QCA is grateful to our contact in Canada, Anila Muhammad, who wrote an article for The Huffington Post, of which this is an extract:
Is Being a Vegan or Vegetarian at Odds with Being Muslim?
Interestingly enough, the idea of Muslims being vegetarian or vegans has prompted some debate. Islamic scholars such as the late Egyptian scholar Gamal al-Banna agree that Muslims who choose vegetarianism/veganism can do so for a number of reasons including a personal expression of faith or spirituality.
Al-Banna has stated “When someone becomes vegetarian they do so for a number of reasons: compassion, environment and health reasons. As a Muslim, I believe that the Prophet (Muhammad) would want followers to be healthy, compassionate and not destroy our environment. If someone believes not eating meat is that way, it is not like they are going to go to hell for it. It may be the right thing to do.”
Yusuf believes the fallout of industrialized meat production — the abuse of animals, the detrimental impact to the environment and human health, the link of such a system to the exasperation of global hunger — is at odds with his understanding of Islamic ethics. In his view animal rights and protection of the environment are not foreign concepts to Islam but a divine mandate. And his research indicates that the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, and most early Muslims were semi-vegetarians, consuming meat on occasion.
Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics Associate Fellow the Revd Feargus O’Connor has led the way in attempting to secure a declaration for animals at the Annual Meetings of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches at the University of Nottingham in April. The motion was unanimously agreed on Sunday 3 February 2013 at Golders Green Unitarians and will now go forward for debate at the General Assembly Annual Meetings.
“This General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, inspired by the Universalist ethic of the Seventh Principle of the Unitarian Universalist Association, urging ‘respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are part’, and of our General Assembly Object proclaiming ‘respect for all creation’:
honours the dedicated work of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the World Society for the Protection of Animals, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Compassion in World Farming, the International Primate Protection League, the Dogs Trust, Cats Protection, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and other campaigning animal welfare charities;
congratulates the Unitarian Universalist Animal Ministry, Quaker Concern for Animals, the Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals, Catholic Concern for Animals and other religious animal welfare societies and Rev. Professor Andrew Linzey and the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics for their tireless promotion of the religious ethic of the Seventh Principle and its associated belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every living being;
urges fellow Unitarians and all people of goodwill to honour the spirit of the UUA Seventh Principle and its ethic of compassion and mercy to our sentient fellow creatures sharing this planet with us by acting effectively to protect and save billions of animal lives.”
Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics Director Professor Andrew Linzey commented:
“The churches generally have a poor record on animal protection, so it is a delight to hear of this latest resolution. Among religious bodies Unitarians have been in the forefront of concern for animals and we pay tribute to their progressive stand.”
More information about Unitarian Universalist Animal Ministry can be found here.
QCA note: we congratulate our committee member Feargus O’Connor on the progress this important initiative has so far made and would like to assure him and friends at his Golders Green congregation that Quaker Concern for Animals is holding it in the Light. We look forward to hearing good news in April.
Re-printed from Chris’s second collection Cure for a Crooked Smile, Ragged Raven Press, with kind permission of the author. Thank you, Chris – you are indeed the poet laureate of greyhounds!
QCA note: First Sighting is for Chris’s friend, our patron, Rosie Bailey.
A government e-petition to end commercial greyhound racing in the UK has recently been set up. Huge numbers of dogs are left homeless at the end of their careers. 100,000 signatures are needed to have the chance of having this issue debated in parliament.
Let’s give the greyhounds a voice!
A movie book is a new concept entirely, one which takes book illustration to the next level. Sprinkled throughout the book are the URLs for sixty video clips of Kalahari wildlife, which are stored on YouTube. As you read about the animals, you will be able to click on the URL and watch them on the video clip. So:
You do not merely read about Snooky, the rescued jackal who had been kept in a small cage all his life, you watch him on video.
Read the exciting and uplifting stories of rescuing wild animals and birds.
Learn about animal habits and behaviour.
Laugh at the antics of endearing animals like meerkats and bat-eared foxes.
Reading a movie book with e-readers will be a seamless experience. If one buys the paperback, then the list of videos must be downloaded to the readers PC or laptop. The list of URLs is included in the book as an Appendix, and can be sent by email to you; our email address is there to make it easy for you to contact us.
