Question: Why is Judaism so serious when it comes to kosher meats? What is the rationale behind the stress on kosher meats in the 21st century?
Answer: G’d created Israel to serve G’d and man as a people of priests, as a light to the nations – if you want those sources, you may find them yourself; they’re all over the place in the Bible – and, as such, Israel is supposed to set an example of decency and purity and holiness to others. So G’d commands Israel, basically, you shall not be a nation of pigkeepers, or scavengers, or carrion eaters; your mothers and fathers will not scare the Dickens out of your children by casually taking a cow or pig or rabbit, a pigeon or a chicken, a squirrel or a rat, or whatever, and killing it in the dirt of the backyard or farmyard, or eat the blood of that creature. . . there is so much more to this; the kosher food laws exist to ensure the good treatment of the animals we eat, and that the human beings who follow the laws will behave as human beings ought, as G’d’s stewards over this planet, as the elect of His Creation, and not just as fellow animals, competing like dogs for good eats. The only kosher land animals are the animals that can’t smell blood, or death, that don’t mind being herded, and that aren’t smart, like a pig or dog or rat or cat, or a parrot, or a dolphin or a porpoise, and so won’t see death coming. They are dispatched as painlessly and unexpectedly as possible, with a quick slice across the neck, that causes an instantaneous, and massive, loss of blood pressure, and with it, the loss of consciousness. This method also, not so incidentally, releases the maximum amount of blood: the heart keeps pumping out blood, instead of being stopped, as in other, non-kosher, methods of slaughter, and this, combined with other kosher procedures (such as thoroughly salting and repeatedly washing the meat, among other things,) means that kosher meat is as blood-free as human effort can make it.
Some people say that the laws of kosher food – kashrut or kashrus – are all for physical health. This is nonsense, since most of the benefit has nothing to do with the mere physical, but these laws also, definitely, do have health benefits. For instance, the absence of blood in the meat that one eats keeps the meat fresher and good to eat much longer – blood being a great medium for growing bacteria. And there may be some benefit, physical as well as spiritual – and, say, social, cultural, and psychological – in not eating masses of one’s fellow creatures’ blood in blood sausage, soup and black puddings, which are such a cherished part of the national cuisine of Germany, Austria and Poland, say.
As for not eating milk w/ meat – what this means, among other things, is that a people of priests should not combine milk, the very symbol of a mother’s love, with the slaughtered flesh of her own or other species’ children, together in a meal. But there are many ways of looking at this statute, and benefits that come from obeying it too.
Hope this helps. Incidentally, you can find our a lot more about all this in Rainbow Covenant -not just about the kosher food laws, but how those laws interact with the Universal Law’s prohibition, that applies to Noahides as well as Israel, against savage, cruel dining.
Author of The Rainbow Covenant; Torah and the Seven Universal Laws, exploring the Noahide Law, or the Universal moral law that is contained within the Way or Torah of Israel, which applies, at all times, to every person of every nation, race and creed.