On peace (/of mind)

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

Now I can look at you in peace.
I don’t eat you any more.
– Franz Kafka, to a fish

Tomorrow marks the 28th annual International Day of Peace. The UN describes the holiday as

an annual observance of global non-violence and ceasefire. Every year, people in all parts of the world honour peace in various ways on 21 September.

Naturally – given that the observance was established by an anthropocentric organization – nonhuman animals are almost always excluded from celebrants’ circles of compassion. For example, the day’s “ceasefire” most certainly does not include the millions of cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, horses, dogs, rats, seals, foxes and other domestic and wild-living nonhuman animals who will be slaughtered for food, clothing, vivisection, entertainment and the like. Quite the contrary: humans’ exploitation of nonhumans will continue, unabated, throughout the day and across the globe.

Even so, that shouldn’t discourage animal advocates from observing the day with an emphasis on our nonhuman brothers and sisters. Indeed, it’s all the more reason to stress a truly inclusive and nonviolent day of peace. If not us, who?

When I think of “peace,” the first thought to come to mind is the above quote from Franz Kafka, a Jewish writer and vegetarian whose three younger sisters (and only surviving siblings) all perished in the Holocaust. Now I can look at you in peace. I don’t eat you any more. So simple, so beautiful, so true.

Peace in actions brings peace of mind. And what more fundamental actions do humans engage in than eating, feasting, consuming? Peace begins (but does not end!) on your plate.

Through its Roots & Shoots program, the Jane Goodall Institute has been celebrating its own Day of Peace since 2004. The idea began when the UN appointed Jane Goodall a Messenger of Peace in 2002:

Another action of the U.N. was to designate Messengers of Peace. People who are selected as Messengers of Peace are widely recognized for their achievements in music, literature, sports and the arts. Dr. Jane was appointed a Messenger of Peace on April 16, 2002 by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. To commemorate Dr. Jane’s appointment, Roots & Shoots members at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point first conceived of and created the Giant Peace Dove puppets through Puppet Farm Arts. Since then, Roots & Shoots members and friends have flown doves in more than 40 countries around the world.

Dr. Jane created Roots & Shoots Day of Peace in 2004 in honor of U.N. International Day of Peace; each year, Roots & Shoots Day of Peace is observed in late September. Roots & Shoots groups around the world fly Giant Peace Dove Puppets to celebrate Roots & Shoots Day of Peace for its symbolic meaning. They also plan and implement peace project initiatives to help make the world a better place for animals, the environment and the human community.

This year, the Roots & Shoots Day of Peace falls on September 20th; next year, it will be celebrated on September 18th. Though it’s too late to plan or attend an event, you can see what others are doing on the campaign’s events page. 2007’s activities are captured in a colorful ebook, available for download here. (‘twould be awesome if the JGI encouraged more specific and practical anti-speciesist actions, such as a vegan or even vegetarian diet, but I suppose merely mentioning nonhuman animal in the day’s festivities is a good start. Certainly, it’s a step beyond what the UN has done for our nonhuman kin.)

(More below the fold…)