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Under His Wings A one-legged male dove named Noah took over the mothering of a litter of bunnies orphaned at only six days. (First featured in the June 2010 PT.) --Photo by Bob Lenham Editor’s Corner Essay: Killing Animals for Entertainment The number of people (mostly men) in our culture who engage in hunting for “sport” is diminishing. But for those who still hunt and actively champion it, it continues to have great appeal. The reasons for this appeal are likely to be opaque to animal activists and supporters because of our abhorrence of the violent act against an innocent animal at its center. But it is important for us to understand hunters as best we can, if we are ever to communicate on the subject. Why People Hunt Several of these reasons are illustrated in the series of short essays by hunters embedded in the anthology God, Nimrod, and the World: Exploring Christian Perspectives on Sport Hunting, edited by Bracy V. Hill II and John B. White (reviewed below). One of the advantages of hunting that many mention is enjoyment of the natural world; several of the writers, emphasizing their Christian commitment, delight in the beauty of the world, woods and meadows and streams and the refreshment that world provides them. Animal activists would protest that one could still enjoy nature without killing, which is certainly true; but hunters might say that the keen edge of enjoyment would be much dulled without the lying in wait and the successful kill. There is probably truth to this claim. Hunting and war have in common that, in the suspense of a life-and-death issue, most people feel more intensely alive than inan ordinary lifetime of easy circumstances. (Nature mystics may also feel this intense aliveness in peaceful scenes; hunt saboteurs may, like hunters, feel intensely alive during the hunt: they are as deeply eager to save the animals as hunters are to kill.) Some essay writers see their hunting as following naturally from their love of God’s creation, the natural world just as it is. They claim that nature is marked everywhere by predation; every being lives at the expense of others. We humans and other natural predators kill to eat; all beings cause the death of others, whether violently or through taking scarce resources such as land space to grow our plant food. One hunter gives the example that after her death her body will be eaten by worms; thus she is both predator and prey. Since her hunting is only doing as she will be done by, it is all fair. If predation is curbed or stops, the prey animals will multiply and slowly starve; the quick violent death the hunter administers is actually more merciful. Loving nature means loving the predation system and willingly participating in it. (Hunters seldom emphasize the cooperation and bonding in nature; they see it as essentially in light of the old saying “red in truth and claw.”) Another reason hunters cherish their “sport” is that they experience it as promoting human bonding and emotional discipline. They describe fond memories of being taken on hunts at an early age by their fathers, or taking their own young sons, and/or of the camaraderie they enjoyed with other relatives and friends. One writer said that it was in the context of the hunt that his father was able, for the first time, to tell his son he loved him. One of the rules they learn is that hunters must put up with cold and other discomfort without serious complaint. Another is that they must play fair and look after each other. If one of the group has been first to spot a particular animal, such as a deer with a magnificent rack of horns, and has been lying in wait for him, another hunter who gets a chance to kill him must pass it by. Thus hunting promotes self-discipline and toughness, usually linked to masculinity. Some regard this process as promoting spiritual maturation. Although by definition sport hunting is not necessary to provide food, eating the bodies of their kills is important to many hunters; one writer mentions his pride in providing his family with good food for a considerable time from the body of a single deer. He sees himself as thus fulfilling an important part of a husband and father’s duty (his wife’s duty being to cook it competently, something she in fact enjoys). Feminists, whether Christian or not, may feel less than enthusiastic about such a view, especially when it is universalized. In one writer’s paradigm, predatory violence is continuous between humans and (non-human) animals; he sees the universe as made up of a kind of three-linked Great Chain of Being: God on top, then human beings, and then animals below us. We humans have a right to kill animals; God has given them to us as our food, and thus to do so is not a sin. The passage in Genesis 9 in which after the Great Flood God gives “every moving thing that lives” as food to the surviving humans provides a handy proof-text for some who hold this position. However, there are at least three important issues which call any religious, especially Christian, justification for sport hunting into question. The first has the most concrete evidence. The Challenge of Nutrition Many readers of PT are aware of numbers of nutritional studies showing that the characteristic Western diet, centered in animal flesh (and strongly dependent on cows’ milk products and chickens’ eggs), fosters chronic diseases such as major cancers, coronary heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes. I will sketch out one study dealing with coronary heart disease, and two others with diabetes. In 1985, Caldwell Esselstyn (pronounced ESS-ul-stun), a surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, began a twenty-year pilot study of people with advanced coronary heart disease to whom conventional medicine had essentially given death sentences--after all the regular -- --treatments had been gone through, -- --nothing more could be