May 2015

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 Essay:  

Saving the Earth, Saving the Earthlings

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Ever since my eyes were opened to the perilous condition of our planet as a result of reading a 1985 essay called “The Defense of the Peaceable Kingdom” by a Quaker scientist, I have been concerned about environmental issues, taking what small actions I could think of of to keep a light tread on the earth.  My chief concern was the liberation of animals, but it seemed overwhelmingly obvious to me that any sane and mature person would care about the danger haunting the earth as well; this is, after all, our only home, as well as the home of many other beings, and it would be madness to stand by idly until it dies in a largely human-caused apocalypse.  We can’t assume it’s too late; it’s worth working at.  Saving the earth and saving its abused animal inhabitants seemed two parts of the same goal.

Sometime in the mid-’nineties, a couple in our Quaker Meeting gave a very knowledgeable presentation on the environmental crisis, suggesting other actions one could take.  It was evident they cared greatly.  I was impressed by their erudition and their suggestions, and ready to come aboard with them.  They knew that I was encouraging Friends to adopt a nonviolent way of eating, and I knew that they were meat eaters, but I naively thought the prospect of an enthusiastic supporter for the cause of the earth would be enough to induce them to at least modify their stance and support my Concern, if not go completely vegetarian themselves.  After all, they would surely agree that the earth needs all the help it can get.  But I couldn’t have been more wrong; apparently my vegan message made me persona non grata, for I got the cold shoulder in more ways than one.  It was the beginning of my education in the unfortunate tensions between many animal advocates and earth advocates.

Fast-forward to 2014.  Livestock’s Long Shadow, the lengthy report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) which concluded that animal ag contributed 18% of the greenhouse gases causing climate change--more than all forms of transportation together--had been out for eight years.  Available for five years was “Livestock and Climate Change,” (See “Climate Change”), a (much shorter) report by Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang published by the WorldWatch Institute, which analyzed the FAO report and pointed out that when fish-farming (as source of animal feed), deforestation for pasture, transportation of animal products, and other factors are included, the percentage of greenhouse gases from animal ag is actually much higher, about 51%.  Now the case for dropping animal products for the sake of the earth was suddenly considerably stronger, and even the reluctant Al Gore went veg.  The percentages of meat and dairy sold in the US also went down, not because of a substantial jump in the number of vegetarians and vegans, but apparently because many omnivores are now eating several meatless meals each week.CowspircyWebposter.png

But no one saw crowds of environmentalists climbing onto the vegan bandwagon.  Their major organizations--Sierra Club,  Rainforest Action Network, Greenpeace, Oceania, and others--mention the issue on their websites, but the information is kept in the background; they urge supporters to take action to oppose harmful activities such as fracking and oil drilling in the Arctic, but there are no campaigns to urge (or even encourage) the public to drop animal products from their diets.  Not only that--when the makers of the 2014 film Cowspiracy interviewed spokespersons of the groups and asked about their response to the evidence for the looming threat posed by animal agriculture, they got mostly evasions.  It seems likely that these nonprofit groups don’t care to risk their funding by promoting so extreme a measure as vegetarianism, let alone veganism.

Worldviews in Tension

Some of the tension between environmentalists and animal activists stems from partially conflicting worldviews.  Many environmentalists (though not all) hold variants of a holistic, ecocentric worldview expressed in the classic Land Ethic of Aldo Leopold, set forth in an essay in his 1949 book A Sand Country Almanac.  The two main principles of this ethic are that nature is not merely the human context, providing useful resources for us, but has value in and of itself; and that value is found in the whole, the ecological community.  Individual beings, including animals, have value in proportion to their contribution to the health of the whole community, but not in and of themselves; they are expendable (and edible).  Human beings are not the lords of this community as they have long assumed, but citizens of it, and responsible to other citizens for the welfare of the community.

