The Good – Juliette de Bairacli Levy – Brief Article
Juliette de Bairacli Levy, traveller, writer and champion of gypsy herbal medicines, is herself the greatest possible advertisement for her work. Born in 1912, (at 11 am, on the 11th day of the 11th month), she is still an active speaker and lecturer, travelling the world to share her love and understanding of the natural cures of her ancestors.
Born into an Egyptian-Turkish Jewish family, this eleventh-hour baby spent her childhood years in Manchester, England, eventually going on to study veterinary medicine at university. Her desire to help animals began at the age of just four – after the death of a loved puppy she became determined to do everything she could to alleviate animal suffering.
University, however, was not what she wanted it to be. Appalled by the vivisection and animal experimentation that beset the studies that were going on around her, she abandoned her formal education, opting instead to find out how animal care could be achieved without harming a single creature. Before long, she was travelling the world, spending time with gypsies and peasants wherever she could, learning the rudiments and skills of natural herbal remedies, returning to England in the late 1930s to set up her own dog distemper clinic, treating and curing hundreds of dogs with herbs and natural diet alone.
The arrival of World War II sent de Bairacli Levy into the Land Army, where she gathered and used sphagnum moss to tend wounds. Once the war was over, she moved to Yorkshire, successfully treating sheep in their many hundreds, all of them suffering from Black Scour, and all of them previously considered lost cases by ‘conventional’ vets. Her work was so effective that notice was bound to be taken, and it came in the form of Sir Albert Howard, founder of the Soil Association and father of many of today’s organic methods.
‘Sir Albert arranged a meeting with meat The Farmers’ Club in London,’ she recalls today, ‘and there I met with that great man, filled with nobility and kindness, and I was urged by him to write my herbal books for both domestic and wild animals.’
And write she did. In 1951 she produced the Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable, the first veterinary herbal text ever to be published. It recorded for the first time a wealth of herbal lore that she had absorbed on her travels through America, Europe and Africa, lore that had been handed down from generation to generation by word of mouth alone. Before long, more books followed, and Juliette de Bairacli Levy had become the pioneer of recorded holistic animal care.
Not that her approach to herbal remedy stopped with animals. The Illustrated Herbal Handbook for Everyone, and Natural Rearing of Children have become such classics in the last half-century that her publisher receives more inquiries about her than any other of their writers: no mean feat, as her publisher is Faber and Faber, who number TS Eliot, William Golding and Ted Hughes among their authors.
In the 1950s, with her two young children Luz and Rafik, de Bairacli Levy moved to Israel where animal husbandry became a family affair. Owls, hawks, dogs, goats and donkeys were all raised in this caring menagerie – de Bairacli Levy gained great local notoriety when she saved her hives of bees from shelling during the Six Day War. The books continued to appear, and de Bairacli Levy developed a focus in particular on care of Afghan hounds. Today, her 90th birthday little more than a year away, she lives on the Azores.
To juliette de Bairacli Levy, a slight and delicate woman of great mental fortitude and strength, the current foot and mouth outbreak suffered in Britain and many other parts of the world, is a damning indictment of the failure of the agricultural community to provide the type of care for animals she has been championing for nearly eight decades.
‘Why have farm diseases become so widespread?’ she wrote in March. ‘In our present time, we can let the Bible answer this. The earth is sacred. Yes! Totally sacred, every inch of it. The “spilling of blood” upon the earth is classed as a deep sin. It is stated in the Bible that the only person who can cleanse the earth of blood, is the person who shed it.
‘And yet, look at the modern so-called slaughter-house, also known by the horrible name of abattoir, with the blood from the terrified animals being slowly bled to death by a wound from those terrible metal hammers which crash down upon the head of the victim. The only future for the animals, if there are any left after the killing by the hundred-fold from foot and mouth disease, is to make sure that kindness laws are enforced.’
She recalls the cattle reared by her old friend Sir Albert Howard in India, cattle who often ‘rubbed noses over the fences with the native cattle suffering from foot and mouth,’ yet never caught the disease themselves.
Today, de Bairacli Levy is still in touch with those farmers whose sheep she saved half a century ago. Their still naturally reared animals are in perfect health. Only very recently, she spoke to the farmers by telephone, to make sure they weren’t losing their way during these disastrous times. Her words were simple. ‘I reminded them of the importance of molasses, garlic and Ivy, to be hand fed to their sheep.’
COPYRIGHT 2001 MIT Press Journals
COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group