This book has been reviewed by the prestigious New York Journal of Books.
The authors of this book, Chris Mercer and Bev Pervan, founded the South African NGO Campaign Against Canned Hunting and their story is told in the book, all the proceeds of which will go to the campaign against trophy hunting.
It’s high time we came into right relationship, says Heidi Stephenson, in her article in Resurgence Magazine 271 March/April 2012. Animals: A New Ethics.
“There are two paths, one of life and one of death, and the difference is great between the two.” So opens the ancient Didache. Tragically, where the rest of the animal kingdom is concerned, we’ve taken the path of death.
Every year billions of animals are brought into the world just to die and suffer at our hands. We brand them, number them, take away their young, forcibly inseminate them, painfully experiment on them, take the fur from their backs, and deny them the most basic rights.
Not just to life, but to freedom from bodily harm, sunshine, fresh air, natural habitat, company of their own kind, the right to choose their mates, to respect and dignity – and very often to sleep, rest, food, shelter, even water too. Sickeningly, the only daylight most ‘factory-farmed’ animals ever get to see is on their terrifying last journey to the slaughter house. We even make a sadistic ‘sport,’ of hunting and baiting them. It’s a deeply disturbing picture. If this is imago Dei, one dreads to think what the Other Place must look like. For animals we have created a veritable hell on earth.
The facts are grim, but they must be faced. Every year 60 billion animals (excluding fish) lose their lives to the meat industry alone. Most are still babies when they die. Some, like ‘suckling’ pigs and ‘veal’ calves, are not even weaned (much to the intense grief of their mothers.) Each of these is an individual: a sentient, suffering being – much as the industry might try to de-personalise them as so many ‘stock,’ ‘units’ or numbers.
The average meat eater consumes over 11,000 animals across a lifetime: 1,158 chickens, 6, 182 fish, 39 turkeys, 23 sheep, 18 pigs, 28 ducks, 4 cows, and at least one goose and a rabbit. Every death is an extinction. Slaughter is rarely humane. There’s no special treatment for ‘organic.’ Nor does the Freedom Food label, unfortunately, offer any protection to the lamb who’s about to be pushed onto the killing floor. That’s a lot of lives, a lot of suffering.
In the torturous, lonely world of the laboratory, another 100 million victims die annually; in experiments which, shockingly, 86% of the time, have absolutely nothing to do with new medicines. And this in a time when we have so many humane alternatives: MRI, CAT and PET scanning, use of human cells, tissues and organ culture, molecular and test-tube methods, clinical trials on voluntary human patients, (far more accurate, of course) use of computer models – and importantly, the development of disease prevention.
We have enslaved the rest of the animal kingdom on a scale and gravity never seen before, in the history of rapacious homo sapiens. How can we continue to justify this? Unfortunately, our long-entrenched speciesism persuades us that there is a crucial difference between other animals and us. We tell ourselves that they don’t feel like we do, so their suffering is somehow less. We tell ourselves that they don’t matter – not where there is a human interest involved anyway. But this is ‘fallen’ humanity, hiding behind a veil of maya – in wilful, supreme denial.
Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of sharing their life with an animal companion and engaging in a relationship based on trust, rather than exploitation, absolutely knows that they feel a complex range of emotions easily recognisable to us; that they dream (and therefore process their experiences); that they anticipate, and remember. What more proof do we need of consciousness? This begs serious moral and ethical questions. Animal rights – the rights of non-human animals (to break up a much maligned term) is one of the most pressing social justice issues of our time. It’s long overdue that we come into right relationship.
It’s not easy, but we need to have the courage to bear witness. We mustn’t close our eyes to their pain. The animals are completely disenfranchised. They have no voice. Only we can change things. We can no longer ignore when there is so much at stake. Our avoidance condemns billions. How can we continue to hide behind society’s myths (our fluffy Easter chicks – and all those male hatchlings who die within 72 hours of being born, for example) when it comes at this terrible price?
TV advertisers and the vested interests might like to convince us that cows enjoy making butter, that chickens line-up to become nuggets, and French laboratory rabbits concur that ‘we’re worth it,’ but we know in our deepest selves these things aren’t true.
