Thursday, January 22, 2009

Compassion Begins with Mother Earth


Earth based spirituality covers such a wide spectrum of diverse religions and spiritual traditions, from indigenous traditions to modern NeoPagansim. We share no unified dogma, and no one person carries the authority to speak for all, certainly not me.

But I can say personally that the common thread I find in all our traditions is the deep understanding of interconnectedness. We are one interwoven tapestry of life on this earth, and from that basic insight arises compassion.

Compassion extends beyond love and sympathy for other human beings. Compassion includes compassion for the earth, for all the interrelated and interacting life forms, for the plants, animals, birds, trees, even the microorganisms that sustain life. For if we don't include that broader community in the scope of our compassion, if we continue to destroy the very systems that support our lives, we cannot survive. And we will create the devastation that leads to immense human suffering, loss and death.

Here's a compassion story: In the forest, the roots of trees are linked by a network of mycorrhizal fungi, whose threadlike hyphae interpenetrate the root hairs and extend their reach for water and nutrients. Scientists have traced pathways with radioactive isotopes, and learned that through these webs of fungi, trees feed their young. Moreover, trees growing in the sun will feed trees growing in the shade--even trees of another species. That's compassion!

Here's another: a couple of billions of years ago, life was simple. Just bacteria, simple cells without even a nucleus, floating in primal seas as they had already done for a couple of billion years. But even at that time, life was linked in complex associations. The green things, the ancestors of plants, used sunlight to make food from water and the carbon dioxide that filled the atmosphere. They gave off oxygen, and breathers evolved to make use of it, to burn food and use the energy, giving off carbon dioxide. All of life was linked in one common breath, passing back and forth from green to red.

Photosynthesizers could just lay back and be, basking in the sunlight. But breathers had to work, to go about and find food. They gobbled each other up with gusto.

But one day, as one primal organism chowed down on another, compassion intervened. Instead of dissolving and digesting its meal, the eater let its victim remain whole inside of itself, fusing into a new form of being, the ancestor of the cells in our own bodies and all complex organisms--cells with nuclei, eukaryotes.

Fusion became the rage. The new cells were bigger and could develop in all kinds of interesting ways, developing specialized organelles to do particular jobs, like making energy or propelling the whole thing around. And with their membranes relieved of many metabolic tasks, the new cells were free to combine in new ways, leading to an explosion of multicellular life, and all the strange and interesting things that came after.

And so compassion is embedded in every cell of our bodies. Imagine, then, what beauty and diversity might evolve if we made compassion the foundation of our religions and social structures.


Starhawk is, in her own words, "the author of many works celebrating the Goddess movement and Earth-based, feminist spirituality. I’m a peace, environmental, and global justice activist and trainer, a permaculture designer and teacher, a Pagan and Witch. To see how it all weaves together, follow the many strands of my web." She is also cofounder of the Reclaiming collective in San Francisco, California (USA), and wrote one of my favorite novels, the compassionate utopian/antiutopian novel of the future, The Fifth Sacred Thing (1993), which manages to see both the worst and the best possibilities for our future and, most importantly, gives us the tools to help us realize how to make the best choice. Her newest book is The Earth Path: Grounding Your Spirit in the Rhythms of Nature. Committed to bringing the techniques and creative power of spirituality to political activism, Starhawk travels internationally teaching magic, the tools of ritual, the skills of activism, and classess in permaculture (both online and off).

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Letter from

Humane myth. An idea being propagated by the animal-using industry and some animal protection organizations that it is possible to use and kill animals in a manner that can be fairly described as respectful or compassionate or humane.

We are a community of former farmers, animal rescuers, animal sanctuary founders, educators, and artists working to create a just and nonviolent future.

Currently, both the animal-using industry and some animal advocacy organizations are propagating the idea that it is possible to use and kill animals in a manner that can be fairly described as respectful or compassionate or humane. We believe that this "Humane Myth" misrepresents the realities of animal use, and cultivates a positive image of activities that are neither just nor kind nor sustainable. The purpose of the web site is to correct the misinformation that is associated with the Humane Myth, and to inspire a form of working for the peaceful transformation of our society that fully respects the inherent dignity and worth of animals and people alike.

The public deserves to be told the full truth of who animals are and what is being done to them behind closed doors, as well as the catastrophic impact that the continuing consumption of meat, eggs, and dairy products will have on human health, wildlife and the environment. We will do all we can to uphold this public trust.

