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A Short Meat-Oriented History of the World from Eden to the Mattole

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  • AnimalAdvocacy@yahoogroups.com
    A Short Meat-Oriented History of the World from Eden to the Mattole Part One is long but well worth the time. First of Four Parts: Peter s Dream A Short
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 16, 2005
      A Short Meat-Oriented History of the World from Eden to the Mattole

      Part One is long but well worth the time.

      First of Four Parts: Peter's Dream
      A Short Meat-Oriented History of the World from Eden to the Mattole
      By ALEXANDER COCKBURN
      http://www.counterpunch.com

      A Short Meat-Oriented History of the World from Eden to the Mattole

      By ALEXANDER COCKBURN

      Start with God.

      'And [Peter] saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto
      him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let
      down to the earth: wherein were all manner of four-footed beasts of
      the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
      And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.' (Acts 10:
      11­13.)

      The Bible is a meat-eater's manifesto. Before the Fall, Adam and Eve
      were vegetarian. They fed on grains, nuts and fruits. Then Eve ate the
      fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil-or at least that's the
      way Adam explained it to God. They were cast forth from the Garden,
      plunging mankind into original sin from which redemption can come only
      through the grace of Christ, whose flesh is eaten periodically in the
      form of the Eucharist. Hardly were Adam and Eve out of Eden before God
      was offering 'respect' to the flesh sacrifice of Abel the keeper of
      sheep and withholding 'respect' from Cain the tiller of the ground.
      Next thing we know, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, slew him
      and we were on our way. [1]


      Man's Dominion

      Ringing in Man's ears was the Almighty's edict, as reported in Genesis
      1:26­28: 'Let us make Man in our image, after our likeness: and let
      them have dominio. . .over all the earth, and over every creeping
      thing that creepeth upon the earth. . .Be fruitful and multiply, and
      replenish the earth and subdue it.' Thus did the biblical God launch
      humans on the exploitation of the rest of the natural world, theirs
      for the using. [2]

      Dominion over 'Un-Christian' nature was at the heart of it, as C.S.
      Lewis spelled out frankly enough: 'Atheists naturally regard. . .the
      taming of an animal by man as a purely arbitrary interference of one
      species with another. The "real" or "natural" animal is to them the
      wild one, and the tame animal is an artificial or unnatural thing. But
      a Christian must not think so. Man was appointed by God to have
      dominion over the beasts, and. . .the tame animal is therefore, in the
      deepest sense, the only "natural" animal-the only one we see occupying
      the place it was made to occupy.' [3]

      Such arrogance towards non-human creatures was similarly displayed
      towards women and human slaves. Not long after His commands in Genesis
      about animals we find God-in the row immediately following the
      Fall-telling Eve that 'in sorrow shall thou bring forth children; and
      thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.' So
      far as human slaves were concerned, once again the slave-owners were
      able to point to Genesis 9, 25­7 and God's curse on Canaan, and the
      children of Ham: 'A servant of servants shall he be unto his
      brethren.' The early Christians never rejected slavery. [4]


      The Butcher Slaves

      Throughout the sixteenth century, intelligent people were having
      doubts about the distinctiveness of humans or their superior station
      in the Great Chain of Being. Montaigne wrote that there were no
      important differences between humans and other animals. The latter, he
      said, displayed powers of logic, discrimination, judgement, cunning
      and even religiosity. [5] Such sentiments were powerfully abetted by
      the growing distaste among intellectuals like Erasmus, Sir Thomas More
      and Montaigne for hunting, a pursuit whose refinements had transfixed
      the upper classes for five centuries. 'And thus with their butchering
      and eating of beasts,' Erasmus wrote in In Praise of Folly, at the
      start of the sixteenth century, 'they [the genteel hunters] accomplish
      nothing at all unless it be to degenerate into beasts themselves. . .'
      Montaigne concluded, 'It is apparent that it is not by a true
      judgment, but by foolish pride and stubbornness, that we set ourselves
      before the other animals and sequester ourselves from their condition
      and society.' [6]

      Sir Thomas More's Utopia, published in 1516, brings together some of
      these themes:

      Outside the city are designated places where all gore and offal
      may be washed away in running water. From these places they transport
      the carcasses of the animals slaughtered and cleaned by the hands of
      slaves. They do not allow their citizens to accustom themselves to the
      butchering of animals, by the practice of which they think that mercy,
      the finest feeling of our human nature, is gradually killed off.

