The ultimate sacrifice
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 1998:
LHASA, MUMBAI, JERUSALEM––Muslims,
Christians, and Jews marked some of their most sacred holidays
by killing animals. Hindus mobilized to save animals
from slaughter. Snowbound Tibetan Buddhists starved
rather than eat animals who were already dead or dying.
The Islamic Feast of Sacrifice, commemorating
Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac, fell on
April 8 this year––halfway between Palm Sunday and Easter,
two days before Passover, and one day before the Jain festival
of Mahavir Jayanti, the annual celebration of the birth of
the teacher Mahavir, a contemporary of the Buddha.
The several moveable feasts and fixed occasions
coincided unusually closely, bringing conflicting cultural
views of animals into dramatic contrast.
Discord loomed perhaps most ominously––for
humans––in India, where the Feast of Sacrifice came not
only on the eve of an occasion respected by Hindus and
Buddhists as well as Jains, but also barely a month after a
Hindu fundamentalist government took power, boosted into
office in part by pledges to abolish cow slaughter.
Considered the last and greatest of the 24 teachers
who formulated the Jain religion, Mahavir taught against
animal sacrifice, while articulating the principle of ahimsa,
or harmlessness toward all beings.
He no doubt would have empathized with the
Tibetans, whose refusal to eat their animals P h i l a d e l p h i a
Inquirer reporter Jennifer Lin found incomprehensible.
“Violent snowstorms and temperatures of 30
degrees below zero began in September and led to the death
of 300,000 yaks, sheep, goats, and horses by January,” Lin
wrote. “A million more, nearly half the livestock of nomads
in this remote region, could starve by the end of spring.”
Lin’s account, published on April 15, summarized
a crisis earlier described by Maggie O’Kane of the Scripps
Howard syndicate, echoed in the April ANIMAL PEOPLE.
O’Kane, perhaps the first westerner to document
the Tibetan disaster, issued her account on February 22.
Only a month later did China, ruling Tibet since 1950,
finally let the Swiss-based relief organization Doctors
Without Borders start trucking in barley, yak butter, medicines,
and animal feed.
Lin accompanied Doctors Without Borders on a
week-long, 500-mile trek into a part of Tibet that was in
1965 forcibly annexed to Qinghai province, China.
As spring reached the rest of the world, Tibet
remained in the frozen grip of the third winter catastrophe of
comparable magnitude to hit there since 1985-1986.
The snows of 1995-1996 reportedly also killed
more than a million domesticated livestock, leaving herds
already diminished far below traditional sizes even before
the winter of 1997-1998.
Overgrazing was recognized as contributing to the
previous disasters. Laws mandating herd movements to prevent
overgrazing were strengthened. But the problem this
time wasn’t too little grass: just too much snow on top of it.
“Desperate nomads are giving their food to animals,”
Lin noted with evident perplexity.
“The nomads cannot bring themselves to kill the
animals for food,” Lin continued, struggling for explanation.
“The yaks are their fortunes. They have no money in the bank,
no valuables to barter. The nomads believe that their herd
defines their wealth, and that to kill an animal, even to stave
off hunger, is like throwing away money.”
But unasked and unanswered questions reverberated.
Not least was whether Tibetans have ever been much interested
in accumulating money––especially the nomads, who like most
nomads tend to eschew any possessions they can’t readily
transport. They have for decades resisted all attempts to introduce
commercial exploitation of their natural resources, and
the cash-based economy that heavy industry could bring.
Male status competition, if ever an issue, wasn’t
likely to be involved lately. As Lin explained, Tibetan rural
culture is largely matriarchal, and in any event, as she also
noted, most of the able-bodied men from the stricken region
left months before the worst of the freeze, taking their hunger
from family huts as they sought wage labor elsewhere in hopes
of sending back money that might enable the women, children,
and elderly who could not leave to somehow scrape by.
And for what would the remaining Tibetans use
money, if not to survive?
Chinese official doctrine holds that rural Tibetan attitudes
reflect centuries of subjugation by Buddhist monastic
orders, whose teachings perpetuated a priestly hierarchy at cost
of the working people.
