Creature Quotes: Advancing Toward Freedom For All Species

>>  Tuesday, March 29, 2011

March must be Monarch Month. At least it is at Once Upon a Vegan. The first day of March featured "The Purpose of a Butterfly--We Too Can Morph... We Too Can Evolve" by resident blogger Bea Elliott. On March 7th, guest blogger SBH Clay made an appearance with Part I of "In Honor of a Friend Named Lucius -- and His Butterfly." On March 22nd, Bea wrote "Enlarging My Cocoon -- A Right Change for Animals." Here is the last hurrah for the March "flutterbys" (as Bea called them in her youth): the promised Part II of SBH Clay's missive.

Readers of my first guest blog learned that my Boxer friend Lucius helped me see butterflies in a new way: as gentle messengers of light and love. They show us, by their graceful flight into yonder, how to gently exit earth-laden, limited concepts of ourselves. They guide us toward higher, purer, freer views of life. They exemplify how physical separation doesn't stop us from experiencing and enjoying the presence of our loved one's forever-tangible spiritual individuality.

At the end of Part I, I referred to "a project I had started when Lucius was still here" which "would one day become an online book whose home page icons are ... butterflies!"

It came about this way: A decade or so ago, I grew increasingly interested in the cause of animal rights. I began to notice intriguing quotations written through the ages by a wide range of thinkers -- poets and priests, sufis and saints, rabbis and rabble-rousers, professors and philosophers -- on the subject of man's ethical obligations to animals. Little by little, I built up a folder of favorites. No one website contained all the quotes that attracted my attention. So, I thought, it might be helpful to have a single site where one could find a range of quotes--ancient and modern ... long and short ... religious and secular ... prose and poetry ... American and Asian ... African and Australian ... Middle Eastern and European.

The more quotations I amassed, the more convinced I became of the need for a compilation available in one location on the Internet. Such a compendium, I saw, would lift humanity's thought about animals to a more moral and spiritual plane in these ways:
  • Highlight free, happy animals in their true depict.
  • Expose man-made systems that suppress that freedom and individual expression. 
  • Reveal ugly hidden facts that readers deserve and demand to know, equipping them to make informed choices aligned with their values. 
  • Show confirmed animal-lovers what justice toward animals entails. 
  • Persuade animal-unaware-but-open-minded individuals to extend their circle of compassion to embrace their creature kin. 
I knew, from experience, that once people understand that the Golden Rule also applies to our animal neighbors, they are naturally inclined to treat them with the same fairness, dignity, kindness, and respect as they treat humans.

For the first few years, I tracked down quotes sporadically. With every new idea I gathered, my thinking became more enlightened. And my heart for animals enlarged. I began to recall all the times I acted in ways that hurt their interests. It bothered me deeply. One by one, I started shedding old desires, thought patterns, ways, habits. Slowly, my motives and actions shifted from being animal-harmful (usually unwittingly and indirectly) to being as animal-and-earth-and-thus-people-friendly as humanly possible. It never felt like a burden, an inconvenience or a difficult sacrifice. Instead, it felt -- and continues to feel -- like a joy, an honor, a newfound freedom.