      A few pages further on, More's Utopians 'have imposed the whole
      activity of hunting, as unworthy of free men, upon their butchers-a
      craft, as I explained before, they exercise through their slaves.'
      There was a long-running popular myth that butchers were at various
      periods excluded from English juries, on the grounds that their trade
      had coarsened their powers of moral discrimination. [7]


      The Breaking of Soft Machines

      From these humane sentiments of the sixteenth century we approach the
      seventeenth century and Descartes, who regarded humans as machinery
      imbued with the divinely bestowed intellectual essence. Animals were
      mere machinery. At Port-Royal, the Cartesians cut up living creatures
      with fervour and, in the words of one of Descartes' biographers,
      'kicked about their dogs and dissected their cats without mercy,
      laughing at any compassion for them and calling their screams the
      noise of breaking machinery.'

      The butchering industry has always been stoutly Cartesian in outlook
      for obvious reasons. 'The breeding sow', an executive from Wall's Meat
      Co. wrote in National Hog Farmer in the late 1970s, 'should be thought
      of, and treated as, a valuable piece of machinery whose function is to
      pump out baby pigs like a sausage machine.' [8]

      As a Christian you either concluded with Descartes that animals did
      not suffer, that their cries were of no greater consequence than the
      snap of a clock spring breaking, or you reckoned God had a deeper
      plan, hard for humans to comprehend. John Wesley, the Methodist
      divine, thought that animal suffering offered 'a plausible objection
      against the justice of God, in suffering numberless creatures that had
      never sinned to be so severely punished.' Wesley's answer was a sort
      of Pythagorean metempsychosis, whereby at the last trump they would be
      resurrected with human intelligence and, thus equipped, enjoy life
      everlasting. [9]

      But the core text for Christians remained the edict in Genesis, along
      with the divine injunction to St Peter to kill and eat with God's
      blessing. St Francis of Assisi may have had strong rapport with the
      birds of the air, but in the New World the Franciscans, Jesuits and
      Dominicans pioneered cattle ranching. [10] In 1638, the Jesuits
      abandoned a mission east of the Rio Plata in what is now Uruguay,
      leaving behind five thousand head of cattle. These and other herds
      multiplied at a staggering rate. By 1700, Felix de Azara reckoned the
      cattle in what is now Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay at 48 million,
      most of them feral. [11]

      Further north, these religious orders founded ranches on Marajo, the
      island in the mouth of the Amazon, in Sonora, in Texas and in Alta
      California. By the early nineteenth century, the mission herds in Alta
      California were estimated at anywhere from 200,000 to 400,000
      longhorns of Spanish descent, parents of the gigantic herds later
      driven to the inferno of the Chicago stockyards. [12]

      Christians have no dietary sanction against eating the flesh of
      creatures other than themselves. The many days-most notably Fridays in
      the old Roman Catholic calendar-of non-flesh consumption, were
      penitential in function. Lent was similar. Contrary to common belief,
      Hindus do not have a religious interdict on the eating of meat. As in
      More's Utopia, the attitude is caste-based, with Brahmins
      (intellectuals and priests) and Vaisyas (merchants) regarding
      meat-eating as the province of Kshatriyas (warriors) and Sudras
      (labourers). Tanning and butchering are done by the Untouchables.
      Meat-eating is regarded by Brahmins as unclean, and caste mobility in
      Hindu society is often expressed by giving up meat and becoming
      vegetarian.

