Resentful reactionary ethnocentric cultural protectionism

datePosted on 18:55, August 17th, 2009 by Lew

Buy Robyn Kippenberger an atlas, and a history of New Zealand. The chief executive of the RNZSPCA was on The Panel (audio; starts at about 06:15) this afternoon talking about the killing and eating of dogs, as opposed to other critters. Quoth Ms Kippenberger:

I think it’s generally agreed that we have companion animals in European countries, and we don’t eat them. [...] I guess that New Zealand is a country that is largely European, and Māori, and none of us eat our dogs. And we’re also … and that’s the main culture in this country. [...] I mean, if you want to eat dog, then go to Viet Nam, or go to China, or indeed, maybe go to Tonga.

In the immortal words of that noted killer and eater of critters, Barry Crump: hang on a minute mate. I have a few questions for Ms Kippenberger. In no particular order:

  • Who’s this ‘we’ you’re presuming to speak for, again, and who gave you the right to speak for them?
  • Since when was New Zealand a ‘European’ country? It’s in the South Pacific; the same part of the world as Tonga, incidentally.
  • Given that Māori brought dogs with them to Aotearoa for the express purpose of eating them, how exactly is it culturally offensive for Māori?
  • Upon what basis do you define ‘New Zealander’ as excluding Chinese, Viet Namese and Tongan people?
  • Why do you presume to go on the radio and talk about matters on which you are clearly not informed (viz: geography, Māori history, cultural identity and multiculturalism)?

She goes on:

What we’re saying is, it’s culturally insensitive to do it here. Other cultures tell us what is culturally insensitive to do in their countries. I don’t think that it’s anything other than giving people the heads-up that if they live in this country, actually, we don’t like what they’re doing if they do that.

The underlying discourse here is something along the lines of:

The whole world is PC and everyone gets to have their meddling way, telling us what we can and can’t do, so us whitebread suburban honkey hand-wringers are going to take this chance to draw a line in the sand, to the north of Asians and Islanders, and to the south of Māori (but not Māori as they actually are; but only as we feel like we are supposed to think of them, as rather like us, only brown).

(My words, not hers).

Yes, many New Zealanders object to the killing and eating of pets, particularly dogs. But liberal, multicultural society is quite capable of handling these differences internally. The SPCA is not an agency of cultural arbitration; as Ms Kippenberger has so aptly demonstrated, it is not equipped to be such an agency. Even the CEO doesn’t have the skills or inclination to come up with any better argument than assimilative monoculturalism, and can’t even get the most basic facts and logic of that feeble and reactionary argument right. Its mandate should be limited to those things it knows about – advocating against cruelty to animals while they’re alive, for example. There’s no argument here that the animal was treated cruelly, so the SPCA has no business being involved.

Animal rights and welfare activists should be likewise angered by this. Ms Kippenberger, who ought to be a champion of your cause, has demonstrated that it is led by fools whose attitude to cultural difference is ‘go back to the Islands’.

L

33 Responses to “Resentful reactionary ethnocentric cultural protectionism”

  1. Matty Smith on August 17th, 2009 at 18:59

    “cruelty of animals while they’re alive.”

    Nitpicking, but animals are alive when they’re killed. :P

    Otherwise, in total accord. Good post.

  2. Lew on August 17th, 2009 at 19:05

    Thanks Matty, you’re the accidental subeditor. “Cruelty of animals”? Even I wouldn’t know what the hell I meant. Duly edited.

    L

    (N.B: Nitpick ignored :)

  3. Adolf Fiinkensein on August 17th, 2009 at 19:47

    Gives a whole new meaning to ‘hot dog.’

  4. Matty Smith on August 17th, 2009 at 19:55

    A very small note in Kippenberger’s defence, she did also raise concern about the hygiene of the meat, raising the spector of the dog’s ‘worm load’. Stray cats and dogs are pretty fetid, so it seems a reasonable point. She probably could have built a whole argument around health and safety. The SPCA has actually contacted the NZ Food Safety Authority, but unfortunately it sounds like they’ve requested a set of ‘do not eat in NZ’ species, and not clarification on health and safety.

  5. O on August 17th, 2009 at 22:00

    Greetings – long time lurker, first time poster here.

