The Peaceable Table

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 vegetarian diet

Brother Pig, Sister Star:
The Role of Humans as Part of the Living Universe

What is the role of human beings on Earth? The possibilities seem almost infinite, including the common assumption that humans (or certain humans) are masters of an inert world which they bend to their will.

I propose that we consider ourselves rather as parts of a living Earth in a living Universe. Just as the human body is made up of living cells that form complex systems such as the circulatory system, we human beings, plants, and animals function as the cells of the Earth to make up life-sustaining systems. A human being must eat to live, and a nonviolent, plant-based diet fosters health for the individual.

On a physical level, vegetarians are known to have lower incidence of degenerative diseases. Emotionally and spiritually, vegetarians are often more attuned to the environment and to other animals with whom they share the Earth. Thus by forming healthy "cells" of the planet, humans are contributing the overall integrity and well-being of the living Earth.

By contrast, eating a meat-based diet increases the risk of disease to the human body. Meat eating increases the risk of those major killers, coronary heart disease and breast and colon cancer. In addition, meat consumption is highly correlated with a wide range of degenerative diseases, including osteoporosis, kidney stones and gallstones, Type II diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Consequently, by living a life that leads to cellular degeneration, suffering, and premature death for the individual being, humans contribute to the destruction of the living Earth.

Furthermore our relationship with the other "cells" of the Earth, plants and animals, also affects the well-being of the Earth. When humans cause the suffering and premature death of animals for food, it creates a situation similar to that of an auto-immune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or some forms of AIDS. The cells of the individual body attack other cells and disrupt the body's health and well-being. The inherent violence of eating meat undoubtedly causes great harm to the living Earth. This is evident not only in the misery, pain and horror experienced by the animals abused and slaughtered, but also in the devastation that animal agribusiness causes to the environment. Currently one third of the world's land is threatened with desertification through overgrazing of grasslands, clearing forests for grazing, and overcultivating croplands to feed farmed animals. Just as important, the Earth's water supply is also at risk: a day's food for a meat eater requires over 15,000 liters of water, compared with 5,000 for a vegetarian and a mere 1,500 for a vegan (source: In order for the Earth to be healthy we humans must strive to live in peaceful harmony with all other life on the planet. By accepting our role as parts of a greater whole—as cells of the Earth—we can work in unity to strengthen and promote the health of the living Earth.

The Earth as Part of the Living Universe

Just as the Earth may be seen as a living entity, we may view the Universe as a living Universe. If we consider humans to be cells of the Earth, then let us regard the Earth as a organ of the Universe. The human body requires all of its biological systems—such as digestive, nervous, endocrine and circulatory systems—in order to survive and lead a healthy life. In turn the Universe needs all of its components to be healthy. Consequently, Earth has a role, mostly unknown to us, in the life of the Universe. Perhaps we may consider the role of Earth to be like that of the heart of the Universe, not that we are its center, but that we are in vital communication with all other parts, and thus necessary for the health of the Whole. The idea of a living Universe can seem very strange to us at present; but what it means is that all of us are important, all inter-related in Being that exceeds our comprehension.

The Effect of Human Behaviors on the Living Universe

Human feelings and actions can and often do interrupt the natural balance of Earth. Greed, hate, boredom, anger, and envy (among other traits) lead to dangerous behaviors such as stealing, violence, cruelty, and destruction on both the individual and the corporate levels. Humans also disrupt the well-being of the planet by overuse or misuse of technology. Examples include massive applying of pesticides, over-development of land, genetic manipulation, and exploitation and destruction of other living beings and species. This situation threatens a physical-spiritual catastrophe. When we see God and the Universe as One, we see that the harming of Earth through the destruction of its living beings, regardless of the species, will cause the Universe to suffer. Actions of destruction make human beings numb and insensitive to the beauty and variety of life on Earth; they lead humans further away from their own true selves, away from their spiritual connection to the Spirit of Life, away from God.

Yet humans are inherently wonderful and vibrant creatures. We have the ability to live, to care, to show compassion, to act altruistically and change things for the better. Most importantly, we are able to love. We have the ability to comprehend our need to share Earth with all life. We may not fully understand the purpose of each and every species or microbe, let alone even the specific role of our own species, in this vast Universe; it is enough that we recognize that we are not the master species. All life matters infinitely, and balance is crucial for continued existence.

Our Faith and the Living Universe

As we seek to open ourselves to the Light within, it is of utmost importance to hear that still small voice that dwells in us all, to guide us in our actions not only in relation to other humans but in relation to all life. Our monthly queries for self-examination may guide and inspire us to know That of God in all beings, all life. We must expand our concern beyond humankind and even beyond this planet; we must embrace the Universe as the ever-evolving, continuing creation of God. As we do so, and as we let our lives speak, we will nourish our spirituality and strengthen our connection with God.

