After putting it off for far too long, I've started to read Erica Fudge's Animal (2002). In the introduction she takes up the theme of Biblical dominion as a way to understand our "lived contradictions" in our relations to animals (e.g., how dogs and cats are pets, but cows and pigs are food). I'm sympathetic to the general argument: even if most people don't believe what is written in scripture regarding dominion, it remains the case that much - if not most - European and North American social, political, legal and cultural institutions are derived from Christian concepts. (Being Durkheimian on this point, I'd argue that all possible human institutions are in some sense 'religious' being based upon distinctions between the sacred and the profane and, internally to the sacred, between the pure and impure, all of which are upheld through a complex set of rituals called the cult; the point here is that the basic structure of the distinction between sacred and profane in Western cultures is 'Christian,' be it a religious or secular (e.g., liberalism, socialism, conservatism) form of 'Christianity.') She points to two particularly important passages, the original grant of dominion to Adam (1:28, which she does not explicitly discuss) and the naming of the animals by Adam at 2:19 (wrongly cited as 1:19 - poor copyediting!). She appears to give more importance to the latter than the former because she understands 2:19 to be an actualization of the power over animals that was merely manifest at 1:28. In the donation, dominion is given to Adam over the animals, but only at 2:19 does Adam exercise that power by naming the animals. In Fudge's interpretation, this naming reveals the inherent power of humans and the inherent powerlessness of animals. Humans can name themselves, but animals cannot. Scriptually, this seems questionable: Adam appears to be a generic term for "mankind" rather than a designation as a proper name; Adam too is unnamed when he gives names to animals. Hence, what we seem to have is a situation of the 'un-named naming the also un-named.' (Although there is a parallel that Fudge does not pursue: Eve is also named by Adam before he takes on Adam as a proper name for himself.) If Fudge is correct that is a name that gives a being substance, then Adam=mankind is at this point also an unsubstantial being. The result is that the world is populated with substantial beings (animals bearing names) and then there remains Adam=mankind who has not yet taken on a proper name for himself, either given to him by God or given to himself by himself. If she wants to extend naming as an exercise of power and names being that which gives a being substance, then she needs to account for why Adam=mankind remains ineffable and unsubstantial. After introducing the naming argument, Fudge comments:
An animal cannot think, we argue, and therefore it is down to us to think for it. If we firmly believed that a cow could think like us it would become very difficult to justify eating it. Instead, we decide that a cow can't think as we understand the term, and that it is therefore morally acceptable to eat the cow. In these terms, dominion is a claim for the human right - even duty - to treat animals as objects of use rather than as fellow subjects of the planet.
The consequence Fudge draws from naming is also at odds with what is recorded in scripture. Naming, she seems to argue, is what enables us to eat animals. The problem is that animals are not given to Adam as food in Genesis. However, immediately following the donation of dominion, God outlines what is permissible to eat:
Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.
It would seem that at the time of creation, humans and animals alike were vegans, being "given every green plant for food." This is confirmed when God brings Adam to the Garden of Eden,
You may freely eat of every tree of the garden.
Again, Adam is limited to the fruits of the trees. This leads to a new problem, what then does dominion mean if Adam cannot eat animals? We should recall that dominion is granted to Adam prior to the Fall. Consequently, Adam has no need of oxen to bear his yoke. Likewise, Adam has been instructed to eat the green plants. Hence, he has no need of chickens for eggs or cows for milk. Similarly, Adam is naken and does not realize his nakedness. Thus, he has no need of hides or furs for clothing. (And, when Adam and Eve do realize their nakedness, they do not cover themselves with furs or leathers, but with foliage.) The animals over which Adam has dominion have no value in use; they could not have been given to Adam for instrumental exploitation. Originary dominion must mean something else entirely and it certainly cannot be used as a foundation for the justification of exploitation. Indeed, it isn't until well after the Fall and the birth of Cain and Abel that humans begin to gather animals in flocks. Although, again, it isn't clear why Abel gathers sheep into flocks if there are no grounds for their use, except, perhaps, as wool for clothing. The short of it is that despite how we often proceed in "animal studies," blaming the exploitation of animals on Genesis is far more complex than it would otherwise appear.