    I too had the misfortune of hearing this afternoon’s ‘Panel’. (Why Julia Hartley Moore continues as an occasional panelist after her drubbing at the hands of ‘Mediawatch’ amuses me no end. Her contributions to the dog discussion made Kippenberger appear positively balanced. [And get a load of what she had to say about Bennett's latest targets!])

    Wikipedia tells me a kip is a type of cat. It is therefore clear to me that Ms Kip-in-burger is in no position to lecture anyone on the rights and wrongs of pet-eating!

    Seriously, however, it must also be pointed out that the SPCA has never, ever championed the pursuit of animal rights (as opposed to the exploitation-laden notion of animal ‘welfare’).

    Underlying discourse to my mind also consisted of “don’t expect ‘our’ national values to change in the slightest as a result of the gradual accrual over time of new residents.”

  6. millsy on August 17th, 2009 at 23:50

    If you really want to go down a certain road, it might be worth pointing out that Robyn Kippenberger used to be Robyn McDonald, New Zealand First member of the 1996-1998 cabinet.

  7. Pat on August 18th, 2009 at 07:31

    Eating Pit Bulls seems like an excellent idea, and addresses two problems at once. We should encourage the killing and eating of any unregistered Pit Bull found wandering the street.

  8. SeaJay on August 18th, 2009 at 07:41

    Matty Smith: Mr Taufa’s ‘too skinny dog’ does sound rather wormy.
    It would appear this poor animal is better out of it, but does the spca need to look at the lifestyle of this dog (what was its name?) prior to conversion from pet to meat.

  9. Lew on August 18th, 2009 at 09:51

    Matty, SeaJay,

    If the dog was unwell or a health risk, then that’s a matter for consideration by (either) the SPCA before its death or food safety authorities afterwards. But as I understand, you can pretty much feed your family what you like, and long may that remain.

    Kippenberger is just stretching for any pretext she can in order to prevent her cultural attachment to widdle doggies from being offended.

    L

  10. Lew on August 18th, 2009 at 09:58

    O, welcome.

    Seriously, however, it must also be pointed out that the SPCA has never, ever championed the pursuit of animal rights (as opposed to the exploitation-laden notion of animal ‘welfare’).

    A very good distinction, yes.

    It’s easy to get people to donate money to an organisation which argues that little doggies and kitties and bunnies should be treated nicely, and not so easy to get people to donate to an organisation which argues that doggies, kitties and bunnies, not to mention lambies and piggies and calfies are morally or ethically equivalent (or near-equivalent) to humans – as PETA and SAFE and associated groups have found out.* The question of animal rights implies much greater responsibilities and lifestyle changes than folks are prepared to accept. Animal welfare, on the other hand, is easy to feel good about and doesn’t require anything much other than an occasional donation.

    Underlying discourse to my mind also consisted of “don’t expect ‘our’ national values to change in the slightest as a result of the gradual accrual over time of new residents.”

    Yes, exactly. I wonder how that balance would change if (when) NZ was (is) more brown than white?

    L

    * Although I would add that PETA and SAFE are their own causes’ worst enemies at times.

  11. Boganette on August 18th, 2009 at 10:10

    Why is having a cultural attachment to dogs less valid than not having a cultural attachment to dogs? I’m sorry if I’m misreading it but I think it’s kind of rich saying that this man’s cultural belief that it’s OK to eat dogs is just dandy but SPCA woman’s cultural belief that it’s not OK to eat dogs is evil.

    I mean granted she’s an idiot and she’s not helping herself or the SPCA by saying stupid idiotic things on the radio (and the TV and in print) but still…why is her cultural view on dogs so unacceptable but his isn’t?

    And do the SPCA really deserve SO much criticism just because one of their reps is kind of slow in interviews? The SPCA does alot of good shit. I certainly wouldn’t want to be a front-line worker dealing with abused animals.

  12. Lew on August 18th, 2009 at 10:28

    Boganette,

    I’m sorry if I’m misreading it but I think it’s kind of rich saying that this man’s cultural belief that it’s OK to eat dogs is just dandy but SPCA woman’s cultural belief that it’s not OK to eat dogs is evil.

