Lisa Kemmerer is a philosopher/activist and the author/editor of a half dozen books on animal advocacy, ethics, and religion. She is also an artist and lover of wild places. We selected her Call to Compassion: Religious Perspectives on Animal Advocacy for an award as One of the Best Spiritual Books of 2011. In this bellwether volume, Kammerer surveys the attitudes and practices of a crosscut of indigenous traditions before moving on to seven of the world's religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). The focus is on the core teachings that relate to animals.
The following modules are included in most of the chapters:
• "Sacred Nature, Sacred Anymals" — religious teachings on the ecosystems and environments of nonhuman animals;
• "Philosophy and Morality" — core views on right relationships between humans and all other creatures;
• "Interpenetrability" — a look at the cyclical vision of life where reincarnation is espoused;
• "Anymal Powers" — an examination of sacred stories and literature;
• and a final module on the work of animal activists operating from a religious perspective.
Although many religious people are familiar with the stance their faith communities take on various social and political issues, most do not know what they say about the domination and exploitation of animals. Equally baffling is that believers of all stripes do not seem to realize that it is their responsibility to treat all creatures with respect and reverence and to be compassionate to them. Kammerer has provided us with a real moral service by showing how ahimsa, metta, karuna, ci, and love are meant to come alive in our dealings with "fishes and mice, hogs and horses, turkeys and elephants."
There is no getting around the cruelty and the savagery of religious people in the past who set the pattern for present-day prejudices against animals. But now is the time, writes Norm Phelps in the foreword, "for the defenders of animals, both religious and secular, to turn their attention from the failures of religion and redirect energy toward foundational teachings that call us to compassion, nurturance, and service toward those whose lives depend on our mercy."