But there is already so much pain in our own lives, we say. We can’t cope with any more. Yes, but we must remember, their pain is a thousand-fold greater than ours. We live lives of such privilege in comparison. Can’t we offer just a little generosity?
Unfortunately most people aren’t connecting with the day-to-day reality of the animals’ experience at all. We know about it in vague, abstract terms – that it happens, that we don’t like it – but we’re not engaging with it viscerally, empathically. It’s this, combined with the fact that animal exploiters like to keep their activities behind closed doors, away from the public scrutiny (for obvious reasons) that allows all this atrocity to continue. Theory keeps us at a safe distance, in our heads – we need to connect with our hearts.
Empathy is a powerful tool. The Golden Rule – do as you would be done by – was based on nothing less. For too long we have been derided for making the natural leap with non-human beings too. “Anthropomorphism” is an old and bitter accusation. But it’s not about projecting, rather about identifying and recognizing – observational, Cartesian tools after all. It’s about focussing on our similarities (which are many) and not on our differences (which in basic terms, are few). To link to the suffering of another, to have the sensitivity and compassion to feel their pain and care, is the ultimate act of love. And intelligence; our survival as a species has depended on it.
Every one of us can make a difference. We are not powerless. Above all, we can stop eating flesh. Meat is an addiction. We don’t need it. In fact, our omnivorous bodies are infinitely healthier without it. (Especially in these growth hormone, antibiotic-pumped times.) It’s the single most powerful thing we can do. We can take a step further and become vegan, avoiding all animal products. We were weaned long-ago after all. Our protein needs are easily taken care of. A vegan diet really isn’t one of gourmet deprivation at all.
Buying only cruelty-free cosmetics, personal and household products, is another big step in the right direction. It’s no longer expensive to care. In the UK, many of the major supermarkets own-brand products are now animal-friendly and carry the BUAV’s leaping bunny logo: the Co-operative, M&S, Sainsburys and Superdrug, for example. (More information can be found at www.gocruelty-free.org.) When even toilet bleach and furniture polish are tested on animals, it’s the least we can do.
Let’s dream a world – and actively create one – in which cruelty and abuse are a thing of the past. There is no higher purpose that to protect the weak and vulnerable, to free the enslaved and the suffering, to transform the darkness. There is no greater love. In this Olympic year, let’s become torch-bearers of a new ethic; one based on equality of beingness, and on inherent worth. Let’s manifest a Peaceable Kingdom, an earthly Nirvana – right here, right now. As Victor Hugo said, “There’s nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”
Heidi Stephenson is a writer and animal campaigner. Her forthcoming book is The Book of Life: The Lost Teachings of Jesus On The Animal Kingdom.
www.resurgence.org – many of the articles in this issue - including those by Juliet Gellatley of VIVA!, Jan Creamer of ADI and Marc Bekoff and Richard Ryder – are accessible on-line.
The following article, by our active member Thom Bonneville of Muswell Hill Meeting, appears, slightly abridged, in the current issue of The Ark, the journal ofCatholic Concern for Animals.
We are grateful to the author and to Dr. Deborah Jones, editor and general secretary of Catholic Concern for Animals, for their permission to reprint the article.
As a member of Quaker Concern for Animals, a sizeable chunk of my time and energy is devoted to getting the animals issue on the table– and getting dead animals off the table!– for my local and area Quaker meetings. It can be a tricky and draining business. We’re a long way off from achieving what we need to achieve within Britain Yearly Meeting, to say nothing of Quakers beyond. I’m sure that many members of CCA and ASWA would say similar with respect to advancing the animals agenda amongst catholics and anglicans. So why bother about interfaith and risk further distraction?
Does an interfaith approach really have much to offer?
I’d like to point to a few of the benefits that I feel such an approach could bring, and to some of the questions that we could gain from reflecting on.
Deepening one’s own faith; finding its essence
In writing for The Ark readers I can thankfully take a certain orientation for granted, so I needn’t detain us with arguments for the centrality of the animal question for a christian life. We know that the christian’s raison d’être is to be, at this hour, as in every, with the poor, with the powerless and bereft, and that the most wretched, defenceless and de-natured of all oppressed animals are, for now, the non-human animals.
