Chaïm Soutine (1893-1943)
Le boeuf écorché (The beef carcass)
Painted circa 1924
From an article by Andrew Graham Dixon:
“In 1925, when he had a studio large enough in the Rue du Mont St Gothard, he procured the entire carcass of a steer… He did at least four similar canvases, as well as sketches … and meantime the steer decomposed. According to the legend, when the glorious colours of the flesh were hidden from the enthralled gaze of the painter by an accumulation of flies, he paid a wretched little model to sit beside it and fan them away. He got from the butcher a pail of blood, so that when a portion of the beef dried out, he could freshen its colour. Other dwellers in the Rue Mont St Gothard complained of the odour of the rotting flesh, and when the police arrived Soutine harangued them on how much more important art was than sanitation or olfactory agreeableness.”
On Facebook I follow Phil Rockstroh who is a writer, philosopher, activist and poet. He often writes provocative political pieces as well as social commentary.
Today he wrote this:
“The assumption that animals are without rights, and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance, is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity. Universal compassion in the only guarantee of morality.” ― Arthur Schopenhauer, The Basis of Morality
And the situation has deteriorated into an even more all-compassing, ethical imperative since Schopenhauser’s era. The cruelty and exploitation we inflict on animals is a direct analog of the evil we inflict on each other e.g., slavery, economic commodification, mass slaughter. The mass "production" of animal flesh (appropriating the very model of a Death Camp) creates more climate chaos than do the emissions of internal combustion engines.
Do you feel animus towards that selfish tool in the SUV next to you in traffic. Then put down that burger, hypocrite. If you seethe in rage about fracking, strip-mining, and mountain top removal — then step away from the sushi bar, because the type of large trawlers used for purposes of industrial scale fishing have depleted 90% of the large fish (e.g., tuna, mackerel, sea bass) in the oceans of the world.
Tired of the exploitation, degradation, and general harm the corporate state inflicts on you and upon the earth, my friend — then cease existing as a microcosmic version of the death-sustained system that you abhor, by the simple act of being mindful of what you place in your gob.
He rather likes the provocative polemic which is one of the reasons I read what he writes.
We can move away from exploitative practices in everything we do. It’s not going to happen overnight. No need to be hard on one’s self. You don’t have to be a Yoda. "Do or do not. There is no try." and life is never that simple anyways.
I’m not a vegetarian generally but do take a lot more time to consider where my food comes from and how it is raised. Once one becomes conscious of that it’s a lot harder to think of things like veal or pate as even remotely appetizing.
One thing I’ve found that brings this to consciousness, sometimes in a big way, is cooking one’s own meals. When you have to look at and handle the raw meat you have to really connect with it in a sensory way which you don’t with processed, packaged, pre-cooked or restaurant food. It can be a very visceral experience to strip the skin off a dead chicken or slice the fat from a raw beef steak. It’s skin. It’s muscle. There’s sinew and cartilage. It’s got blood and bone. It feels resistive. It smells dead.
I have no ambition to become a vegetarian. There’s no compulsion to some kind of dietary purity in my book. I don’t take my meals based upon what some trendy Buddhisty types approve of. That’s all pretty shallow bullshit.
But there have been an increasing number of days where I could not get over the sensory experience of the raw meat and ended up with a vegetarian pizza or bowl of lentil soup instead.