The implications of this message are many.  There is no doubt that humans have indeed been acting like lords--or rather tyrants--over the earth, recklessly taking out whatever they want, destroying habitats, decimating crucial ecosystems, fostering dangerous climate change, until “the earth withers . . . the earth lies polluted under its inhabitants, for they have . . . broken the everlasting covenant,” as Isaiah prophetically wrote three thousand years ago.  It is desperately important that politicians and the wealthy lords of industry hear and heed this message, and accept their responsibility as mere citizens among other citizens of many shapes and varieties.  But few are eager to do so.

To some extent the message is being heard, for many ordinary people are speaking up by vote and by protest against destructive industrial policies.  But it is always a struggle between self-serving forces and those serving the earth.  And, unfortunately, certain elements of some environmentalists’ message hinder their effectiveness.  One of them, as Anna Peterson (pictured) points out in Being Animal, is a negative outlook on companion animals.  Environmentalists who make it clear that they consider wild animals to be the only true animals, domesticated ones being so denatured as to no longer be worthy of the name, do themselves no favor with large swaths of the public, including many animal activists, who love their cats, dogs, or other animals-in-residence and consider them members of their family.  To the extent that the environmentalists’ objections are to the destructive and unhealthy pet food industry, they have a very valid point, to which animal companion guardians (including myself) have no satisfactory answer. But condemning animal friends is not the way to help the earth.  anna-peterson.jpg

Worldviews Colliding

Another difficulty, and a serious point of disagreement between environmentalists and animal activists is that while the latter consider the violence of predation as tragic, many of the former affirm it as good, because it is a crucial part of the valuable whole.  Like the two Quakers who wanted nothing to do with my vegan message, they not only believe in eating flesh (from ecologically responsible farms), some practice hunting so long as the prey is from a species that is overabundant in a particular area, believing that it deepens their participation in nature.  Furthermore, they hold that culling--that is, killing--large numbers of a species that is invasive, and/or throwing a local ecosystem out of balance, is the responsible thing to do.

While removing invasive plants is not likely to lead to major contention, killing animals because there are too many of them for sustainability does have serious consequences.  One is practical:  the animals may increase their reproduction rate to compensate for the losses (as humans did in the Baby Boom after 1945), so that the horror and bloodshed will have been for nothing.  In the case of some species, there may be harmful repercussions for the survivors; for example, elephants who as infants endured the massacre of their mothers and extended families show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder and may become violent and dangerous.  

Humans simply do not know all the results of their actions; as Tolkien says, “Even the wise cannot see all ends.”  If, as we at the Peaceable Table and many others hold, all beings are so deeply linked that what happens to one affects all,  the violence of any massacre pervades and pollutes earth’s spiritual atmosphere, fostering further violence elsewhere.  Violent solutions to animal overpopulation tend to be the first to come to many people’s minds, but nonviolent solutions, such as birth control, can be sought and found.  Another example: when the area threatened by an imbalance of animals is delimited, the animals can be moved, as took place 1999 - 2000 when animal advocates cooperated with environmentalists to move invasive wild goats living on Catalina Island near the coast of Southern California.  (Unhappily, after the airlift took many of the goats to a safe new location, the Conservancy that owned much of the island was unwilling to wait for further fundraising, and began killing the remaining goats).catalinaGoats.jpg

From the viewpoint of consistency and thus integrity, the most serious problem of the massacre solution is the unhappy fact that the animal species whose numbers are most out of control, who are doing what may be fatal damage to the whole biosphere of the planet, is, alas, so-called homo sapiens.  We have met the enemy, and it is us.  But scarcely anyone wants to be an ecofascist who advocates mass killing of human beings to save the earth; not only is this counter-intuitive, it is, to say the least, very unpopular.  (Deep ecologists, especially members of the group Earth First!, are thought to favor this solution; there is a single pseudonymous 1987 essay tentatively exploring the idea that the deaths of many humans would be beneficial, but most of the group’s members do not support the idea.)