      Many modern Christians do not care much for the prescriptions in
      Genesis and use the same sort of language one Bishop of Durham once
      did about the Resurrection: it was all a lot of bother about a heap of
      old bones. (God responded by striking Durham Cathedral with a
      lightning bolt, serving the Bishop right.) But the theology still has
      strength. In an influential essay published in 1967, 'The Roots of Our
      Ecologic Crisis', Lynn White Jr. discussed the verses from Genesis 1:
      26­28 about man's dominion over the earth and concluded that 'we shall
      continue to have a worsening ecologic crisis until we reject the
      Christian axiom that nature has no reason for existence save to serve
      man.'


      An Earthly Paradise

      Thus was the gauntlet thrown down. In 1991, I heard it being picked up
      by us Representative Bill Dannemeyer, talking to a crowd of
      businessmen in the Eureka Inn, in Eureka, northern California, some
      two hours north of where I live. 'We should understand,' Dannemeyer
      told the crowd, 'that this environmental party has in its objective a
      mission to change this society, to worship the creation instead of the
      creator. You have to understand their theology. I can't prove this by
      empirical analysis, but my gut reaction to their thoughts is simply
      this: if you go through life and you don't believe in a hereafter and
      all you see before you today are trees, birds. . .if anybody begins to
      consume those things, you can get excited about that because it's your
      whole world. And this is where the militancy comes.'

      Five years later, at a gun rally outside Detroit, I heard similar
      execration heaped on environmentalists for preferring rats to humans,
      plus a savage attack on Jeremy Bentham, the eighteenth-century English
      utilitarian who famously declared in his Introduction to Principles of
      Morals and Legislation, published in 1780, that animals have rights
      and that 'the question is not, Can they reason? nor Can they talk?
      but, Can they suffer?' Bentham drew explicit comparisons between the
      rights of animals and the rights of slaves, equating the abolitionist
      cause for human slaves with the cause of rights for animals. Alluding
      to the French Code Noir of 1685, regulating the status of slaves in
      the West Indies and forbidding their murder by their masters, Bentham
      expressed the hope that animals would also thus be saved from their
      torturers and that one day 'the number of legs, the villosity of the
      skin, or the termination of the os sacrum' would be equally
      insufficient reasons for maltreatment. Soon after the Second World
      War, Bertrand Russell wrote:

      If men developed by such slow stages that there were creatures
      which we should not know whether to classify as human or not, the
      question arises: at what stage in evolution did men, or their
      semi-human ancestors, begin to be all equal?. . .An adherent of
      evolution may maintain that not only the doctrine of the equality of
      all men, but also that of the rights of man, must be condemned as
      unbiological, since it makes too emphatic a distinction between men
      and other animals. [13]

      In his marvellous book on hunting, A View to a Death in the Morning,
      Matt Cartmill quotes Russell on the 'too emphatic distinction between
      men and other animals' and then offers this farewell to the
      stipulations of the God of Genesis:

      Our culture offers to justify that [too emphatic] distinction by
      viewing human beings as separate from nature and innately superior to
      it. At the same time, however, we view the natural order as sacred and
      establish elaborate machineries to protect it from human intervention.
      Though different subcultures place different stress on these two
      views, probably most of us would assent in some degree to both. But it
      is obvious they do not fit very well together. Our vision of nature as
      man's holy slave is both incoherent and dishonest, like the
      patriarchal Victorian vision of Woman as a sort of angelic chattel.

      The incoherence and dishonesty inherent in that Victorian ideology
      were eventually corrected by recognizing that the similarities between
      master and chat tel had greater moral and political importance than
      the differences. Since there proved to be no morally interesting
      differences between women and men, the only way men could preserve
      their self-respect and integrity was to extend citizenship to women.
      The same was true of masters and slaves and of whites and blacks. In
      each of these cases, a heavily marked status boundary ultimately had
      to be given up because it was intellectually indefensible. And if the
      cognitive boundary between man and beast, between the world of history
      and the world of nature, is equally indefensible, we cannot defend
      human dignity without extending some sort of citizenship to the rest
      of nature-which means ceasing to treat the non-human world as a series
      of means to human ends.


