From: The Creed of Kinship (1935)
Author: Henry S. Salt
Published: Constable & Co Ltd 1935 London


  Humanitarian books usually advocate no more than one or two of the various causes that are classed as humane, such as pacifism, or socialism, or some assertion of the rights of animals; but this understanding, as I hold it to be, is an alliance of them all, my contention being that the single impulse by which they are inspired is the sense of Kinship, and that they will not be finally successful except in conjunction. The Creed of Kinship, I maintain, is itself a religion, and of all religions the greatest.

  That was the idea which underlay the work of the Humanitarian League, which for nearly thirty years drew attention to certain barbarities in our national life, and at one time—until the war came—seemed likely to meet with some small measure of recognition. In this book I am endeavouring to state anew the principles of the League; and that they are not of the sort which wins popularity I do not need to be told. I am well aware that not years, but ages, will be required to gain any serious consideration for the Faith of which I speak; yet, with limitless time before the world, I do not regard such work as being wasted.

  It does not come within my scope to pay tribute, however deserved, to the many thinkers who have lent their aid to the humanitarian cause, but in the concluding chapter an instance is given, in the person of the poet Shelley, of how the conscience and intelligence of a future age may be partly anticipated in an earlier one. In his conception of two contending Powers, one barbarous, one humane, we seem to have the only clue to a rational interpretation of the universe.

  A critic might wonder, perhaps, whether in giving so much counsel to my fellow-workers I am exceeding the bounds of what is needed—whether, in fact, the situation demands so much discussion. I think it does, and for reasons which I will state as briefly as possible. For here is the gist of the whole matter. That there must at present, and possibly for a long time to come, be separate humanitarian societies, each with a programme of its own and working on independent lines, is, of course, not denied; yet while we recognise this, as far as any actual work is concerned, it is none the less advisable, in thought, to take a longer and more distant view, and to attempt to foresee what kindred reforms will eventually have to come about, though they cannot be at present demanded. To me it seems that in our movement such a point has now been reached, where it is of vital importance to try to understand the subject as a whole; and that is the explanation I would offer to a reader who might have preferred me to advocate pacifism alone, or socialism, or vegetarianism, or some other change, intellectual or ethical, rather than the several cognate reforms which in this book are discussed as comprising the creed of a humanitarian.

  For these reasons I felt flattered by the remark of a hostile journalist that I was “a compendium of the cranks,” by which he apparently meant that I advocated not this or that humane reform, but all of them. That is just what I desire to do. For what I anticipate is a fusion, a compendium, of certain great causes; and I am less concerned about the irreclaimable folk who feel no interest at all in these matters, but just cling to the old watchwords, than about those part-humanitarians who see a portion of the problem—socialism, perhaps, or some question of the welfare of animals—yet do not grasp its meaning or significance as a whole. It would be amusing, were it not rather sad, to note how afraid the reformers sometimes are of each other, socialists of zoophilists, zoophilists of socialists, or pacifists of both. Thus the creed which is to come includes a number of beliefs that are at present held separately, if at all; whereas my argument is that it is only when they are held as one that they can be understood—that it is saner to be compendious than incoherent. The real “crank” is not the man who studies these matters collectedly, but the man who, except here and there, practically refuses to study them at all.

  It may be well here to sum up, in the fewest possible words, the conclusions reached in this book:

  (I) That our present so called “Civilisation” is only a “manner of speaking,” and is in fact quite a rude state as compared with what may already be foreseen.

  (2) That the basis of any real morality must be the sense of Kinship between all living beings.

  (3) That there can be no abiding national welfare until the extremes of Wealth and Poverty are abolished.

  (4) That Warfare will not be discontinued until we have ceased to honour soldiering as heroic.

  (5) That the Rights of Animals have henceforth to be considered; and that such practices as cruel sports, vivisection, and flesh eating are not compatible with civilised life.

  (6) That Free Thought is essential to progress, and that the religion of the future will be a belief in a Creed of Kinship, a charter of human and sub-human relationships.

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