Here is a sampling of my shifts in thinking and behavior:
  • Whereas I once figured that a trip to the zoo I took with a big family of little kids was educational and fun, I saw that my visit had impliedly sanctioned the imprisonment of innocents; the next time I went there, it was to demonstrate against its elephant-breeding program and baby elephant deaths.
  • Whereas I once attended a rodeo courtesy of an amateur cutting-horse champion, the animal abuse built into most events, not to mention the imminent slaughter of all the livestock there, turned me into an avid anti-rodeo protester.
  • Whereas I once thought that no cow would know the difference if I bought leather jogging shoes, I later decided that even if she didn't, I did; from then on, keeping a clear conscience meant purchasing fashionable non-leather footwear.
  • Whereas I once justified buying a cheesecake for a special occasion, I whipped up a scrumptious dairy-free equivalent for a party the next time around.
  • Whereas I once pretended that one dairy purchase per month was acceptable, I finally conceded I had no right to gratify my appetite for Swiss cheese if it meant causing mother and baby bovines to suffer. Rice-milk and soy cheese proved to be satisfying substitutes.
  • Whereas I once tried to offset high prices for vegan processed foods by procuring the least expensive fruits and veggies, I'm gradually switching to pricier organic produce as a way of doing the most good and least harm, including to farm employees and wildlife.
  • Whereas I once snuffed out animals I deemed pests (cockroaches, spiders, ants, wasps, hornets, snails, slugs), I allowed my feelings to be transformed; one species at a time, I came to see them as friends. By treating them with respect and sometimes with snacks, I found they responded in kind, either by staying outside or standing still so I could scoop them up and carry them outdoors.
  • Whereas I once poohpoohed applying a dog training book written by a friend to my own canine child, believing it was only meant for super-aggressive dogs, I finally humbled myself and practiced the commands with Lucius when he was going through a needy phase after Olivia went on. I realized it was right to teach him to trust and obey; it would make him feel secure, thus happy, thus peaceful. That training saved our lives one day, when a huge, heavy real estate sign fell on the sidewalk where we would have been had we not paused to practice our routine.  (Note: The training prepared me for my next and last Boxer, who proved to be a handful; I realized that it was I who needed to learn more about patience and perseverance than anything Lucius might've needed to learn!)
It isn't that I have a preordained checklist of dos and don'ts. It is, rather, that my turning to the light, like a flower, has helped me grow and prosper in the bed of compassion whose seeds were planted, in part, by the quotes' authors.

From the fall of 2009 through the spring of 2010, I devoted 18 hours a day to arranging the quotes--chronologically, by author's birth year; finding and formatting 500 photos of animal faces; working with a web designer and programmer; getting legal permissions; working with a copyright lawyer on terms of service; creating an index, a legend, a table of contents, and a home page. With the help of a Word 2007 tutor and a software/hardware specialist, we produced a 1,000-page compendium titled Creature Quotes: Advancing Toward Freedom For All Species.

But what about the butterflies? The very first photo I chose was of a royal blue butterfly, which now graces the top of the first and last chapters. I planned to have a butterfly logo atop each chapter, but that didn't look so hot. I did, though, find places for several other butterfly photos, including at the halfway point -- the close of Chapter 13 (there are 27 chapters to read; the 28th is a photo and closing quote only).

At first, it didn't occur to me to give the home page a butterfly motif. We looked at photos of beach grass, sand, and oceans. None looked good. Then we considered animal feathers and footprints. They didn't feel right either. One day Lucius' butterfly came to mind. I found a silhouette of a butterfly, then a butterfly quote that summed up my feelings about the entire project: "If nothing ever changed, there'd be no butterflies." It also represented, to me, the progress I had been making, moment by moment, in my awareness and affirmation of animals.

This week, in preparation for this guest blog, I perused the early chapters of Rereading the quotes brought me as much joy as I felt the first time around. In case any of you would like to read a few select ideas from the first six chapters, here are some I chose for Once Upon a Vegan. (If Bea wants, I can handpick quotes from the rest of the chapters for future guest blogs.)

CHAPTER 2: "All living beings love their life, desire pleasure, and are averse to pain; they dislike any injury to themselves; everybody is desirous of life, and to every being, his own life is very dear. This is the quintessence of wisdom: Not to injure any living being." ~ Arabian proverb

CHAPTER 3: "Non-violence and kindness to living beings is kindness to oneself. For thereby one's own self is saved from various kinds of sins and resultant sufferings and is able to secure his own welfare." ~ Lord Mahavira, Prince Vardhamana (599-527 B.C.E.) Indian founder of Jainism

"See yourself in others. Then whom can you hurt? What harm can you do?" ... "In the majority of cases the slaughtering of innocent living beings is done for pride and very rarely for other causes." ~ Buddha Siddhartha Gautama (563-483 B.C.E.) Nepalese founder of Buddhism

