In China, people eat dogs. Yes, unfortunately, the stereotype of the Chinese eating, well…everything, is somewhat true even in the context of what we consider a household pet. Earlier this month, CNN published a video covering the dog meat market in Guangzhou, China. I cringed at the thought of my own family’s black lab and Chesapeake mix being served on someone’s dinner plate. However, in reading many CNN viewer comments referring to Chinese society as “barbaric,” “backwards,” and “uncivilized,” I realized that my personal opinion, too, was based on a cultural perspective. After thinking about it objectively, I don’t see anything wrong with eating dog meat. Now before readers start claiming animal cruelty or labeling me as an inhumane animal hater, hear me out.
First, China is not the only country to incorporate dog meat in their gastronomy, nor is eating dog distinct to Asian culture. In the times of the Aztecs and other tribal societies in the Americas, dog-eating was common, culturally accepted and exemplifies a historical precedence of the practice. The people of Switzerland have cured dog meat into jerkies and sausages, while in both Switzerland and Poland, dog lard has been reportedly used for medicinal purposes. Also, in times of severe depression or war, dogs were commonly eaten out of necessity in every part of the world.
But regardless if these customs are practiced in Asia, the Americas, Europe, or in times of need, it is the thought of consuming dog meat that troubles most Westerners. While I am unaccustomed to eating canines just as much as the next person in this country, I also began questioning from where that discomfort manifests.
Much of it largely resides in the level of adoration we place on domesticated animals. In a society that can sometimes treat animals more humanely than people, where there is a growing service industry of dog hotels and pet psychiatrics, it’s no surprise the thought of eating dogs generates almost a comparable level of shock and disgust to cannibalism. But this reaction is largely due to the association of dogs as our companions, not because there is anything inherently wrong with the practice. If that was, in fact, the case, why don’t we question all meats we consume?
In India, beef sales are banned throughout nearly the entire country due to the sacred reverence of the cow in Indian society. Therefore from an Indian perspective, the US American beef-heavy diet could be considered barbaric, perhaps even sacrilegious. Yet according to the US Department of Agriculture, we plow through 27.3 billion pounds of beef a year. What gives us the right to disregard the beliefs of another culture, yet disallow another nation from having that same right? Clearly then, it isn’t necessarily that using dogs as meat is innately offensive, but rather, just offensive to us.
If it’s an issue of humane treatment towards animals raised for consumption, the overcrowded and caged settings of the dogs shown in the news clip are just as, if not less, inhumane as America’s own slaughterhouses for cattle, chicken and pigs. So maybe it’s not so much that dog eating should be considered barbaric or uncivilized, but rather the way in which we treat animals that are raised for the purposes of consumption. If that were the case, the American meat industry could take a lesson or two in humane animal treatment as well.
Of course people still hold the right to enjoy the company of domesticated animals like dogs, but we should do it in a manner without imposing our beliefs onto the rest of the world or denigrating another society just because it doesn’t live in accordance to our norms. Allegedly, none of the dogs featured in the news bit were household pets, so beyond our own cultural dispositions towards this particular animal, what’s the problem?
See CNN’s coverage at www.cnn.com.