Dogs are food too

datePosted on 13:58, August 16th, 2009 by Lew

What are the SPCA doing raiding a guy’s cook-out because dog is on the menu? This was not an issue of cruelty; the dog was apparently killed in a ‘humane’ way,* and there’s no law against such killing; it’s really just the imposition of cultural norms about what sorts of animals are food and which aren’t.

I’ve eaten dog in three countries, as well as some other unusual and nasty things. I wouldn’t make a habit of it, but I know people who would. For a year I lived about half a kilometre from a dog farm; a place where dogs were kept before being slaughtered. It was pretty foul, especially when the wind changed, but the difference from any other industrial slaughterhouse was really only one of degree. Meat, as they say, is murder. People are permitted to kill pigs, chickens, cattle, rabbits, ducks, fish, goats, deer and fuzzy little lambs; dogs should be no different, and the SPCA has no business in arbitrating what ought to be a private matter, unless it’s their policy to come knocking any time anyone kills anything. But they have no right to do so. Imagine the drama if they started throwing their weight around at a Pākehā deerstalker’s cook-out, rather than that of a Tongan cultural outsider.

L

* There’s a fair argument as to whether this is a meaningful term, which I’ll elide for the purposes of this post.

30 Responses to “Dogs are food too”

  1. Lloyd on August 16th, 2009 at 14:22

    I must confess that I’ve always been a little bit disconcerted about the SPCA’s attitude to animal deaths. The SPCA seems to have the belief that killing a non-farm animal is always cruel, even if that animal was killed in a way that would be completely acceptable for a farm animal.

    There are many people who think it’s always wrong to kill animals. They are called vegetarians and most of them are only slightly odd ;-). I’m pretty sure that vegetarianism is not compulsory for SPCA staff.

  2. Lew on August 16th, 2009 at 14:49

    Lloyd, the point wasn’t to bag vegetarians for their dietary customs, it was to argue that bagging anyone for their food preferences is usually unwarranted.

    L

  3. Anita on August 16th, 2009 at 16:28

    I’m one of the at least slightly odd vegetarians, and I had the same reaction to that news story. Why is killing and eating a dog any more wrong than killing and eating a sheep or a cow or a rabbit?

    Isn’t the purpose of our animal welfare laws supposed to be animal welfare not the maintenance of our existing cultural norms?

  4. Relic on August 16th, 2009 at 18:07

    Meat is precisely murder which ever way anyone looks at it Lew. This dog munching episode illustrates again human duality, we are part beast plus part self awareness (in variable ratio per person).

    Debating the merits of means or authority to slaughter fudges the fact that meat eating is expensive, cruel and ultimately comes with other costs both for carnivores and vegetarians.

  5. Lew on August 16th, 2009 at 18:26

    Relic, I’m now regretting using the phrase, because I actually don’t believe it.

    Meat being murder hinges on a definition that killing an animal for food is ‘murder’. I don’t accept that; the term ‘murder’ becomes devalued if applied to acts other than the purposeful killing of one human by another.

    There are other terms to describe the killing of animals, and you’re welcome to freight them with whatever symbolic matter you can.

    I also don’t accept your assertion that killing and eating meat is somehow inhuman, or beastly. The ability to adapt and develop cultural systems which allows humankind to survive and proper, as the hunting and farming of animals for meat did, is distinctly and quintessentially human.

    You could argue it’s no longer necessary, but that’s a different matter.

    L

  6. Megan Rose on August 16th, 2009 at 18:44

    Exactly Lew, exactly. Couldn’t have put it better myself. Great post.

  7. SPC on August 16th, 2009 at 18:56

    Actually the SPCA was merely seeking to ascertain whether the killing method was within the law.

    The other issue is whether those who sell puppies to pet owners did so for the new owners to eat them. I suspect Tongans/those of a certain cultural disposition are going to finds it harder to become dog owners …

  8. james on August 16th, 2009 at 19:03

    To be fair we could easily have adapted and survived without ever eating meat.

    Although we probably wouldn’t have left the trees in that case.

    Either way something being useful for adaptation over 40,000 years ago doesn’t have a big impact on any ethical arguments surrounding killing other animals.
    (Most in support of the practice are pretty damn sketchy)

    But either way this really illustrates the SPCA’s main approach to animal welfare which is to focus on domestic pets rather than farm animals. Partly because it’s legal to do anything to a farm animal provided you can prove stopping will hurt your business.