Religions are human creations; intended to bring about our unity to ultimate reality, they may just as well function to disconnect us from the Spirit of Life. But when one increasingly feels him- or herself to be part of the whole, we may not only increasingly learn our individual roles in the Universe, but also find ways to foster and bring about Universal harmony, beginning with our relationships on Earth.

Practicing Quaker Testimonies in the Living Universe

Our Quaker testimonies of Peace, Equality, Simplicity and Truth/Integrity are important tools for developing one's framework of practice to promote and maintain the optimal well-being of individuals, families, communities, countries, Earth and amazingly, even the Universe. The testimony of Peace/Nonviolence may be practiced not only among humans, and not only under certain circumstances—it can transcend humanly created boundaries and extend to encompass all life. Reaching out in peace and kindness to all life is the manifestation of a life surging with spiritual awareness and love.

Simplicity is crucially important into putting this love into practice. Living a simple vegan lifestyle is one way to further develop the sense of belonging to a greater whole. Such a lifestyle also exemplifies Equality and Truth/Integrity by promoting clarity, avoiding excesses, and sharing our resources.

Thus, viewing the Universe as a living entity and knowing in practice that there is that of God in all things living can deepen our faith, enrich our connection with the Light, and empower us to sow the seeds of Divine Peace.

—Angela Suarez

Angela Suarez, pictured above with friends Mickey and Viviana, attends the Pittsburg Friends' Meeting. She, her family, and companion animals practice a non-violent vegetarian/vegan lifestyle as an expression of their commitment to the unity of all creation.


Potato-Leek Ragout

4 Tbsp. olive oil
4 large potatoes, diced
2 large leeks, white and pale green parts only, washed and diced
1 lb. asparagus, cut in 1-inch pieces
1 lb. mushrooms, chopped
1 cup green peas
1 cup vegetable broth
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped parsley, optional

1. In a large pan, heat half of the olive oil. Add potatoes, salted, and saute until golden, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

2. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in the same pan. Add leeks. Saute several minutes until golden. Set aside.

3. Heat remaining oil in the same pan. Add the asparagus and saut�re several minutes, and then add the mushrooms and saut��.

4. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes, leeks, and peas. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley.

NOTE: This ragout is good with varying amounts of potatoes, leeks, asparagus, mushrooms, and peas. Experiment and see what amounts of each you like (or have on stock). The original recipe calls for 1/2 cup dry white wine that is added with the vegetable stock and is then cooked away. This adds a nice flavor but is not necessary. Serves 4.

—Kate Carpenter
Adapted from The One-Dish Vegetarian Cookbook by Maria Robbins

Vegan Corn-Potato Soup

4 Tbsp. oil
1 large onion, diced
2 red peppers, seeded and diced
6 medium zucchini, diced
1-2 tsp. ground cumin (add to taste)
1/2 tsp. cayenne (also to taste)
6 medium/large potatoes, peeled and diced
4 cups vegetable stock
4 cups soy milk
4 ears of corn (strip husks and cut off kernels)
1 tsp salt (to taste)
Freshly ground pepper (to taste)
4 tbsp chopped parsley or cilantro (or both)

1. Heat oil in a large heavy pot. Add onion, red pepper, and zucchini, and cook slowly for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Add the cumin and cayenne.

2. Add the potatoes, stock, and soy milk. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, until the potatoes are very tender, about 25 minutes.

3. Stir in the corn, bring to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the parley and/or cilantro, and serve.

NOTE: This soup is good with varying amounts of onion, red pepper, zucchini, potatoes, and corn. Experiment and see what amounts of each you like (or have on stock). It has a little bite from the cumin and cayenne, so be careful not to make it too spicy--start with a little spice, taste, and then add more. This soup is good with fresh bread, and a tossed green salad. Enjoy! Serves 6-8.

—Kate Carpenter
Adapted from The One-Dish Vegetarian Cookbook by Maria Robbins

My Pilgrimage: Why I am a Vegetarian

Until 1978, I was a "meat and potatoes" person. My mother would be sure to prepare my favorite dish, pot roast, whenever I came to visit with my wife and children. It was a family tradition that I would be served a turkey "drumstick" every Thanksgiving. Yet, I not only became a vegetarian, but I now devote a major part of my time to writing, speaking, and teaching about the benefits of vegetarianism. What caused this major change?

