“Always remember that you are a Quaker”, was the last piece of advice my Grandpa gave me before he passed away. In his young adulthood my grandfather changed his religion and joined The Society of Friends (Quakers), of which he was an active member for the rest of his life.
As I travel the world, I always keep my grandfather’s last written words close. Being exposed to other religions and cultures has contributed to my self-exploration of what it means to be a Quaker.
Quakerism is probably best known for its’ non-violence stance on the world. The Society of Friends is one of the three peace churches, and as such, members of a Quaker meeting are legally exempt from being drafted into a war. We believe that there are other ways of resolving problems that don’t involve injuring or killing. So it is probably not surprising to know that Quakers engage in peace testimonies and/or anti-war protests.
Peace begins on our plates. Anyone with a central nervous system will feel pain. In addition, encaging, raping and killing animals for food is extremely violent and as such goes against this most precious Quaker tenant. In short, killing someone is not Quaker. If we believe we should never take a life, why wouldn’t this include non-human animals?
Quakers believe that everyone has an inner light, which I have learned over the years can be interpreted differently by different Quakers. The inner light can mean God, Jesus or the soul depending on with whom you are speaking. I tend to see the inner light as the soul.
The idea that God is in everyone is certainly not unique to Quakerism but it is a very important part of our beliefs. If God is in everyone then killing someone is killing a part of God. Anyone who has ever had a pet, Quaker or not, can tell you that the soul extends itself to animals. But if a dog or cat has a soul, why wouldn’t a pig or cow or fish? If a pet parrot has a soul why wouldn’t a chicken or duck or turkey? A soul is a soul regardless of the body in which it is housed.
You might be surprised to learn that Quakers do not have a pastor or minister or spiritual leader. Instead, we believe that each member of the Meeting has an equal opportunity to minister. Each individual has the same direct connection with God.
Quakers also pride themselves on fighting for equality. Historically, they opposed the Native American genocide, aided abolitionists during the time of slavery, participated in the Civil Rights Movement, and fought for gay rights to name a few.
Speciesism conflicts with equality. The idea that one species is somehow better than others or should have more rights than others goes against the idea that everyone is equal. Raping and enslaving mothers, not to mention ripping their babies away from them, for a glass of milk does not sound equal to me. This horridness is only allowed because the species that provides us milk, is not human. If we wouldn’t want something done to us, why would we do it someone else?
Living simply is important to Quakers. Driving in a fancy car, displaying expensive jewelry or buying a lot of excessive possessions does not correspond to a humble lifestyle.
Living a vegan life is a way to live simply on the earth. Growing gardens uses less water and energy than raising animals to eat. Besides, all protein comes from plants. Eating another animal who has eaten plants just so we can get protein is way more complicated than it needs to be. Cut out the middleman so to speak and just eat the plants.
As I traverse the planet, I take my grandfather’s words to heart. I try to promote peace by learning about others’ points of view, including non-humans; I search for the inner light in everyone I meet, respecting all the beings I come in contact with; and I always try to keep it simple. While I am not advocating that everyone become Quaker as I find beauty in all religions, I strongly urge you dear reader to try to see the world through the eyes of a dog, a pig, a cow, a fish, a turkey. What would you do differently?