    It’s not her cultural belief that I’m objecting to – it’s her forcing it on people whose beliefs differ, and trying to define her belief as a NZ norm without consideration of the fact that she doesn’t have the authority to do so.

    And do the SPCA really deserve SO much criticism just because one of their reps is kind of slow in interviews? The SPCA does alot of good shit. I certainly wouldn’t want to be a front-line worker dealing with abused animals.

    This isn’t ‘one of their reps’, this is their CEO. And I’m usually not in the habit of giving agencies a pass for idiocy because they sometimes do other good things or because their front-line workers have it tough.

    L

  13. Boganette on August 18th, 2009 at 10:47

    “It’s not her cultural belief that I’m objecting to – it’s her forcing it on people whose beliefs differ, and trying to define her belief as a NZ norm without consideration of the fact that she doesn’t have the authority to do so.”

    I’d agree with that. I do think she’s completely out of line with 99% of the things she’s saying.

    And fair point on your last comment too. I must have missed that she was the CEO I thought she was just a spokesperson. And yep I agree they shouldn’t get a free pass because of the good things they do. Though I do think on the whole the SPCA do get it right. They’ve just been incredibly cringe-worthy on this issue.

  14. NiuZila on August 18th, 2009 at 10:48

    I am a Samoan, born and raised in New Zealand. I was very disheartened to read the CEO’s comments. I thought we had moved on from mono-culturalism to at least bi-culturalism. It appears as though multi-culturalism isn’t part of the SPCA’s vocab.

    Apparently the incident happened in February, but imagine if the media hadn’t plastered it over the air-waves and newspapers – people would’ve continued living their lives.

    That’s the difference between Mr Paea and Mrs Kippenburger. Mr Paea wasn’t forcing other people to follow his culinary recipe. Mrs Kippenburger on the otherhand wants everyone to follow her moral upbringing.

    Although as a Samoan eating dog is not a delicacy, I want to defend Mr Paea, because for all we know he is a New Zealander just like you and I. And as a New Zealander we can’t be ignored and made invisible by the CEO’s comments. If she represents New Zealanders, then she should represent me AND Mr Paea, not just the white ones.

  15. Neil on August 18th, 2009 at 11:22

    It’s not her cultural belief that I’m objecting to – it’s her forcing it on people whose beliefs differ, and trying to define her belief as a NZ norm without consideration of the fact that she doesn’t have the authority to do so.

    but it is true that in NZ it is not normal to eat dogs.

    That we eat certain animals and not others is not some sort of random cultural aberation. Sheep and cattle are herd animals whose behaviour has been utilised for domestication. Dogs and cats are very different. Monkeys are very different.

    Mass producing those sorts of animals for food would require cruelty as they would be kept in conditions very different from their natural conditions.

    Maori may have eaten dogs initially but that didn’t last past the introduction of European domestic farm animals.

  16. What would Hayek say on August 18th, 2009 at 12:48

    This post and comments inspire me to shed a bit of culinary info – some readers appear not to be aware of the vast array of flora and fauna consumed in NZ’s history (and rather recent history at that).

    The SPCA CEO should read A DISTANT FEAST: THE ORIGINS OF NEW ZEALAND’S CUISINE, by Tony Simpson, FIRST CATCH YOUR WEKA: A STORY OF NEW ZEALAND COOKING. Mrs Beaton’s book on household management is historical magistry on things cooking and practical (like what to do when your rent is overdue).

    Anyway heres one updated classic receipe to have alongside hot dog.