"The highest realms of thought are impossible to reach without first attaining an understanding of compassion." ~ Socrates (469-399 B.C.E.) Greek philosopher and teacher

"The soul is the same in all living creatures, although the body of each is different." ~ Hippocrates (460-370 B.C.E.) Greek physician, "The Father of Medicine"

"Dare to be wise! Stop killing animals!" ~ Horace (65-8 B.C.E.) Roman lyric poet

"Let us ask what is best, not what is customary. Let us love temperance—let us be just—let us refrain from bloodshed." ~ Seneca (c. 8 B.C.E.-65 C.E.) Roman statesman, philosopher, dramatist

CHAPTER 4: "But for the sake of some little mouthful of flesh we deprive a soul of the sun and light, and of that proportion of life and time it had been born into the world to enjoy." ~ Plutarch (c. 46-120) Greek historian, biographer, essayist, philosopher

"Sacrifices were invented by men to be a pretext for eating flesh." ~ Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-216) Greek founder of the Alexandrian school of Christian theology

"How unworthy do you press the example of Christ as having come eating and drinking into the service of your lusts: I think that He who pronounced not the full, but the hungry and thirsty 'Blessed,' who professed His work to be the completion of His Father’s will, I think that he was wont to abstain, instructing them to labor for that 'meat' which lasts to eternal life, and enjoying in their common prayers petition, not for flesh food, but for bread only." ~ Tertullian (c. 160-235) Carthage-born early Christian theologian and author

"The unnatural eating of flesh-meats is as polluting as the heathen worship of devils, with its sacrifices and its unpure feasts, through participation in which a man becomes a fellow-eater with devils." ~ Clementine Homilies (2nd century) Greek books on the Apostle Peter

"It is surely unsound to deny that good of life to animals only because they do not appear to man to be of great account." ~ Plotinus (205-270) Greek philosopher, 'Father of Neoplatonism'

"[If animals could speak] should we dare to kill and eat them? Should we dare to commit these fratricides?" ~ Porphyry of Tyre (c. 233-309) Greek Neoplatonic philosopher

CHAPTER 5: "It should not be believed that all beings exist for the sake of the existence of man. On the contrary, all the other beings too have been intended for their own sakes and not for the sake of anything else." ... "There is no difference between the pain of humans and the pain of other living beings, since the love and tenderness of the mother for the young are not produced by reasoning, but by feeling, and this faculty exists not only in humans but in most living beings." ~ Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) North African physician, philosopher, Talmud codifier

"The reason why God’s servants love His creatures so deeply is that they realize how deeply Christ loves them. And this is the very character of love: to love what is loved by those we love." ~ St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) Italian Dominican Order theologian and philosopher

"And if thy heart be straight with God, then every creature shall be to thee a mirror of life and a book of holy doctrine, for there is no creature so little or so vile, but that sheweth and representeth the goodness of God." ~ Thomas a Kempis (c. 1379-1471) German Augustinian monk and author

"If a man wants freedom why keep birds and animals in cages?" ~ Leonardo da Vinci (1452)-1519) Italian Renaissance painter

"Why do you kill us? Why do you cook, fry and cut up our body? Did the Creator not give you the herbs and the fruits of the fields and forests? What have we done to you that you keep us in prisons and feed us your waste products? Your hearts are poor in feeling and merciless." ... "Learn to be compassionate by putting yourself in our position." ... "When they then taste a piece of the meat of the wild game, they think they are almost completely ennobled. While these people with their constant hunting and gluttony basically only attain their own decadence, they think they live like kings." ~ Erasmus (c. 1465-1536) Dutch humanist and author

"See, Christ makes the birds our masters and teachers! so that a feeble sparrow, to our great and perpetual shame, stands in the gospel as a doctor and preacher to the wisest of men." ~ Martin Luther (1483-1546) German founder of the Protestant movement

