dog
Photo by Jeff Ro

Late last month, the Guardian ran a lengthy expose revealing the cruelty of the dog meat trade in Vietnam and Thailand. While the inhumane treatment of the dogs involved is worth protesting (and outlawing), the subject also raises some uncomfortable questions for readers.

Many people, particularly in the Western world, are shocked by the practice of eating dog meat, but in many parts of Asia, canines have only recently begun to be kept as pets by most people. Some cultures simply view them as livestock — and that’s part of the reason why animals lovers have made little progress in ending the practice. Isn’t it worth questioning the knee-jerk reaction many of us have to the idea of eating dogs as well?

Why is it, exactly, that it’s okay for so many of us to eat a cow, but we believe it should be illegal for someone else to consume a dog? Is it because many of us have had pet dogs in our homes and see them as family members? Is it because we’ve bred dogs specifically to be companions? To work, live, and play alongside humans in a way that livestock typically don’t? Is part of the objection to the dog meat trade the fact that it’s often pet dogs which are targeted and abducted — and would matters be different if these creatures were specifically bred for their meat the way other animals are?

In farming communities throughout the world, livestock have lived alongside families as they grow. Farmers have cared for their animals, tended to their needs, and perhaps even enjoyed their companionship, all before slaughtering them for meat when the time came. They’ve been able to live this way for millennia without any moral qualms.

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Is there something about dog ownership that’s fundamentally different, or are most people simply more divorced from the process of animal slaughter than we once were? I know I certainly wouldn’t be able to stomach killing and eating an animal I had raised, even if I specifically intended to raise the animal for meat. But then again, I grew up in the suburbs, not a farm.

If you’re against eating any animals, even cows, pigs, sheep, and chickens — that’s fine. I’ll concede the point to vegetarians and vegans who want to protest the dog meat trade. But for an omnivore like me, it’s hard for to unilaterally declare certain cuddly species completely off-limits for human consumption. Don’t get me wrong — I firmly believe that animals raised for food should be given the freedom to roam outdoors, live relatively pain-free natural lives, and be slaughtered as quickly and humanely as possible. That’s why I try to purchase meat from ethical sources. None of that is currently the reality in Thailand or Vietnam, and I strongly oppose the cruelty of this black market trade.

So what if the dog meat trade in Asia cleans up its act? What if dogs were raised in clean conditions, treated well, and then killed in a painless and quick manner? As a pet lover, I would still be a little uncomfortable. I certainly wouldn’t be able to eat dog meat as someone who has lived with dogs and sees them as companions. But I wouldn’t be able to declare that the practice is absolutely wrong if it were conducted in a legal and regulated manner.

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After all, a Muslim or Orthodox Jew would object to the fact that I enjoy a little bacon now and then. A Hindu would be queasy at the thought of biting into a juicy hamburger. But by and large, those cultural groups aren’t trying to pass legislation banning other people from eating foods they view as off-limits. In order to be respectful world citizens, Western environmentalists and animal rights advocates need to accept that other people are going to continue cultural practices we find distasteful whether we like it or not — and that the best we can do is to make this practice more humane, rather than attempting to end it completely.

8 COMMENTS

  1. Julie Rodriguez – You’re a moron! Clearly you don’t have a soul or a brain for that matter. It’s also a “cultural practice” to stone women in some countries if they break the law…should we learn to accept that as well? Idiot.

    • Excellent point, Melissa. What is happening, when intelligent people, in a lame attempt to be accepting of other cultures; become stupid and barbaric, themselves?

  2. Those bastards!!!! TORTURE has NOTHING to do with CULTURE!! It is a lame EXCUSE for enjoying abuse/cruelty/murdering poor helpless animals who are way more humane than the monsters who kill & eat them!

  3. This author could give a rats ass about ANY animal..to compare dogs to cows and chickens is luticrus and ignorant..come on its 2013!! These countries get help from all over the world..why would they NEED to kill and eat dogs nowadays? Are they starving? NO..maybe its time for them to catch up with the modern world and get their butts out of the dark ages..why should we take a step backwards for them? Humane or not, we do not eat dogs and will never approve of ANY country that does…NEVER!

  4. You cannot force people to care. Dogs, cats, horses are not raised as food animals and those that acquire them by any means they can don’t care if they are treated humanely – they just want the money – get them slaughtered while they are still alive. Any changes are on a ‘make me’ basis. How does anyone ‘work’ with that? And as soon as someone stops looking, it is back to whatever they feel like doing because we can’t make them care. Every society makes laws based on what the majority feels is morally just and by freedom of speech we can express our thoughts. When people were eating people would you have said the same thing?

  5. What a disgusting article! Dogs in Asia are horribly tortured to death because the dog eating males think it will raise their libido. And dogs are already raised in Asia for slaughter. You will never stop this practice any more than the killing off of the Rhino for its horn or the elephant for its tusks or the tiger for its parts until the people who support these killings emerge from their insensative stupidity and become enlightened or are permanently jailed. Viciousness prevails in humans and some humans enjoy killing animals.

    Now, I must tell you, I am a vegetarian and I do not eat any meat. You know all the reasons why, but that which is the most important to me is this. Who appointed me killer and consumer?

    I grew up on a farm and the animals got all the perks you support, but the killing was killing and there is no other way to disguise it. In my childhood there was no way to euthanize a companion animal so companion animals died of their diseases or they were shot. I remember watching my dad trying to shoot our sick, beloved first riding horse and he could not kill him. It took several shots and it was awful.

    I watched the throat slitting and the head chopping that happens on a well run farm with horror as a child and although raised on meat, the day my son held a chicken leg in his hand which I had just fried, and put it down saying he would never eat meat again, I decided that if I did not have to cook meat for him, I would never eat meat again, either.

    As a vegetarian, I fret about the life style and length of life of the cows that produce the dairy products which I do consume and the male calves that must be disposed of in order for the farmer to prosper. However, I raise my own chickens for their eggs, range free, and beloved until they die a natural death.

    Feeding my dogs and cats is also a dilemma, but the production of meat via manufacture is on the horizon and will eventually solve that problem.

    To be a vegan IMHO is too much cooking and not enough protein although one can obtain lots of protein from many non-meat sources such as nuts, avocados, grains, etc. And scientific evidence does definitely indicate that a meatless life is a much healthier life and certainly without the guilt of instigating the killing of helpless animals.

    But above all else, I am a Warrior of the Rainbow. The Hopi prophecy states, and I paraphrase, that when the animals of the earth are being killed and exploited, the classes, colors, and nations will restore the earth to green. These people will be known as the Warriors of the Rainbow. That day is arriving so, Ms. Rodriguez, please, enlighten yourself in order that you do not live in the dream world of its okay to slaughter our companions or any animal for any reason. It is not. Not horse. Not dog. Not cat. Not pig. Not cow. Not poultry. Not any living creature.

  6. Right on Julie, bout time someone stated the obvious. I really like the pig and cow comparisons, some people not only see cows as pets but consider them sacred, yet we still eat them.

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