Eating Dogs

Consider this the third in a trilogy of today’s posts about animals.  This week, Roger Cohen of the New York Times did an op-ed post about the practice of eating dogs in China.  They eat cats too, but he confined his comments to dogs. 

I once saw a TV documentary which showed a restaurant in Asia that specialized in cats;  it wasn’t China–maybe Laos, Cambodia, or Vietnam.  In any case, the restaurant had a cage out front full of cats where you could select your own personal cat to eat.  Once you made your choice, they would dip the cat into boiling water (while still alive) in order to more easily remove the skin and fur.  Barbaric?  What, I ask, is the difference between that and lobster tanks?  Answer:  No difference, except for the animal involved. 

Cohen’s oped was very surprising…usually he does strictly political stuff and seems to be the Times’ expert on Iran and Europe. 

But he tells a story of going to a dog restaurant in China with his interpreter, who assured him that dog was very good.  He had a sort of dog soup, and bypassed the other items on the menu which included dishes containing dog paws, tail, brain, intestines, or penis.  Are you gagging yet?  Yes.  Me too.  But, as Cohen points out, that’s illogical. 

Why is it okay to eat a pig/cow/goat/lobster, but not a dog/cat?  Why is it okay to kill and/or eat some animals, but not others?  Good question.  Thought of in that way, it’s a little hard to define “barbaric”.

That of course brings me to another NPR snippet.  An interview with Temple Grandin, an autistic woman who claims to have a special ability to identify with and understand animals, which would make sense given the non-verbal nature of their communications (hers and theirs).  Her big claim to fame is redesigning stockyards so as to calm cows before they go to slaughter. 

In interviews, and I’ve heard another one before now, she’s treated as if she’s an amazing person, which, in a sense she is.  But I find her creepy and repellent.  She admits she feels no emotion.  She invented for herself a “hugging machine”.  She can’t bear to be touched, but noticed that the cattle on her aunt’s farm while she was growing up seemed to be calmer while restrained in pens awaiting vaccination.  So with her aunt’s permission, she placed herself in those restraints and felt calmer.  Then she invented a smaller one for herself.  It’s the pressure of the restraints, minus the human component of an actual “hug”, that calms her and makes her feel safer.  She noted that she doesn’t get to use her device any more as much as she would like, because she travels so much. 

But when your claim to fame is calming cows before slaughter, and other people treat you as if you are an amazing rather than an aberrant human being, then may I suggest you go into the dog/cat/lobster calming business as well.  Also, use your creative skills to come up with a battery-powered substitute for your hugging machine that will fit into your suitcase and won’t scare Homeland Security.


14 responses to “Eating Dogs

  1. There may be important differences between invertebrates and vertebrates — not the least of which is the notion of awareness and pain.
    There’s a lot of literature on this, but here’s a place to start:

    As for the difference between mammals, there’s always your old “favorite” text: Leviticus 11:2

  2. As for the sensation of pain, Fakename could go on and on about that. She had a very long term relationship with a person who experimented using rabbits. He said: you can’t say these rabbits are feeling pain, because they can’t express it. Fakename said: do they have nerves? Took a while…a long, long while, but he quit doing it.
    As for dietary laws, I understand there were good reasons for them…then. What about now?

  3. A son of a dear friend of mine was sent to Korea by the engineering firm he was working for, it was supposed to have been a trip of a lifetime.
    Arni enjoyed most of the time he was there , including staying at his hosts home – until the ‘beautiful’ puppies the hosts had bred were slaughtered for a banquet – apparently this is very common in Korea, most domestic pets are not really ‘pets’ –
    At a seafood restaurant , Arnie’s friends were served octopus (live) , they ate the octopus wiggling , at that moment Arni decided never again will he go back to Korea.

  4. Alix–ick! That reminds me that the owner of the dog restaurant Cohen went to said the best dogs for eating were those with yellow coats who weigh about 30 pounds.

  5. Fakename writes: “As for dietary laws, I understand there were good reasons for them…then. What about now?”

    Let’s have some fun at Fakename’s expense and attempt to deconstruct this sentence (in the tradition of Harold Bloom … se:
    ) to find her true meaning and embedded biases and beliefs….

    “I understand” – Fakename is suggesting that she understands this excerpt of holy text . Does she take words literally or figuratively? Why this piece of text? Why not, other snippets of holy words that address other topics. When the text says, “And God created the Heavens and the Earth,” does she not understand those words too? How does she choose which words have literal meaning?

