Animal Rights Zone

Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism

ARZone Podcast 85: Kim Socha - Animal Liberation and Atheism

Episode 85 features advocate, educator, and author Kim Socha.

Kim Socha, who holds a PhD in English Literature and Criticism, is an English professor working in the US. A grassroots animal liberation advocate, Kim is also active in drug policy reform, and transformative justice.

Kim is the author or editor of 4 books relating to animal rights and veganism including her most recent from 2014, Animal Liberation and Atheism: Dismantling the Procrustean Bed. Prof. Socha joined us to speak about that book, in which she makes the case that adherence to any of the world's major religions is antithetical to an animal liberation perspective and practice. Audio podcast, approx. 52 minutes.

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Great show! So good in fact, I just purchased the book. Also, its good to hear Tim Gier taking a (seemingly) more active roll in the discussions. Carolyn Bailey is, as always, perfection.

The teeny weensy downside to the show is the thought that proceeding a vegan world, an end to religion must be achieved. Meanwhile, some recent thinkers within the movement suggested that we merely needed to end capitalism! My hoped for "vegan world" isn't likely anytime soon, is it.

Richard, you're always very kind, thank you!! 



Richard McMahan said:

Great show! So good in fact, I just purchased the book. Also, its good to hear Tim Gier taking a (seemingly) more active roll in the discussions. Carolyn Bailey is, as always, perfection.

The teeny weensy downside to the show is the thought that proceeding a vegan world, an end to religion must be achieved. Meanwhile, some recent thinkers within the movement suggested that we merely needed to end capitalism! My hoped for "vegan world" isn't likely anytime soon, is it.

Thanks Richard. I'm always skeptical about claims that human beings need to abandon religion, or overthrow capitalism, or adopt anarchism, or whatever, before real change can happen. It seems to me that such claims boil down, in the end, to the claim that humans have to stop being human! We're not, as a species, anytime soon going to abandon religion, or capitalism, or law & order in hierarchical societies.

Richard McMahan said:

Great show! So good in fact, I just purchased the book. Also, its good to hear Tim Gier taking a (seemingly) more active roll in the discussions. Carolyn Bailey is, as always, perfection.

The teeny weensy downside to the show is the thought that proceeding a vegan world, an end to religion must be achieved. Meanwhile, some recent thinkers within the movement suggested that we merely needed to end capitalism! My hoped for "vegan world" isn't likely anytime soon, is it.

Thank you for mentioning JVNA on this podcast, although I was very disappointed by Kim Socha's response.

She twisted the meaning of Genesis 9 almost 180 degrees, taking it out of context and getting it backwards.

There is a reason several of the nation's most prominent rabbis are on the Rabbinic Council of JVNA.

It would be wonderful if the ARZone gave a JVNA leader a chance to set the record straight and educate your listeners about what the Torah really says about animals. 

Hi Jeffrey,

What context does Genesis 9 need to make it more clear? It seems to me that what the JVNA says it on it's website is exactly the sort of thing that Kim Socha is critical about it: the reinterpreting of the plain text of a document in such a way as to read into it something that isn't there in order to make that interpretation fit with what one wishes the document did say. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

I'll speak with Carolyn about ARZone conducting an interview with the JVNA; it maybe something of interest and value to our members. Thank you for the suggestion.


Jeffrey Cohan said:

Thank you for mentioning JVNA on this podcast, although I was very disappointed by Kim Socha's response.

She twisted the meaning of Genesis 9 almost 180 degrees, taking it out of context and getting it backwards.

There is a reason several of the nation's most prominent rabbis are on the Rabbinic Council of JVNA.

It would be wonderful if the ARZone gave a JVNA leader a chance to set the record straight and educate your listeners about what the Torah really says about animals. 

Hi Tim,

Thank you for your response. 

There is so much packed into Genesis 9, I can't do justice to the issue in this forum, so please forgive this incomplete answer. I'll just add two facts to our discussion. 

Jews do not believe in a literal interpretation (or the "plain text") of the Torah/Bible. Our understanding of the Torah is filtered through rabbinic interpretation, which is canonized in the Mishnah and the Gemara, then further distilled in later commentary.

So Kim was applying the wrong lens to her interpretation. We don't read or understand the Bible in the same way that a Christian Fundamentalist might. 