    Section 73 of the Animal Welfare Act 1999(funny funny stuff)

  9. Tim on August 16th, 2009 at 19:38

    Lew, I don’t want to put words in Relic’s mouth but it seems he was not arguing fundamentally that killing and eating meat is inhuman. As Relic says, meat eating (in our Western society as well as many other parts of the world) is “expensive, cruel and ultimately comes with other costs both for carnivores and vegetarians” and this is definitely not entirely human or natural.

    I’m not sure whether the definition of murder is contained to human beings alone but the mass killing of animals is certainly premeditated and one could certainly argue that calling this murder isn’t devaluing the word at all.

  10. Lew on August 16th, 2009 at 20:03

    SPC,

    Actually the SPCA was merely seeking to ascertain whether the killing method was within the law.

    That doesn’t change the fact that it was a highly selective exercise of their authority to do so (unless they routinely go around investigating barbecues), and doesn’t change the fact that they uplifted the carcass, preventing it from being eaten (there’s also the matter of the apparently-unpermitted fire, though; details are, err, hazy). I’d be wanting the thing back so I could cook it in a frying pan or on the ordinary old suburban barbecue, or by some other means. Perhaps the dude should demand compensation, or at least the price of a feed of fish n’ chips.

    james, I guess I don’t need to actually say the words ‘unprovable counterfactual’ :)

    Tim,

    Lew, I don’t want to put words in Relic’s mouth but it seems he was not arguing fundamentally that killing and eating meat is inhuman. As Relic says, meat eating (in our Western society as well as many other parts of the world) is “expensive, cruel and ultimately comes with other costs both for carnivores and vegetarians” and this is definitely not entirely human or natural.

    Conscious also that I may have misinterpreted Relic, and am happy to w&a if that’s so.

    However, here you’re drawing a distinction between industrialised killing and small-scale killing for food. You can argue (and I’d agree) that there is a difference of kind rather than degree, but I would say that neither are inhuman or unnatural since both are equally human (and therefore natural, humans being part of nature).

    I’m not sure whether the definition of murder is contained to human beings alone but the mass killing of animals is certainly premeditated and one could certainly argue that calling this murder isn’t devaluing the word at all.

    I am, at least in a legal sense and also in the predominance of common non-colloquial usage. You can ‘murder’ other things (such as a curry, or a song) just as you can ‘butcher’ an attempt at something, but nobody is in any doubt as to whether an actual premeditated killing of another person took place or not. I think extending murder to animals is devaluation precisely because humans are not (to humans) the same as all other animals, just as my family are not the same to me as all other random humans. I agree that there are good arguments as to why this human exceptionalism should not philosophically be tolerated, but I’m not really sold on them.

    L

  11. Matty Smith on August 16th, 2009 at 20:11

    I agree with your main point, and understand that that is where the thread should be focused. It strikes me as hypocritical to say ‘people shouldn’t eat [insert species]’ if you were chowing down on a cow’s hindquarters just the night before.

    Meat being murder hinges on a definition that killing an animal for food is ‘murder’. I don’t accept that; the term ‘murder’ becomes devalued if applied to acts other than the purposeful killing of one human by another.

    I agree. Mostly. The word ‘murder’ is a useful word when it only refers to humans alone, in part because we have such complex human-to-human relationships that cannot be shared with non-humans. Meat is not quite murder. I’d personally stop at ‘animal slaughter is similar to murder in almost all its particulars.’

    The only real difference is that the victim has a substantially different mind and body (I realise that’s reductive and a sweeping umbrella there), and it cannot articulate its will and its fears in syntactical language. The differences aren’t, unfortunately, substantial enough in the right areas to justify the practice.

    EDIT: (I think that ‘unfortunately’ is a Freudian hangover, due to the fact that in my memory (not in practice) I still imagine I love the taste of meat as much as I used to).

  12. Relic on August 16th, 2009 at 20:45

    Tim, I am actually saying killing animals is very typical human behaviour that can be changed. If any reader of this blog were to be stunned, eviscerated, smoked, sliced and canned without consent they might well consider themselves as having been murdered. While animals are not known to be able to give consent for their despatch by humans, the subtext from some comments here that I am getting is that animals are not worthy of such consideration. I maintain that farmed or not, they are. It is human hubris and species‘ism’ that allows the SPCA (for Smokey the cat) to co exist with the slaughterhouse.

    .