    “good reasons” – Again, Fakename is making a value judgment about scripture. But why does she think these phrases have “good” reasons — but other phrases in the sacred text have “bad” reasons? Is she parroting something that she read somewhere about diseases spread by food? While it’s true that trichinosis is spread by pork; and not by beef, there are many many parasites spread by beef. And why does the bible allow consumption of the front-end of the cow, but not the back-end? Since fakename understands the “good” reasons — perhaps she can elucidate to the nuance, and not the big picture? Or perhaps it was all symbolism and superstition? And those was the good reasons?

    “Then” — implying that the meaning of the holy texts is no longer relevant today — but it was relevant back “then”. Are the ten commandants no longer relevant? Has man’s basic nature changed over the past 6000 years? Have animals materially changed over the past 6000 years? Other than a slightly better understanding of the physical world around man (and the discovery of refrigeration) exactly why would something that is so important 6000 years ago, have no meaning today?

    How does she know that that the text isn’t referring to hygiene (which is timeless)? How does she know that her cellphone isn’t a health hazard too?

  6. My cellphone is definitely a health hazard – it lies around on convenient horizontal surfaces at the barn far too often to be uncontaminated with stuff I’d rather not think about before breakfast!

  7. Oh. My. In the time-honored tradition of Southern womanhood, Fakename believes she feels a fainting spell coming on. (And no civilization has ever come up with a better way of avoiding the topic at hand.)
    How does Rocky know Fakename even has a cell phone? Perhaps she has cherry-picked a bit of scripture warning her against holding mysterious (and as yet un-invented) devices close to her brain.
    Fakename will step out on this limb: the Bible was written by people. Now you have to decide whether it was actually written by God, speaking through those people. Perhaps it was, perhaps it wasn’t, but Fakename suspects that those people allowed a few of their own biases to creep in from time to time. Or perhaps they didn’t always quite understand perfectly what God was trying to say to them. That would be pretty human, wouldn’t it?
    This brings us to the whole question of “literal” v. “figurative”. There is a certain symmetry to the idea that if you take any of it literally, you must take all of it literally. Which, in Fakename’s opinion, causes present-day humans to have to jump through many mental hoops to make the prescriptions and proscriptions of another time relevant.
    As an adolescent, Fakename recalls her Sunday school teacher saying that the proposed moon landing was all a hoax, since if God intended people to travel to the moon, we would already be living there. Or something. Or we would have been born wearing space suits and could fly. Fakename’s question (which resulted in a serious discussion by the Sunday school teacher with Fakename’s mother) was, “Why wouldn’t God want us to go to the moon if we could?”
    Fakename notes that Rocky has not stepped out on any limbs, and does not really tell us his own perspective, and Fakename hesitates to extrapolate.
    Finally, in case you’ve never fainted, things don’t go dark…they actually go all white and dim looking….

  8. Fakename’s cellphone (okay, she admits she has one) is hazardous too. First, it sometimes rings on weekends and causes heart palpitations which could lead to a cardiac “event” as they so euphemistically call it. (“Oh no! The phone is ringing! What if it’s work?!”)
    Second, it often rings when Fakename thinks she might actually want to answer it. In her haste to find which pocket of her handbag she has hidden it from herself in, she has to guard against tripping over a dog and going Splat.

  9. You are quite right. Rocky is most decidely not stepping out on any limbs. Because that would open him up to potential ridicule and/or just deserved criticism. Instead, he hides behind rhetortical questions — the sort which great minds, scholars and students have debated for thousands of years.

  10. Fakename would like some credit for noticing that, Rocky 🙂 Nevertheless, as she suspected all along, Rocky is a lot smarter than she is.

  11. I agree, as we often do, with you about “what’s the difference?” In this case, nothing more than cultural difference.

    Since I was raised in an Asian culture, one which also had elements of European (Spanish) and American culture, I am often amused at how “excited” some folks get when dealing with another culture.

    Dog is a big favorite in the Philippines. So much so, that years ago I read that Philippine Customs agents had seized two tons of frozen dog meat coming from China that had been labeled as “fish” since importing dog meat is illegal. Seems there was a shortage of fine Philippine dogs and so they had to settle for the inferior Chinese ones… 😉

  12. In fact, Steve, you and I do often agree, which is one of those mysteries of existence 🙂 We are very different in our approaches, but we somehow come together and think alike for the most part!

  13. masteroftheuniverse

    Instead of dog meat, I find nothing finer than BBQ manatee:)

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