Leading Idea: Eating Meat – UPS, MS, HS, A

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Leading Idea: Eating Meat

This text parallels strongly elements of the text in Bereshit 1:28-29. Yet there is a striking difference. In the account of creation in Bereshit, God blesses human beings and gives us dominion over all of creation, but only the plant kingdom is given to us to eat for food. In this blessing, God not only gives us plants, but also the animal kingdom as food. In this, it marks a transition for humans from being herbivores to omnivores (eating both plants and animals). Whether we should eat meat is a contentious issue. Before delving into this issue it might be helpful to slow down and spend time reflecting on how we decide what counts as food and how we decide which foods we will eat. The issue is more complex than merely deciding between “meat or not meat”. The discussion plans and exercises here explore our relationship to food, how what we eat might affect us, and how we decide – culturally, religiously, and morally – the boundaries to what we choose to eat.

While the text now states we have permission to eat meat, there are distinctions and limits here as well – we can eat flesh, but not blood, and we will be held accountable for killing another human being. What does this transition signify? What might it say about our relationship to creation and about our nature as human beings? How do we decide what is acceptable to eat and how is this connected to our identity? To what extent are we what we eat? Does eating flesh make us more violent or is it a release that leads us to be less violent? If we start thinking that it is acceptable to kill animals will we end up thinking it is acceptable to kill people?

Both the Jewish textual tradition and philosophical discourse are animated around these questions, offering us multiple responses that can inform our inquiry

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