Thus, for ecocentrists, the value of all animals in all species is subordinated to the welfare of the whole community, and they can be killed when their numbers threaten that welfare--all species, that is, except us human animals, who happen to be the worst offenders!  It does seem a little ironic, then, that humans should appoint themselves the killers of other overpopulated animal species.  It is true that when particular ecological problems have been created by humans, humans ought to try to resolve those problems; but the means should be of the sort we would want applied to ourselves.

Hope is the Thing With Feathers

But not all environmentalists are ecocentrists, as many readers know; there are other positions, most of them happily compatible with animal advocacy.  Some are anthropocentric, primarily motivated by a desire to save the earth for future generations of human beings.  Some are theocentric, holding that the earth and all beings in it belong to God, who has appointed humans as stewards or guardians; thus we humans do have a special status among other species, but it is one of caretaking, not exploitation.  Some, especially ecofeminists, emphatically reject the dualisms of human culture vs. nature, male vs. female, whole vs. individual that are typical of much traditional Western thought, and the patterns of domination that these dualisms foster, domination that ravishes the land and thoughtlessly or deliberately kills millions of animals.  Some environmentalists, particularly certain Quakers, affirm that the earth and all its beings are indwelt by an immanent divine Light/Presence, so that they are owed respect, even reverence, both as a whole and as individuals.  There are some influenced by Buddhism who hold that all beings are one, their separateness essentially unreal like the ephemeral waves of the ocean, so that when our eyes are opened, we see ourselves in every being, and consequently live and act with compassion for all.  And, of course, several of these categories overlap; e.g., a person can be a Quaker or Buddhist of evangelical Christian ecofeminist.  EarthInHands2.jpg

These positions face both theoretical and practical problems, just as ecocentric environmentalism does; most readers know them already.  Briefly, the main theoretical one is that when both the whole and the individuals are to be held in respect or reverence, there is little inherent guidance about how to deal with situations when the welfare of two communities or individuals conflict.  Two practical problems faced by animal advocates in particular--whether they are also environmentalists or not--are: first, that our vegan message seems ascetic and depriving to most people, who continue to cling to meat and dairy; and, second, that, thanks in part to the media, vocal animal defenders full of anger tend to capture the public’s attention much more than advocates who seek to deliver the message with compassion for all, so that people get the impression that we are judgmental and hostile, making them feel ill-used and defensive.  

Can’t We Get Along?

One hopeful possibility--a very large area in which all animal advocates and environmentalists can agree and work together--is that the huge factory farm and slaughterhell system is an abomination in every way:  exploiting and often injuring vulnerable workers, undermining consumers’ health, creating hells for animals, and wreaking unimaginable harm on the earth through extinctions, pollution, and climate change.  It must be nonviolently dismantled.  It is useless to expect any leadership toward this goal from government agencies designed to protect human health or the earth; the only way it will happen is for people to to be effectively persuaded to stop buying the products.  In addition to the important work animal advocates are already doing, we could join major environmental organizations and pressure them from within to start speaking up--loudly--about the terrible peril this evil system poses to the earth.  Wealthy donors can have particular influence here, but many people with shallower pockets might help convince one or more of the big earth-defending nonprofits to put their mouth where their money (supplemented by our contributions) is.  

Imagine, for example, the HSUS, PETA, Greenpeace, and the Sierra Club joining forces to press the message home:  if you want to do what will help most to promote compassion for animals and prevent our planet-home from becoming a dead world, swear off meat and dairy (especially) and eggs from factory farms.  Such a major cooperative effort would mean both sides learning to tolerate certain views and actions they find hard to take.  But things might really begin to move.

--Gracia Fay Ellwood

--Lead illustration from greenoverdose.com  Image of earth in hands is from the website of  Julie E. Brent Much of the information in this essay about environmentalists comes from Anna Peterson’s Being Animal.

