Friday, February 3, 2012

Once Upon a Time....

Once upon a time, a very long time ago – actually over 35 years ago – I had a dream, an idea of opening a woman’s center, a bookstore and restaurant combination.  It was not common at that time. 
Two friends in our local NOW chapter, Priscilla Feral (who later became head of Friends of Animals) and Jim Mason, co-author with Peter Singer of Animal Factories, urged me to make the food served in the restaurant vegetarian. 
So we did…not out of a heart-felt commitment, but being convinced intellectually that it was right.  And so we started Bloodroot.  But as we went on, that initial commitment became the core of our beliefs.
Jim went on to work on his book, An Unnatural Order.  He did an enormous amount of research on pre-agricultural humans, and how agriculture and animal husbandry changed human character and health.  And how together with the monotheistic religions, a ladder of privilege was established (in contrast to animism and female fertility religions).
The result was layers of contempt for those below god and man: meaning women, people who were different (in color), animals and the earth itself. In Jim’s book, we gradually come to understand that stewardship, the shepherd caring for his flock is a euphemism for the right to construct and shape other creatures and humans to the particular forms and beliefs of a dominant culture. These beliefs went on to enable sexual engineering, slavery and genocide.  Jim met with us periodically as he was writing his book, and what was most impressive was that he always listened, as few men do.
There have been many books since An Unnatural Order was published- books about the environment and animal rights, but no book I know of has such depth and breadth, and is at the same time feminist in its perspective, and in its condemnation of a dominionist mind set.
So we were upset a few months ago, when we got copies of a journal, “Sinister Wisdom”, that we have carried at Bloodroot since its inception. This particular issue had a paragraph raving about a book (The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith) sharply critical of vegetarianism based on health and environmental issues.  It was so upsetting that we returned copies of the journal to the publisher.  They followed up with a request that we comment on the review and on the book.  They were so appreciative of us that of course I had to do it.  Then came the bad part!  I had to read that book.  It took several miserable days to get through the lies and half-truths and I was left depressed.  It’s hard to argue against intentional stupidity and arrogance.  Fortunately other folks did a good job with on-line critiques and I was able to simply write about why Bloodroot is vegetarian (mostly vegan now).  And why these 35 years have been so fulfilling for Noel and me.
But I did need healing from those several nasty days with The Vegetarian Myth.    First, I re-read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer.  I felt much better afterwards.  Then I returned to my copy of An Unnatural Order and was amazed at the quality of the research and the intelligence of the prose. At the end of the book, after discussing present day acceptance of the torture of the bullfight, rodeo, and animal use in the laboratory, Jim brings up the slaughterhouse vs. vegetarianism.  And it is typical of him to be gentle in his plea for change. Here I quote from a paragraph near the end of the book:
….”for many, if not most people are simply not inclined toward soul-searching and changing their habits. Age, sub-culture, and other circumstances tend to install a certain inflexibility in many people and it is probably best not to bother them.  But for others who genuinely want to help reconstruct our worldview, our sense of ourselves, and our human spirit, nothing can be off limits for re-examination and soul-searching”
Finally I re-read Anne Cameron’s Daughters of Copperwoman to remind myself of a spirituality/religion that means something to me.
So here is a reading list:  Eating AnimalsAn Unnatural Order, and Daughters of Copperwoman
And finally, once Sinister Wisdom publishes the article: “Why Bloodroot is Vegan/Vegetarian”, I will reproduce it for this blog.  Stay tuned!