    CASSEROLE OF POSSUM
    PREPARING THE POSSUM
    1 possum, smallish female if possible.
    Skin and bone the possum (use only the best meat for the casserole, ie: the strip loins and hind quarters, cubed). Reserve the carcass and trimmings for stock.
    INGREDIENTS
    • 1 onion
    • 1 clove garlic
    • Clarified butter and olive oil (enough to brown meat without becoming dry)
    • 1 cup dry red wine
    • Flat or field mushrooms sliced (big meaty ones)
    • 2 tblspns fresh herbs – a mix of rosemary, thyme, marjoram, dill and parsley
    • 1 tblspn tomato puree
    • 1 cup dark beer
    • 1 cup brown possum stock
    • 1 tblspn Marsala
    METHOD
    1. In a heavy pan, heat the clarified butter and oil
    2. Sauté onion and garlic. When onion is clear, remove to casserole
    3. Dust the cubed possum with flour and brown in batches. Add to casserole.
    4. Melt a little more clarified butter and sauté bacon and mushrooms. Remove to casserole
    5. De-glaze pan as necessary with red wine – add this to casserole together with herbs, ground pepper, tomato purée, beer and marsala
    6. Stir, cover and cook in slow oven for 2 -3 hours, adding more possum stock if necessary.
    SERVING SUGGESTION
    Top with pastry or serve with little caper dumplings made with gnocchi mixture
    Garnish with lemon zest and chives

  17. DeepRed on August 18th, 2009 at 13:03

    If you really want to go down a certain road, it might be worth pointing out that Robyn Kippenberger used to be Robyn McDonald, New Zealand First member of the 1996-1998 cabinet.

    Now the jigsaw pieces are falling into place.

  18. Lew on August 18th, 2009 at 13:33

    Neil,

    but it is true that in NZ it is not normal to eat dogs.

    Is ‘not normal’ grounds for prohibition?

    That we eat certain animals and not others is not some sort of random cultural aberation. Sheep and cattle are herd animals whose behaviour has been utilised for domestication. Dogs and cats are very different. Monkeys are very different.

    Dogs and cats are animals whose behaviour has been used for domestication, as well. In fact, the dog has a much longer history of being domesticated than any herd animal.

    Whether we eat them or not is a cultural question, not a question of biolological or evolutionary determinism.

    Mass producing those sorts of animals for food would require cruelty as they would be kept in conditions very different from their natural conditions.

    Keeping other animals for meat doesn’t require cruelty? You don’t believe that. I accept it might be more cruel, but that’s a very tricky argument.

    WWHS,

    Possum is good eats. Doesn’t taste like chicken though.

    I’ve seen that recipe, and have been trying to catch the central ingredient for it, who lurks around my house. No concerns about poor diet or ill heath here, I know what the bugger eats: pohutukawa flowers, two kinds of apples, plums, nectarines and banana passionfruit from our trees.

    L

  19. What would Hayek say on August 18th, 2009 at 14:18

    I tried deep fried spider in Cambodia – kinda gooey is the best I can say – but hey for a time it was a protein source for very hungry people.

    The history of french peasant food would be a fun PHD history thesis – identifying just how hungry you have to be to eat snails, and then do so often enough to figure out how to make them pleasant to eat.

    Hedgehog I’m told is best cooked by wrapping it in clay and then baking in a fire, that way the spines come off when you crack open the clay wrap.

    For your possum problem, have you tried a Timms possum kill trap with a slice of apple in it? Generally effective – a friend has recommended also using dehydrated mashed potato as a bait. Need to be careful about domestic pets if your in an urban area.

    You could also try a multi purpose trap, which doesn’t kill the possum – but then you have to figure out what your doing wuth it afterwards, and generally releasing a pest out into the wild again would defeat the original purpose.

    By the way I’m jealous that you have banana passionfruit growing – have not been able to cultivate them.

  20. Neil on August 18th, 2009 at 15:42

    Dogs and cats are animals whose behaviour has been used for domestication, as well. In fact, the dog has a much longer history of being domesticated than any herd animal.

    Whether we eat them or not is a cultural question, not a question of biolological or evolutionary determinism.

    There’s a very good reason why we farm cows for food and not dogs. It is about evolution – see Jared Diamond.

    Is ‘not normal’ grounds for prohibition?

    I have no problem with it being pointed out to people that in NZ it is not normal to eat dogs. Banning eating pets might make sense. Humans often do not do very well caring for pets, raising pets for food just makes matters a lot more complicated.

    Dog owners are particularly prone to having very little understanding of the evolved behaviour of their pets – often with tragic consequences. I doubt that any one who wants to eat their pet dog has a great understanding of those issues. In this case the dog had already been ill-treated.

    Raisng animals for food should be left to professionals and even then we do like to have that closely monitored – eg pig farming. And those preofessionals I doubt will opt for cats or dogs.