Unset Gems

“The earth mourns and withers . . . The earth lies polluted under its inhabitants, for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant.”  Isa. 24:4,5IsaacBashevisSinger.jpeg

“When a human being kills an animal for food, he is neglecting his own hunger for justice. Man prays for mercy, but is unwilling to extend it to others. Why then should man expect mercy from God?”--Isaac Bashevis Singer (pictured), Contributed by Lorena Mucke

“To determine whether something is ‘humane’, first ask if you would want it done to you.”--Andrea Kadlar, Contributed by Lorena Mucke

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

NewsNotes

Arizona Governor Vetoes Farm-Industry Legislation

The powerful Arizona meat industry pushed a deceptive anti-farmed-animal bill (House 2150) dressed up to look animal-friendly. In fact, it had an "ag-gag"-type component which would have hampered investigations into animal abuse on factory farms, and prohibited local governments from passing stronger animal protection laws in their communities. When the bill passed the legislature, 19,251 Arizona residents contacted the governor asking him to veto the bill.  Gov. Doug Ducey (R) vetoed the legislation.  See Veto and Ducey

--Contributed by Lorena Mucke

Antibiotic-Resistant Microbes Now Airborne

TIME magazine reports that “A new study says the DNA from antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in American cattle yards has become airborne, creating a new pathway by which such bacteria can potentially spread to humans and hinder treatment of life-threatening infections…” This new pathway for bacteria to travel long distances is a very disturbing result of modern animal agriculture.  Unsurprisingly, spokespersons for the cattle industry claim the study exaggerates the problem.  See Microbes

--Contributed by Lorena Mucke

Rescued Dairy Cow Astutely Hides Calf

Clarabelle, a rescued cow living at the Australian sanctuary Edgar's Mission, arrived at the sanctuary pregnant and gave birth in secret.  Haunted by memories from her nightmare years on a dairy farm where all her previous babies were kidnapped, Clarabelle hid her new calf, moving her to a different hiding spot every day so she wouldn't be “disappeared” by humans.  But the sanctuary workers finally found the baby, and Clarabelle found that not all humans are callous kidnappers.  Now she and little Valentine are safe and together.  See Mercy for AnimalsClarabelle.jpg

--Contributed by Mercy for Animals

Animal Agriculture Threatens Biodiversity

Animal agriculture is an incredibly powerful vehicle of destruction. One of its many devastating effects is the damage to biodiversity: a serious problem that affects life on Earth in many negative ways, as Gene Bauer’s new book Living the Farm Sanctuary Life says.  Read an excerpt: Biodiversity

--Contributed by Lorena Mucke

Human Slavery in Fishing Industry

According to a yearlong investigation by The Associated Press, some of the fish sold in the U.S., particularly in pet food, was caught by enslaved Burmese humans.  These slaves were kept under terrible conditions, often beaten and caged; many of them had been kidnapped.  See Slavery

--Contributed by Benjamin Urrutia and Lorena Mucke

Pioneer:  Sarah J. Eddy, 1851-1945Sarah-Eddy-image-267x350.jpg

Sarah J. Eddy was a vibrant, talented US-American woman who was passionate about many causes, including action for animals, and was blessed by wealth and by friends in high places.  She was an author, photographer, painter, and sculptor; a philanthropist and one of the founders of the Humane Society; she was a suffragist and a friend of Susan B. Anthony.  For most of her life until her death, she resided in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.

Eddy began exhibiting photographs in 1890, at nearly forty years of age; her photos were displayed regularly in American and foreign exhibitions.  She preferred photographing children, women, and animals, and stated that her personal interactions with her subjects were as rewarding as the finished images:  “We enter into sympathetic relations with the people who furnish us with pictures.  We are grateful to them and they are very grateful to us.  We meet on common ground.”  Despite her wealth, she showed no sense of entitlement; she cared deeply about ordinary people, as this comment illustrates.