In 1973 I began teaching a course, "Mathematics and the Environment" at the College of Staten Island. The course uses basic mathematical concepts and problems to explore current critical issues, such as pollution, resource scarcities, hunger, energy, population growth, nutrition, and health. While reviewing material related to world hunger, I became aware of the tremendous waste of grain associated with the production of beef at a time when millions of the world's people were malnourished. In spite of my own eating habits, I often led class discussions on the possibility of reducing meat consumption as a way of helping hungry people. After several semesters of this, I took my own advice and gave up eating red meat, while continuing to eat chicken and fish.

I then began to read about the many health benefits of vegetarianism and about the horrible conditions for animals raised on factory farms. I was increasingly attracted to vegetarianism, and on January 1, 1978, I decided to join the International Jewish Vegetarian Society. I had two choices for membership: (1) practicing vegetarian (one who refrains from eating any flesh); (2) non-vegetarian (one who is in sympathy with the movement, while not yet a vegetarian). I decided to become a full practicing vegetarian, and since then have avoided eating any meat, fowl, or fish.

Since that decision, besides learning much about vegetarianism's connections to health, ecology, resource usage, hunger, and the treatment of animals, I also started investigating connections between vegetarianism and Judaism. I learned that the first biblical dietary law (Genesis 1:29) is strictly vegetarian, and I became convinced that important Jewish mandates to preserve our health, be kind to animals, protect the environment, conserve resources, share with hungry people, and seek and pursue peace all point to vegetarianism as the best diet for Jews (and everyone else). To get this message to a wider audience I wrote a book, *Judaism and Vegetarianism*, which was first published in 1982, and later expanded.

Increasingly, as I learned about the realities discussed in this book and their inconsistency with Jewish values, I have come to see a switch toward vegetarianism as not only a personal choice, but a societal imperative, an essential component in the solution of many national and global problems, as well as a religious imperative.

I have recently been spending much time trying to make others aware of the importance of switching toward vegetarian diets, both for them and for the world. I have appeared on radio and television programs; had many letters and several op-ed articles in a variety of publications; spoken frequently at conferences and meetings; given talks and met with three chief rabbis and other leaders in Israel, while visiting my two daughters and their families. As president of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA), I send out a weekly e-mail newsletter, and I have over 100 articles at

I have always felt good about my decision to become a vegetarian. Putting principles and values into practice is far more valuable and rewarding than hours of preaching. When people ask me why I gave up meat, I welcome the opportunity to explain the many benefits of vegetarianism.

While my family was initially skeptical about my change of diet, they have become increasingly understanding and supportive. In 1993 my younger daughter was married at a completely vegetarian wedding. My wife has also become a vegetarian, and recently we have moved toward veganism, by giving up dairy products and eggs in almost all cases.

Recently, I have noted signs of increased interest in vegetarianism; a growing number of people are concerned about dietary connections to health, nutrition, animal rights, and environmental threats. However, there is much that still needs to be done. My hope is to be able to keep learning, writing, and speaking about vegetarianism, to help bring closer that day when, in the words of the motto of the International Jewish Vegetarian Society, "no one shall hurt nor destroy in all of God's holy mountain." (Isaiah 11.9)

—Richard Schwartz

From VegNews, March 2005. Used with permission.

Septuagenarian Richard Schwartz attributes his relatively youthful appearance to a healthy diet, favorable genes, and the fact that he was very young when he was born.

Review: Good News for All Creation

Good News for All Creation: Vegetarianism as Christian Stewardship by Stephen R. Kaufman and Nathan Braun. Cleveland, Ohio: Vegetarian Advocates Press, 2002. xii & 144 pages, $12.00.

"Honoring God's Creation: Christianity and Vegetarianism," 2000, 2004. 16 pages. Available from Christian Vegetarian Association,

The first half of Good News for All Creation, by the co-founders of the rapidly-growing Christian Vegetarian Association, is a presentation of its main thesis: that a compassionate vegetarian lifestyle represents God's highest will for our lives, and that such a diet is within easy reach for us in Western culture today. The Bible pictures for us a nonviolent world in which both humans and animals ate a vegan diet. The scene of the Peaceable Table in Isaiah and the renewed Paradise at the end of Revelation likewise give us a world without violence. In the between-times world after the Fall, permission was given to eat flesh, but it is represented as a concession rather than the way of living after God's own heart.

The authors grant that there have been times and places in which people needed to eat meat to survive. They also concede that not all biblical writers are vegetarian, and that Jesus himself may not have been. But that world was in many ways different from that of the Hebrew scriptures and early Christianity. The unnatural practices of animal agribusiness (both described and illustrated) impose misery and anguish on animals to a degree and on a scale that was unknown in biblical times. Likewise, the harm now being done to Earth to produce meat is largely a recent phenomenon, and is out of keeping with the nature of a God who loves and cares for creation. Being good stewards of God's Creation today entails a vegetarian diet.