The ancient Tibetan explanation is that their ancestors
came there seeking a land removed from violence and turmoil,
and have always valued their peace and the beauty of nature
above both material wealth and physical comfort.
Lin, however, gave little thought to points of faith,
politics, and culture.
“Nor will the nomads eat their fallen cattle,” she continued,
beginning to sound exasperated. “They would rather
leave the carcasses in open fields to be picked at by crows or
wolves, than haul the dead animals home to feed themselves.”
To either the officially atheistic and culturally pragmatic
Chinese, who annexed Tibet in 1957, or to Americans
and western Europeans, whose eating habits long ago made
“beef” a synonym for any kind of animal in various pidgeon
dialects, the Tibetan resignation to death over beef-eating must
seem inexplicable. It makes no sense in terms of either
Communist or capitalist values.
Certainly Tibetans have no inherent qualms about
using yaks––in either life or after natural death. “The nomads
drink their milk,” Lin recounted. “They season their salty tea
with globs of yak butter. They collect yak dung to burn in
home fires and to build walls to protect them from the wind.
They sleep on piles of yak fur. They sew robes from yak
leather. They grind yak bones into medicine. They ride yaks
over high mountain passes.”
They even “pray to Buddha,” Lin marveled, “by the
light of yak candles, and shape sculptures of gods from colored
But the meaning of all that seemingly eluded Lin, as
did the meaning of her opening vignette, in which a starving
13-year-old girl spun a Buddhist prayer wheel above the
unbutchered, unmolested remnants of her family’s yak herd,
whose survivors nibbled what grass they could excavate.
“All Tibetans are Buddhists,” Lin observed, “who
believe the wind will carry their prayers to the gods.”
Tibetan culture is steeped in the traditions of both
reincarnation and cow-worship. Like Jainism, Tibetan
Buddhism evolved from ancient Hindu teachings. The Tibetan
cattle are yaks, rather than the often humpbacked lowland
breeds native to India, but are likewise viewed as the mothers
of the people.
Unlike the Jains, Tibetan Buddhists are mostly not
strict vegetarians. As Lin saw, they may eat sheep dead from
natural causes, or at least feed it to their children in the present
crisis. They use leather from naturally deceased animals, and
make medicines from yak bone. But they do not kill their animals,
any more than they kill each other, or even kill foreign
invaders: the often very violent Chinese repression of Tibetan
nationalism has rarely met armed resistance.
Tibetans believe they need neither kill, nor––if they
achieve spiritual peace––fear death. They will be reborn: if not
as another human, perhaps as a yak.
Elsewhere around the world, but especially in Asia,
ethnic tensions were as ever exascerbated by the Feast of
Sacrifice, variously known as Id al-Adha, Bakri-Id, Hari Raya
Haji, Wasi-Id, Id-ul-Doha, and Ramadan, which is actually
the ritual fasting period––roughly approximating Lent––that
precedes the feast.
The Feast of Sacrifice is perhaps best known among
non-Muslims as the culminating event of the annual pilgrimage
of devout Muslims to Mecca, but is actually celebrated worldwide.
The traditional Feast of Sacrifice killing of longtailed
sheep echoes Abraham’s discovery of the ram in the thicket,
whose arrival encouraged him to spare Isaac, much as the
Easter slaughter of lambs by Christians echoes Jesus’ reputed
designation of himself as the Lamb of God, harkening back to
the same founding myth of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic gospel.
In either case, the animal slaughter is not literally
animal sacrifice. Yet it does have potent symbolic value.
By custom, those who can afford to kill an animal for
the Feast of Sacrifice do, and give what meat they cannot eat
themselves to the poor. Those who can’t afford to kill longtailed
sheep kill goats. Those who can’t afford to kill goats
may kill poultry. In some communities, demonstrating the
ability to kill an animal––of any sort––distinguishes families of
status from those without––and resultant slaughter for display
brings not only animal suffering but conspicuous waste.
