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
Editor’s Corner Guest Essay: Where Violence Begins
by Rachel MacNair
The planetarium presentation, as usual, was beautiful. Yet there was a disquieting aspect to language used. Stars were dying. Why not being transformed? These stars did something in a desperate attempt to prevent this. How can an inanimate object be desperate? One star taking material from another star was cannibalizing.
The animation of the solar ray was as wonderfully dramatic as fireworks. Yet it was described as violent. It was doing what it was supposed to and not hurting anyone. In fact, it was most definitely doing the opposite – it was life-giving. We couldn’t be alive if the sun didn’t do this.
Why all the battle language? Why not an analogy to cooking instead? They were giving the recipe for making a black hole. We could suggest this is a male vs. female way of looking at it, but that’s unfair to men, most of whom spend more time cooking than battling. It’s a violent perspective on what are not violent phenomena.
It reminded me of the Babylonian creation myth in which the god Marduk kills the dragon Tianmut, she being his own grandmother, and divides her body to make the earth and sky. This violence is a common feature of the mythologies of imperial cultures. When violence is entangled in the very core of governing, with war and execution, torture and genocide, infanticide and feticide, hunting for sport and slaughtering animals for meat, then violence is also entangled in the very creation of the universe. It’s understood as natural. It need not be avoided; rather, it’s celebrated as glorious and heroic.
We don’t generally see stars as gods in our culture, but the planetarium show was treating them as beings with feelings and intentions just the same. Creation of new things was narrated with the language of destruction--as would be expected from a philosophy that sees the world through a violent lens. This is not science. Giving such a lens a scientific topic doesn’t turn it into science.
The Babylonian myth was the one I thought of because it was countered by a group of the Babylonian empire’s conquered people. They came up with a story of creation where gods didn’t battle each other because there was only one. The stars were not gods, but good and useful items. The process was orderly, logical, and peaceful.
The story told by the rebels is the one most familiar to people nowadays; millions of people have it in their homes and it’s recited frequently all over the world as the first chapter of Genesis in the Bible. The Babylonian empire, on the other hand, is long gone, its myths only known to some. Ancient nonviolent activism made an enduring change.
Yet the impetus of seeing things through a lens of violence being at the core of the universe is still with us, and academics who themselves spend more time cooking than battling nevertheless find erudite ways of using violent metaphors. Of course, if they’re cooking meat, then the cooking includes violence, which daily bolsters the perception that violence is pervasive.
I think this shows that if all the lethal violence we oppose starts in the thinking process before it makes its way to gory reality, we need to pay attention to opposing it even at the stage of simple imagery in language.
“ . . . when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion – its message becomes meaningless.” Abraham Joshua Heschel
--Contributed by Steve Kaufman
“The real struggle in being vegan doesn’t involve food. The hardest part about being vegan is coming face-to-face with the darker side of humanity and trying to remain hopeful. It’s trying to understand why otherwise good and caring people continue to participate in needless violence . . . --Jo Tyler
~-Contributed by Lorena Mucke
“Please don’t eat the animals. They don’t like it.” --Elizabeth Farians
A Glimpse of the Peaceable Kingdom
This may not be exactly a glimpse of the Peaceable Kingdom, but this little dog’s persistent barking to draw a rescuer to the trapped kitten she had found certainly conveys the sense of kinship that makes up its spirit. Taken to a South Carolina shelter, they remained inseparable, and were adopted together. See Friends
--Contributed by Marjorie Emerson
Iran and Israel Find Common Ground in Meatless Monday
Sometimes those who seem to have nothing in common can (begin to) agree on a program that benefits everyone. This is the case of Iran and Israel, which both encourage Meatless Monday.
Plant-based diets benefit everyone and encourage compassion and love toward all. See
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
All-Veg School Meals in Queens
Public School 244, an elementary school in Queens, New York City, has been serving 100 percent meatless meals in its cafeteria since earlier this year. Now, the benefits are showing in its own report card: students’ attendance, test scores, energy levels and attention spans have all improved significantly. See Veg in Queens
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
“Nobody Was in Distress”
Neighbors around Sunshine Dairy Farm [note the cheerful name] in Newbury, Massachusetts, called the police to check on strange, unearthly distress sounds. Upon inspection the police reassured them that nobody was in distress and that it was simply cows mourning the loss of their newborn calves, who had been taken away [so that humans could consume their milk]. According to police this happens every year. See Nobody
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
“And the Walls Came Tumbling Down”
`Last month, the Mayor of Concepcion, Junin, in Peru supervised the demolition of the city's bullring, turning his city into the first anti-bullfighting city in Peru. You may want to join other activists in congratulating him for his efforts and determination. The link article is in Spanish, but even if you can’t read it, you can add your note in English at the end. There is also a video clip of earth-moving equipment bringing down the arena walls. See Demolition
--Contributed by Maru Vigo
Pioneer: Frederick Evans, 1808-1893
By Keith Akers
In April 1774, a woman named Ann Lee came from England to America with eight followers committed to a new vision of Christianity. Out of this vision emerged the Shakers, the most successful communal group ever to exist in North America, with communities having a combined membership of up to 6,000 flourishing in the early nineteenth century. In the second half of the nineteenth century Shaker communities began to decline, and only a handful of Shakers still continue their celibate and communal tradition today in Sabbathday Lake, Maine. . . .