With respect to Genesis 9 specifically, it's the chapter that comes immediately after a disgusted God has wiped out humankind in the Flood. The permission to eat meat is widely viewed by rabbinic authorities as a concession to the moral weakness of humankind, not as an expression of our religious ideals. To drive that point home, it states five times in Genesis 9 alone that God includes animals in the Divine Covenant. 

Again, please forgive this partial response. 

HI Jeffrey, thank you for that reply. I am (obviously) not fully informed on the issue. Given the moral weakness of humankind, is it thought that God will or has revoked His permission for us to eat other animals?

Jeffrey Cohan said:

Hi Tim,

Thank you for your response. 

There is so much packed into Genesis 9, I can't do justice to the issue in this forum, so please forgive this incomplete answer. I'll just add two facts to our discussion. 

Jews do not believe in a literal interpretation (or the "plain text") of the Torah/Bible. Our understanding of the Torah is filtered through rabbinic interpretation, which is canonized in the Mishnah and the Gemara, then further distilled in later commentary.

So Kim was applying the wrong lens to her interpretation. We don't read or understand the Bible in the same way that a Christian Fundamentalist might. 

With respect to Genesis 9 specifically, it's the chapter that comes immediately after a disgusted God has wiped out humankind in the Flood. The permission to eat meat is widely viewed by rabbinic authorities as a concession to the moral weakness of humankind, not as an expression of our religious ideals. To drive that point home, it states five times in Genesis 9 alone that God includes animals in the Divine Covenant. 

Again, please forgive this partial response. 

The short answer is yes. 

In what is considered the most authoritative description of the future Messianic era, even the animals are vegan (Book of Isaiah). 

For now, God makes it abundantly clear in Numbers 11 and Deuteronomy 12 that meat-eating is not the Divine preference, but a symptom of human lust. 

 



Tim Gier said:

HI Jeffrey, thank you for that reply. I am (obviously) not fully informed on the issue. Given the moral weakness of humankind, is it thought that God will or has revoked His permission for us to eat other animals?

Jeffrey Cohan said:

Hi Tim,

Thank you for your response. 

There is so much packed into Genesis 9, I can't do justice to the issue in this forum, so please forgive this incomplete answer. I'll just add two facts to our discussion. 

Jews do not believe in a literal interpretation (or the "plain text") of the Torah/Bible. Our understanding of the Torah is filtered through rabbinic interpretation, which is canonized in the Mishnah and the Gemara, then further distilled in later commentary.

So Kim was applying the wrong lens to her interpretation. We don't read or understand the Bible in the same way that a Christian Fundamentalist might. 

With respect to Genesis 9 specifically, it's the chapter that comes immediately after a disgusted God has wiped out humankind in the Flood. The permission to eat meat is widely viewed by rabbinic authorities as a concession to the moral weakness of humankind, not as an expression of our religious ideals. To drive that point home, it states five times in Genesis 9 alone that God includes animals in the Divine Covenant. 

Again, please forgive this partial response. 

Thanks again Jeffrey. I will make time to read Isaiah in the next few days.

Jeffrey Cohan said:

The short answer is yes. 

In what is considered the most authoritative description of the future Messianic era, even the animals are vegan (Book of Isaiah). 

For now, God makes it abundantly clear in Numbers 11 and Deuteronomy 12 that meat-eating is not the Divine preference, but a symptom of human lust. 

 



Tim Gier said:

HI Jeffrey, thank you for that reply. I am (obviously) not fully informed on the issue. Given the moral weakness of humankind, is it thought that God will or has revoked His permission for us to eat other animals?

Jeffrey Cohan said:

Hi Tim,

Thank you for your response. 

There is so much packed into Genesis 9, I can't do justice to the issue in this forum, so please forgive this incomplete answer. I'll just add two facts to our discussion. 

Jews do not believe in a literal interpretation (or the "plain text") of the Torah/Bible. Our understanding of the Torah is filtered through rabbinic interpretation, which is canonized in the Mishnah and the Gemara, then further distilled in later commentary.

So Kim was applying the wrong lens to her interpretation. We don't read or understand the Bible in the same way that a Christian Fundamentalist might. 

With respect to Genesis 9 specifically, it's the chapter that comes immediately after a disgusted God has wiped out humankind in the Flood. The permission to eat meat is widely viewed by rabbinic authorities as a concession to the moral weakness of humankind, not as an expression of our religious ideals. To drive that point home, it states five times in Genesis 9 alone that God includes animals in the Divine Covenant. 