Westerners tend to be offended both by the waste,
sometimes depicted on TV news broadcasts, and by the public
manner and methods of the killing.
In theory, the killing follows the rules of h a l a l,
which are essentially the same as the rules of kosher slaughter.
Kosher slaughter, however, is done by trained rabbis. The
Feast of Sacrifice killings are mostly done by inexperienced
heads of households, whose ineptitude in France two years ago
provoked French animal rights crusader Brigitte Bardot to
decry the practice in the cultural newspaper F i g a r o as a purported
threat to civilisation. For those remarks, Bardot was in
October 1997 convicted of allegedly inciting ehtnic hatred and
was fined $1,600. Opinion polls, however, showed most of
the French public identified with Bardot’s perspective––if not
for the same reasons.
Many Hindus have an even more visceral response.
Strict Hinduism not only abhors animal suffering, but reveres
cows as the spritual Mothers of India. Cattle are not commonly
slaughtered at the Feast of Sacrifice in much of the Islamic
world, yet the Muslims of southern Asia do kill cattle, as the
victims of highest status. In Pakistan and Bangladesh, some
might even make a public point of doing it, by way of rejecting
Indian cultural and political influence.
Historically, Muslim conquerors used public cow
slaughter to “cow” Hindu subjects. The beefeating habits of the
English rulers who followed the moguls, though more discreet,
also contributed to the growth of Hindu nationalism, recently
rebounding in India coincidental with rising controversy about
Indian cattle exports––mostly to Islamic nations.
The British broke the might of the moguls more than
280 years ago, and the British in turn left India 50 years ago,
but pledges to ban cow slaughter still have political resonance.
Such pledges helped elect most of the leaders of the Bharatiya
Janata party-led coalition which formed a new Indian government
in India in March.
The imminence of Mahavir Jayanti added to the
prospect of cultural collision. Indian slaughterhouses have
been closed for three days at Mahavir Jayanti since 1963. This
year, some reportedly were to be allowed to remain open––a
decision only reversed four days before the Feast of Sacrifice,
five days before Mahavir Jayanti.
A search of Indian newspaper web sites produced no
indication of trouble beyond that controversy, which apparently
did not erupt at street level. The most publicized action on
cow slaughter leading up to the Feast of Sacrifice was a picket
line maintained at all three cattle export checkpoints in Mumbai
(Bombay) by the Hindu organizations Vishwa Hindu Parishad
and Bajrang Dal, together with local animal protection groups.
In 1997 a similar effort reportedly rescued 850 bullocks
and calves who were not yet beyond their working years
and were therefore not eligible for slaughter. Fifty-nine cattle
were reportedly intercepted on April 2 this year, but further
data was not published.
As Hindus pulled cattle off the trucks taking them to
export, the governments of the largely Muslim nations of
Indonesia and Malaysia daily promised an adequate supply of
animals for killing. The promises were central to an ongoing
struggle to contain growing civil unrest over economic collapse
exascerbated in each nation––and to great extent caused––by
out-of-control forest fires, burning without respite for more
than ten months. Many of the fires were set by personnel of
logging firms with strong governmental connections. They
roared out of control last summer as result of prolonged
drought, which in itself depleted Malaysian and Indonesian
The drought combined with thick clouds of smoke
and falling soot to stunt pastures. Livestock production plummeted.
The economic crisis meanwhile restricted the availability
of foreign credit for livestock purchase.
That provoked rumors of a shortage of animals––as
happened in Singapore last year, when a ship from Australia
failed to deliver 3,424 sheep and 20 cows on schedule. Thirtyfive
Singaporan mosques cancelled their scheduled slaughter
rituals. Singaporans don’t riot, but they grumbled loudly.
Though Singapore remains politically and economically
stable, under the weight of a government notoriously
intolerant of any dissent that might harm the economic climate,
Singaporan media expressed open relief when the 4,000 sheep
ordered for this year all arrived on schedule.
