July 15, 2012

‘Dominion’: Judeo-Christian justification for meat-eating?

And God said: Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

And God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he them. And God blessed them; and God said unto them: Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that creepeth upon the earth.

And God said: Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed — to you it shall be for food; and to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is a living soul, every green herb for food.

The last word above is rendered as “meat” in the King James and many other translations. The original Hebrew word, AKLH, in fact means simply “food” or “eating”. The translation used here is that of the Jewish Publication Society of America (1917).

Regarding “dominion”, compare “rule”:

And God made the two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; and the stars. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness.

The words are also different in the original Hebrew. Whereas the sun, moon, and stars provide guiding lights to and define day and night, man simply dominates the rest of creation as the conscious embodiment of the creator, as a trustee of the creator. In the next section describing food, the word dominion is not used.

There is nothing here to justify destructive exploitation of the earth's resources or harassment, enslavement, and consumption of animals, human or otherwise.

As for the commandment to “subdue” the earth, following the command to “replenish” the earth it clearly refers to a nurturing agriculture. Indeed, God plants a garden in Eden and puts man in charge:

And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

But this is a prelapsarian idyll and hardly applicable to the realities of later life. Because, of course, the overseers eventually took what was meant for only the boss, who readily sensed they were hiding something and expelled them:

Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in toil shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread ...

Still nothing about exploitation and consumption of animals.

Alas, by chapter 4 of Genesis, “the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering” of “the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof”, even to the extent of not respecting Cain and Cain's offering of “the fruit of the ground”. The writers are already rationalizing their way of life, which was rather different from what God (called “ALHYM” in the first 3 chapters) commanded Adam and Eve, even to now represent the thoughts of God (now called “YHVH”) as simply reflecting their own.

Which is exactly where we still are today, where vegetarians are cursed as Cain and the only moral demand in slaughtering animals is that it be done with “respect”, which doesn't change anything. A being killed without respect is as dead as one killed with. It means nothing to talk about acting “humanely” when the result is the same as without such talk.

Latter-day apologists of the killing and eating of animals are as degraded as the priests writing Genesis 4, shaping morality to fit their habits and appetites and prejudices rather than the other way around. Making the effort to make sure your victim is healthy and happy, and/or taking the time to pray over your act, is not acting morally, but rather psychotically.

And there is nothing nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing whereof it is said: See this is new? — it hath been already, in the ages which were before us.

environment, environmentalism, animal rights, vegetarianism, ecoanarchism