As animal advocates committed to compassion and justice, we will refuse to take part in the exploitation of others or to collaborate with those caught up in such injustice. We will do our best to present a clear and uncompromised message to the public, a sincere and respectful message that is free of cynicism and manipulation.

Recognizing that progress toward social justice is gradual and depends on more and more people becoming aware of the truth, we will do all we can to insure that each of the steps our culture takes is toward an accurate understanding of the ways animals are being harmed, and away from the false and misleading idea that the production of meat, eggs, and dairy products can be carried out without cruelty, violence, or injustice.

Recognizing that fostering cultural transformation requires a variety of creative approaches, we will support a broad range of nonviolent programs and initiatives that eliminate or reduce the use and killing of animals, as well as measures that reduce the level of abuse and agony experienced by animals being exploited for human purposes, provided such measures involve NONE of the following:

1. Offering a misleading or incomplete portrait of the confinement, social deprivation, mutilation, reproductive manipulation, indignity and premature death endured by animals being exploited for profit.

2. Minimizing or failing to reveal the full impact on human health, wildlife and our environment from the continuing production and consumption of animal-based foods.

3. Developing, endorsing, certifying and/or promoting any animal products, including those that are labeled as being "humane," "cruelty-free," "cage-free," "free range," "organic," "compassionate," etc.

4. Developing, endorsing, praising, applauding or promoting "new and improved" methods for using and killing animals.

5. Providing individuals or corporations with promotional or public relations benefits that have the effect of making the use and killing animals or the sale of any animal product more profitable or more socially acceptable.

James LaVeck and Jenny Stein

1616 Free-Living Buffalo Were Killed in Winter 2007-08: How Can We Stop This Carnage?


As of April 16, 2008: Yellowstone National Park had trapped over 1,600 wild bison migrating to winter range in the Gardiner Basin, and sent 1,276 bison to slaughterhouses. Hundreds more bison are trapped inside pens at Stephens Creek operated by the U.S. National Park Service. 7 wild bison died or were killed as a result of injuries suffered in captivity at Stephens Creek. 6 wild bison were shot by livestock inspectors for migrating just beyond the park borders. 112 wild bison have been separated from their mothers and family groups and sent to a USDA quarantine pen near Corwin Springs, Montana. The Montana Department of Livestock has trapped 146 wild bison on Horse Butte on national forest land and private lands, and shipped them to slaughterhouses. Another 166 wild bison were killed by hunters. By the Park Service's own estimate, two-thirds of Yellowstone's bison herd have been slaughtered or perished in the winter kill this season. Since the bison "plan" went into effect in 2000, over 3,500 wild bison have been slaughtered or removed from America's last wild bison herd. As if this wasn't bad enough, the cost of this wanton slaughter of America's last wild bison herd is all paid for by the American taxpayer, averaging $3,000,000 a year - now eight years into a fifteen year "plan".


Buffalo Field Campaign is the only group working in the field, every day, to stop the slaughter of the wild American buffalo. Volunteers defend the buffalo and their habitat and advocate for their lasting protection. Currently, the Montana Department of Livestock manages wild bison that enter Montana, a role authorized under MCA 81-2-120. Under this law, crafted by Montana's cattle interests, wild bison are managed as diseased pests and forbidden to enter the state without being subjected to harassment or death. "It is a serious conflict of interest having the Department of Livestock in charge of managing wild bison," said Mike Bowersox, a coordinator with Buffalo Field Campaign, "You might as well trust the fox with guarding the henhouse."

Bison Advocates are calling on the Montana Legislature to repeal MCA 81-2-120, and instead support reasonable alternative management of wild bison as outlined under the Montana Wild Buffalo Recovery & Conservation Act of 2009. The Montana Wild Buffalo Recovery & Conservation Act of 2009, crafted by the Bozeman based Gallatin Wildlife Association, would place the management of wild bison in the hands of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. The bill would also recognize wild bison as a valued native wildlife species of Montana. The bill also provides for the protection of private property for landowners who do not welcome wild bison.

For decades Montana has been squandering a national treasure by perpetuating a wild bison killing spree that has no basis in sound science nor any reasonable foundation whatsoever," said Buffalo Field Campaign spokesperson Stephany Seay. "It's time for sensible change; it's time to welcome wild bison back home to Montana."