I stumbled upon a video on Youtube which gives you a virtual tour of the famous caves in France where the Lascaux Cave Paintings were discovered. Anyone interested in history will be familiar with the images themselves, but seeing them in their context adds a whole new dimension. In particular I had realised just how deep they were.
I set it on full screen and sat back and drank it in. There is no soundtrack – this works: it leaves you free for your own thoughts. The thing that struck me was the immense respect the artists had for their subjects. We can be sure that in those times these weren’t people who worked at art full time. They themselves no doubt encountered the horses and cattle in the pictures when they were hunting them.
In those pre-metal days the hunt was a more even contest than it would soon become. We see a human getting the worst of a conflict – I assume he is shown being killed.
We can’t get into the thought processes of our ancestors from so long ago, but the fact that they were prepared to spend time to descend deep into the earth and with only the most basic tools produce these breathtaking pictures commands our admiration. And the feeling they had for their prey is also humbling and something we cannot fully capture. We live in a world where the animals we eat are bred for our convenience and penned up all their lives waiting for us to eat them. They are killed humanely and processed efficiently. Most of us only see them as finished items on the menu. There is no feeling of heroic triumph that accompanies buying a kebab.
Some people react against this whole set up and become vegetarians. But most of us, me included, give it very little thought. I have a feeling that the moral arguments for vegetarianism are probably quite strong ones, but I like bacon too much to engage with them. But I think the meat eaters and the vegetarians alike are in the same boat in one way. We have lost that deep connection between ourselves and the food that keeps us alive that our ancestors had. Like the paintings themselves, this is something that might be a lot deeper than we often realise.
See the video on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hiFqqqjTxQ