  13. Matty Smith on August 16th, 2009 at 20:48

    On another note, contrary to what the Tongans in the article said, eating dog in Tonga is usually not favoured over eating pig. I think it must just be a preference for that particular family. Because of the hierarchical gifting culture in Tonga, anyone of a lower rank feels obliged to gift to the the higher ranks. Often the gift is meat. Not everyone owns pigs, obviously, so dogs are a good fall back. It seems like a common practice across the Pacific, I definitely ate dog in French Polynesia as a teenager.

    So many pigs went into the King’s banquet and celebrations last year, it’s safe to say many Tongan families had to settle for dog. Lots of living and dead pigs passed up to higher ranked Tongan resident during that period (my mother-in-law even ended up with one!)

  14. higherstandard on August 16th, 2009 at 20:59

    Sensationalist media drivel on both TV3,1 and the MSM – Can’t have been anything else newsworthy today – all the journos are all just too lazy and decided tabloid reporting was easier than producing something of higher quality.

  15. Matty Smith on August 16th, 2009 at 21:29

    Oops. I think my brain starts fuzzing and crackling the moment I see the words ‘Matangi Tonga’ (How do they survive with a subscription wall up!?)

    Every point in my second post was actually covered in the article, by a Matangi Tonga rep, and I seem to have forgotten this fact within mere minutes.

  16. mickysavage on August 17th, 2009 at 08:20

    There is more than a hint of “dog whistle” about this …

  17. Boganette on August 17th, 2009 at 08:51

    I’m glad the SPCA went over there and I hope they didn’t ask leading questions about how the dog was killed. I don’t know how they can actually *know* he didn’t kill that dog inhumanely. I don’t know much about killing dogs but I’m guessing it’s hard to knock out a pitbull with one blow. I wouldn’t be surprised if it took a few blows.

    I can’t believe it’s legal to kill a dog just because you think it’s ‘unruly’ or ‘too skinny’.

    But I own a dog. And I do think domestic pets are different to farm animals. So I would think that.

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  20. George D on August 17th, 2009 at 14:04

    The SPCA do not care about animal cruelty.

    They care about pets.

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  22. millsy on August 17th, 2009 at 23:52

    Very thought provoking post. The SPCA doesnt bat an eyelid when thousands of sheep and cattle are put thru the works everyday, but God forbid if you kill a dog for food.

  23. Boganette on August 18th, 2009 at 08:29

    “God forbid if you kill a dog for food.”

    Oh FFS he didn’t kill it for food. He’s given the following reasons in print and on TV for killing it:

    Too skinny (whose fault is that?)
    Unruly/unmanageable (again, whose fault is that?)
    Cost too much money

    Those are not reasons to kill a dog.

    It’s not OK to kill a pet because it’s not the type of pet you want. The eating hardly matters. It’s about the fact that he killed a pet because he didn’t want it anymore.

    And as for the cultural aspect many people have disputed that dog meat is a ‘delicacy’ or even common practice in Tonga.

    Mary Lyn Fonua of the Matangi Tonga news website told the Herald:
    “People do eat dog. But you can’t go to the market and buy dog meat. It is because they have no other choice. If you have no money to buy other meat, you will go and eat a dog. It is generally associated with a level of poverty. It is the last resort.”

    And as for the crap about it being common in South Korea. It’s not – dog meat is banned in South Korea.

  24. Anita on August 18th, 2009 at 08:45

    Boganette,

    What’s the difference between killing and eating pets and killing and eating farm animals and killing and eating wild animals?

  25. Boganette on August 18th, 2009 at 10:00

    You’d have to have had a pet to understand the difference.

  26. Lew on August 18th, 2009 at 10:21

    Boganette,

    Those are not reasons to kill a dog.

    In law, any reason is a legitimate reason to kill a dog, as long as it’s done humanely (and it’s your own dog). The motive is irrelevant. As for ‘unruly/unmanageable’ being no good ground to kill a dog – I suggest you talk to any farmer on that point, because farmers shoot dogs for this reason all the time.

    The eating hardly matters.

    This is precisely the point of the post.

    It’s about the fact that he killed a pet because he didn’t want it anymore.

    This is disputed. The fact that he went to the effort of preparing and cooking the dog suggests that food was a reason, doesn’t it?

    And as for the cultural aspect many people have disputed that dog meat is a ‘delicacy’ or even common practice in Tonga.

    Anyone who’d know? Any Tongans? Dog has been a traditional food throughout much of the world, including almost all of the Pacific and much of East Asia, for millennia. It’s irrelevant whether it’s a ‘delicacy’ or ‘common practice’ – what’s relevant is that it is done. And it is done; as the authority quoted in the article says.

