Weekly Newsletter - DATE
From Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

  1. In Memorium: Norm Phelps
  2. Essay: What Is Violence?
  3. This Week’s Sermon from Rev. Frank and Mary Hoffman

1. In Memorium: Norm Phelps
It is with great sadness that I relate the passing of Norm Phelps, a tireless advocate for animals whose wisdom and personal gentleness will be missed by many. In a movement often marred by fractious disputes, Norm was always a peacemaker. He did not seek personal aggrandizement but rather maintained his focus on the well-being of the countless voiceless nonhumans who are brutalized on a massive scale throughout the world.
Among Norm’s contributions to the animal protectionism literature, I would like to highlight three books and one essay. The Longest Struggle: Animal Rights from Pythagoras to Peta is an overview of the long, hard campaign to prevent animal mistreatment. Phelps noted that, in contrast to most justice movements, those who have defended nonhumans have had distinctive challenges. The victims are unable to organize and advocate on their own behalf, and they are unable to express gratitude for those who have sought to protect them.
The Great Compassion: Buddhism and Animal Rights explores whether Buddhism demands vegetarianism and, more broadly, promotion of animal rights. Phelps explored Buddhist sutras of different cultures and traditions, and, true to Phelps’ dedication to truth, he did not avoid those that seem to endorse humanity’s harmful exploitation of nonhumans.
Perhaps of greatest interest to many CVA members is The Dominion of Love: Animal Rights According to the Bible. Phelps argued that an honest and rigorous reading of the Bible favors animal rights just as much, if not more, than human rights.
One article I found particularly insightful, and that received widespread attention among animal advocates, was One-Track Activism: Animals Pay the Price. Phelps argued that those pressing to improve the welfare of exploited animals and those advocating the end of all animal exploitation both play essential roles in the animal protection movement.
Norm was kind, patient, and totally dedicated to justice. He will be missed.
Stephen R. Kaufman, MD

2. Essay: What Is Violence?
In last week’s review of Kim Stallwood’s book Growl, I mentioned that I would use his insights as springboards to discuss why animal protectionism should be nonviolent. Stallwood emphasized that the animal protection movement, at its core, seeks nonviolence toward nonhumans. If activists use violent means toward that end, such tactics will at best confuse the public and at worst turn the public against the movement. What is violence?
Of course, activities that cause physical harm to humans or nonhumans are violent (though, without reasonable foundation, many people don’t regard physical and psychological abuse by humans against nonhumans on factory farms and elsewhere as violent). Demonstrations at the homes of animal abusers have been controversial among animal advocates. One source of contention is whether or not they are violent.
Peacefully distributing literature and talking to passers-by might shame animal abusers in their own communities, and I have no objection to such an activity. Many home demonstrations seem more threatening, however. For example, loud, angry shouting can be frightening, particularly to the children of the targeted animal abuser. Apparently threatening behavior often generates sympathy for animal abusers and takes attention away from the animal victims.
If the goal is to make an animal abuser “think twice” before persisting in harming nonhumans, then the threat must seem genuine, and this raises ethical concerns. If the animal activists have no intention of harming anyone, this will eventually become evident and the “threat” will be neutralized. For threats to instill fear, there must be a willingness to back up threats with actual violence, if threats alone don’t work. Since genuine threats have the potential to escalate to real violence, I do not think animal advocates should engage in activities that might reasonably be regarded as physically threatening.
Next week, I will consider whether destruction of property is violent.
Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

3. This Week’s Sermon from Rev. Frank and Mary Hoffman

Our Baptism: Jesus’ Baptism

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