Are you vegan?
I’m not. I eat animals. Yet, I recently found myself in a hypocritical debate trying to convince others that they were horrible people for even thinking about eating Fido.
A quick backstory on how I got myself into this situation:
I went to North Korea on a tour last year. (More on that here.). And before going, I knew that I may be offered dog meat to eat. However, I also knew that I would be able to refuse this dish and that there would be other options. Plus, I never actually thought that we would really be offered dog meat. I mean, it’s one of those things that happens over “there”, but never “here”. “Here”, of course, referring to anywhere that I currently am.
Suffice to say, it was Day 1 in North Korea and we were offered a choice between chicken and dog meat soup. Farmed chickens and dogs, we were assured, so no one would imagine a poor Fido being stripped away from his loving home.
To my surprise, the majority of our group opted for the dog meat. When in Rome, they snickered. And I decided to hold my tongue on how I really felt because I’m all for freedom of choice and freedom of expression and just freedom in general. But really, I think you’re an asshole for choosing the dog soup.
So, the trip went on and I resorted to business as usual. Business as usual being me not discussing my emotionally-charged views on the wrongful act of dog-eating.
And then came the last night of the trip when I was an equal mix of excited-slash-anxious-slash-shwasted and someone brought it up. “What do you think about eating dog meat, Adriana?” Well, I let them know exactly what I thought. And not in my usual chic-&-classy kinda way.
So the night ended a little rougher than it started. And then the trip ended. And then I came back home to San Francisco to my wonderfully alive dog and all was beautifully dog soup-less again.
Except that my type-A personality wouldn’t let me shake the need to prove to everyone that eating dogs was just.. wrong.
I started thinking, what makes it okay for me to eat other animals? I mean, my mother has a pet pig yet pork belly is a favorite of mine. I had a pet guinea pig as a child, yet I thoroughly enjoyed tasting those little guineas in Peru..
Am I a monster? Maybe it’s because I didn’t have a special bond with the other animals. They never slept in my bed. I didn’t spend hours training them. Or getting to know their quirks. And I definitely never took them on an emergency vet trip at 4am.
It’s definitely a double standard, but it’s not that simple. In Western society, we’ve befriended dogs to be our companions. We share our lives with them. In India, cows are considered sacred and killing or eating them is banned. And in the Muslim and Jewish religion, pork is never consumed. No matter the country.
In Korea, they differentiate dogs that they eat and dogs that they see as pets. For example, there are dogs that they raise to be “pet dogs” and other dogs that are raised to be “meat dogs”. Which is kind of the same thing we do in Western countries by separating animals that we eat versus animals that we don’t eat, right?
Let’s be honest. We don’t really think that much about where our steak comes from when we’re at a restaurant. We don’t envision the carnage behind the packaged chicken we buy at the grocery store. And we definitely don’t consider the humane treatment of animals when placing our pepperoni pizza order with Domino’s. BUT, when it comes to eating dogs, most of us* get sick at the thought. We think about it in disgust because we cannot morally justify the thought of eating friends.
But, surely if you look into the eyes of any other animal you will see that there is someone there too. A soul; a living being with feelings. Maybe we just don’t spend enough time with them to see that.
Do you know how many dogs the USA euthanizes every year? 1.2 million shelter dogs a year. And according to Jonathan Foer, the author of Eating Animals, “Euthanizing pets amounts to millions of pounds of meat now being thrown away every year. The simple disposal of these euthanized dogs is an enormous ecological and economic problem. It would be demented to yank pets from homes. But eating those strays, those runaways, those not-quite-cute-enough-to-take and not-quite-well-behaved-enough-to-keep dogs would be killing a flock of birds with one stone and eating it, too.” In other words, Foer believes that eating shelter dogs instead of just euthanizing them and throwing them away could solve some societal problems.
In practicality, eating dog meat would be a good idea. But, I get it. The thought of this sounds horribly unappetizing. As a dog owner raised in Western culture, I believe that all dogs are cute and lovely and should be cherished forever and ever. And if they can’t be cherished forever and ever, then may they at least not suffer. Euthanasia seems like a painless alternative compared to the brutal bloodshed that goes on in some slaughterhouses.
So unless you are vegan, there is really no solid argument for you to stand on as to why we should not be eating dog meat. Our shelters are flooded with dogs being put down to die every day yet we continue to massacre mass livestock in order to feed ourselves. It seems kind of silly to get upset about eating a dog when we eat other animals all day long.
And with that said, rationalism can never be fully detached from culture. I still refuse to eat dog meat. I don’t eat dogs at home so I will not eat them abroad. I will never, ever eat dog meat. I’ve grown up with dogs. I’ve spent my life bonding with them. I have actively engaged and participated in behavior to gain their trust. And due to this unspoken understanding between us, I feel I owe it to them not to crush their heads in and serve them on a plate.
For further reading:
us* = used to represent those raised in Western culture