"The nobler a soul is, the more objects of compassion it hath." ~ Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English Renaissance essayist, philosophere, statesman

CHAPTER 6: "[Animals] express their desire of honour, generosity, industrious sagacity, courage, magnanimity, and the love and fear; neither are they void of subtlety and wisdom." ... "[They are] able to understand and express themselves in the language of gesture, teaching us by learning of us, that capable they be not only of the inward discourse of reason, but of the outward gift of utterance by gesture." ~ John Bulwer (1606-1656) English physician

"[Animals may not speak or do ciphers, yet their] perceptions and observations [may] be as wise as men's, and they may have as much intelligence and commerce betwixt each other, after their own manner and way, as men have after theirs." ... "[T]he ignorance of men concerning other creatures [permits them to despise animals and consider themselves] …petty Gods in Nature." ... "Who knows whether fish do not know more of the nature of water, and ebbing and flowing, and the saltness of the sea? or whether birds do not know more of the nature and degrees of air, or the cause of tempests: or whether worms do not know more of the nature of earth, and how plants are produced? or bees of the several sorts of juices of flowers, than men." ... "I should rather think it irreligious to confine sense and reason only to Man, and to say, that no Creature adores and worships God, but Man, which, in my judgment, argues a great pride, self-conceit, and presumption." ~ Her Grace Margaret Cavendish (1623-1673) English Duchess of Newcastle upon Tyne, author of prose, poetry, plays, essays

"Be a friend to everything that’s good, and then everything will be a friend to thee, and cooperate for thy good and welfare." ... "Does not bounteous Mother Earth furnish us with all sorts of food necessary for life? Though you will not fight with and kill those of your own species, yet I must be bold to tell you, that these lesser violences (as you call them) do proceed from the same root of wrath and bitterness as the greater do." ~ Thomas Tryon (1634-1703) English Quaker humanitarian

"Take this rule: whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off your relish of spiritual things; in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself." (letter to son John, June 8, 1725) ~ Susanna Annesley Wesley (1669-1742) English mother of John Wesley, founder of Methodism

"The question I design to treat of here is, whether animal…food was, in the original design of the Creator, intended for the food of animals, and particularly of the human race. And I am almost convinced it never was intended, but only permitted as a curse or punishment." ... "I cannot find any great difference, on the basis of natural reason and equity only, between feeding on human flesh and feeding on animal flesh, except custom and practice." ~ George Cheyne (1671-1743) Scottish physician

"How can we behave so sadistically toward these lovely creatures fashioned by the Holy One, blessed be he, to inhabit his world? How can we justify killing these innocent animals in such a cruel manner? And should one retort: 'What matters it to me if these fowl agonize unduly in their death throes? Will God choose to plead their cause and exact vengeance for their spilt blood?' I declare, 'Open your eyes and behold how demanding our holy Torah is in the area of tzaar baalei hayyim' [the pain of living creatures]." ~ Samson ben Joshua Moses Morpurgo (1681-1740) Italian Jewish rabbi, scholar, physician, liturgist

"[We can find nothing] throughout the whole analogy of nature to afford us even the slightest presumption, that animals ever lose their living powers; much less, if it were possible, that they lose them by death; for we have no faculties wherewith to trace any beyond or through it, so as to see what becomes of them. This event removes them from our view. It destroys the sensible proof, which we had before their death, of their being possessed of living powers, but does not appear to afford the least reason to believe that they are, then, or by that event, deprived of them." ~ Joseph Butler (1692-1752) English Anglican theologian, Bishop of Durham

"What barbarian is there, who would cause a lamb to be butchered and roasted, if that lamb conjured him, in an affecting appeal, not to be at once assassin and cannibal?" ... "If we believe absurdities, we commit atrocities." ... "Vegetarianism serves as the criterion by which we know that the pursuit of moral perfection on the part of humanity is genuine and sincere." ~ Voltaire (1694-1778) French author, philosopher, historian

Royal Blue Butterfly
Photo by Julia Young Brubaker/Mark the Seasons
Used with permission

