Check out this blog message about church services for blessing animals and the discussion about it featured in the chapter “Christian Blessings for Pets” in the new book Taboo Or To Do (Darton Longman and Todd 2016).
The topic of Christian church services for the blessing of animals and domestic pets is discussed in a positive way in chapter nine of my new co-written book, Taboo Or To Do? Published by Darton Longman & Todd, 2016 (see pages 161-182). Find out more about the rest of the book see the blog (click here).
I want to urge my readers who live in Sydney Australia to do something on behalf of God’s creatures. What can you do? Support the Cat Protection Society, which is located at 103 Enmore Road, Newtown. Their website gives details on how you can lend practical assistance from volunteering time and donating funds.
Another vital step is to consider making a personal commitment to adopting a cat as your companion and for whom you accept the responsibility of being a good steward in caring for one of God’s creatures.
Recently, my wife addressed the Cat Protection Society on “Planning Ahead for Puss” (copy in pdf below), which explained the practical and legal steps that one can take on behalf of companion animals by making provision for their care in the event you lose capacity to care for yourself or in the event of your pet surviving your death. The key message was: estate planning is important so be prudent now and have a legal professional prepare these documents:
* Make a Will (so your wishes are carried out in the event of your death)
* Make a Power of Attorney (so your financial affairs are carried on by a trusted attorney if you lose your capacity to make decisions, which includes directions on what to do with your pets)
* Prepare an Advance Care Directive (concerning what decisions you want regarding your medical/health matters if you are unable to do so by being impaired/incapacitated).
N.B. The following text in this blog-post Mahatma Gandhi Hoax Quote Greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way that its animals are treated is Copyright © 2013 Philip Johnson.
Many people who care about the welfare and rights of animals make use of a quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1869-1948).
Internet websites and blogs, popular books and magazine articles, books by professional academics (animal rights lawyers, ethicists/philosophers, theologians) all claim that Gandhi said this:
The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way that its animals are treated.
I have just transcribed the above quote from Lewis Regenstein’s Replenish The Earth (New York: Crossroad, 1991, page 225). Regenstein does not offer an endnote to document where he obtained this quote from. Regenstein is not alone in doing this with regards to these words attributed to Gandhi.
Kenneth C. Balcomb III is another typical example:
I really like Sam Ridgway’s (2008) inclusion
of Mahatma Gandhi’s quote in his Historical
Perspectives piece: “The greatness of a nation and
its moral progress can be judged by the way its
animals are treated.” I would extend that to say
how its wildlife fellow beings are treated, and I
would remove any thought that we possess them
in any way. It is more that we travel with them
through time on this planet we call Earth, but I am
sure Gandhi knew that.
(Kenneth C. Balcomb, “Whales in a Changing World,” Aquatic Mammals 36 (2010): 407 [401-408]).
It comes as no surprise that following Balcomb’s suggestion I looked at Sam Ridgway’s essay “History of Veterinary medicine and marine mammals: a personal perspective” Aquatic Mammals 38:4 (2008): 471-513. Ridgway has the Gandhi quote as an epigraph statement at the start of his article BUT has no footnote/bibliographical citation as to where the Gandhi quote is to be found!
Other writers do supply a footnote but the source is always as Balcomb has done to cite it from another author, and no-one ever points directly to anything that Gandhi actually wrote.
In a series of previous posts on this blog I exposed the “hoax” of two animal friendly prayers that are attributed to the Christian Father St Basil the Great (start here for Part 1 of the 7-part series). In my posts about St Basil I exposed the poor chain of evidence: the prayers could not be found in anything St Basil wrote nor in the Liturgy of St Basil. I established in fact that the two prayers were composed in the early 20th century. I pleaded then as I do again here for animal activists of all stripes (popular and academic) to do their homework properly when it comes to quotations and the original sources of the quotes.
A good initial reason to be suspicious about the validity of the Gandhi quote revolves around the fact that just like the St Basil prayers, variant versions of the same quote exist.
One variant on the above reads:
The moral progress of a nation and its greatness should be judged by the way it treats its animals.
Another variant appears in the book What is Hinduism? The text was prepared by the editors of Hinduism Today. Here is the quote as it appears on page 309:
One can measure the greatness of a nation and its moral progress by the way it treats its animals. Cow protection to me is not mere protection of the cow. It means protection of all that lives and is helpless and weak in the world. The cow means the entire subhuman world.
I have just finished a painstaking search of all 98 volumes of the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi that were issued in 1999 by the Publications Division of the Government of India (there are earlier collections with slightly fewer numbered volumes). The collected works contain his speeches, letters, transcriptions of even telegrams, newspaper and magazine articles, prefaces he wrote to other writer’s works and so on.
The result of my search is that there is no such quote to be found in any of the 98 volumes! The quote in What is Hinduism is partly true, namely from the second sentence onwards “Cow protection … entire subhuman world”. Gandhi did make those remarks about cow protection. However when one consults the Collected Works the first sentence about moral progress is nowhere to be seen!
