Eat My Fear — David Lynch, fiberglass sculpture

"I don’t think it will be a particularly friendly looking cow." — David Lynch

"In the summer of 2000, New York City hosted more than 500 life-sized fiberglass cows that had been decorated by artists. They were placed around the five boroughs of New York in a so-called CowParade. Among fanciful and colorful cows like the Rockette cow, a surfing cow, and a taxi cow, was filmmaker David Lynch’s Eat My Fear cow.

This cow had not ‘died’ of old age. With forks and knives stuck into the cow’s behind, the bloody disemboweled cow was displayed for only a couple of hours. During that timeat least one child, upon seeing it, started crying. Then it was banished to a warehouse and put under wraps.

Why was this cow banned from the CowParade? We do not want to experience uncomfortable feelings about violence, butchering, suffering, and fear. This is the function of the absent referent — to keep our ‘meat’ separated from any idea that she or he was once an animal who was butchered, to keep something (like hamburger) from being seen as having been someone (a cow, a lamb, a once-alive being, a subject.)

With the absent referent, we do not have to ask of someone, ‘What are you going through?’ since there is no one there to ask.

Whereas meat eating requires violence, the absent referent functions to put the violence under wraps; there is no ‘cow’ whom we have to think about, there is no butchering, no feelings, and no fear, just the end product. And David Lynch is correct: people eat animals’ fear. Nonhumans who experience fear before death release adrenaline that can leave soft, mushy spots in their ‘meat,’ making their flesh tougher.”

— from The Pornography of Meat [2003] by Carol J. Adams

"Don’t you think when people tell you you’re allowed to do whatever you want as long as it’s not sexually X-rated that they should stand behind their word and show your cow?" — David Lynch