Again, please forgive this partial response. 

Hi again Jeffrey,

It occurred to me that there must be different rabbinic commentaries or different ways to interpret the same commentaries in that not all Jews are vegan or vegetarian. Is that right? 

Jeffrey Cohan said:

The short answer is yes. 

In what is considered the most authoritative description of the future Messianic era, even the animals are vegan (Book of Isaiah). 

For now, God makes it abundantly clear in Numbers 11 and Deuteronomy 12 that meat-eating is not the Divine preference, but a symptom of human lust. 

 



Tim Gier said:

HI Jeffrey, thank you for that reply. I am (obviously) not fully informed on the issue. Given the moral weakness of humankind, is it thought that God will or has revoked His permission for us to eat other animals?

Jeffrey Cohan said:

Hi Tim,

Thank you for your response. 

There is so much packed into Genesis 9, I can't do justice to the issue in this forum, so please forgive this incomplete answer. I'll just add two facts to our discussion. 

Jews do not believe in a literal interpretation (or the "plain text") of the Torah/Bible. Our understanding of the Torah is filtered through rabbinic interpretation, which is canonized in the Mishnah and the Gemara, then further distilled in later commentary.

So Kim was applying the wrong lens to her interpretation. We don't read or understand the Bible in the same way that a Christian Fundamentalist might. 

With respect to Genesis 9 specifically, it's the chapter that comes immediately after a disgusted God has wiped out humankind in the Flood. The permission to eat meat is widely viewed by rabbinic authorities as a concession to the moral weakness of humankind, not as an expression of our religious ideals. To drive that point home, it states five times in Genesis 9 alone that God includes animals in the Divine Covenant. 

Again, please forgive this partial response. 

Hi Tim,

Yes, there have been rabbinic disagreements recorded throughout history, but each argument must remain within certain theological boundaries to be considered valid.

A very circumscribed form of meat-eating is permitted within Judaism, while the entire plant kingdom is available to Jews without restriction. 

Further, meat-eating, while permitted in limited form, is described as a concession to human lust, while a plant-based diet is presented as God's design for humankind. 

Among rabbis as a demographic group, you will find a higher percentage of vegetarians and vegans than you will among the general population, for religious reasons. And several of the most influential/famous rabbis over the past 100 years have espoused vegetarianism. 

Everything I'm telling you is mainstream Jewish thought. We're very careful as an organization to hew to a solid theological base, which is why I was so disappointed with Kim's remarks. 

Jeffrey

Hi again Jeffrey,

Among other verses, I take it that Isaiah 65:24-25 speak to the ideal you've mentioned? (I'm including the KJV version of those verses here, for anyone who hasn't read them)

24: And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are not speaking, I will hear. 25. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock; and dust shall be the serpent's meal. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain,saith the Lord.

I have to say that Isaiah contains some beautiful imagery and much powerful prose. After reading it, it's easy for me to remember why the Bible is such an influential work. I'm happy that our discussion caused me to look at it again, so thank you for that.

If I'm getting what you're saying and what's being said in Isaiah, then the idea is that humanity, because of it's imperfect condition, has always been missing the mark with respect to God's plan, however well or poorly humanity may have aimed. So, while it may be permissible, given humanity's imperfection, for it to act in some ways, it's only because of the imperfection that it is permissible. One of the permitted actions, since after the Flood, has been the killing and eating of other animals, but humanity ought to aim away from that, not towards it. Have I got it somewhat right?



Jeffrey Cohan said:

Hi Tim,

Yes, there have been rabbinic disagreements recorded throughout history, but each argument must remain within certain theological boundaries to be considered valid.

A very circumscribed form of meat-eating is permitted within Judaism, while the entire plant kingdom is available to Jews without restriction. 

Further, meat-eating, while permitted in limited form, is described as a concession to human lust, while a plant-based diet is presented as God's design for humankind. 

Among rabbis as a demographic group, you will find a higher percentage of vegetarians and vegans than you will among the general population, for religious reasons. And several of the most influential/famous rabbis over the past 100 years have espoused vegetarianism. 

Everything I'm telling you is mainstream Jewish thought. We're very careful as an organization to hew to a solid theological base, which is why I was so disappointed with Kim's remarks. 

Jeffrey

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