done for -- --them. (Esselstyn [pictured] wanted -- --to have a control group as well, but -- --funds weren’t adequate for that.) -- --Twenty-four people were enrolled. -- --Esselstyn put them on a diet with -- --the following features: No -- --animal-origin foods (“nothing that -- --had a mother or a face”), no added -- --oils, and (generally), no nuts or -- --avocados. The only medication in -- --the plan was a cholesterol- lowering drug. He gave his subjects a great deal of support, meeting with each one every other week, checking blood pressure and blood cholesterol, and phoning them with their results; the entire group convened every three or four months, sharing recipes and comparing progress. This was during the first year; later, after the new regime was well established, the contacts were less frequent, but they continued. For the sixteen who stayed strictly on the regimen, the results were dramatic. Within weeks, angina eased or disappeared, and blood cholesterol went down; eventually, it averaged out to the low of 137 milligrams per deciliter. This is below the intended goal of 150 milligrams, and almost half of what the average had been at the beginning. One person, although two of his coronary arteries had in fact widened, died after nearly six years because the long-time scarring in his heart was so bad that it essentially “electrocuted itself.” The others had no cardiac events over twelve years. There were no cases of progression of symptoms, and in many cases, arteries that had been narrowed widened measurably, some more, some less. In contrast, among the six persons who had dropped out of the plant-food diet, all had progression of symptoms, and there were thirteen cardiac events. After twenty years, those who followed the diet strictly remained free of symptoms. The take-away from this study, confirmed by other studies, is that consuming animal flesh (and other animal products) clearly fosters our culture’s Number One killer, coronary heart disease; consuming a whole plant-based diet tends to heal. (Sixteen and six don’t add up to twenty-four; I wasn’t clear about the situation of the two extra persons.) Type 2 diabetes offers further examples of the dangers to human health of consuming meat and other animal foods. There are several studies done with Seventh-Day Adventists, a Christian denomination in which about half are omnivores and half vegetarians. In the Adventist Health Study of about 34,000 persons (published in 1999), after adjustments for possible confounding factors, men who ate meat had a 97% greater risk of diabetes, and meat-eating women a 93% greater risk, than the vegetarians did. The second Adventist Health Study, including nearly 61,000 persons (published in 2009) yielded similar results: after adjustments, the odds ratio of a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes among regular meat-eaters “remained approximately twice that of individuals avoiding meat.” See the essay by Neal Barnard et. al, Meat Consumption Risk The problem these and many similar scientific studies pose for Christian (and other Western religious) hunters is clear. A God who loves human beings could not have assigned us to kill animals and eat their flesh, seeing that it seriously increases our risk of major diseases and earlier death. The healing effects of the vegan diet of Eden is consistent with Divine love that seeks the well-being of humans,, but not the post-flood diet of “every moving thing that lives.” The plant-based Eden diet is indeed “God’s best dream for the world,” to quote Stephen Kaufman. The Challenge of the Empathic Life Review The empathic life review is a very uncomfortable concept from Near-Death Studies, which I have dealt with before (see Whatever One Sows ) in the October 2008 PT. In brief, a certain number of Near-Death Experiencers (NDErs) report that their experience included a life-review in which they not only saw many or all of their past actions and words, and not only relived them, but found that their consciousness had expanded so that they shared the feelings of all with whom with they had interacted, both human and animal. In other words, it was a kind of individual Great Judgment, but, as Near-Death Experiencer P.M.H. Atwater reported, “There wasn’t any heavenly St. Peter in charge. It was me judging me, and my judgment was most severe.” This element of self-judgment is what makes the Empathic Life Review quite different from nearly all religious conceptions of a Great Judgment, whether in ancient Judaism, or in the Egyption Book of the Dead (being weighed on the Scale of Maat), Christianity, or Islam, or some strands of folk Buddhism. In these, the Judge is God or a powerful spiritual being, who is usually depicted in a state of wrath. In the Empathic Life Review, by contrast, some experience God as present as they judged themselves, present not in wrath but in compassion, sharing their suffering as they endured the harmful things they had said and done to others. The experiencers also relived and shared the blessings and joys they had given out. Clearly, whether or not the Empathic Life Review really happens to us all at some point beyond death, the evidence for it is not at all on the level as that for the nutritional issue. Most people, including myself, don’t like to anticipate going through it; they would probably rather forget the whole idea. We know that whether we think about it or forget it doesn’t affect the question of whether or not it is real. But if real, it provides a deep foundation for the sense of oneness with others reflected in all major religions by their high valuing of love and kindness, and their rejection of cruelty and selfishness. “Saving one life is saving the world entire,” “Love your neighbor as yourself,” “ Allah is compassionate,” “Whatever you have done to the least of these my brothers, you have done to me,” “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others,”and the