Violence off our Plates
Luxemburg was a peace activist jailed for opposition to World War I. In
1917, two years before she was assassinated by the secret police, she
wrote from her cell in the Breslau Prison about war and the use of animals.
She recounted how soldiers outside her window mercilessly flogged
a team of buffaloes who were war trophies from Romania. She wrote, A lorry
came laden with sacks, so overladen indeed that the buffaloes were unable
to drag it across the threshold of the gate. The soldier-driver belabored
the poor beasts so savagely with the butt end of his whip that the wardress
at the gate, indignant at the sight, asked him if he had no compassion
for animals. No more than anyone has compassion for us men, he
answered with an evil smile, and redoubled his blows.
Eventually, the animals, utterly exhausted, succeeded in drawing
the load over the obstacle, and stood perfectly still. Luxemburg
one that was bleeding had an expression on its face and in its soft black
eyes like that of a weeping childone that has been severely thrashed
and does not know why, nor how to escape from the torment of ill-treatment.
She thinks of where these buffaloes have come from, the rich, green meadows
of another land, and how they are now objects of disdain for their nationality,
and concludes, I had a visitation of all the splendor of war!
This reminds me of my mother describing how English families destroyed
their beloved pet dachshunds in World War II because people saw the dogs
as German, and would throw stones at them or worse.
In the wake of the attacks on Washington and New York, while we reel
from the differences between human nations and religions and the
destruction that brings, it is a good time to examine how it is only
our own ingrained
prejudices that allow us to treat others we dont understand
as nothing more than commodities, instead of as sentient beings who
fear, misery, loneliness and the blade at their throats.
One way nonviolence can be expressed is through kindness to the animal nations, the
ultimate kindness, perhaps, being to leave them in peace and refrain
from eating them.
Long-time peace activist Professor Colman McCarthy, who created the Center
for Teaching Peace, advocates vegetarianism.
The Martin Luther King family has become vegetarian because they cannot
escape the absolute analogy of the slaughterhouse that supplies the supermarket
and the carnage that is war and domestic strife.
Mahatma Gandhi, who liberated India from the harsh yoke of the British
Empire, embraced a nonviolent diet and spoke forcefully against frightening
animals and stealing their lives all for a fleeting taste.
The Nobel Laureate, Isaac Bashevis Singer, who fled Nazi-occupied Europe,
became a vegetarian when, from the window of his rented room, he viewed
cattle in shackles being beaten down a ramp to their deaths.
Many Quakers and Grahams who fought for emancipation of women and the
abolition of the slave trade refused meat so as to avoid violence to their
own bodies and to animal life.
As we cast about for ways to cope
with the World Trade Center and related incidents, perhaps it is
time to look at the animal rights message with new eyes, to wonder
open our hearts and minds and oppose violence in all its forms, not
simply when the horror reaches into our families, communities and
all free to make a start by wiping violence off our plates.
Ingrid Newkirk is president of People
for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. For a free vegetarian starter kit
(with recipes), contact: PETA, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510, or www.PETA.org.