      Tomorrow, Part 2: Porkopolis

      This essay appears as part of Dead Meat, presenting Sue Coe's record,
      in the form of paintings and diaries, of slaughterhouses in the United
      States. Dead Meat is published by Four Walls Eight Windows Press, in
      New York, and paintings in it may be seen at the St. Etienne Gallery,
      20 West 57th St, New York.

      Footnotes

      [1] God's line is that it's Man's and Woman's fault. He set up a
      vegetarian world, and then the founding parents, exercising free will,
      wrecked everything, and creatures fell to eating one another.
      'Vegetarianism was also encouraged by Christian teaching, for all
      theologians agreed that man had not originally been carnivorous. .
      .Many biblical commentators maintained that it was only after the
      flood that humans became meat-eaters; in the period of disorientation
      following the Fall they had remained herbivorous. Others, noting that
      Abel was a herdsman, suggested that it was the Fall which had
      inaugurated the carnivorous error, and that the liberty of eating
      flesh which God gave Noah was merely the renewal of an earlier
      permission. Commentators argued over whether meat-eating had been
      permitted because man's physical constitution had degenerated and
      therefore required new forms of nutriment, or because the cultivation
      of the soil to which he was condemned required a more robust food, or
      because the fruits and herbs on which he had fed in Eden had lost
      their former goodness. But everyone agreed that meat-eating symbolised
      man's fallen condition. 'God allows us to take away the lives of our
      fellow creatures and to eat their flesh,' wrote Richard Baxter in
      1691, 'to show what sin hath brought on the world.' The death of brute
      animals to supply the wants of sinful man could even be made a
      paradigm of Christ's atonement.' Keith Thomas, Man and the Natural
      World, New York 1983.

      Stew Albert reports to me that the prevailing Jewish interpretation of
      Genesis is slightly different. It holds (Dominions not withstanding)
      that God mandated that humans not eat flesh. And that mandate was
      withdrawn only after the great flood. No reason is offered by God for
      changing his mind ­ but some theories have it, that the flood was
      brought on as divine punishment because humans kept fighting among
      themselves. So God decided (as an act of kindness) that the second
      time around humans would have an increased food supply and maybe they
      would fight less. God's fabled powers of foreknowledge cleared
      faltered on this point. Of course the Hebrew tribes eventually would
      learn that not all meat or food of the sea was permitted to them. But
      that came later.

      [2] Man is 'this thing,' Francis Bacon wrote in The Wisdom of the
      Ancients, as he proposed his principles of scientific investigation in
      the early seventeenth century,' in which the whole world centres, with
      respect to final causes; so that if he were away, all other things
      would stray and fluctuate, without end or intention, or become
      perfectly disjointed and out of frame; for all things are made
      subservient to man, and he receives uses and benefits from them all. .
      .so that everything in nature seems made not for itself, but for man.'
      In Bacon's view, the Fall had suspended man's sovereignty over nature;
      and to restore this prelapsarian dominance was the proper aim of all
      science, whose true aim, as he put it in the Novum Organum, is 'to
      extend more widely the limits of the power and greatness of man,' and
      to endow him with 'infinite commodities.' Tyson or Purdue should have
      Bacon's portrait on every chicken shed. Always alert to the possible
      utility of nature to man, Bacon was riding along in his coach in the
      early English spring of 1626, when the notion of experimenting with
      frozen chicken crossed his mind. He stopped the coach, descended,
      bought a fowl and stuffed it with snow thus contracting the chill from
      which he soon died in Lord Arundel's house a few weeks later.

      Bacon discusses vivisection in somewhat muffled terms: 'To prosecute
      such inquiry concerning perfect animals by cutting out the foetus from
      the womb would be too inhuman, except when opportunities are afforded
      by abortions, the chase, and the like. There should therefore be a
      sort of nightwatch over nature, as showing herself better by night
      than by day. For these may be regarded as night studies by reason of
      the smallness of our candle and its continual burning.' Novum Organum,
      Book ii, 41. But while Bacon was indulging himself in these niceties,
      his doctor, William Harvey-who also looked after Arundel-was busy
      vivisecting. Bacon published the Novum Organum in 1620. Harvey
      published his treatise on the circulation of the blood, De Motu Cordis
      et Sanguinis in Frankfurt in 1621. It began with the words, 'When, by
      many dissections of living animals, as they came to hand. . .I first
      gave myself to observing how I might discover. . .' He presumably
      discussed his work with Bacon, who did not feel affronted enough to
      change doctors.

