chapter  2
27 Pages

Animals as food

The oldest interaction between humans and animals is that of predator and prey (both humans and animals at times fulfilling each role). In the Middle Ages, wild, semi-wild, and domestic animals were consumed for food and, indeed, Thomas Aquinas identified animals’ central purpose as serving as human food. To him, animals’ lives were preserved “not for themselves, but for man,” so there was no crime in killing animals.1 In this, as in so many other things, Aquinas’s theology summed up medieval thought. Therefore, animals were killed without concern for the animals themselves, and the only restriction on killing an animal was if the animal were the property of another. Beyond that, animals existed for human use. Thus, wild animals were hunted for food, domestic animals were raised for food, and predators that threatened these animals (or their owners) were hunted remorselessly. Bears and wolves became extinct in areas of human habitation, and such removals were considered unambiguous benefits to human dominion.