Yes Gandhi did write letters and other items expressing his views on cow-protection, stray dogs, his views on vivisection, his doctrine of ahimsa (non-violence) as shown to non-human creatures, his pilgrimmage from meat-eating to vegetarianism (influenced by the secular animal rights activist Henry Salt), etc. None of his writings in the Collected Works has the above quote (in either of the three variant versions).
At the moment I am unable to say “who” is the originator of this quote or who started the ball-rolling in claiming that Gandhi said these words. It is sufficient to note that the quote is not an authentic Gandhi quote (or if it is then will someone please supply an unambiguous and verifiable source?).
This is not the place to discuss Gandhi’s views on animals as that will require another arduous task of describing and understanding what he said in context. However, it is just worth noting that many animal activists have a romanticised picture of Gandhi on animals, which simply does not gel with what the man wrote, believed and practiced. Similarly, there is a romanticised view of Hinduism being more animal-friendly than many other religious faiths.
Gandhi was committed to the doctrine of ahimsa (non-violence) but he was forced to admit that he could not be consistent in living up to it as a principle in regards to some animals. Here are a few examples (in context) of what Gandhi had to say, and his remarks cast a somewhat different light on the man that runs counter to the impressions some western writers have about him.
Is there a wolf at large? A search should be made for it. Someone should be on the watch. Now I consider it our dharma [i.e. teaching] to destroy such animals. It will be a different thing if we discover an alternative.
(Letter from Gandhi to Y. M. Parnerkar, dated August 20, 1945. See Volume 87 of Collected Works page 387. Context of the letter is about a farm that seems to be endangered by a wild wolf on the prowl).
In a piece called “The Monkey Nuisance”:
My ahimsa is my own. I am not able to accept in its entirety the doctrine of non-killing of animals. I have no feeling in me to save the lives of animals which devour or cause hurt to man … I will not feed ants, monkeys or dogs … Unlike the animal, man has been given the faculty of reason.
(See Volume 90 Collected Works page 310. The context is Gandhi speaking about feral animals or wild animals being nuisances to human habitations. Notice that Gandhi’s remarks refer to the superiority of human beings possessing reason as a defining mark of difference. While Gandhi accepted organic biological evolution, and at times also spoke of kinship with animals, he nevertheless consistently maintained a view of human superiority vis-a-vis non-human creatures. According to many animal activists Christianity is to be blamed for an “anthropocentric” view of animals. Strange to say the same critics are silent in pointing out that Gandhi held to anthropocentrist views too.)
Again, when discussing the differences between animals and humans Gandhi said in reply to a question about animal and human souls:
True, there is a difference between the souls of men and of animals. Animals live in a sort of perpetual trance; but men can wake up and become conscious of God. God says, as it were, to man, “Look up and worship Me; you are made in My image.”
These remarks of course must be situated in the context of the notion of karma and rebirth, and so the souls of animals are in a lower state of spiritual development (often being human souls from former lives now reduced to the life of an animal while the law of karma is worked out in that soul’s experience of the cycle of life, death and rebirth).
Gandhi upheld human life over animal life:
My non-violence is not merely kindness to all living creatures. The emphasis laid on the sacredness of subhuman life in Jainism is understandable. But that can never mean that one is to be kind to this life in preference to human life.
(Volume 91 Collected Works page 61).
In a series of 7 pieces called “Is This Humanity?” Gandhi addressed the difficult problem of dealing with stray dogs in India, especially those being carriers of rabies. In the 7 pieces Gandhi defended the position of killing stray dogs because of the problems associated with dogs being feral, harming humans etc. The items appear in Vol 36 Collected Works pages 389-392, 410-412, 425-429, 449-451 and 481-484; and in Volume 37 Collected Works pages 20-23 and 52-54. It might also be noted that Gandhi believed that the “answer” to the problem of stray dogs could be found not in Indian society but by looking to the West:
There is a regular science of dog-keeping which the people in the West have formulated and perfected. We should learn it from them and devise measures for the solution of our own problem.
(Vol 36 Collected Works page 412).
Years later Gandhi alluded to his 7 piece series on stray dogs in the final decade of his life and reiterated:
Humanitarian instinct demands destruction of such animals in an instantaneous and painless measure.
(Vol 92 Collected Works page 428).
Finally (but this still does not exhaust all he ever said about animals):
Though I myself refrain from violence toward animals I must admit that I am not fit enough to dissuade others from it. I know that we have a duty towards animals, but cannot make others feel it. For that I need to have far greater purity, compassion and self-control in me. Without these, I cannot have deep spiritual knowledge and, in the absence of such knowledge, I cannot find the proper language. Without this kind of knowledge one cannot have self-confidence. I do not believe that I have the strength to persuade others to refrain from violence towards animals … I have surrendered all my powers to Lord Krishna. If, therefore, I ever acquire the strength to stop violence to animals, I will not let it remain unused.
(Vol 31 Collected Works pages 474-475; written in 1925).
Gandhi concluded the above piece on page 476 explaining why he cannot act on anti-cruelty to animals:
… and explain why I do not at present engage myself in this highest dharma of ending cruelty to animals.
We must let Gandhi be who he is rather than reinventing him into an image of our own liking. Its high time that we all admit to the hoax of believing that Gandhi ever made the “moral progress” quote.