Eddy painted the well-known portrait of suffragist Susan B. Anthony that hangs in Bryn Mawr College and the full-length portrait of abolitionist Frederick Douglass hanging in the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in Washington, D.C.  Many of her paintings gently evoke a sense of the Eternal, and invite exploration and personal interpretation, while conveying and enhancing a sense of peace.  Five of them were donated to Krotona, my (vegetarian) Theosophical community, and still hang in our library.sarah-j-eddy-loving-playmates.jpg

Eddy’s compassionate and holistic outlooks were evident in her activities as an author and member of humane societies.  Between 1899 and 1938 she wrote or compiled five children’s books on animals and their care.  Most widely read were Friends and Helpers and Alexander and Some Other Cats, both featuring her sympathetic text and photographic illustrations. The photo “Loving Playmates,” the frontispiece of Friends and Helpers. expresses the sense of kinship between beings that Eddy captured in her art and photos, and fostered in her altruistic activities.

Eddy worked with animal rights groups for half a century; in the 1890s she helped found the Rhode Island Humane Educational Society and at her death she was the director of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.  She was a vegetarian at a time when few US citizens were; it is said that she refused to cut her grass because she didn’t want to kill any grasshoppers.  Teaching kindness toward all living creatures was a prominent part of her work, a thread that ran throughout her life.  

Eddy set up a “Social Studio” across from her house that became a local arts center. According to Gloria Schmidt of the Portsmouth Historical Society, “There were performances there, there were concerts. It was a place where people could come and have painting lessons and sewing lessons. It was a tremendous meeting place. There would be 200 people at a time for events there. . . All kinds of people came, from the Methodist women’s group to the Colored Home in Providence. It was an arts center, a social center and a center for causes, whether it be women’s suffrage or women’s temperance. She has all these circles that kind of radiated out from her.”

Eddy, who never married, died in her Portsmouth home on March 29, 1945, at age 93.

--Nelda Samarel with Gracia Fay Ellwood

Reprinted with permission from The Krotonian, Spring 2015.  Edited and expanded.

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Recipe

Broccoli Fritters

Ingredients:

1 medium head broccoli florets (about 3 cups processed)

½ cup onion, chopped

¼ cup chopped cilantro

2 cloves garlic

½ cup chickpea flour

2 tablespoons flaxseed meal

½ teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon coconut oil (or more) for cooking

Directions:

Place broccoli florets, onion, cilantro and garlic in batches in a food processor and process until crumbly (looks like rice grains).  Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in chickpea flour, flaxseed meal, cumin, cayenne pepper  and salt. Mix well and squeeze together as if you aree forming a dough. Heat oil on medium in a large skillet. Form into patties of about 1/4 cup dough each, place fritters in the skillet, reduce heat to low, and cook fritters on each side for about 4 minutes until golden brown. These are lightly fried, not deep fried.  I cover the skillet after I turn them to make sure the fritters are well cooked in the middle. Delicious served with guacamole.

Alternatively, fritters may be baked:  preheat oven to 400 degrees and bake for 25-30 minutes.

--Michelle Blackwood

From her website Healthier Steps

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Film Review:  Monkey Kingdom  

Monkey Kingdom. A Disney Nature documentary film. Distributed by the Walt Disney Motion Picture studios. 2015. Written by Mark Linfield. Directed by Mark Linfield and Alastair Fothergill. 82 minutes. Rated G. 

The monkeys of this film are toque macaques, living in and around an abandoned city in the island nation of Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon). They look a lot like lesulla monkeys, which have been described as looking like Renaissance portraits of Jesus. The babies look a bit like the Capuchin monkeys of Central America, and a bit like extraterrestrials. The city--composed of abandoned but still elegant buildings surrounded by thick green forests--looks like something from the planet Yavin in Star Wars; from the statues, we can tell it was a Buddhist city. We are not told why was it abandoned; no evidence can be seen of an earthquake, volcanic eruption, or war.  One might fantasize that the human inhabitants were transformed, by a divine power or a mighty enchanter, into monkeys.

