NOT by design but by accident do I find myself writing under the above title for the Christmas number of HEAL THYSELF It seems very appropriate to one who believes that vegetarianism, put into practice, will do more than any other reform to help us to celebrate all right the coming festival of “Peace on earth and goodwill to men.” And are we not all of the same opinion when we let our better natures have sway ? I believe we are.
Only during the last few days a lady I know very well accompanied another kindly spirit on a shopping expedition. On the point of starting one remarked to the other, “Excuse me for a minute, I want to order some meat from the butchers. The caller, having been as good as her word, remarked to her companion, who, she was aware, had no need her companion, who, she was aware, had no need of ever calling on the butcher,” When you come to think, it is a barbarous business, this eating of flesh, is it not ?” My lady friend thought the question needed no reply.
I will leave it to my readers for discussion on Christmas afternoon, in view of the slaughter of millions of animals that will then have taken place to celebrate the festival of the birth of the Prince of Peace. If we would have peace on earth we must first begin to live it in our own household and towards those we term the lower (and are the defenceless) fellow creatures of the world.
We shall then feel more kindly towards all the human race, and shall hasten the time when every Christmas will be a time of Peace, reflecting a world where wars on the weak are no longer being waged by nations that consider themselves to be strong. Progress in this respect is undoubtedly being made.
Just about fifty years ago I remember a great nation was bombarding Alexandria, when I was greatly influenced by an eloquent lecture I heard by the Rev. Dr. Varley, in the garrison town of Portsmouth, by his emphasis of the words “We may have had the power but we never had the right.” Many countries, statesmen, politicians and peoples have since been driven by necessity and experience to view war from a loftier plane, and the English people have learned to live on a much more reasonable and refined diet also.
Even for breakfast after a heavy supper and a “hard nights sleep” most people do think it possible to exist until mid-day on other things than ham rashers and eggs. An abstainer from fish, flesh and fowl cannot help noticing, day by day, how meat eaters wish to cover up the ugly facts connected with the meat trade. The dead bodies of pigs are described as pork, bacon and lard, those of the bullock, beef, the sheep, mutton, deer, venison, and so on.
The “family butcher” is becoming a “meat purveyor”. Why, it may be asked, is this so ? There is no such wish to blanket the truth with the fruits of the earth, golden corn, delightful fresh garden peas, delicious pears, peaches and apples, nuts and many others. One never sees such adjectives associated with the flesh of animals. Most meat eaters, especially those of the gentler sex, would refuse to turn pigs into pork, or oxen into beef, but none objects to pick the kindly fruit of the earth, in fact they take a delight in doing so– and let their friends know of it if they happen to have grown them in their own garden.
My attention has been called recently to Harvest Festivals, and the great variety of products nature provides, but the carcasses of slaughtered animals are conspicuous by their absence. Why, it may be asked, is this so ? Is it not that we are trying all the time to blind ourselves to the truth that we are not living up to our better natures, and do not dare face the fact, although we may have no argument we can advance in self-defence apart from that “we like the meat”. and it may be asked, as the recent Peace Ballot shows, is not the thought of war becoming more and more distasteful to us as a nation ?
And also, are we and Europe also becoming more and more convinced that war and slaughter never has and never will promote either peace or glory ? And further, the world must eventually be driven by force of circumstances and self-preservation to abolish war. For, to quote Lord Birkenhead, “The anguish of it has been so branded into recent experience that the world may well refuse to resort again to this backward and inhuman arbitrament, for just long enough, perhaps, to permit the evolution, in the interval, of an enlightened conscience in this respect, reinforced by the development of weapons so lethal that their menace will cow civilization into better behaviour”.
Have we any knowledge to justify the belief that the anguish experienced in the animal world in the face of endless slaughter is any less in proportion than that we ourselves experience from the results of war? That such anguish does more or less exist is clearly admitted by the fact that it has been made illegal to kill cattle in the presence of each other. In any case, amongst humans “gentleness of demeanour and the carnivorous habit are quite impossible bedfellows”.
Robert Lynd, some time since in the News-Chronicle, said that except perhaps in one instance he had never met a really intelligent animal — to wit, a cat –” the most intelligent animal I have known, but even he had not enough brains to understand when he was told it was wrong to kill birds”. Says Mr. Lynd, “I made my objections to his killing birds quite clear to him, but, whether or not it was that he regarded this as inconsistent coming as it did from a human being who frequently dined on chicken, he never paid the slightest heed to me.
Vegetarians may see in this a proof of the cats intelligence.” This quotation, apart from the question as to whether, after all, the human intelligence over that of the feline is of much service, needs no comment,for it is the use we make of the truth we know that counts. A story worth relating also appeared in the News-Chronicle a year or two since, which reads as follows:.
“One very cold, snowy, windy morning, hearing and bleats, I looked outside and found a mother ewe on the bank gazing at her twin offspring which had got into a forbidden field and were unable to climb back again. I helped them out and placed them in the care of their mother. To show her gratefulness she brought them into a small grass plot outside the back door and allowed me to careless them– three days in succession– bleating very loudly or wrongly, that ingratitude is one of the worst sins of which human beings can be guilty.
In any case, we can all admire gratitude in man or animal, and would not this spirit tend to bring about a true Christmas Peace for all? Or, as Madame Blavatsky says: “Religion in its widest meaning is that which binds not only all men but all Beings and all things in the entire Universe into one grand whole.” Then shall the world attain a joyous Christmas Peace.