Indonesian and Malaysian ritual slaughter likewise
proceeded as planned, albeit on a lesser scale than in previous
years, as authorities urged heads of households to share animals,
and the price of goats––the poor household’s choice for
slaughter––reportedly more than doubled due to the scarcity of
imported sheep and cattle.
Globally, the major incidents associated with the
Feast of Sacrifice this year came in England and Israel.
At Billericay, Essex, police broke up a clash
between about 40 protesters and Muslims who were allegedly
cutting sheeps’ throats in an open field, a claim that the property
owner reportedly denied. A planned massacre of 600 sheep
at nearby Dunton was cancelled, according to Will Bennett of
The Daily Telegraph. Demonstrators also protested the ritual
killing outside a h a l a l slaughterhouse in Upminster, east
London, Bennett said.
Potentially more violent conflict was averted in
Jerusalem months earlier, as police on December 27 charged
murder suspect Yair Hershtik and two alleged associates,
Avigdor Eskin and Haim Peckovich, with plotting to celebrate
the Feast of Sacrifice by throwing a pig’s head into the Al Aqsa
Mosque. The mosque occupies the site of the last Jewish
Temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.
Eskin had just completed a four-month sentence for
having placed a death curse on former Israeli prime minister
Yitzhak Rabin two weeks before his assassination.
“If this plot had been carried out, I assume that a
great deal of Arab and Israeli blood would have been spilled on
the Temple Mount,” Jerusalem police chief Yair Yitzhaki told
Jack Katzenell of Associated Press.
If the alleged plotters hoped a holy war might permit
restoration of the Temple, which according to scripture cannot
be opened to worshippers without the sacrifice of a pure red
heifer, their hopes were dashed when Rabbi Shmaria Shore, of
Kfar Hassidim village, announced on January 16 that the purported
red heifer Melody had grown white hairs on her tail.
Shore created a stir in May 1997 by suggesting that Melody
might be the Israeli-born red heifer whom the Orthodox have
awaited for more than 1,900 years as a sign to rebuild the
Muslims and Jews have abhorence of pork in common,
which surfaced in a different context just after Passover,
when Lois Rogers and Andy Goldberg of the London Sunday
T i m e s revealed that “Jacob Lavee, director of the prestigious
Tel Hashomer transplant center near Tel Aviv, is meeting scientists
from Imutran, a British company, to discusss” the possibility
of doing the world’s first pig-to-human heart transplant
Commented Haifa chief rabbi Shear Yashu Cohen,
who directs the Ariel Institute for rabbinical law, “We as Jews
are not supposed to eat the meat of a pig, but there is no reason
not to use it to save a human life.”
Pig heart valves have reportedly been transplanted in
Israel for more than a decade.
The ethical issue of most concern to scientistics in
connection with the pig-to-human transplant has to do not with
religious dietary rules, but rather with the potential for accidental
transmission of disease from pigs to humans. Yet the
Islamic and Jewish dietary laws are believed to have originated
from similar concern.
A case involving consumption of proscribed meat
that provoked unrest among Islamic prisoners in New York
City moved toward resolution two days before the Feast of
Sacrifice, when Louis Quesnel, 58, co-owner of Middlebury
Packing in Middlebury, Vermont, pleaded guilty to mail fraud,
wire fraud, and mislabeling beef sold to the New York
Corrections Department in 1995 and 1996. Quesnel allegedly
sold the beef as having been slaughtered according to h a l a l
requirements when it was not. Quesnel and Middlebury
Packing face fines of as much as $750,000, plus restitution.
Related civil cases could follow. At issue would be
whether courts might recognize as actionable the emotional distress
of persons who inadvertantly consume substances contravening
religious belief. Mukesh K. Rai, a Hindu resident of
Oxnard, California, in January 1998 initiated a potentially
precedent-setting case by suing a Taco Bell franchise for
allegedly serving him a beef burrito instead of a bean burrito on
April 27, 1997. Rai claims damages including the cost of a
March 1998 pilgrimage to ritually purify himself by bathing in
the Ganges River.