For some discussion about Gandhi’s views on animals start with these:
* Ryan P. McLaughlin, “Non-Violence and Nonhumans: Foundations for Animal Welfare in the Thought of Mohandas Gandhi and Albert Schweitzer,” Journal of Religious Ethics 40 (2012): 678-704.
* A. Whitney Sanford, “Gandhi’s Agrarian Legacy: Practicing Food, Justice, and Sustainability in India,” Journal for the Study of Religion Nature and Culture 7 (2013): 65-87.
Deutsche Welle TV’s “In Focus” programme “Pigs for the Dump” was broadcast on 17 April 2013. The 42 minute video: “Eat or be eaten – a cycle that modern agriculture has put an end to. Millions of pigs are never eaten; their carcasses are just thrown away. Why? Who profits from it? Is there a different way of doing things? Industrial pig farming is booming in Germany, new vast animal factories are being built. The government evidently wants them. Both the EU and Germany support intensive animal farming on an industrial scale, which leads to over-production even if the market is saturated. For the big breeders, it’s still a very profitable business.”
Over 115% more pork than can actually be eaten in Germany. Over-supply has been a trend since 2005. This represents a wicked form of abuse toward the pigs, and an indictment on human greed and the obsession with money (people sell their souls to acquire pieces of paper with numerals on them).
Now the video segment can be viewed on youtube.
Also on the Australian scene see the Voiceless publication Science and Sense: The Case for Abolishing Sow Stalls (http://www.voiceless.org.au/sites/default/files/Science_and_Sense.pdf) and From Paddocks to Prisons: Pigs in NSW Australia, Current Practices, Future Directions
A FAITH EMBRACING ALL CREATURES, edited by Tripp York and Andy Alexis-Baker (Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books 2012). This book, which was released just at the end of 2012, represents a handsome attempt by a variety of authors to address some biblical and theological questions concerning the role and status of non-human creatures. I am pleased to extend an endorsement to the editors, authors and publisher for bringing this book into print.
While I do not agree with every viewpoint expressed in the book, I believe that this text has an important place in the growing corpus of theological works addressing “animal theology”. The book comprises fourteen chapters with contributions from some theologians and other scholars of repute in the field of animal theology including Carol J. Adams, Laura Hobgood-Oster, Stephen H. Webb, David Clough, John Berkman, Stephen R. L. Clark, and emerging voices such as the book’s co-editors. I will conduct a chapter-by-chapter review of this book in subsequent and sequential blog-posts.
In England the Institution of Mechanical Engineers has issued a timely report Global Food Waste Not, Want Not. The report may be downloaded as a pdf (click here). Readers interested in animal care issues should read the report.
There is considerable concern expressed about the wastage of fruit/vegetables harvested. Not all harvested vegetables even reach retail markets, and needless to say not all produce is actually bought let alone eaten. This problem stretches across developing nations and in technologically advanced nations like England, Australia etc.
Various problems are identified with food wastage in advanced countries such as consumer fuss over the appearance of produce, “use-by-dates” on produce; and poor storage facilities and poor distribution in less technologically developed nations.
The report points to the enormous consumption of water in producing different kinds of foods a studied just in the European continent where pundits might speak of “efficient” farming practices. The consumption of water the report tabulates relative to Europe should give pause for consideration in Australia where water is sometimes scarce and the cycles of drought/flood/fire beset us.
Based on the European study, the volume of water consumed for various products is cited (page 12):
1 kg of apples = 822 litres
1 kg of bread = 1,608 litres
1 kg of olives = 3,025 litres
1 kg of dry pasta = 1,849 litres
1 kg of rice = 2,497 litres
1 kg of tomatoes = 214 litres
The chart also tabulates water consumption for the production of meat (remembering that what we call “meat” was once an individual living creature):
1 kg of Beef = 15,415 litres
1 kg of Chicken meat = 4,325 litres
1 kg of Sheep meat = 10,412 litres
And for other items we consume by eating or using the amount of water:
1 litre of Biodiesel requires 11,397 litres
1 kg of chocolate requires 17,196 litres
The report cites other distressing points:-
- India 21 million tonnes of wheat wasted due to poor storage and poor distribution
- UK 7 million tonnes of food waste disposed of from households (roughly worth 10 billion pounds sterling)
- South East Asian nations — loss of rice harvested ranges from 37-80% of the entire crop
While many advocates for animal causes urge people to become vegetarian and/or vegan, there are enormous problems feeding the world with land usage, landfill of waste, water consumption per annum, and much more. The report does contain broad brush stroke recommendations on addressing problems but I remain highly suspicious of the rhetoric surrounding “sustainable economies”, when often times the jargon is like a code-word for people in advanced nations continuing to maintain the status quo of lifestyle at the expense of the rest of the world.
On a different note, the next post coming on this blog will be a book review of a newly released work A Faith Embracing All Creatures: Addressing Commonly Asked Questions about Christian Care for Animals, edited by Tripp York and Andy Alexis-Baker (Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books, 2012; imprint of Wipf & Stock Publishers). This book is volume 2 in a series known as the peaceable kingdom series (click here for more details).