      On the other hand, see the extraordinary passage on vivisection,
      amnesia and pain, 'Le Prix du Prográs', in Theodor Adorno and Max
      Horkheimer's Dialectic of Enlightenment, Verso, London 1979 (this was
      presumably Adorno):

      A recently discovered letter by the French physiologist, Pierre
      Flourens, who once enjoyed the bittersweet fame of having been elected
      to the French Academy in competition with Victor Hugo, contains the
      following striking passage: 'I still cannot decide to agree to the use
      of chloroform in general surgical practice. As you probably know, I
      have devoted extensive study to this substance and was one of the
      first to describe its specific properties on the basis of experiments
      with animals. My scruples are founded on the simple fact that
      operations with chloroform, and presumably also with the other known
      forms of narcosis, have an illusory success. These substances act
      solely on certain motor and coordination centers and on the residual
      capability of the nervous substances. Under the influence of
      chloroform, the nervous substance loses a considerable part of its
      ability to absorb traces of impressions, but it does not lose the
      power of sensation as such. On the contrary, my observations suggest
      that in conjunction with the general innervation paralysis, pain is
      experienced even more strongly than in the normal condition. The
      public is misled by the fact that after an operation the patient is
      unable to remember what he has undergone. If we told our patients the
      truth, it is probable that not one of them would wish to have an
      operation performed under chloroform, whereas they all insist on its
      use now because we shroud the truth in silence. 'But quite apart from
      the fact that the only questionable gain is a loss of memory lasting
      for the duration of surgery, I consider that the extended use of this
      substance entails another serious risk. With the increasing
      superficiality of the general academic training of our doctors, the
      unlimited use of chloroform may encourage surgeons to carry out
      increasingly complex and difficult operations. Instead of using these
      methods on animals in the interests of research, our own patients will
      then become unsuspecting guinea pigs. It is possible that the painful
      stimuli which because of their specific nature may well exceed all
      known sensations of this kind, may lead to permanent mental damage in
      the patient or even to an undescribably painful death under narcosis;
      and the exact features of this death will be hidden for ever from the
      relatives of the patient and the world at large. Would this not be too
      high a price to pay for progress?' If Flourens had been right here,
      the dark paths of the divine world order would have been justified for
      once. The animal would have been avenged through the suffering of his
      executioners: every operation would have been a vivisection. The
      suspicion would then arise that our relationship with men and creation
      in general was like our relationship with ourself after an
      operation-oblivion for suffering. For cognition the gap between us and
      others was the same as the time between our own present and past
      suffering; an insurmountable barrier. But perennial domination over
      nature, medical and non-medical techniques, are made possible only by
      the process of oblivion. The loss of memory is a transcendental
      condition for science. All objectification is a forgetting.

      Despite these admirable remarks, Adorno and Horkheimer do not seem to
      have had much empathy with animals, if 'Man and Animal'-which comes a
      few pages later in the book-is anything to go by. Walter Benjamin's
      paragraph on 'Gloves' in One-Way Street, Verso, London 1979, expresses
      a positive revulsion towards animals. Like Adorno and Horkheimer, he
      was better at describing domination than affinity.

      [3] C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, New York 1962. Cited in Matt
      Cartmill, A View to a Death in the Morning: Hunting and Nature through
      History, New Haven 1993. Christian and Marxist shook hands over this
      deal. Cartmill reports that in the 1930s 'some Marxist thinkers . .
      .urged that it was time to put an end to nature and that animals and
      plants that serve no human purpose ought to be exterminated.'