Except for Ann Lee herself, the one Shaker who is best known to history is Frederick Evans . . . Though never formally the head of the Shaker community, he was an Elder and represented Shaker interests to the world, both in negotiations with the world and in proselytizing efforts. During the Civil War, in which the Shakers as pacifists refused to fight, it was Frederick Evans who petitioned President Lincoln in person for exemption from military service. Lincoln was impressed with Evans. “You ought to be forced to fight! We need regiments of men such as you,” Lincoln is reported as saying; but in the end he allowed the Shakers their objection to military service without penalty.
Evans not only was a representative of the Shakers, he also edited various publications which the group began to issue late in the nineteenth century such as The Shaker Quarterly. He was a prolific writer and lecturer, and among other things, he often spoke on the question of vegetarianism.
Frederick Evans was a committed vegetarian from shortly after he joined the Shakers until his death. He advocated vegetarianism not merely as a personal choice, but as something which Shakers (and everyone else) should adopt. He gave lectures not only on Shaker precepts but also on proper hygiene and vegetarianism. In The Shaker Quarterly, he railed against “the corruptions that are in the world through the lusts of generation, of property, and of digestion”--thus linking the Shaker principles of celibacy and communalism with vegetarian principles.
At the age of 80 (!) he went to England to proselytize on behalf of the Shaker religion. He spoke before the Vegetarian Society at Manchester and defended his vegetarianism and Shaker principles. He admitted that not all Shakers were vegetarians, but said that he thought that one day they would be. In his own New Lebanon community, where he was very respected, he persuaded most of his fellow Shakers to adopt a vegetarian diet; contemporary news accounts report that the dinner table at New Lebanon was almost completely vegetarian.
Elder Evans was not a lone voice for vegetarianism among the Shakers, but part of a force which emerged as a result of the first (and perhaps the only) true ideological crisis to affect Shakerism. None of the early Shaker leaders was vegetarian and the topic was scarcely raised in the first years. However, in the 1830s the philosophy of Sylvester Graham (inventor of the “Graham cracker”) burst upon the scene. Graham’s advocacy of whole foods and abstinence from meat, fish, fowl, coffee, tea, and tobacco sounds strangely modern to us today, and that is the way we normally remember Graham--as a kind of nineteenth-century precursor to Drs. McDougall and Ornish.
But what was especially fascinating to the Shakers was a facet of Graham’s philosophy which modern vegetarians tend to ignore. Graham clearly believed that a “pure diet” is very helpful in helping to achieve sexual abstinence. . . . [T}o Shaker celibates, this was a welcome new theory, and many wanted to try the new system of diet. The Grahamite theories and adherents spread rapidly throughout the Shaker communities, though many resisted this trend and poured scorn on the vegetarians.
The Lead Ministry (governing all Shaker communities) was never able to issue any kind of ruling either endorsing or rejecting vegetarianism. . . . It wa during the Grahamite upheaval that Frederick Evans himself became a vegetarian--about two years after he first joined the Shakers. Evans evidently carried out the Grahamite program faithfully throughout his entire life . . . .
Excerpted from “Frederick Evans and Shaker Vegetarianism” in the Spring, 1993 issue of The Friendly Vegetarian. Reprinted with permission of the final editor of FV.
1 1/2 cups organic vegan gingersnap cookies (about 24 cookies)
1/4 cup almonds
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
2 tablespoons neutral tasting oil
1/4 cup brown or palm sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Pumpkin Filling Ingredients:
2 (8-ounce) containers vegan cream cheese
2/3 cup evaporated cane sugar
1 (15-ounce) can organic pumpkin, or pumpkin pie filling
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon whole-wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon neutral tasting oil
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
* Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
* Place cookies, almonds, ginger, oil, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla extract and sea salt in a food processor and pulse until uniform, about 20 to 25 times. Mixture should be a crumbly, even consistency that pulls away from the walls of food processor.
* Grease a springform pan. Use damp hands to firmly press mixture into pan to form crust. Be sure to evenly distribute mixture and use thumbs to press crust into corners of pan. Bake for 7 minutes, to help crust stick together.