Rai’s attorney, Joel Crosby of Santa Barbara, indicated
interest in establishing a precedent applicable on behalf of
all people who are vegetarian as a matter of ethical principle.
The case will be heard first in the Ventura County Superior
Court; precedential rulings could begin on appeal.
Conflict over public celebration of the Feast of
Sacrifice in the U.S., escalating in recent years, eased this year
when the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge, New York, hired the
Astroland Amusement Park at Coney Island for the biggest
observance of the day. About 19,000 New York-region
Muslims attended––but only 5,000 reportedly turned out in
time for the prayer service commencing the celebration. If animal-killing
was included, media accounts didn’t mention it.
The New York Times did mention, however, that even in
Egypt, taking children to zoos is becoming a popular replacement
for the bloodletting.
Several thousand Muslims did kill animals at ceremonies
in Fort Worth, Texas.
“Mohammed Kaiser of Keller guided his two sons,
Ricky, 11, and Jeffrey, 8, through the procedure for the first
time,” reported Matthew Brady of the Fort Worth Telegram.
“As workers wrestled the selected goat into a pen, one of
Kaiser’s sons reached out to pet the animal. Kaiser smiled
slightly and acknowledged that explaining the sacrifice to his
children is difficult. ‘I have to answer a lot of questions from
my kids about this,’ he said. ‘It’s really hard for them to understand
why someone has to die.’”
Continued Brady, “As blood drained from the
slashed throat of the goat, Ricky watched quietly. ‘We have to
do this,’ he said. ‘It is good because we are sacrificing to God.
It’s not like we are trying to be mean.’”
Personal to Kaiser: Fort Worth has a very good zoo.
Zoo-going long since became a central part of Easter
and Passover celebrations. The only reported trouble resulting
from that practice emerged––predictably––in Jerusalem, where
the elephants and hippos at the Biblical Zoo were temporarily
deprived of their normal daily ration of 10 loaves of bread per
day. The bread rations were interrupted so that observant
Jewish keepers wouldn’t risk contact with the bread. Instead,
the animals were given an unleavened feed, especially prepared
under rabbinical supervision, of which they were reportedly
“They are not happy,” zoo spokesperson Icho Gur
acknowledged to Associated Press. “But they
should understand that they live in a Jewish
AP said Gur was joking.
The Biblical Zoo displays species
mentioned in the Torah and the Bible.
While animal slaughter associated
with the Feast of Sacrifice, Easter, and
Passover is mostly for the table, animal sacrifice
in the most literal sense is still routinely
practiced by adherants of many faiths, including
in the United States.
Since a mid-1993 U.S. Supreme
Court ruling that animal sacrifice per se is protected
by the First Amendment and cannot be
forbidden, American opponents have tried to
fight the practice mostly through application of
health, sanitation, and animal care laws––
with little success.
The Supreme Court verdict was
meanwhile apparently broadened, albeit not at
a precedential level, when Judge J. Thomas
Mott of the Ramsey County District Court in
St. Paul, Minnesota, ruled on November 25,
1997 that Hmong immigrant and assault victim
Txawj Xiong was entitled to $985 in restitution
from his attacker, Anthony Tenerelli,
covering the cost of a cow who was sacrificed
in a healing ceremony, a pig who was roasted
and served to the attendees, and the labor of
the woman who led the ceremony.
Tenerelli is reportedly appealing.
Earlier in 1997, Judge Bruce Willis of
Minnesota Court of Appeals overturned restitution
of $600 in a case involving “a Hmong
man convicted of having consensual sex with a
12-year-old Mong girl,” according to Paul
Gustafson of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
“Even accounting for cultural differences,”
Willis wrote, “we cannot find that
requiring [the defendant] to pay for pigs,
chickens, and other items for a ‘spiritual healing’
ceremony is analagous to therapy as contemplated
by the statute” governing restitution
for criminally inflicted damages.
Animal sacrifice is likewise protected
in India as an aspect of religious freedom,
despite numerous local and regional laws,
mostly decades old, which have tried to prevent
it. Abhorent to most Hindus and all Jains
for at least 2,300 years, animal sacrifice
remains central to the branch of Hinduism
which worships Kali, the goddess of blood,
wife of Shiva, the god of destruction.