The most beautiful scenes in the film--looking indeed like fantasies, but  quite factual--show baby macaques swimming deep inside a river or lake, gathering vegan food.  I've seen pictures of monkeys in water before, but not swimming underwater.  As art, these views are very beautiful; as entertainment, they are lots of fun to watch. And they also have scientific value. Some scientists think that our ancestors began to evolve into humans when they learned to swim in deep waters. Are the little primates on a similar evolutionary path?  I dare say.

The situation is not all paradisal; there are dangers.  A seven-foot long monitor lizard devours a baby monkey for breakfast. This tragedy is mostly off camera, but still very painful; I was still tearing and sobbing.  A close call occurs when a leopard stalks the monkeys.  One sounds the alarm, allowing the macaques, and a nearby flock of deer, to flee for their lives.

Blessedly, not all the monkeys’ relations with their neighbors are so tense; there is tolerant co-existence, even play.  Hathi the elephant is a total vegetarian; Baloo the bear is mostly vegetarian (names, of course, borrowed from Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book).  A mongoose, though he rejects the simian invitations to play, does not attack them either. The langur monkeys (Kipling's Bandar Log) with beautiful black faces ignore the play invitations. The macaques' most successful play invitation is the one they extend to a winsome dog they encounter in a nearby human town. Soon the canine and the primates are engaged in rowdy but friendly rough-housing.  Watching this happy activity invites reflection on the human story; an important element of our ancestors becoming human was befriending and playing with dogs.  Another sign, perhaps, that these monkeys might be following a similar path?

The images are all beautiful, and so is the sound track (beginning with a rousing rendition of "Hey, hey, we are the monkeys"). I only have minor complaints: The narration seems a bit contrived at times, the monkeys' names are obviously bestowed by the film-makers, and the comic comments (delivered by actress Tina Fey) are a bit too cutesy. But these things can easily be endured and overlooked.

--Benjamin Urrutia

Book Review:  Of Victorians and Vegetarians

James Gregory, Of Victorians and Vegetarians: The Vegetarian Movement in Nineteenth-century Britain. London and New York: Tauris Academic Studies, 2007. 313 pages. $90.00 hardcover. ($59 used from Amazon).VictoriansVegetarians.jpeg

Seminal for much of the vegetarian movement's relative success in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries was the Victorian period in England, 1837-1901. This period is the subject of this focused and valuable study by James Gregory.  While the author is certainly aware of vegetarianism in other places, including the U.S., and its classical and later pre-Victorian roots, he wisely restricts himself to this era, expansive as it was. It was during the long reign of the great queen that the major modern vegetarian societies were founded, and the first widely influential English writers like Howard Williams and Henry Salt (both previously featured in The Peaceable Table), published their works.

For, as Gregory makes clear, nineteenth-century English vegetarianism (or dietetic reform, as it was also called) was, rightly or wrongly, widely perceived as a radical modern movement, part of a set of reformist new ideas infiltrating the fabulous new world of railroads, steamships, factories, hygiene, relative democracy, and seemingly unending "progress" one saw all around. The radicals wanted to add to this list temperance, socialism, votes for women, and much else, including vegetarianism. The last was not so much a revival of ancient Pythagorean or Vedic culture (though the vegetarianism of much of their vast Indian domain did puzzle and provoke Victorians) as it was an ultra-modern reaction against the ill-distributed wealth and sensuality of the new industrial cities and expanding empire.

So it was that vegetarianism’s Victorian proponents associated it with the cutting-edge of science and medicine, and with the utopian visions beloved of many forward-looking people in those rapidly-changing times. It was part of making a better world, including the more humane one inaugurated in such nineteenth-century advances as the abolition of human slavery and the establishment of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1824 (becoming the "Royal" Society with the young Queen Victoria's endorsement in 1840). Vegetarians, among those sometimes called "zoophiles" or animal-lovers, as part of the coterie suggesting that in this new day it was time to do away with the evils of the past, spared nothing in their depiction of the horrors of the slaughterhouse.