The authors cite comparative medical studies that have shown that vegetarianism is also good news for human health, being correlated with much lower rates of the major degenerative diseases that are now rife among Westerners. Vegetarianism on a widespread basis would be good news as well for the worlds' hungry peoples, in that vast quantities of grains and legumes now given to farmed animals, reducing to much smaller quantities of meat protein, would be freed up for human consumption, potentially ending hunger.

The manifold harm and suffering the meat industry causes is out of keeping with the loving God represented in the Bible and incarnate in the life of Jesus. The biblical God is not a self-gratifying tyrant but one "whose tender mercies are over all his works."

Kaufman and Braun are well aware that despite these major reasons for Christians to become vegetarians, there is considerable resistance to the message among Christians as well as others. Thus the second half of their book is devoted to practical matters of self-understanding, education and persuasion.

The concluding chapters on vegetarian nutrition and a list of resources, together with a section entitled "Replies to Frequent Questions" (pp. 79-91) also appear in a modified version in the text of the pamphlet "Honoring God's Creation." The pamphlet, in addition, gives a short recipe section.

The authors might have given more space to the considerable evidence of vegetarian movements among the early followers of Jesus. Their focus, however, is a sensible one: the present and the future matter more than the examples of the past. Whether Jesus was or was not a vegetarian, given his outlook of compassion for society's victims, there can be little doubt that he would stand firm against the many and horrific abuses of the meat industry today. The book is a helpful and sophisticated guide to those who seek to follow him.

—Gracia Fay Ellwood and Benjamin Urrutia

Pioneers: James (Jacob) the Brother of Jesus: Pioneer Vegetarian?

In 2002 an ossuary, or bone box, bearing the inscription "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus" appeared on the archaeological scene and gained widespread publicity, resulting in greatly increased interest in this first-generation Christian Jewish leader. Whether or not the box in fact once held the remains of the brother of the founder of Christianity—and experts are still at odds over the issue—it is high time that "James the Just" be acknowledged as a major figure, the first leader of the Church in Jerusalem. And there are signs that James may have been a vegetarian.

The Issue of James' Leadership

Some of the gospels show Jesus' brothers, including James, in a bad light, and assert that they did not believe in him (until, perhaps, after his Resurrection) (Mark 3:21, 31-35; John 7:5). But this could be due to a wish to downgrade James on the part of opposition parties among early Christians who held that Jesus' appointed heir was Paul or Peter. In fact there are signs that James soon became a central figure in the church, and it seems unlikely that this would be the case had he been opposed to Jesus during his ministry, and only a recent convert. If the James of the trio "Peter, James and John" frequently mentioned in the gospels was in fact Jesus' brother, the latter's rise to a position of authority and respect would make sense.

The New Testament writings do not describe this rise specifically, but some passages in Acts show it to be so. In Paul's letter to the Galatians, written considerably earlier than the gospels, he tells an incident at Antioch in which Peter was sharing meals with Gentile Christians, but that when envoys came from James in Jerusalem, Peter stopped this practice, which would have been out of keeping with strict kosher principles. Evidently Peter deferred to the authority of James. That authority is even more clearly shown in Acts 15, when a council of leaders met in Jerusalem to decide which Jewish practices should be required of Gentile converts. After several present have spoken, James gives the decision: "Ego krino (I decide) to require of Gentile converts only that they refrain from idolatry, sexual misbehavior, the flesh of strangled animals, and the eating of blood"(a kosher dietary prohibition).

(This decision meant that Gentile Christians would not be required to be circumcised, or to keep the 613 laws of Torah, but would be required to abstain from the flesh of animals that had been sacrificed to pagan deities (which meant, in practical terms, the meat sold in the marketplace), or of those animals killed by strangulation or drowning. This meant the Gentile Christians would in practice either have to eat kosher—an option not available to many city folk—or become vegetarians. That there were in fact parties of vegetarian Christians in the first generation is clear from Paul's patronizing references to them as "weak brothers," and his advice that the strong Christians, who can eat anything, must be sensitive to them [and vice versa] [Romans 14, I. Corinthians 10].)

James was martyred in 62 CE as a result of the action of the high priest. By that time he was so prominent a figure that Jewish leaders protested strongly, and as a result the high priest was actually deposed.

