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You Are What You Eat
Genesis Chapter 9:4 Only flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.
Near the end of the first chapter of Genesis God explains that man was set apart from the animals, made in God’s image, and told to have dominion over creation. The command from God included the instruction to be fruitful and multiply and subdue the earth. This has turned out to be a monumental responsibility for humans -- one to be handled wisely, with forethought and intention.
One of the primary ways that a culture expresses its values is through food. We are given laws restricting how and what we eat, because our humanity emerges from our relationship with all life - not just other human beings. This relationship can be imbued with sacred respect, or it can be empty of everything but appetite. In my understanding of the ancient texts, one of the rules of kashrut was to remove all traces of blood from meat; blood was seen as the embodiment of life itself, and to consume life was abhorrent. The Torah thus gives us a way to respect the animal’s soul and life.
The modern international meat industry has become thoroughly callous to those whose lives are taken. Those same animals who were with us in Eden, for whom God commanded us to have mercy and compassion, have become less than food, and more the victims of wanton gorging.
Today, the butchering process – even following the letter of the laws of kashrut and hallal - merely removes blood from meat. The underlying assumption of compassion for these animals – the spirit of the laws - has been banished as irrelevant. There is no respect for or acknowledgement of the soul of what we mindlessly consume. The current industrial meat industry becomes unsupportable and odious, because it arrogantly scorns every ecological, humane, and health consideration (our own and the Earth’s) that underlies kashrut. Yetzer ha ra, evil urges, limitless consumption: we literally feed upon excessive slaughter, and we are what we eat. The suffering of those same “raw goods” is irrelevant to the industry. Cruelty is an animal by-product.
The photos have been created to be more abstract than the original images, because it is all we wish to see, only the clean, prettily wrapped parts of our next meal. The animals – God’s creatures no less than we – exist merely to serve us and our rapacious appetites. Industry workers are numb to the aura of pain, and we consumers turn a blind eye – willingly ignoring our part. The huge responsibility for our world and all within it as we were commanded is no longer a sacred trust, but a betrayal. Feeding is not the same as being nourished, and our bodies, as well as our souls, will continue to hunger as long as we turn our heads.