  21. Lew on August 18th, 2009 at 16:12

    Neil,

    There’s a very good reason why we farm cows for food and not dogs. It is about evolution – see Jared Diamond.

    Again with the ‘we’ – who?

    The bare fact is that dogs have been domesticated for food (among other purposes). Arguing Diamond to say that they’re not ideally suited to it (and I agree!) doesn’t negate the reality that it actually factually happened, and still does.

    L

  22. NiuZila on August 18th, 2009 at 16:29

    Hi Neil and Lew

    I can’t help but feel that Neil (and others) thinks Mr Paea is not part of New Zealand. Mr Paea maybe from Tonga but it is most likely he is now a citizen on New Zealand. Just as I am from Samoa, but born and raised in New Zealand, I too have cultural differences to other New Zealanders.

    The discussion seems to be about ‘them’ and ‘us’, but New Zealand is not a homogeneous society and never was (apart from pre-European times). We are all part of New Zealand.

  23. What would Hayek say on August 18th, 2009 at 16:38

    Cat, dog etc are simply a form of game meat. Moving on from possum stew we now offer:

    BEER ROASTED CAT
    1 cat cut into roast
    1 can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup
    1 cube of beef bouillon
    1 clove of garlic
    1 Fine Stout

    Cover and soak cat roast in salt water for 24 hours. Drain water and then cover and soak in beer for 6 hours. Drain and place in crock pot with your cans of soup. Add a clove of garlic, and a cube of beef bouillon. If you start to slow cook your cat in the morning with your Cooker (or it’s ilk), you’ll have finely cooked feline in time for supper.

    If a slow cooker is not available, a cat can be baked at 350 degrees for 2-3 hours in a conventional oven and still come out pretty good. Beer Roasted Cat is fantastic served with mashed potatoes, collard greens, and fresh, homemade egg rolls. When planning a full meal just remember- cat is a course best served hot!

    Cat may not be the most glamorous, or tastiest of game meats, but with a little thought and preparation, Baked Cat can make the belly of the persnicketiest diner glow with home baked goodness

  24. David on August 18th, 2009 at 19:32

    As were talking about eating pets!

  25. Lew on August 18th, 2009 at 22:06

    WWHS, I can’t believe anyone would consider making a home-cooked meal based around a ca…

    …n of soup :)

    L

  26. Lew on August 18th, 2009 at 22:27

    NiuZila,

    I don’t think that’s quite justified – to my eye Neil isn’t so much arguing that the whitebread suburban honkey hand-wringer (hereafter WSHHW) cultural practice be implemented as of obvious right (as Kippenberger is); he’s advocating that it form the basis for policy; the implementation of an actual regulation to give effect to the cultural practice.

    Thats’s a whole different thing, and democratically valid – if the populace of the country was sufficiently riled by this dog-eating business to lobby parliament to pass a law to ban it, with due consultation and discussion of the social and cultural ramifications of that, then fair enough. I would still disagree, but at least he’s not using his elite status as the CEO of a very prominent and well-regarded NGO to beg the question and promulgate assimilationism dressed up as common sense.

    L

  27. Neil on August 19th, 2009 at 08:24

    The bare fact is that dogs have been domesticated for food (among other purposes). Arguing Diamond to say that they’re not ideally suited to it (and I agree!) doesn’t negate the reality that it actually factually happened, and still does.

    how was this dog “domesticated for food “? If this dog was well taken care of and fed properly it would have cost a great deal more than going out and buying half a lamb. Most likely this dog was left to scavanage around the neighbour uncared for. Calling it a “pet” is stretching it saying that this dog was bred for eating is unbelievable.

    i think this notion that dogs are bred for food is a myth. They occasionally get eaten but most often in the Pacific pigs are bred for food. Dogs are pathetic creatures that scavange round the villages and don’t make particularly good eating.

    If someone wants to go out and shoot wild dogs and cats in the bush I have no problem, if they wanr to cook them up over a campfire that’s fine – but I suspect that they have no great appreciation of food.

    In the city it’s quite different and there’s enough of a problem getting dog owners to treat their dogs well as pets let alone as food.