But while we have a ready reply to the question why animals (for christians) we should not skip over it all together. Rather, we should pause just here, at the place where we start from, and acknowledge that it is our wish to be true to the essential christian message that leads us on to the animal concern. It is the same impulse that can bring us to deepen and broaden our faith, theologically and experientially, through interfaith engagement. To give an idea of what I mean, I’ve observed in myself two kinds of motions toward animals: first, there is the immediate, natural feeling of love for an animal, without which, nothing. This feeling comes freely with respect to those nonhuman animals who have– and I apologise for the anthropomorphism– recognisable ‘faces.’ Then there is the mediate, willed love, perhaps ‘concern’ is better, which is more abstract and requires discipline, but which is also less sentimental in its complexion and corresponds more readily to that regard for the other as other, and not as self-surrogate, which we are encouraged to by Jesus’s admonition in Matthew 5: go beyond what you are obliged to do out of duty or merely inclined to do out of natural sympathy. My point is that when we strive to take on this outside perspective, we find that doing so reconnects us with what was already spiritually fundamental for us. The interfaith ‘gesture’ works on us in the same manner and via the same motion of compassion. It brings us to the truth of our own faith.
Given alongside this ‘structural’ truth are the bountiful, individual, self-standing truths that interfaith exploration ceaslessly confers. To offer an example that’s been personally important, my efforts toward understanding the specifically jewish concept of the sabbath have helped enrich my sense of the meaning of Quaker silent worship. An animal-relevant example would be being introduced by Muslim friends to the expanded notion of community in Qu’ran 6.38
There is not an animal (that lives) on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but (forms part of) communities like you. Nothing have we omitted from the Book, and they (all) shall be gathered to their Lord in the end.
Living with such words can bring striking new insights into our ideas of christian community. I cannot but call them to mind when I read the catholic legends of saints and animals or even when I think on the communion of saints.
The live export trade is impossible to regulate – article by an Australian campaigning group.
In one of the live export trade’s worst international disasters, about 2,750 cattle have died on the Gracia del Mar on a voyage from Brazil to Egypt. The ship, carrying 5,600 cattle, was refused permission to dock in several Middle Eastern ports because of the dead animals, including Port Said, Djibouti, Sudan and Eritrea, and sailed the Red Sea until it became stranded with the suffering cattle inside…
…[we] are continuing to work with animal welfare activists for a ban on live exports and mandatory pre-slaughter stunning in Australia. We want to see improved and increased processing in Australia to support local producers and jobs.
On Tuesday 13 March in the Senate, I asked the Agriculture Minister what action he or his department has taken to investigate the Temur Petir and Cakung abattoirs in Jakarta following the ABC TV’s Lateline segment. The Lateline footage, showing animal cruelty and serious breaches of the government’s new Export Supply Chain Assurance System, was deeply distressing and demonstrates that very little has changed since Four Corners aired a similar exposé last year.
I pressed Minister Senator Joe Ludwig about the investigation regarding the 61 observed incidents of non-compliance at these abattoirs as identified by the RSPCA Chief Scientist.
Outrageously, the Minister responded by saying the new assurance system provides a pathway for investigating complaints. He said the complaint had been referred to the independent regulator who would then determine a course of action following a thorough investigation.
Meanwhile, animals being exported from Australia are suffering. I moved a motion to call on the Minister to immediately suspend the export licenses of any companies involved in exporting cattle to the Temur Petir and Cakung abattoirs in Jakarta, to bring forward debate on the cruel live export trade.
I encourage you to keep the pressure on government by emailing, calling and visiting Agriculture Minister Senator Joe Ludwig; writing letters to local, state and national newspapers; calling talkback radio; and signing the Greens e-petition to ban live exports. You can keep updated about the Greens’ work on animal welfare here:
Living By Voices We Shall Never Hear: Seeing Animals Differently
2011, NISC (Pty) Ltd ISBN: 978-1-920033-12-5
In their introduction to this collection of reflections, poems and essays, editors Pauline and Les Mitchell put the matter bluntly: for thousands of years, non-human animals ” have been our unpaid, unacknowledged and, for the most part, appallingly treated slaves, on whose backs, it is no exaggeration to say, our present world has been built. Perhaps,” they conclude, “it is time to consider our relationship with them.”