* In a food processor, add cream cheese, sugar, pumpkin, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, flour, lemon juice, oil and sea salt. Blend until uniform.
* Pour filling into baked crust and gently tap mixture on counter to release any trapped bubbles. Bake for about 40 minutes or until mixture is slightly browned on top and feels firm when pan is slightly shaken.
* Remove from oven and allow cheesecake to cool on counter for at least 20 minutes, then refrigerate for 4 hours to overnight before serving, to firm up.
--Modified by Angie Cordeiro
Here is an easy and tempting veggie dish for the holiday feast, or for everyday. It works well also for other root veggies, such as potatoes.
Parsnips, cut in finger-sized pieces
1 teas. olive oil
Salt and pepper
½ teas. cumin
Preheat oven to 450°.
Mix parsnips, chopped rosemary, garlic, and oil on a large rimmed baking sheet.
Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Spread out in a single layer. Scatter rosemary sprigs over.
Roast for 10 minutes; turn parsnips and roast until parsnips are tender and browned in spots, 10–15 minutes longer. Crumble leaves from rosemary sprigs over; discard stems and toss to coat. Sprinkle cumin over. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more cumin, if desired.
Book Review: Animal Wise by Virginia Morell
Virginia Morell, Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures. New York: Crown, 2013. 292 pages. $26.00 hardcover.
Virginia Morell, prominent science journalist published in such outlets as the National Geographic and Smithsonian, sets out the premise of this work in the opening lines: "Animals have minds. They have brains, and use them as we do: for experiencing the world, for thinking and feeling, and for solving the problems of life every creature faces. Like us, they have personalities, moods, and emotions; they laugh and they play. Some show grief and empathy, are self-aware and very likely conscious of their actions and intents." Virtually anyone who has enjoyed genuine relationships with companion animals will regard such observations obvious, but until recently their purport has been far from consensus wisdom in professional animal psychology circles. However, the tide is turning.
By way of demonstration, Morell cites the titles of characteristic current articles about animal thinking, some of which will be familiar to readers of The Peaceable Table: "Whales Have Accents and Regional Dialects," "Fish Use Tools," “Squirrels Adopt Orphans, "Honeybees Make Plans, "Sheep Don't Forget a Face," “Rats Feel Each Other's Pain,” "Elephants See Themselves in Mirrors."
Behind these news items, and many others like them, stand dedicated researchers who, often at the cost of years of patient endeavor, have managed learning to read an animal's behavior and, even more important, get into the non-human, yet thinking and feeling, mind of the subject. The bulk of this fascinating and readable book is a parade of interviews with those devoted workers, usually including visits to the animals themselves. We learn how ants teach their fellow-laborers, how fish plan and feel pain, how much parrots can communicate. (One researcher here is Irene Pepperberg, companion of the remarkable parrot Alex, whose engrossing book Alex and Me was the subject of an earlier review in issue 49 of PT. See Alex . In the wild, other research reveals, parrots talk instead to each other, and seem to involve relationship dramas as complicated and steamy as any soap opera.) We then go on to the ability of rats to laugh and play, to dolphins and their extraordinary minds and powers of communication, to elephants and their remarkable memories, which has made old matriarchs virtual encyclopedias of elephant lore, and which has given the pachyderms awareness of death and the ability to mourn. "What It Means to Be a Chimpanzee" features the redoubtable Jane Goodall and her younger successors, and "Of Dogs and Wolves" explores how many thousands of years of close interaction with humans has made the minds of canines different from those of their near biological kin.
As a capable journalist, Morell is interested in the people and the animals as well as in the data. Her pages are constantly enlivened with affectionate descriptions of the often individualistic scientists who have felt led to contribute so much time and effort to animal minds. It frequently becomes clear that a real respect and bonding has developed between human and animal, even if the latter are ants or fish. Needless to say, their claims were not always welcomed by fellow savants, who considered any such ideas "anthropomorphizing." The old school was much more comfortable with a complex but essentially thoughtless stimulus/response interpretation of animal behavior. At some points, the pioneers were lonely, even ridiculed, researchers ahead of the times. No longer, if Animal Wise shows the way the wind is blowing. An epilogue investigates how this new knowledge ought to mandate far-reaching, and often very difficult, changes in human attitudes and behavior.
If you want to know what's going on in animal cognition and emotion studies, or just want a good read about animals, Animal Wise is highly recommended.
Book Review: Experiencing Animal Minds
Julie A. Smith & Robert W. Mitchell, Eds., Experiencing Animal Minds: An Anthology of Animal-Human Encounters. New York: Columbia University Press, 2012. 380 pages. $35.00 softcover.