  28. Neil on August 19th, 2009 at 08:57

    It’s the innate socialisation patterns of animals that have led to their domestcation for particualr roles. Dogs were domesticated not for food but for hunting.

    They are social animals that bond – and bond with people. A well cared for dog will have bonded with its owner. And a good owner wil have bonded with their dog. Eating your “pet” dog is good evidence that the dog was ill-treated.

    As a general side note on people and pets, until proven otherwise I assume a dog is more intelligent than its owner.

  29. Lew on August 19th, 2009 at 08:58

    Neil you can think it’s a myth all you like – the fact is that they are bred for food – I’ve seen (and smelt) it with my own eyes (and nose); it’s very well documented and frankly beneath debate.

    As regards the definitions of ‘pet’, see my response to Boganette.

    L

  30. Neil on August 19th, 2009 at 09:46

    bred for food in the Pacific? Maybe before pigs.

    OK so in South Korea they raise dogs for food – and as you detail it’s not a pleasant sight. But that’s my point – raising sheep and cattle for food does not necessitate cruelty since the process utilises their innate behaviour patterns. Farming dogs can only ever result in dog prisons as you describe in SK.

    Dogs are not the same creature as sheep. They were domestciated for different purposes and were able to be domesticated for different purposes because of their quite different innate socialisation patterns.

    I should probably have made a clearer distinction between “raised” and “bred”.

    Pet animals are very different from farm animals. Farmers don’t actually eat dogs in NZ although they will eat “pet” sheep. Show me a farmer that eats dogs and I’ll show you someone who is cruel to animals.

  31. Neil on August 19th, 2009 at 12:27

    but to summarise, I think that there are very good reasons bassed on biolgy for treating some animals differently to others.

    It’s not merely a a matter of a culturally arbitrary sentimentalism a you suggest Lew.

    The reason I oppose whaling is not because I have some logical oppostion to eating whale meat but because the practicalities of getting that meat onto ones plate cannot avoid the torture of an animal to death. And the Japanese govt are very keen to charaterise anti-whaling views as culturally arbitrary sentimentalism.

  32. Matty Smith on August 19th, 2009 at 16:45

    @Neil

    We’ve bred dogs to ape our emotional cues – as companions – and they’ve adapted to exploit that relationship with us. That doesn’t mean we have not also bred them for their meat, and it does not mean farming dogs is any more cruel than farming any other intelligent mammal.

    In the Pacific Islands dogs don’t serve as ‘pets’ in the way I think of the word. They fill a very similar function to pigs. They’re valued less than pigs. Generally, they’re allowed to roam free, they get a limited amount of affection, and they end up on plates. Just like pigs, they’re clearly cared for and bred with food in mind.

    Pigs and sheep are both extremely intelligent, social mammals. Pigs are certainly more intelligent than dogs, and sheep have intricate social lives. Their ‘innate behaviour patterns’ conflict with the the way they are treated and sometimes with the ways they are confined. These animals don’t submit lightly or happily to been torn from their young; having pieces chopped off them with pliers while they’re in infancy; being confined when they are inclined to roam; being man-handled, herded, and chased; being trussed up; being transported from place to place smeared in their own shit; and then being killed despite making their best efforts to avoid it (if they possibly can). If you name a way of procuring meat that doesn’t violate the animal’s clearly expressed will, I’ll fire up the barbie and supply the beer. In mean time, farm animals suffer a happy life punctuated regularly with unnecessary torture, horror and fear, ending in the ultimate deprivation.

    Your reasons for opposing whaling are my reasons for opposing meat in general.

    I worked closely with farm animals for the first 18 years of my young life. You are romanticising both familiar livestock and current farm practices for the sake of your argument.

    (It strikes me that conservation might be a better tack for you to take, if you’re looking to eat meat AND oppose whaling. Whale numbers aren’t too crash hot, and with ocean acidification and depleting fish stocks, they’ll need all the help they can get over the next few hundred years.)

  33. Neil on August 20th, 2009 at 08:08

    @Matty

    I agree with a lot of what you say. I suppose I’m arguing about degrees of mistreatment. That with some animals using them for meat necessitates a greater amount of mistreatment.

    But you’re right, any meat has a price to pay into terms of animal welfare.

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