My own awakening came on this wise. One day I chanced to read in the Daily News a letter from someone who had witnessed a clumsy butcher engaged in hacking at the neck of a fine calf, whose pathetic eyes betrayed the awful agony which the poor creature could neither escape nor express. A few days later, with the sorrowful picture still hovering in my mind, I saw these words, from the pen of a man having some authority: -
"To eat a rabbit when a few ounces of haricot beans will yield the same nourishment is a vandalism..."
It is not too much to say I was amazed. What awful blunder was this which all civilised people, yea, all Christian people, were daily assisting to perpetuate? For what untold, unimaginable anguish, pain, suffering, and devastation was I - along with a few million others - in my thoughtlessness responsible. If it were true (could it be true?) that a few simple fruit or vegetable products would sustain human life, then surely this murder-traffic of my fellow creatures ought to cease? Surely - apart from the attendant horrors and pain - it were a crime to destroy the God-given life unnecessarily? And in swift succession the repulsiveness and the shame of the whole ghastly system passed before my mental sight. In a flash the shop of the flesher became an eye-sore, with the poor flayed carcases chopped and carved into all shapes and sizes, or perhaps sundered from neck to tail and propped open for inspection. I soon learned that the number of men killed in that bloody war between Russia and Japan, which lasted eighteen months, and has seldom been equalled for ferocity and loss of life, does not equal the number of large, sensitive, animals killed every day in order to supply Christendom with a type of food which is authoritively acknowledged to be unnecessary, unnatural, and even injurious! I learned - and I pass on the facts for you to ponder - that every year in this"Christian" England alone, over a million cattle are being dragged to the block, over seven million sheep are offering their throats to the knife, and over two millions of pigs are sending up their piercing cries as they are forced to a violent death. This means that every minute of the day and every minute of the night two cattle, fourteen sheep, and four pigs, fall before the knife or the pole-axe, and all to provide a mistaken luxury, - not a necessary - of life. This for the largest animals only and in one small country. What the sum total of the world's unnecessary agony every day must be one cannot contemplate without a shudder.
But to me the most appalling thing of all is that professed children of the God of Love should fly to His Word for protection and covering from the great tide of humaneness and mercy that to-day is sweeping over the more thoughtful and gentle classes of men. The man who says, "I admit I am not humane; I do not especially desire to be merciful to animals; I simply like dead flesh and intend to have it, whatever suffering it involves," - we can admire for his honesty, and class him henceforth with the hyena and the bear. But the Christian who professes a fondness for the living lamb, or the patient cow, and pretends he would be quite willing to give up eating animals, but fears God might be disappointed if he did, is a mystery. Yet the sad charge is only too true, that with many who quote God's word the question is not - "Am I doing right or wrong in this?" but - "Where shall I find something to justify me in going on as I have been doing?" For myself, my beloved brethren and gentle sisters, I believe the time has come when Judgement should begin at the house of God, and that marvellous opportunity is being afforded us to manifest the spirit of love and mercy and purity. And what is more, there are many noble souls whom we call sceptics, and heretics, who are "hasting unto" the dawning day with greater zeal and love than we. If it be true that we are already entering into the "times of restitution," is it unreasonable to expect that the still small voice of love's opportunity will soon give way to the stern requirements of law's demands? It should not be the proposal of the saints to delay the cleansing of their hands until the judgements of the Lord are abroad in the earth. For when such time is come, methinks the inhabitants thereof will hear some such thunders as these: -
"Did not I, Jehovah, give to every living thing the breath of life, that it might live? And did not I pronounce them all 'Good,' and give them to thy father for his dominion? And did not I declare, 'Thou shalt not kill?' "
"Did not I create for you all manner of trees bearing fruit to be meat unto you; and when in the wilderness men lusted after flesh, did not I send them flesh until it stank in their nostrils and slew them?"
"Did not I declare two thousand five hundred years ago that I delight not in the blood of bullocks and of lambs; and that I would not hear you - your hands were full of blood?"
"The earth is the Lord's, And the cattle upon a thousand hills are Mine."
"Then sent I Mine only begotten Son to proclaim Mine own Love, and to manifest Mine own Mercy. A bruised reed He would not break, and gentle was He with your cruel customs and heathen habits. Yet it was written that butter and honey should be His meat, Who was the foe of death and pain, the Prince of Peace and Life."
"Then told He of a shepherd that loved the sheep, and even died that they might live; of a shepherd who, losing but one sheep, sought it destracted until it was restored; of a loving shepherd who, 'shall carry the lambs in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.' "
"Then heard you from His lips that even the little sparrows, sold two for a farthing, fall never to the ground, but I, His Father, mark their dying."
"Then showed He that I (God over all) would have mercy and not sacrifice; that My delight was in such as did My will; that he shall be judged without mercy who has shown no mercy but that 'blessed are the full-of-mercy, for they shall obtain mercy.' "
Such, my dear friends, though it is open to the charge of not being exact Scripture, is, to my understanding, the spirit of both Testaments, and it is in absolute accord with the noblest, purest, and most gentle sentiments of God's human creation.
* * * *
Therefore I have finally quitted flesh-eating, and therefore I urge you solemnly to ponder your position. Some of my acquaintances said I should be a physical wreck in a month or two, if I did not return to the devouring of roast animal-friends. Others, nearer and dearer, approved of course if it was to be beneficial, but ridiculed my claim that it was "on principle." I dislike personal talk, but I want here and now to thank my Heavenly Father for having blessed me as He blessed Daniel; with health, yea, but far more with a conscience void of offence. In the green fields I can look upon the patient mother-cows and their innocent calflings and feel no shame or guilt; I can enter into the gambols of the lambs without hypocrisy; and the thought either of minced veal or of lamb chops is a loathsome one. It is when I see sheep hunted through streets to the shambles that I blush, and my heart aches for the dumb victims. The goodly fruits of the earth I appreciate now as never before, and I have not yet collapsed: indeed, in less than twelve months I regained much of the weight and fulness that for years I had been losing.
* * * *
There are many things I would fain have told - the indescribable and revolting agonies of the cattle-ship and the slaughter-house, etc. - but space forbids. If you have never questioned the godliness of the carnivorous custom before, I trust these lines may help you to a merciful decision. If they do not, try to kill an animal at close quarters with your own hands, and then eat it. If your instinct rebels, it is because you are not really the carnivorous beast of prey that you have supposed yourself to be. But if you instruct others to do for you what you would shun to do for yourself, what words can rightly describe you? Nay, rather, dare to be a Daniel, and come out from any part in this perpetual holocaust of sentient beings, washing your hands from blood and rejoicing in the beauty and happiness of all God's handiwork. Then shall you be able to say (and far better, to feel,) that so far as you are concerned no butcher need ply his hideous trade, and that no lamb, or cow, or chicken is suffering its death-agony because your palate must not be denied. Truly a peculiar blessedness is theirs who are able to say with the "Hermit" of Goldsmith:
"No flocks that range the valley free,
To slaughter I condemn;
Taught by that Power that pities me,
I learn to pity them.
But from the mountain's grassy side,
A guiltless feast I bring,
A scrip with herbs and fruits supplied,
And water from the spring."
And rest assured, dear brethren and sisters, that any little spark of mercy which, by self-denial, you may foster and fan, will not be unnoticed by Him that watcheth the sparrows die.
Believe me to be,
Yours unto His Glory,
Belgravia, S.W. #