The Letter of James

James was a common name, but the Letter of James in the New Testament is thought by many to be the work of Jesus' brother and the Jerusalem church leader. In favor of its authenticity is the fact that unlike the letters of Paul or the first letter attributed to Peter, the author of the Letter does not focus on the figure of Jesus and his place in the spiritual economy; Jesus is mentioned only twice and in passing, in a work devoted to showing its Jewish audience how to live in accordance with the will of God. In this regard, the author is close to the Jesus depicted in the first three Gospels (the synoptics), whose focus is not himself or his divine calling, but on the Kingdom of God—a world of equality and plenty in which God, not Caesar, is in charge. There are many specific themes of Jesus' teachings represented in the Letter, such as: single-hearted devotion to God; God's love for the poor and marginal; rejection of class prejudice, injustice, and party spirit; and the conviction that deeds of love outweigh words. Thus, the author of James was almost surely close to Jesus and had drunk deeply of his teachings; he does not quote Jesus' sayings, but has internalized his message.

Was James a Vegetarian?

We have seen that the keynote of the letter of James is compassion and the enactment of God's justice. But does James' compassion extend to animals—in short, was he an ethical vegetarian? The letter does not mention animals, and, if it was indeed written by Jesus' brother, it would seem that at the time he wrote it, he did not consider vegetarianism a major part of the life of a devoted Jew. Yet the historical James was certainly interested in the issue of prohibited meats, as we have seen. Such an interest, for a person of compassion toward oppressed human beings, could very well have come to be motivated not only by ritual concerns but by compassion towards suffering animals as well.

In any case, later writers did not hesitate to call James the Just a vegetarian. "The charge of the Assembly passed on to Iakobos [James} the brother of the Lord, together with the Apostles. He was called the Righteous [Just] by all men, because he was holy from the womb of his mother. He drank no wine or any alcoholic drink, neither did he eat flesh." Thus the fourth-century writer Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History XVI, quoting from "Hegesippus, who belongs to the generation after the Apostles, and gives the most accurate account. . .". The Gospel of Thomas agrees with Hegesippus that James was the chosen successor of Jesus and the final authority for his followers: "Wherever you are, you are to turn to James the Just. . .." The Ebionites, Jewish Christians who traced their movement to the Jerusalem church and the authority of James, were firmly convinced that James had been a vegetarian, and that he became such from the teaching of Jesus himself. In keeping with this conviction, they were vegetarian themselves for the few centuries of their existence.

We do not have unequivocal, contemporary evidence that James was a pioneer of compassionate vegetarianism. But we can be inspired by the picture of him held by his later followers, as well as the commitment of the author of the Letter of James to put compassion and justice for the oppressed into action.

—Gracia Fay Ellwood and Benjamin Urrutia


"Now was I brought up through the flaming sword into the paradise of God. All things were made new . . . ."

—George Fox, writing from prison

Canticle of the Sun

All praise to God for Sister Earth who bears us,
Bears rainbow flowers and fruits that meet our needs,
For Brother Rain whose touch brings joy and freshness,
Who freely gives, and never counts the deeds.
Thou brother of the genial Rain, the Spirit,
Thou sister of the bursting Seed unfurled,
Sing to the Love that fills the vast creation
Let peace bud forth and bear throughout the world.

All praise to God for Sister Birds high-soaring
Who greet the dawn with songs of lilting mirth,
For Brother Worms who make their paths slow-crawling,
The patient gardeners who till the earth.
Thou brothers of the humble Brother Francis,
Thou sisters of the angel-voiced soul,
Sing to the Love that fills the vast creation
Let songs of joy resound throughout the whole.

All praise to God for Brother Sun who warms us,
And Brother Fire, robust and quick at play,
For Sister Moon, whose light of pearl enchants us,
And Sister Stars, whose joy illumes our way.
Thou sisters of the uncreated Splendor,
Thou brothers of the Fire within our soul,
Sing to the Love that fills the vast creation,
The radiant Day of God that shows the whole.

—Francis of Assisi
paraphrased by Sr. Faith Bowman, OCG

The Peaceable Table 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, poetry, letters, book and film reviews, and recipes.

The journal is intended to be interactive; contributions, including illustrations, are invited for the next issue. Deadline for the June issue will be May 31, 2005. Send to or 10 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 to donate $12 (USD) per year. Other donations to offset the cost of the domain name, server and advertising notices are welcome.

Editor: Gracia Fay Ellwood
Book and Film Reviewers: Benjamin Urrutia & Robert Ellwood
Recipe Editor: Angela Suarez
Technical Architect: Richard Scott Lancelot Ellwood

Image credits: Computer-generated image of Saint Francis by Elsina; the picture of Angela Suarez was taken by Geneva Pullen.