    And as for the crap about it being common in South Korea. It’s not – dog meat is banned in South Korea.

    With respect, you don’t know what you’re talking about. I lived there for three years, as I said a short distance from a dog farm (more like dog prison, in fact). The practice of eating dog is very much alive throughout South Korea, and it’s not illegal – what’s illegal is to advertise it for sale in English or in areas frequented by foreigners, by using pictures or other such iconography as might anger fools like Brigitte Bardot, and there are a number of restrictions on its sale and purchase. Purely for cosmetic purposes.

    I ate dog a number of times while I was there, on one occasion in the staff room of a public school with the regional director of the Ministry of Education. In Korea, and I suspect it’s similar elsewhere, the eating of dog is not so much a matter of food as a matter of the food’s particular qualities – it is considered by most Koreans as a medicine, the sort of thing you should eat when your kibun is low. The peculiarly cruel and unusual way dogs are killed for eating in Korea is central to this – the object is for the meat to contain all the dog’s vital forces, adrenaline and stress hormones and such, which (they reckon) act as a tonic. I’m not defending that practice – just saying that it’s more complex than ‘just food’ and in that case at least the manner of death and preparation is important.* From the quotes in the articles on the matter about dog meat’s beneficial digestive effects (as compared to pig meat) I think it very likely something similar persists in Tongan culture. I’d love to hear from anyone who actually knows.

    L

  27. Lew on August 18th, 2009 at 10:24

    Boganette,

    You’d have to have had a pet to understand the difference.

    No, ‘having a pet’ is not the determinant factor here. People kill and eat pets all the time, on almost every farm in the country.

    You’re saying ‘this is what having a pet means to me, and it should mean the same to everyone’. Well, it doesn’t. Cope.

    L

  28. Boganette on August 18th, 2009 at 11:04

    “In law, any reason is a legitimate reason to kill a dog, as long as it’s done humanely (and it’s your own dog). The motive is irrelevant.” – There are a heap of things that are legal that I don’t think should be (and a heap of things that are illegal that I don’t think should be). His motive is relevant to me. Because I don’t think people should kill their pets just because they don’t want them anymore. I think they should give them to the SPCA to be re-homed. Or better still – don’t get a pet in the first place if you can’t look after them.

    “I suggest you talk to any farmer on that point, because farmers shoot dogs for this reason all the time.” – but he wasn’t a farmer was he? And the dog was his pet. He took the dog on board as his pet. If he found he didn’t want it anymore or was incapable of looking after it properly he had options other than to kill it.

    I don’t agree that the fact that he cooked it means it was killed for food. I’m only going by his own statements though.

    The people quoted in articles are saying it’s not a delicacy. They’re being used as authorities. Whether they are or not is anyone’s guess.

    You obviously know far more about South Korea than I do. I’ve never been there and I’m only going on what I’ve been told. I’ll take back what I’ve said then on South Korea as obviously I’m wrong.

    It’s very interesting what you’ve said about dog meat and I appreciate you sharing it (and being patient with me). I don’t know a great deal about dog meat and I certainly didn’t know it was considered to have healing properties (if that’s the right word).

    As I said before it’s not the eating I have such a problem with – the dog is dead he may as well do something with it since he’s killed it. It’s the fact that I believe (based on what he said) that he killed his pet because he couldn’t be bothered with it anymore. It was expensive and it wasn’t being a good ‘pet’ for him. That I think is wrong.

    And your above comment – Again I don’t believe farm animals are pets. And I don’t know any farmers who consider their cattle their pets. But of course that’s just anecdotal and doesn’t mean much at all.

    “You’re saying ‘this is what having a pet means to me, and it should mean the same to everyone’. Well, it doesn’t. Cope.” – Lol fair call. But aren’t all opinions based on that idea?

  29. marty mars on August 18th, 2009 at 15:53

    meat is murder…IMO

    A farm is a factory, just outside.

    One of my ex-partners said if starving and i was dead, that she would eat me before she ate the cat… nothwithstanding the quantity difference – didn’t last long… the relationship not the eating of the cat though both are true

    IMO a pet is a family member and if you can eat a family member why not your child?

  30. james on August 19th, 2009 at 23:13

    marty mars

    I presume the decent reason for not eating your child would be much the same reason why I can’t eat other children I pass in the street.
    (I would assume that’s nothing to do with property rights)

    There is a significant moral difference, pretty much undisputed, between humans and other animals. However whether this allows us to kill and eat them for a tasty lunch is another matter.

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