Law enforcement hasn’t been willing
or able to do much about Indian animal sacrifice,
but humane emissaries have enjoyed
noteworthy recent success, largely by teaching
science. The January/February 1998 edition of
ANIMAL PEOPLE briefly described how
Jain emissary Indal Chauman, dispatched by
philanthropist Ratanlal Bafna of Jalgoan, last
year ended animal sacrifice in one village of
Dr. Ranjit Konkar recounts similar
success in the spring 1998 edition of
Compassionate Friend, published by Beauty
Without Cruelty India [on the World Wide
Web at >>http://giaspn01.vsnl.net.in/~bwindia<<]––and
it came in a tough territory:
Udbur, Mysore district, Karnataka state.
Karnatakan public ritual fox torture
at the annual festival of Makar Sankranti has
shocked the world since the All India Animal
Welfare Association of Bombay brought the
tortures as practiced in the villages of Kadabal
and Dhaganhalli to media note in 1994. The
All India Animal Welfare Association in
December 1994 won a ruling against the rituals
from the High Court of Karnataka in
Bangalore, which held they were not of an
inherently religious nature, but were rather
rather a form of fox-hunting, banned since
Indian independence from Britain.
But that didn’t stop the abuse. In
January 1997, BWC-India, of Pune, and
Compassion Unlimited Plus Action, of
Bangalore, sent Konkar and colleague S.
Maruthish to Udbur, where they documented
essentially the same practices.
Konkar and Maruthish were able to
limit but not prevent the abuse of the fox then.
They found out too late about the sacrifice of
hundreds of sheep and goats.
“It was decided,” Konkar wrote, “to
concentrate upon the issue of goat and sheep
sacrifice” in 1998 “because of the enormously
greater quantity and worse quality of suffering
that it represents.”
Working with local vegetarian economist
and politician G. Murthy, and Mysore
superintendent of police Sunil Agarwal, who
reportedly needed little persuasion to back up
the effort, Konkar and Maruthish spent most
of a year in persuading village elders that animal
sacrifice and associated abuses were
bringing Udbur a bad name, and that animal
sacrifice could be abolished without giving up
The latter concession had a dual purpose:
first, to achieve a quick end to sacrifice,
and second, to ease the introduction of vegetarianism
by separating dietary issues from
matters of culture.
“Instead of blood flowing over the
sacrificial altar in the temple, there was to be
seen sweet coconut water” this year, Konkar
stated. “Instead of the offering of the goats’
heads to the goddess, people were seen offering
bananas and flowers. Instead of writhing
bodies of beheaded animals lying all around in
the temple courtyard, there were flower petals.
The children, instead of watching in fearful
puzzlement the sign of animal after animal
being butchered in front of them, got to run
around in the temple in the fun and merriment
that is in keeping with the true spirit” of celebration.
The fox this year was merely captured,
held briefly, and then released.
“Our target for next year is to persuade
the villagers to desist from slaughter
entirely,” Konkar said.
The Tao of pork
As shocking as Kali-worship was the
televised February 1 sacrifice of a prize-winning
pig at the Tsushi Taoist temple in
Sanhisa, a suburb of Taipei, Taiwan.
Purportedly based on the teachings of LaoTze,
with a written tradition originating at
about the same time as Buddhism and Jainism,
Taoism is generally recognized as a synthesis
of Mahayana (eastern) Buddhism with many
regional pantheistic beliefs. The Buddha
abhored animal sacrifice, but for 200 years or
more the Tsushi Taos have sacrificed the
biggest pig they could find to their god of agriculture.
The 1998 victim, an 18-month-old
boar, “was kept virtually immobile in a tightfitting
stall most of his life,” reported
Christopher Bodeen of Associated Press.
