Food and the British BSE Crisis

As most of us know, the Jewish laws about Kosher food include one that we must keep milk and meat separate. We mustn't even let them mix in our stomachs, and must use separate utensils. It all comes from a single law that God told Moses, "You must not boil a kid in its mother's milk." God gave laws to ensure that everything works well in our community, society and environment ('shalom' is the Hebrew word) and as a reflection of his own character.

While in Israel recently I asked our Jewish guide why the Jewish scholars had extended God's law into such a rule. "Well," she explained, "if you had some kid meat and some milk, how can you be certain it's not the kid and milk of the same mother? And what is a kid - any young animal? And so on." We put up fences round a hole in the ground to keep people falling in, and the further the fences are from the hole, the less chance of them falling in - in this case, of breaking the law given by God.

But these fences are so restrictive! Her answer was, "Wouldn't you swim across a river for One you love?" Because of our love for God we are willing to restrict ourselves even when we don't need to. I gained some understanding that day.

But she also told us the following joke (Jews are excellent in laughing at themselves; I wish we all were!):

God: "You must not boil a kid in its mother's milk."
Moses: "Yes, Lord. We will not eat milk and meat together."
God: "You must not boil a kid in its mother's milk."
Moses: "Yes, Lord. We will keep 6 hours between eating milk and meat."
God: "You must not boil a kid in its mother's milk."
Moses: "Yes, Lord. We will use separate dishes, cutlery and saucepans for milk and meat, use separate dishwashers, and even have separate kitchens."
God: "Oh, have it your own way!"

If we treat God's laws as rules that must never be broken we will erect fences. But maybe God gave this law, not as a rule to ensure we never break, but as an expression of a principle? If so, what is its real meaning? What is the principle behind "You must not boil a kid in its mother's milk."?

My wife suggested: "We must not milk a mother and then immediately slaughter its young; that's an obscenity, an obscenity against life, an obscenity against the animal." The whole purpose of milk is to give life, not death. God loves his whole Creation, and doesn't want us to treat it with obscenity.

The BSE crisis in Britain comes from another obscenity to animals. It started because the monetarist Government of Margaret Thatcher gave permission for cattle feed to include animal remains, and even remains of other cows. Cows are herbivores, and should not be fed with animal remains, especially not from their own species. That is an obscenity against the animal. And we who have responsibility for our cattle should not take advantage of their trust in us to trick them into eating their own remains. To betray our trust like this is an even greater obscenity.

Now we are reaping the results of our obscenity against animals. The UK farming industry has lost 4 billion - a rather expensive experiment even in monetarist terms! And people are dying.

So, maybe God's laws do have to be respected, for the long term well-being of ourselves, community, society, environment and those we are responsible for? Not necessarily as rigid rules but as principles. Here is another of God's laws that perhaps the farming industry now needs to ponder:

"For six years sow your fields, ... prune your vineyards, gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a sabbath of rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields ... The land is to have a year of rest."

Copyright (c) Andrew Basden 2000. Comments, queries welcome.

Last updated: 26 October 2000, 23 September 2001 added a bit more of what my wife meant. 17 August 2014 dealt with all '../../'.