Are Animals Our Neighbors? Taking the View from Below

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By Gracia Fay Ellwood. 2005, 2006.

This attractive sixteen-page pamphlet is based on an article which appeared in the April 2005 issue of Friends Journal, now revised for a general audience of people of faith.  The unpleasant realities of factory farming it describes are depressingly familiar, but this piece strikes fresh ground in what is implied by the subtitle.  It invites (indeed, almost compels) the reader to "take the view from below."  What does this mean?  We know that in relating to slaves or other exploited and abused human beings, it is not enough simply to see them as objects of mercy.  If one is really to understand and so rightly to rectify (or begin to rectify) their situation, one must have the courage also to identify with them, to imagine oneself in their place.  In the same way, we are asked not merely to see animals as inferior beings who need kindness, important as kindness is, but as thinking and feeling creatures, clearly capable of love as well as suffering, beings to whom we owe nothing less than justice.  Gracia Fay Ellwood shows how this brave endeavor can bring deep joy and great pain, but is necessary to any experience of the wholeness of life.  She points out that this stance is actually mandated by a significant minor theme in the three major Western religions, giving particular examples of pioneering thinkers in Christianity and in Judaism, from whose central theme of Exodus from slavery comes the tradition of divine empathy and compassion for the oppressed.

I hope many will let this booklet speak to them, and will make it available to still others. The illustrations, mostly from Farm Sanctuary, are marvelous.  It is available from the author (to whom, by way of full disclosure, I happen to be married) at graciafay at or 10 Krotona Hill, Ojai, CA 93023.  Suggested donation, $2.00 for one copy, $1.00 for each additional copy.

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