“Force-fed constantly, his enormous body was
cooled with water to relieve the heat generated
by the effort of all the eating. Mozart was
broadcast over speakers in his pen to placate
him. Having crushed other competitors” in the
annual giant pig contest, “the pig was adorned
with ribbons and worshipped with wads of fragrant
incense sticks,” preparatory to the
In short, the pig suffered an even
more miserable life and death than the 97 million
pigs slaughtered in the U.S. last year, who
died for no purpose more sacred than meat.
But the difference was a matter of degrees:
everything done to the sacrificial pig was just
standard U.S. factory farming practice taken to
Taoist fishers in Hong Kong “prayed
to the goddess who guards the sea” during the
April 19 Tin Hau Festival, seeking “respite
from the red tide crisis” that has recently devastated
both fishing and fish-farming in the
region, according to Naomi Lee of the South
China Morning Post. They served the goddess,
Lee said, “by burning incense, roasting
pigs, and putting on Chinese operas.”
Whether the pigs were sacrificed or
merely killed, as if it makes any different to
them, Lee didn’t say.
The populations of both Taiwan and
Hong Kong were inured to slaughter during
the past year––if they needed any inuring––by
the killing of 4.3 million Taiwanese pigs to
contain an outbreak of hoof-and-mouth disease,
and 1.5 million Hong Kong chickens and
other fowl to contain avian influenza.
Profaning the name
In November 1997 the National
Conference of Catholic Bishops Pro-Life
Committee raised the idea of restoring the tradition
of meatless Fridays, broken about 35
years ago, in symbolic protest against abortion.
Speaking for the proposal were Cardinals
Bernard Law of Boston, Adam Malda of
Detroit, and Francis E. George of Chicago.
That, People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals campaign coordinator
Bruce G. Friedrich told media, inspired him to
write in January to 449 U.S. Catholic bishops
and the evangelists Jerry Falwell, Pat
Robertson, Oral Roberts, and Billy Graham,
urging them to endorse vegetarianism.
“It’s what Jesus would do,”
Friedrich claimed, quoting Genesis 1:28-29 as
a Biblical injunction against meat-eating.
“Eating meat mocks God,” Friedrich held,
“by torturing animals, polluting the earth, and
destroying our own health.”
Among the 20 replies Friedrich
received by Palm Sunday, Cardinal George
held that Jesus did eat meat, objected that vegetarianism
“has not been part of the Christian
tradition, as it has been in Hinduism,” and
reportedly urged PETA to redirect itself
toward opposing abortion, “in line with
Catholic teaching and tradition.”
Bishop Roberto Gonz-ales of Corpus
Christi, Texas, told Friedrich that although he
himself is vegetarian, he would not “make
such a recommendation for the faithful at
Retired Bishop Francis Quinn, of
Sacramento, California, reportedly wrote that
he is “95% vegetarian and working toward
Friedrich also asked 14 U.S. and
Canadian slaughterhouses to close for Good
Friday. He claimed a victory, more or less,
when Sunnyland Poultry Products Ltd. of
Wynyard, Saskatchewan, told Canadian Press
that it would close––butthe Sunnyland
spokespersons added that Good Friday shutdowns
are a longstanding company tradition.
Friedrich drew indirect and probably
unintentional support for his ecological contentions
on Good Friday from 13 Ohio bishops
and auxiliary bishops, who jointly asked “state
policy makers to evaluate the legacy of vertical
integration,” i.e. ownership of every phase of
production by single companies, “especially
in the livestock, dairy, and poultry industries.”
But the bishops stipulated that their
concern was for “farmers, agricultural workers,
rural communities, and the local environment,”
not for animals.
The Ohio statement paralleled a
December 1997 resolution by the National
Catholic Rural Life Committee, which called
for “the replacement of factory farms by a sustainable
Friedrich’s letters went out the same
week that the Sisters of St. Francis in
Dubuque, Iowa, lamented to Jennifer
Wilkinson of the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald
that two special bowhunts held at their 120-
acre convent campus in late 1997 had bagged
only five of the 20 does and fawns that the sisters
wished to have killed––in direct contradiction
of the teachings of St. Francis himself,
who held hunting to be sacrilege.