like. Jesus’ teaching “Love your enemies . . . and do good to them,” in the light of the Empathic Life Review, goes from being a virtually impossible counsel of perfection to being common sense: good things done to our enemies are good things done to ourselves. And such actions just might make them into friends. If the Empathic Life Review does await each of us, where does that leave hunters? How many of them, whether religious or not, would be willing to undergo what they put the target animals through? “Bambi-Lovers” is a term of derision for hunters, but what if the hunter’s target animal is bonded to a mate, to a mother, to young ones--is the hunter willing to experience the anguished -- --bereavement of Bambi as well as his mother’s violent death? The Challenge of Spiritual Evolution The idea that humans are intended to lead the spiritual evolution of the world’s animals can be seen as having an even weaker foundation than the prospect of an Empathic Life Review. It is outlined in “The Animals Are Waiting”, in the June 2010 PT. To summarize: the origin of the idea of a coming Peaceable Kingdom, a renewal of Eden, is found in at least two biblical passages. One is Isaiah’s famous “The wolf shall lie down with the lamb . . . and a little child shall lead them.” scene, and in Paul’s line in Romans 8: "the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” The Eastern Orthodox churches put a great deal of emphasis on this coming transformation of the whole cosmos, which they see as having originated from Christ’s Incarnation, his Transfiguration, and especially the Easter event. The idea that humans are to lead this process by engaging in meditation [and contemplative prayer] originates from a line by the sage G. I. Gurdjieff: "The animals are waiting for us to move up so they can follow . . . . “ In Look a Lion in the Eye, Katherine Hulme reflects on this line, and concludes that “This was the answer I had been unconsciously groping for ever since my first confrontation with Africa's wildlife. This surely was why the animals' long, slow stares took us in, unaware that they were waiting for us to ‘move up’ that ladder that Jacob saw in his dream, thronged with angels moving up and down . . . ." Hulme thought of this spiritual evolution as brought about by inevitable natural forces. But “a little child shall lead them” may mean leadership by a powerful core of humanity being renewed (reborn), who are more and more living in harmony with the Center and Source of the universe, with our human siblings and our animal cousins. They will be increasingly at peace with all beings, listening to and learning from others; they will influence both other people and other animals toward peace and love. Animal predation may begin to diminish, beginning perhaps with omnivores increasingly becoming herbivores. So far as I know, there is no evidence that human meditation and/or contemplative prayer diminishes violence in animals, but there is some evidence that it actually diminishes violence among humans. A nonviolent diet may have a part. The Maharishi Effect by Aron & Aron tells of a long series of experiments by Transcendental Meditators (many of whom were vegetarians) who gathered in this or that city, and carried out their daily meditation together. During these periods, the rates of violence, including crime, suicide, and accidents, declined measurably from the rates in the same months during previous years. After the meditators returned to their homes, the rates of violence returned to “normal,” regrettably. These phenomena don’t prove anything, but they are suggestive. From the perspective of spiritual evolution, both eating the flesh of animals killed for entertainment, and paying for cellophane- wrapped chunks of flesh from mammoth killing hells, would serve to retard rather than promote an “Age of Gold / when peace shall over all the earth / Her ancient splendors fling . . .” Those who justify hunting as part of the predation system see the world as pervaded with violence; they appear to take animal predators as their models for diet. Would it not make more sense to choose as our models spiritual giants of peace such as Mohandas Gandhi, Cesar Chavez, Coretta Scott King, and Mildred Norman (Peace Pilgrim)? --Editor Sources: Coming Back to Life by P.M.H. Atwater; War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges, Look a Lion in the Eye by Katherine Hulmes, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell B. Esselstyn, The Uttermost Deep: The Challenge of Near-Death Experiences by Gracia Fay Ellwood. The painting of Jacob’s Ladder is by William Blake; the Peaceable kingdom painting is by Bill Bell. NewsNotes Emily Atkins of The New Republic has written a hard-hitting essay summarizing the animal concern and analyzing the ridicule and other expressions of resistance to the message. See Next Frontier --Contributed by Karen Borch Objets d’art From Crows? Stuart Dahlquist, a musician who has been feeding a family of crows in his yard, has found objects they apparently created and left for him as gifts. See Crow Art --Contributed by Robert Ellwood Beyond Meat Arrives! The Initial Public Offering (IPO) on the stock market of the firm Beyond Meat was the biggest seen since 2000--it rose 163% on its -- --first day. Is this encouraging, or -- --is it encouraging? See Popping IPO --Contributed by Robert Ellwood Be Kind to Animals Week The week of May 6-12 was set aside as kindness week in 1915 by William O. Stillman, and promoted by the American Humane organization. Originally, children and adults were advised not only to adopt animals from shelters, but to eat only “humane” meat and visit only certified zoos and aquariums. Since then the suggestions have been updated, including “Be kind 365 days a year.”