This collection of essays is not for beginning or casual readers; the writers are professionals in psychology, philosophy, or related disciplines. But those who can and do delve into it will be richly rewarded. Here one can sample the current state of academic thought on animal mind and consciousness, and the way in which the issues are being approached through experimentation (mostly benign), observation, and careful analysis. They focus on examples from varied animal kindreds: chickens, dogs, horses, beavers, tortoises, primates.
What one will find, ironically, is a "postmodern" field lying chaotically and creatively between two worlds, one mostly dead, the other waiting to be born. The old Cartesian/Kantian view of animals as little more than barely conscious machines responding to stimuli is generally gone with few regrets on the part of these investigators, but what comes next seems to be wide open. Those in the field today accept much their academic forebears did not: animals who make tools, speak with a fairly wide vocabulary (parrots and crows), may remember the past and plan for the future (though this attribute in animals -- at least in some human-like sense -- is subject to much debate), show awareness of death (elephants), even create art. Yet at the same time, the current savants are highly mindful of the dangers of anthropomorphism: of attributing to animals characteristics of human consciousness. The sensory input by which the animals relate to their world, and the programming of their minds for a environment alien to ours, from the whale's way in the sea to the bird's in the air, may produce a very different kind of mind/world from ours, though one just as well if not better suited to their needs.
What kind of consciousness does this leave animals who are non-verbal, at least in the human sense, yet apparently self-aware? To what extent are they capable of human-like decision-making and volition? Are they able to "read" another's state of mind and respond? Queries like these, judging from these thoughtful articles, remain open, and of course the answers would probably be quite different for different species, even though the idea of "higher" and "lower" animals, often based anthropomorphically on closeness of kinship to us humans, is also in much need of rethinking.
I cannot review all the articles in this volume, though they are all recommended and in various ways relate to the issues suggested above. I cannot resist, though, mentioning "Can Animals Make 'Art'"? by Jane C. Desmond. Apparently such creative works by non-humans is a vogue in some circles now: the author begins by mentioning three paintings by a chimpanzee that recently sold for about $30,000 U.S. at a London auction, putting the simian in the league of many human masters. But is it art? Virtually all of it is what would be called abstract, yet those who are connoisseurs of such work profess to see subtle and expressive uses of color and form. You decide.
What is not open to further argument, at least in my view and that of many of these authors, is that the new vistas of animal consciousness call for serious new thinking on animal ethics. As summarized in a final essay by the two editors, "They [those who recognize this challenge] maintain that humans’ moral obligations must be founded not on finding in animals mental capacities similar to those of humans but rather on recognizing in animals their own kinds of minds with their own special capacities, different and sometimes superior to those of humans. This view rejects ordering mental abilities in a hierarchy, which its proponents say has in past and contemporary theory been biased toward humans (the theorists)." (p. 340) Or as Jeremy Bentham long ago put it more succinctly, the ethical question is not whether they can speak [or think like us], but whether they can feel pain.
For some readers, this will be a book to be dipped into here and there, as particular species or issues capture one's attention. Whether so perused, or read straight through, it is highly recommended to qualified students.
Poetry: Kenneth Grahame, 1859-1932
The Song of the Piper at the Gates of Dawn
from The Wind in the Willows
Lest the awe should dwell--
And turn your frolic to fret--
You shall look on my power at the helping hour--
But then you shall forget!
Lest limbs be reddened and rent--
I spring the trap that is set--
As I loose the snare you may glimpse me there--
For surely you shall forget!
Helper and healer, I cheer
Small waifs in the woodland wet--
Strays I find in it, wounds I bind in it,
Bidding them all forget!
--Contributed by Benjamin Urrutia
Drawing of Kenneth Grahame by John Singer Sargent
Issue copyright © 2013 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.
We manage on the traditional shoestring budget, with most funds for domain name, server, and advertisements in other periodicals coming out of our own pockets; so we welcome donations either by PayPal or check. Make checks out to Quaker Animal Kinship, and send to Norma Pratt, Treasurer, 395 E. Palm St., Altadena, CA 91001.
This journal is intended to be interactive; contributions, including illustrations, are invited for the next issue. Deadline for the January, 2014 issue will be December 26.. Send to firstname.lastname@example.org or 14 Krotona Hill, Ojai, CA 93023. We operate primarily online in order to conserve trees and labor, but hard copy is available for interested persons who are not online. The latter are asked, if their funds permit, to donate $12 (USD) per year.
Editor: Gracia Fay Ellwood
Book and Film Reviewers: Benjamin Urrutia and Robert Ellwood
NewsNotes Reporters: Lorena Mucke, Marian Hussenbux
Recipe Creatrix: Angie Cordeiro
Technical Architect: Richard Scott Lancelot Ellwood