia, named after the heroine of the comic opera Zémire and Azor by André Grétry, very popular in the late eighteenth century. Along the way we encounter such intriguing animal companions as Eos, associate of Prince Albert; Flush, participant in the famous love story of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning; and Yofi, four-footed confidant of Sigmund Freud.
We learn of dogs who deeply shared the joys of their humans, and others who participated in their tragedies. Among the latter was Ortino, a French bulldog given to the Russian Princess Tatiana, daughter of the last czar, by a soldier she nursed in a hospital early in the First World War. Ortino accompanied her in the family's exile, and by some accounts died with her that tragic July night in 1918. Another is Thisbe, Marie Antoinette's spaniel, alleged to have howled so loudly when the guillotine sliced off her beloved human friend's head that a soldier pierced the dog's heart with a bayonet, saying, "So perish all that mourn an aristocrat."
Again, there are questions. It is not for nothing that the author is, among other vocations, a psychoanalyst. She is drawn to such puzzles as why some people are attracted to poodles, others to bulldogs or collies; why some humans are in fact, and a few will admit, more deeply in love with their dogs than with their human families; whether devotion to a dog can become pathological; and why "Fido" is used as the generic dog's name. Some of the non-answers lie in observations like this:
Partly because they can't speak but mainly because they don't judge, dogs have unfettered access to the intimacy of the backstage of life. Imagine what Prince Albert's dog Eos could have told us about Queen Victoria, or what Freud's dog Yofi might have learned from his master's patients. A dog in the room is a silent observer, a witness to the human drama; it sees all, smells all, and says nothing. (pp. 2-3)
A stellar witness to the human drama is Mikita Brottman's own white French bulldog, Grisby. The chapters of The Great Grisby are rambling like a walk with a dog in a park, stopping to sniff here and there. They generally wander away from the chapter's title dog to broader reflections, often involving Grisby and his comparable behavior. (In many books such a loose and baggy frame would be irritating, at least to me, but Brottman's style is so Princess Tatiana holding Ortino
engaging and unpretentious that I found the dogwalk anti-structure appealing, and the author's frequent psychological/philosophical comments insightful.)
Some of the most provocative perspectives come from the chapter on Kashtanka, eponymous subject of a disturbing and unforgettable short story by Anton Chekhov. This dog was first kept by a drunken carpenter and his son, who often abused her. But then the animal got lost and was found by a kindly circus performer who fed her well, and trained her to do tricks. Yet when the carpenter happened to attend the circus and was seen by Kashtanka, the dog happily ran to him and returned to her former life, giving up, the Russian writer tells us, "the delicious dinners, the lessons of the circus" which now became only "a long, tangled, oppressive dream" as she went home again, though no doubt to further neglect or mistreatment.
What does this mean? That instinct and first memory, even if of abuse, effaces all else? That a routine and familiar setting brings more happiness than indulgence? That doing circus tricks is so unnatural to a dog that it is oppressive even though the canine acrobat is well fed and applauded? Brottman mentions those who say that companion animals want definite jobs to do. But presumably these should be jobs more or less natural to a dog's nature, such as guard duty, retrieving, or the specialized tasks of a "seeing-eye" or other "service" animal in intense relationship to his/her human. Or maybe Chekhov, however great a writer, is no authority on dogs and gets it wrong. Or the tale is really a parable of human life, or even of Russia with all its oppression and suffering, yet at the same time ambivalent in its relationship toward learning the tricks of the West. All this is highly characteristic of The Great Grisby: more questions than answers, and yet somehow a sense of understanding, profound understanding, emerges from these queries. It seems to take a dog to bring us to this point of wordless wisdom.
It is perhaps appropriate that a book by a psychoanalyst should end with a word from Sigmund Freud, cited in connection with his beloved Yofi and other canines as the great psychologist observed the purity of their emotions, and those they evoke in us. "One can love an animal," he said, "with such an extraordinary intensity: affection without ambivalence, the simplicity of a life free from the almost unbearable conflicts of civilization." One senses the yearning a dog can call forth in us complicated humans for a life of plain love and loyalty, and perhaps that is why we want to be around them; if we are sometimes what they are not, they are certainly what we are not, yet might like to be.
One critical note: despite the colorful parade of twenty-six dogs, this book seems to be basically human-centered rather than dog-centered. That is, rather than taking what Gracia Fay has called "the view from below," seeing the world through the eyes of dogs, it sees that same world through the eyes of people who have a very close relationship with dogs or who, as writers, use dogs to articulate important universal truths. This is valid, but in an important sense not quite the same. Perhaps that is related to The author and Grisby another unfortunate point, that Brottman has not fully thought
through the terminology of human-animal relationships. She sometimes speaks of dogs as "it," and uses the conventional language of "pet," "owner," "master," and the like, which we at The Peaceable Table and other animal advocates have gone beyond.
At first glance The Great Grisby may look like just another dog book, but it is far more than that. It is not many books that offer so much more than appears on the surface, but this is one of them. Highly recommended.
Poetry: John Hall Wheelock, 1886-1978
Du bist Orphid, mein Land, das ferne leuchtet.--Mörike
This is enchanted country, lies under a spell,
Bird-haunted, ocean-haunted--land of youth,
Land of first love, land of death also, perhaps,
And desired return. Sea-tang and honeysuckle
Perfume the air, where the old house looks out
Across mild lowlands, meadows of scrub and pine,
A shell echoing the sea’s monotone
That haunts these shores. And here, all summer through,
From dawn to dusk, there will be other music,
Threading the sea’s music: at rise of sun,
With jubilation half-awakened birds
Salute his coming again, the lord of life,
His ambulatory footstep over the earth,
Who draws after him all that tide of song--
Salute the coming day, while from the edges
Of darkness, westward, fading voices call,
Night’s superseded voices, the whip-poor-will’s
Lamentation and farewell. Morning and noon
And afternoon and evening, the singing of birds
Lies on this country like an incantation:
Robin and wren, catbird, phoebe and chat,
Song-sparrow’s music-box tune, and from the slender
Arches of inmost shade, the woodland’s roof,
Where few winds come, flutelike adagio or
Wild syrinx-cry and high raving of the thrush,
Their clang and piercing pierce the spirit through--
Look off into blue heaven, you shall witness
Angelic motions, the volt and sidewise shift
Of the swallow in mid-air. Enchanted land,
Where time has died; old ocean-haunted land;
Land of first love, where grape and honeysuckle
Tangle their vines, where the beach-plum in spring
Snows all the inland dunes; bird-haunted land,
Where youth still dwells forever, your long day
Draws to its close, bringing for evening-star
Venus, a bud of fire in the pale west,
Bringing dusk and the whip-poor-will again,
And the owl’s tremolo and the firefly,
And gradual darkness. Silently the bat,
Over still lawns that listen to the sea,
Weaves the preoccupation of his flight.
The arch of heaven soars upward with all its stars. . . .
Bonac is a portion of Long Island where the poet summered for many years.
Part 2 of this poem will appear in the February issue of PT.
The painting, entitled “At Water’s Edge,” is by Randall Higdon. The bird in flight is a barn swallow.
Issue copyright © 2015 by VegetarianFriends
The Peaceable Table is a project of Quaker Animal Kinship / Animal Kinship Committee of Orange Grove Friends Meeting, Pasadena, California. It is intended to resume the witness of that excellent vehicle of the Friends Vegetarian Society of North America, The Friendly Vegetarian, which appeared quarterly between 1982 and 1995. Following its example, and sometimes borrowing from its treasures, we publish articles for toe-in-the-water vegetarians as well as long-term ones.
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