      [4] The historian Geoffrey de Ste. Croix declared that he was not
      aware of any general Christian condemnation of slavery before the
      petition of the Mennonites of Germantown in Pennsylvania in 1688, and
      the Mennonites were founded by a sixteenth-century Anabaptist, whose
      attitude to property was communist in outlook. See G.E.M. de Ste.
      Croix, The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World. London 1981.

      [5] 'Presumption is our natural and original malady. The most
      vulnerable and frail of all creatures is man, and at the same time the
      most arrogant. He feels and sees himself lodged here, among the mire
      and dung of the world, nailed and riveted to the worst, the deadest
      and most stagnant part of the universe, on the lowest story of the
      house and the farthest from the vault of heaven, with the animals of
      the worst condition of the three [i.e. those that walk, fly and swim],
      and in his imagination he goes planting himself above the circle of
      the moon, and bringing the sky down beneath his feet. It is by the
      vanity of this same imagination that he equals himself to God,
      attributes to himself divine characteristics, picks himself out and
      separates himself from the horde of other creatures, carves out their
      shares to his fellows and companions the animals, and distributes
      among them such portions of faculties and powers as he sees fit. How
      does he know, by the force of his intelligence, the secret internal
      stirrings of animals? By what comparison between them and us does he
      infer the stupidity that he attributes to them?' Amplifying his essays
      a few years later, Montaigne added after the passage just quoted, the
      famous sentence 'When I play with my cat, who knows if I am not a
      pastime to her more than she is to me?' From 'Apology for Raymond
      Sebond,' The Complete Essays of Montaigne, translated by Donald M.
      Frame, Stanford 1965.

      [6] By the mid sixteenth century Giovanni Battista Gelli, a Florentine
      scholar, was writing Circe, a dialogue in which the enchantress of the
      title tells Ulysses she will restore the animals she transmogrified
      back into his original crew, so long as he can secure their agreement.
      The animals remain unpersuaded. You men, the doe replies to Ulysses's
      invitation to resume the form of a woman, 'make mere slaves and
      servants out of us. . .Among animals, any animals you want to name,
      the female partakes equally with the male in his pleasures and
      diversions.' Only one, an elephant, makes the return journey and
      shouts triumphantly, 'What a marvelous sensation it is to be a man!'
      But he was a philosopher. R. Adams, ed., The Circe of Signior Giovanni
      Battista Gelli, Ithaca 1991. Cited in Matt Cartmill, A View to a Death
      in the Morning.

      [7] Sir Thomas More, Utopia, edited by Edward Sturz, Yale 1964. Keith
      Thomas discusses the legend of jury exclusion of butchers in Man and
      the Natural World.

      [8] Quoted in Animal Factories by Jim Mason and Peter Singer, New York
      1990.

      [9] See Cartmill, A View to a Death in the Morning. This concept of
      eighteenth-century promotion was resumed by a French biologist,
      Charles Bonnet, who thought that man would eventually move on 'to
      another dwelling place, more suitable to the superiority of his
      faculties', and then the beasts would be elevated accordingly: 'In
      this universal restoration of animals, there may be found a Leibniz or
      a Newton among the monkeys or the elephants, a Perrault or a Vauban
      among the beavers.'

      [10] Christians were deeply involved in the development of the human
      slave trade between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries, since
      enslavement could be the prelude to conversion, just as the 'beef
      Christian' Indians of the Californian ranchos run by the Franciscans
      took on board spiritual grace along with their ribeye. The vaqueros
      tending these Western herds could maybe trace some of their skills in
      part back through Andalucian and Marisman herders to the West African
      Fulani of the pre-Columbian era, some of whom may have been taken as
      slaves to Spain. See Terry Jordan, North American Cattle-Ranching
      Frontiers, Albuquerque 1993.

      [11] Alfred Crosby, Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion
      of Europe, 900-1900, Cambridge 1986.

      [12] See Terry Jordan, North American Cattle Ranching Frontiers.
      Jordan suggests this in the context of his estimate that cowboys of
      African descent were extremely uncommon on the western cattle frontiers.

      [13] Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy, New York 1945.
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