. Kindness is good, but justice is better. See American Humane . --Contributed by Judith McCoy Carman Marine Mammals in Canada to be Freed The Canadian Parliament has passed a bill ending the confinement of marine mammals for public entertainment! See Freedom --Contributed by Judith McCoy Carman and Will Tuttle Unset Gems “It wills our redemption, longs for us to turn to it. It does not create heaven and hell for us, but allows us to do that for ourselves. Such is the terrible vulnerability of love.” --Harvey Gillman, 1988 “There were these two young fish who met an older fish swimming the other way. The older fish said “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” After they had swum on a bit, one young fish turned to the other and said “What the [heck] is water?”--David Foster -- --Wallace Many people think of God as the invisible Greatest Fish who spawned us all. Others doubt that there is such a Greatest Fish. But perhaps God[dess] is the Water? Pioneer: James N. Brune, 1934 - Jim Brune has long been a Quaker, pacifist, vegetarian, and generous supporter of Quaker Animal Kinship (QUAK), the sponsor of The Peaceable Table. He attends QUAK meetings when he can, though his home is in Reno, Nevada, where he was Professor of Geology at the University of Nevada from 1987 until his retirement in 2011. Count on him as a person as one with the most diverse interests of any you know: a distinguished and well-published scientist specializing in seismology, particularly earthquake research; a Quaker conscientious objector, long-time vegetarian, and "a bit of a mystic"--all in times and settings where such concerns were not -- --widely shared. He is also an artist, presenting a fine -- --painting of one of his childhood homes, an austere -- --cabin, on the cover of his book of memoirs, Simple -- --Balance (together with other artistic works reproduced -- --within). Jim was born in 1934 at Modesto Hospital, but grew up in Alpine County, California, though he thinks he was perhaps--not-insignificantly--conceived in India on a round-the-world wedding trip his parents, who had come into some money, took in 1933. Scantily-populated Alpine County is in mountainous central California north of Yosemite and up against the Nevada border. Although his mother came from old and sometimes prominent California families, his father came from poor farmers in Missouri. The family was not well-off when Jim was growing up. His father worked at mining and other jobs as they were available in the 1930s; his mother died in early 1940 when he was only five. She had suffered a serious injury in an auto accident a few years before, and the consequences were a life-threatening illness. Jim’s father had gone through all his savings in a failed attempt to save her life, and the double loss left his dad and the motherless children very poor, with work uncertain during the Great Depression. They lived for a decade in a rather primitive cabin without electricity or indoor plumbing. After elementary school, Jim and his younger brother Dick went to Douglas County High School in Nevada, at the end of an hour-long bus trip which crossed the state line. It was in 1950, while in high school, that Jim became a vegetarian--on his own, without a -- --model among his acquaintances. As a boy growing up in a rural area he had been exposed to a great deal of hunting; he had done some hunting and trapping himself, but had been increasingly disaffected. He was profoundly influenced by books he read written by and about the likes of Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi, Leo Tolstoy, Albert Schweitzer, and Albert Einstein, plus the Rosicrucian Digest, all of which his father had collected in the cabin’s attic. His dad was remarkably well-read and interested in ideas, as reflected in his varied career. (After his father’s death in 1954, Jim learned that he had been in fact highly-placed in the Rosicrucian order, but had never mentioned that affiliation to him.) As for vegetarianism, it was Jim’s reading that convinced him. At his father's insistence he talked with the local doctor about it. The physician, like Jim’s father, was exceptionally open-minded for the times, pointing out that, although he had never met a vegetarian, vegetarianism must not be bad since the Seventh-Day Adventists were such and lived about ten years longer on average than meat-eaters. Jim interested his neighbor and childhood friend, Sue Whitney, in conscientious vegetarianism not long after he himself was convinced. She also became a pioneer vegetarian in the 1950s. They became sweethearts, and married in 1957; they are still married and still veg. Another book in his father's treasure trove was William Comfort's Just Among Friends: The Quaker Way of Life, which also made an impact on Jim’s searching young mind. He kept thinking about it as he went to the nearby University of Nevada in Reno, but there was no Quaker meeting in that city at the time. (There is now, with Jim Brune as one of its pillars.) But after graduation, at his first job in geology, with Chevron Oil in Bakersfield, CA, one First-Day [Sunday] in 1956 he took the bus down to Pasadena to attend Orange Grove Friends Meeting, and still does so when in the area. Jim's career included professorial and research positions at such prestigious institutions as the California Institute of Technology, the University of California in San Diego, and finally back at the University of Nevada. In all these years he not only grew in recognition in his field of science, but also continued his vegetarian and Quaker commitment. He was a peace activist in the Vietnam years of the 1960s. Behind all of this is one of his favorite quotes, slightly paraphrased from William James, with which he ends his memoirs: "The basis of all religions is the intuition of an unseen, intentional order in the cosmos or universe, and . . . our highest duty is to try to attune ourselves so we are in harmony with that, as much as possible." From an early age, Jim Brune has seen clearly that harmony with the universe includes harmony with all its animal life. --Robert Ellwood