Peace to All Beings: Creating a New Culture of Non-Violence
(article written for Lawrence (KS) Coalition for Peace and Justice March, 2003, newsletter)
By Judy Carman, M.A.
Maria Butler, Community Relations Coordinator for Lawrence Public Library, invited Carman to speak March 3, 2003, after reading in the Lawrence Journal World that Carman’s book had received an award from Spirituality and Health magazine as one of the best spiritual books of 2003.
Carman began her talk with a true story about JoJo, a chimpanzee who was captured in Africa. His mother was killed while trying to protect him, and he was taken to a zoo in the U.S. where he spent 10 years alone in a barren cage. Eventually, he was sold to the Detroit zoo. He was placed with other chimps in a larger enclosure surrounded by a moat. One day, JoJo fell into that moat and was unable to get out. Zookeepers and onlookers watched passively as JoJo began to drown. But one man, Rick Swope, took action. He leaped down into the moat and struggled to get the huge chimpanzee up onto the concrete embankment. When asked by the press, after the rescue, what prompted Swope to risk his life in such a way, he replied, “I looked into JoJo’s eyes and I knew he was asking ‘Won’t anybody help me?’.
Carman shared her conviction with the audience that all those attending a talk entitled ”Creating a New Culture of Nonviolence” would most likely be like Rick Swope—willing to respond to the cries of those who need us. She suggested that those in the audience most likely shared two things in common with each other: 1. a desire to decrease the amount of violence in the world, and 2. a vision and a hope for a world of peace, harmony, and freedom for all who live here.
She pointed out that we are all aware of the escalating violence at home and abroad among human beings and against the environment, but many are not yet aware of the enormous violence being done to animals. Her book, Peace to All Beings gives these animals a voice so that everyone who reads it can begin to hear their cries for help. It attempts to demonstrate that the peace and environmental movements cannot advance toward the peaceful world we envision until the animal rights movement is embraced as a key component to ending violence on this planet. She pointed out that Einstein, Gandhi, Schweitzer, Rachel Carson, Pythagoras, and many other great thinkers and spiritual leaders made it clear that human beings would find no peace among themselves until they stopped eating, killing, and using animals.
Since they spoke their words of compassion for animals, the amount of violence toward animals has escalated to an extent that is almost impossible to contemplate, much less hear about without weeping. As people of conscience and vision we bear witness to the violence of wars, genocide, ecocide, and the list goes on. Now it is time for us to bear witness to the greatest source of violence (most of it hidden from view) on earth in terms of the sheer numbers of victims. For until we fully comprehend the enormity of the violence now being perpetrated on the world’s innocents, we cannot know how to consistently and effectively create the nonviolent world that we are all called to create.
To help us bear witness, Carman listed a representative “tip of the iceberg” set of statistics and showed the audience some video footage. Some of the undercover footage showed the unbearably deplorable conditions under which nearly all farmed animals suffer and die in today’s industrialized farming business. In one clip, a young man who had grown up on a farm and had previously seen farm animals only as food, broke down in tears as he recalled his awakening to the true nature of these beautiful animals, each of whom has a distinct personality and each of whom simply wants to live his or her life in peace. Some of the statistics Carman mentioned included:
Carman pointed out that, although many forms of activism require a great devotion of time and energy, one of the most far reaching actions we can make takes no extra time at all. By simply buying food that contains no animal products, each one of us makes a monumental contribution to the environment, to the worlds’ hungry, to the animals, and to world peace. We are all connected, and so the suffering of one becomes the suffering of all. As John Muir said, “Every time I bend down to pick something up, I find it is connected to something else.”
The root of wars, environmental destruction, social injustice, and animal exploitation is the same root. It is the anthropocentric world-view that certain human beings have the right to dominate, exploit, and kill anyone and anything that serves their purpose. This world-view justifies war, slavery, ecocide, genocide, the ownership of women and children, the eating, wearing, and exploitation of animals, and the list goes on.
Only by teaching and living from a new world-view of cooperation, compassion, and reverence for all life will we ever find peace and live into our destiny as new creatures whom Carman calls “Homo Ahimsa,” the compassionate human. In her closing remarks, to fan the flames of our hope and faith in this positive vision, she quoted the great visionary Pierre Teilhard De Chardin: “Remain always true to yourself, but move ever upward toward greater consciousness and greater love. At the summit, you will find yourself united with all those, who from every direction, every culture, have made the same ascent. [peace, environmental, animal rights, and other activists]…The present chaos is not the end of the world, but the labor pains of a new earth, and a new humanity coming into new form.”
Judy Carman, M.A. is an activist for animal rights, peace and justice, and environmental protection. She is the author of Born to Be Blessed: Seven Keys to Joyful Living, and her new book Peace to All Beings won the Spirituality and Health award as one of the best spiritual books of 2003. She is co-founder of Animal Outreach of Kansas and of the Universal Prayer Circle for Animals.