BOOKS: The Way of Compassion & A Vegetarian Lifestyle

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1999:

The Way of Compassion:
Survival Strategies for a World in Crisis
Edited by Martin Rowe
Stealth Technologies (POB 138, Prince St. Station, New York, NY 10012), 1999.
244 pages, paperback, $16.95.

A Vegetarian Lifestyle:
A way of life which causes no creature of land, sea, or air
terror, torture, or death
Edited by Diana Ratnagar and Ranjit Konkar
Beauty Without Cruelty – India (4 Prince of Wales Drive, Wanowrie,
Pune 411 040, India), 1999. 474 pages, paperback, no price listed.

 

“In June 1994,” The Way of
Compassion editor Martin Rowe opens, “my
colleague Beth Gould and I began a magazine,”
distributed in free bundles at New
York City restaurants and health food stores,
“called Satya. The word itself means ‘truth,’”
Rowe continues, “and it is one of the fundamental
precepts of the Jain religion of India.
The Jains believe in radical nonviolence, and
attempt to live that way as much as possible.”
The Way of Compassion assembles
many of the most memorable essays, book
excerpts, and interviews published by Satya
through 1998.


Blending “lifestyle” items with politics,
Satya differs from hundreds of other leftleaning
“throwaway” publications because it
not only embraces animal rights as a cause,
and vegetarianism as a politically correct
lifestyle, but takes the further step of editorially
recognizing that just about all freedom
and justice struggles are at some level about
how humans treat animals.
Most of the 47 contributors to T h e
Way of Compassion address that point,
sometimes from surprising angles.
The first interview, for instance,
“Memoirs of a Flyfisherman,” describes why
theologian James Carse took up fishing as a
boy, and why––in recognition of those reasons––he
abandoned it as an adult.
Maneka Gandhi confesses with her
usual exhuberance that she hates dogs,
because the many dogs she has rescued make
her a guest in her own house. “But the point
is,” she concludes, “I respect their right to
be.” She also keeps bringing them home and
feeding them, and arguing on their behalf
against those who would center the Indian
humane movement on cow protection, without
regard to dogs or other suffering species.
Rowe himself, Carol Adams, Matt
Ball, and others discuss the practical problems
of being a vegetarian in a world of meateaters.
Howard Lyman and John Robbins
take up the environmental and health aspects
of meat-eating. Shelton Walden, Dick
Gregory, and Andrew Linzey head the list of
those associating vegetarianism with ethically
consistent advocacy in other causes. Jane
Goodall, Roger Fouts, Jim Mason,
Lawrence Carter-Long, and Alan Berger are
among those taking up specific animal use
issues. Rynn Berry debunks the ever-circulating
myth that Adolph Hitler was ever a vegetarian
for longer than a matter of days.
The point, reminds the late Henry
Spira, is making a difference, not only in
what we advocate, but in how we live.
Satya is edited to be read at a sitting
––in specific, the time one waits at a restaurant
between ordering and receiving food.
The Way of Compassion can be read the same
way, in fragments over months, if need be.
Indeed, it might be best read in pieces,
allowing for individual contemplation of the
items of note.
A Vegetarian Lifestyle was also
edited to be read in fragments, as a reference
work for vegetarians in India. Much of the
information assembled by Diana Ratnagar and
Ranjit Konkar is very specific to India. A
great deal of their advice would be quite
impractical in the U.S. or Canada––and some
of their concern with absolute purity is not
very practical in India, either.
But practicality is not among their
uppermost concerns. Consideration is, and
they devote many pages to means of arranging
social occasions involving non-vegetarians so
as to avoid either ethical compromise or
mutually embarrassing conflict. These passages
may be useful to westerners as well as
Indians; the specific advice may not apply,
but the general approaches usually do.
A Vegetarian Lifestyle is especially
valuable to non-Indians as a window to the
attitudes and issues prevalent in the only large
nation where vegetarians are the majority––
and have been for 3,000 years, making the
maintenance and advancement of vegetarianism
a concern of religious fundamentalists and
staunch political conservatives, as well as of
radical activists.

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