The Reverend Hoare
Various representatives of the
Church of England meanwhile maintained the
Anglican reputation for tolerance of sins of the
flesh. Tom Butler, initially as Bishop of
Leicester and later as Bishop of Southwark,
after a promotion, led public opposition to a
ban on sales of beef still attached to the bone.
The ban was imposed by recommendation to
British chief medical officer Sir Kenneth
Calman in an effort to prevent the spread of
“mad cow disease” to humans. Resistance
included beef-on-bone banquets, blessed by
Six other bishops led by John Oliver,
Bishop of Hereford, argued in The Daily
Telegraph against efforts to ban fox hunting.
The Reverend Toddy Hoare, of Thirsk, North
Yorkshire, upstaged them, however, by missing three services
to march in London against a since defeated anti-fox hunting
bill, with the claimed support of all but one member of the 12
congregations under his ministry.
Noted Paul Wilkinson of the London Times, “Mr.
Hoare, an accomplished sculptor, has courted controversy
before. In 1995 he fashioned for one of his churches panels of
the Apostles and Mary Magdalene as nudes.”
But, in a sign of growing empathy toward animals
within the Church of England, the Hereford Cathedral
Perpetual Trust in March allowed the stonemasons who are
conducting a $1.6 million cathedral restoration to include the
likeness of a pig named Butch on a four-foot handcarved stone,
to top a pinnacle above the cathedral chapel.
Butch and a companion, Sundance, escaped from a
slaughterhouse in January, swam a river to elude capture, and
were eventually transferred to permanent sanctuary.
Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish leaders on February
3 joined scientists organized by the Endangered Species
Coalition, a consortium of environmental groups, in urging
Congress to maintain a strong Endangered Species Act.
“The only ark large enough and varied enough to
save every species is the earth itself,” said Rabbi Arthur
Waskow, of the Shalom Center in Germantown, Pennsylvania.
In Oklahoma, United Methodist opposition caused
Land O’Lakes to cancel plans to build a factory hog farm near
Canyon Camp, a church facility near the town of Hinton.
In the Appalachians, snakehandling and strychninedrinking
ceremonies at remote fundamentalist churches briefly
drew attention after Daryl R. Collins, 23, of Barbourville,
Kentucky, on December 14, 1997 received a fatal bite at the
Saylor Pentecostal Church in Crockett, Kentucky. Collins was
the 10th known Kentucky victim in 20 years. Minister Kale
Saylor was killed at the same church in March 1995.
Like Indian animal sacrifice, the ceremonies are
technically banned by state and local ordinances, but tolerated
as expressions of religious freedom, and likely to continue
regardless of law enforcement until and unless someone convinces
the practicioners that the way to holiness is not through
the practice of ritual abuse.
The common origins of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic
religions in ancient Middle Eastern herding cults were recalled
when the April 2 edition of N a t u r e disclosed evidence that a
6,500-year-old circle of stone slabs called the Nabta Playa is
the oldest known center of astronomy and nature worship––
and, perhaps, of animal sacrifice.
Located 60 miles west of the Nile River, the Nabta
Playa is about 1,000 years older than Stonehenge. It was apparently
built by the ancestors of the Egyptian pyramid-builders.
“This is the oldest documented astronomical alignment
of megaliths in the world,” University of Colorado
anthropologist J. McKim Malville told Rocky Mountain News
science writer Joseph B. Verrengia.
“The Nabta culture,” Verrengia explained, “was one
of the first to practice organized agriculture in Africa, including
cattle herding and domesticating strains of wild grains. One
structure includes a sculpted rock resembling a cow.
Anthropologists also uncovered several ceremonial burial
chambers that contained cow skeletons.”
Commented Southern Methodist University anthropologist
Fred Wendorf, “The apparent presence of a cattle cult
at Nabta is intriguing, particularly considering the importance
of cattle in early Egyptian mythology.”
According to Vedic tradition, cow slaughter was
already banned in India. The conflict between meat-eating and
ahimsa, it would seem, had already begun.