From the Spring '94 edition of Agscene
- journal of
Compassion In World Farming. Reproduced with Thanks.
Reflection A regular feature in which we invite guest authors to
air their views. THIS ISSUE: Jon Wynne-Tyson
Twenty five centuries ago, Pythagoras had no truck with the
'Alas, what wickedness to swallow flesh into our own flesh, to fatten
our greedy bodies by cramming in other bodies, to have one living
creature fed by the death of another!'
Nor was he the first in the field, though whether this discouraged
his students at Crotona from calling him a crank is not known. All that
is certain is that the modern world offers nothing comparable to that
religious and moral school in Magna Graecia.
For where are we today? Do the form and purpose of our educational
systems entitle us to boast of 'the growth of civilisation'? Inspiring
music, paintings, architecture and words have been mere breaks in the
clouds of an enveloping barbarism. The hall-mark of true civilisation is
a felt compassion for the needs and rights of all sentient life. If
education was leading in that direction instead of to ever more horrific
products of the scientific mind, ever more worship of third rate
personalities and fifth rate values, and ever more mind-deadening
distractions and irrelevancies aimed at creating an unthinking,
consuming, submissive termitary, we might have some claim to be on the
road to civilisation.
As it is, the process is left to a handful of people, most struggling
against the odds through charities and societies targeting this or that
injustice or cruelty. Those that appear to make most progress are those
that appear most ready to compromise; those whose limit of concern is,
or seems to be, to ameliorate rather than abolish suffering. That is how
far - how pitifully far society has progressed after two and a half
millenniums of knowing better. If tempted by some small breakthrough to
believe that the world's incalculable toll of suffering is at last
declining, self-congratulation may be tempered by how long ago
Pythagoras pre-empted Schweitzer and many great thinkers by warning
'As long as man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower
living beings, he will never know health or peace. For as long as men
massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the
seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.'
It would be the greatest gift of all time to this tragic world if the
human race could earn the right to put an 'e' after its name. But it has
a long way to go.
Jon Wynne-Tyson is a Trustee-Director of CIWF. He publishes and
writes books. Many members will know him as the author of the
brilliant Food for a Future and as editor of The Extended