Many readers of The Peaceable Table may be interested in Of Victorians and Vegetarians' account of the role of various British religious organizations in the movement. Gregory notes a proportionately large number of Quakers and Unitarians, some from other non-conformist groups, relatively few Roman Catholics or members of the Church of England (although three Anglican clergymen were among the co-founders of the RSPCA).  (Activity in the latter two churches has, it should be noted, increased significantly since the nineteenth century.) Gregory no doubt rightly associates this early leadership with Quakers' and Unitarians' inbred willingness to be social outliers, and for the Quakers at least with their general support of non-violence.

As a curiosity, Gregory mentions a sect I had not heard of before, the "White Quakers." It was founded in Ireland by a Quaker named Joshua Jacob (c. 1805-1877), who was disowned by the Society of Friends in 1838 for disruptive preaching and behavior. Afterwards, Jacob gathered a few disciples into a commune near Dublin in 1849. They dressed all in white, lived in extreme simplicity without ornamentation in home or garb, and of course were vegetarian, indeed living on virtually nothing but grain, and once paraded naked through the streets of Dublin. The movement did not last long.

Needless to say, Victorian vegetarianism attracted opposition. As in America, most medical men needed a lot of convincing. Some labor advocates suspected the real reason for pushing vegetarianism, like teetotalism, was to make the working man content with a lower wage than if he were spending money on his chops and his pint. There was also working-class memory of how, for too long, his kind had been largely vegetarian out of necessity; now, with the slow rise of Victorian prosperity, they too might have a chance to dine luxuriously, unless time were pushed backwards by the diet reformers.  On the other hand, somewhat better situated traditionalists disliked the whole modernist package, including not only vegetarianism but also “up-to-date” teetotalism, pacifism, and children calling their parents and teachers by their first names, among much else. H.G. Wells (pictured) held out against vegetarianism because he oddly, but tellingly, associated it with celibacy, which he much disliked. A writer as recent as C.S. Lewis seemed to believe the society those modernists wanted would be nothing but "scientific," bland, unromantic, uncomfortable, and regimented. Apparently only by consuming the roast beef of olde England, or bangers and beer at the pub, could the Englishman connect with his colorful medieval past as well as the prosperous present. To such skeptics vegetarians might have a right to their views, perhaps even attracting the sort of strange pride England has long taken in its picturesque eccentrics, but hardly to be emulated by "sensible" people.HGWellsjpeg

However, that is not the end of the story. James Gregory concludes his fine study with this line: "In our times, when millions of Britons are reported as vegetarian, [prominent Victorian vegetarian] Charles Forward's belief that his cause was destined to be one of the most 'far-reaching of reform movements of the Victorian age' appears vindicated." (p. 194)

This book began life as a doctoral dissertation in History at the University of Southampton in England, and still has something of the bookish smell of a library carrel about it. It is very clearly written and packed with information, but one could not say that it vividly brings to life the remarkable pioneers--individualists in an age of great individualists, both women and men--that made the radical dietary cause hum in the Victorian era.

But the over one hundred pages of notes, bibliography, and index (a third of the entire book) will be of immense use to future serious scholars in this field. Given the price, not all vegetarian activists will be able to buy this book, but they should make sure it is available in near-by university and public libraries. Those who realize it is important to know where we have come from to best set the course into the future will want Of Victorians and Vegetarians to be within reach, at least by easy walk or drive.

--Robert Ellwood

Poetry: Emily Dickinson, 1830-1886

Hope is the thing with feathers                        Bird-Branch.jpg

“Hope” is the thing with feathers--

That perches in the soul--

And sings the tune without the words--

And never stops--at all--

And sweetest--in the Gale--is heard-

And sore must be the storm--

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm--

I’ve heard it in the chillest land--

And on the strangest Sea--

Yet--never--in Extremity,

It asked a crumb--of me.

                                

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