African bull elephant in Botswana
Photo by John Maarschalk/Flickr
Used with permission

Green Turtle in Hawaii
Photo by Mila Zinkova/Wikimedia User
A 2007 Picture of the Year
GNU Free Documentation License

Ewe Virginia and her lamb Lenny at Animal Place Sanctuary
Photo by Marji Beach
Used with permission

Oil painting by Giotto di Bondone of Italy
Public Domain photo

Mother cow licking her calf
Photo by Peter Asprey/Flickr
Used with permission

Oil painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau of France
Public domain photo


Have Gone Vegan April 3, 2011 at 8:17 PM  

Wow, what a great project and wonderful gift! Thank you, SBH Clay, for your time, devotion and creativity in preparing this amazing document. It will inspire countless advocates for all time to come. Awesome! :)

Bea Elliott April 9, 2011 at 4:49 AM  

I agree Have Gone Vegan this truly is a wonderful compilation of wisdom!

I think SBH CLAY accomplished everything set about in the early years while formulating this idea:To show beautiful, free animals in their rightful light and in doing so, show humans how our wrong "non-thinking" prevents them from this place they ought to be in. These quotes do challenge the reader to align their actions with their values. In short to encourage humans to treat our animal kin "with the same fairness, dignity, kindness, and respect as they treat humans."

The way this body of work is organized into an understandable time-line it's intriguing to see how even in our "primitive" years (599-527 B.C.E. and beyond) there was true, authentic enlightenment. *Even then* it was supported that equal treatment ought to be part of man's thinking/living system.

It's amazing (and often frustrating) that we've come so very far with this ideology there for our taking - Yet, it seems that as the years/centuries progress, fairness becomes less visible... Less attainable. We really did "have it" since time began, we just allowed a terrible "sin" beyond "need" to lead us astray. I've thought from the beginning of my journey that this will be man's greatest challenge: To restore the balance between "them" and "us."

And of course in the future I'm anxious to have more specific quotes highlighted from more contemporary thinkers, featured on this blog. :)

But I must ask SBH CLAY - Surely this work can't "end" at the present? What are you to do with the very wise thoughts yet to be spoken today and tomorrow? It seems like Creature Quotes can't possibly be complete till the animals are truly "free." What quotable pieces are there left unsaid that might even include something similar to the "Emancipation Proclamation"?

I choose to believe that these inevitable changes are certain and I'm sure you SBH CLAY are figuring how to document these tributes to logical thinking as well! Oh Happy Day when all will manifest!

I know everything in your being and mine wants this so! Oh happy day when it truly is so! In the meantime, thanks for documenting beautifully the course of thought that has been thus far!

Anonymous April 28, 2011 at 3:44 AM  

Every miller draws water to his own mill.

Anonymous May 11, 2011 at 2:19 PM  

be happy and love. kiss

Harry September 29, 2011 at 3:57 PM  

SBH Clay, Creature Quotes is indeed, as HGV has said, a wonderful and incredible gift. Thank you.

This post too, tells us much about your journey; many of us have travelled (are travelling) similar journeys but fail to word it so eloquently. One strikes a particular chord:

"Whereas I once snuffed out animals I deemed pests (cockroaches, spiders, ants, wasps, hornets, snails, slugs), I allowed my feelings to be transformed; one species at a time, I came to see them as friends. By treating them with respect and sometimes with snacks, I found they responded in kind ..."

Every being has a right to live ...

SBH CLAY October 4, 2011 at 10:38 PM  

Tonight a birdie -- or was she a butterfly? yes! -- told me that someone(s) had commented on this post. It is a pleasure to read not only the responses (thank you, HGV, Bea, Harry for your kindness), but also to reread the blog itself. It sounded refreshingly "new" to me.

Looking back, I'm truly indebted to those whose profound words are quoted in CQ, to those whose photos grace its pages ... and of course to the dear animals themselves. Our teachers. Our friends. Our kin.