Friends of Animals vs. The New York Theosophical Society

Friends of Animals sent out a press release on January 3 complaining about an a couple of events to be held at the New York Theosophical Society in January.

According to the press release, the first event on Jan. 5 would feature the New York Companion Bird Club and a raffle of prizes from Grey Feather Toy Creations, which apparently makes toys and accessories for birds. The worst part, however, is that,

The raffling of a “bird gym” will fund the transportation of a bigger cage for a nursing home-based cockatoo. . . .

Overall, the planned Bird Day event is a promotion of cages, not freedom. . . .

On January 14, the Society is featuring speaker Larry D.D. Clifford exhibiting a macaw. Friends of Animals is upset since in addition to holding captive birds, Clifford trains animals for Sea World and for other animal-related shows, including television work.

Friends of Animals’ legal director Lee Hall tries to appeal to the Theosophical Society’s history, saying in the press release,

The Theosophical Society’s mission is to cultivate the spiritual growth of humanity. A pioneer in its history was the acclaimed vegetarian doctor Anna Kingsford, who spoke of the inherent value of animals other than ourselves. To offer a venue for patently exploitive promotions is to flout the Society’s best traditions.

Now Hall could have cited Theosophical Society founder Madam Blavatsky, but Blavatsky was a meat eater, so best ignore her. But what about Kingsford?

Kingsford was a 19th century vegetarian and a prominent anti-vivisectionist as well. And she would certainly have been right at home in today’s animal rights movement. She claimed to have mystical visions in which she was visited by angels, traveled through time, and was given prophetic revelations such as this.

As for Kingsford’s vegetarianism, she had an interesting — but solidly Victorian England — defense of vegetarianism. To Kingsford, the problem with eating meat was that it debased human beings to the level of mere animals,

The modern advocates of flesh-eating and vivisection, on the contrary, would reverse the sentiment of the lines just quoted, and would have us

“Move down, returning to the beast,
And letting heart and conscience die”,

making thereby the practice of the lowest in the scale of Nature the rule of the highest, and abasing the moral standard of mankind to the level of the habits of the most dangerous or noxious orders of brutes.

. . .

But the disciple of Buddha and of Pythagoras, the preacher of the Pure Life and of the Perfect Way, cries to humanity, “Be men, not in mere physical form only – for form is worth nothing – but in spirit, by virtue of those qualities which exalt you above tigers, swine or jackals!. . .”


May Birds Know A World Without Cages. Press Release, Friends of Animals, January 3, 2006.