Quakers have, in fact, been considering these relationships for some time. For the Society of Friends, the question is really this: how might the concern with non-human animals be brought from the periphery of Quakerism to, or at least towards, its centre?
A question, no doubt, of hearts and minds. I’m happy to say that I met with many and varied answers to that question within these pages; answers, along with more questions, that appeal to all of a reader’s faculties.
Living By Voices divides into three sections, the first of which, on ‘Animal companionship’, appeals to the reader’s heart and soul. John Woolman was famously resolved to let love be the first motion in him, and the opening tales of lives lived with cows, cats, dogs and chickens show just what that can mean- the practical expressions love finds for itself when allowed to range beyond conventions. The second section, ‘Animal-inspired poetry’, gives further rein to that impulse of love and reverence, leading out onto imaginative refigurations of human/non-human relations such as art alone may activate.
‘Quaker perspectives on animals’, comprising the last nine of the book’s fourteen chapters, makes its appeals via the examples of Quaker tradition and convictions, and through much reasoned argument.
Marian Hussenbux provides an excellent primer on Quaker engagement with animal welfare from the time of Fox onwards. This concern finds its first voice of lasting eloquence in John Woolman; while many advances were made in the century following, it’s not until the 1980s that we find evidence of Friends returning to what was evident to Woolman: that love of God demands a non-violent and non-exploitative comportment toward our fellow creatures. It’s from within the context of this turn that several of Marian’s co-contributors are writing in Part Three. Susannah Brindle, for instance, demonstrates how the general understanding of TOGIE has had to be broadened over the course of time to be truly inclusive of women and of non-whites in the general understanding. She points to Harvey Gillman’s essay of 1995 as a kind of return to Woolman that re-vitalised and extended that notion of the ‘everyone’ to encompass all the world’s entities. And what of the testimonies themselves? Can our idea of equality refuse to acknowledge, especially in light of recent research into animal intelligence and capacity for suffering, the equality of species? Can an
authentic peace testimony turn a blind eye to the slaughter of 150,000,000 daily for food alone? We are witnessing the emergence of a sustainability testimony, yet there is arguably no greater factor in environmental degradation than the consumption of animals and animal products. These are the facts before us, and they point toward a certain inconsistency. Wilma Davidson tells of how she came to realise that such inconsistencies were not such as she was prepared to live with, incommensurate as they were with her core values: “when I became a vegetarian, the reason was simple: I could not kill so I could not condone someone killing just for me to eat.” It is not, however, that surprising that we should find ourselves in the compromised situation that we do, vis à vis non-human animals and our professed principles. Benjamin Schmeiser discusses how it is that so many of us have been able to simply overlook these disconnects , showing how deeply ingrained our prejudices are in our language itself. Of course, these everyday prejudices are shored up by scientific officialdom, and I was intrigued by Sandra Kyle’s account of how on hearing from eminently qualified “zoology experts” that animals lacked emotions, she was led to form a Quakerly reliance on her own judgement and experience.
Nor does Living By Voices lack an appeal to pity, or shy away from the horror that’s just outside our customary field of vision. Most of the pieces strike a Quakerly note, commending the matter to the conscience of individual Friends, which is no doubt as it should be, but a collection on this topic that did not rise at least once to a register of outrage would fall short of the demands of justice and would lack the prophetic element. I’m very grateful, therefore, to Les Mitchell for including his front-line report on this war against the defenceless and for showing us in no uncertain terms “the sheer overwhelming scope of our violence.” It’s tough going and may prove too much for some; but while I agree with A.H. Mann that people don’t react well to being prosyletised, I can only add that there came a decisive moment in my life when the right person appeared, jabbed a finger in my chest and said “Thou art the man!” I’m indebted to them for it.
Finally, this is a weave of viewpoints that brings forward no unanimous recommendation, but more than one contributor suggests that the time is now right for an Advice or Query on our relations with animals. It’s hard to imagine any Friend who, on completing Living By Voices, would dismiss out of hand that proposal.
~ Thanks to our member Thom Bonneville of Muswell Hill Meeting for this review. A shorter version appeared in The Friend this week.