Friend or Food?

A general consensus held by many people around the world is that dogs are man’s best friend. They are cute, friendly and smart enough to be trained to do the craziest things. Add an infant and you have Instagram gold.

In other parts of the word, dogs are food.

In China there is a festival that holds yearly, called the Yulin meat festival. Thousands of (stolen) dogs and cats are slaughtered and eaten. Unsurprisingly, a lot of people are disgusted and outraged by this. Some people have even called for the festival to be banned.

Someone may ask the question: why are goats, chickens, turkeys, cows, sheep et al acceptable dishes, but not dogs and cats? I believe it has to do with our upbringing and the way we have been socialised.

To most people, dogs are pets. Goats, cows and chickens are not. Dogs and cats become part of the family; they appear in the family portrait and go on family holidays. A pet owner would walk past a baby in a burning building so as to save his puppy. There are people who have left millions of dollars to their pets, such is the bond between a pet and its owner. Even people who do not own or like animals may still view the domestic pets as creatures to be protected. They are not seen as animals to be devoured; rather, they belong in the house, playing with the kids, fetching a stick, jumping in the pool and doing all sorts of adorable youtube worthy stunts. Plus it is just plain weird to eat a cat.

Normalcy is relative and it differs amongst cultures and people. Dogs are cuddled and dressed up in one place and skinned alive and devoured in another. Cows are eaten without a second thought in most places, and they are worshipped in another. The French eat horses, I cannot even imagine killing such a majestic creature for food. I would sooner go vegan than eat a dog. Yet I eat cows with no worries. I do not spare a second of silence for the grilled chicken on my plate. A lamb shank brings joy to my heart.

Not everyone views dogs as cute things, unfortunately. Some people view them as meat, and as horrible as that may sound to dog lovers, we don’t really have a right to tell people not to eat them. I am not at all in favour of eating dogs, but is it really our place to tell other cultures what animals they can and cannot eat? Who’s to say cows aren’t kind, sensitive, funny creatures? Maybe years of being devoured have made the cows unhappy, causing them to repress their cuteness. What if cows are our true best friends?

The real outrage is not in people eating dogs, but in how the dogs are treated. I saw some pictures from the festival and I was appalled to see the conditions the animals were in. The animals are cramped in tiny filthy cages. They have to endure long journeys which all of them don’t survive. The dogs and cats are said to be skinned alive, killed and eaten. They are sometimes hit on the head and boiled. Long story short, they are tortured. Sure the animals were to be killed and eaten, but that does not mean they should not have been handled a little better.

Chinese legend has it that the more suffering an animal goes through, the better the taste of its meat. Awful.

Rather than ask for dog meat to be banned, it may be more sensible to demand a humane slaughter of these animals. A number of countries have rules on how animals are to be killed. These rules try to make the animals’ death less painful. It will be nice for China and other countries to do the same. If the festival does not get banned, I do hope it is at least regulated because I honestly do not think that the animals will ever be treated well.

SN: From what I know dog meat is not widely eaten in China, the festival has no cultural significance and was started in 2010 by dog sellers to drum up sales.

If you have a pet, hug it a little tighter tonight (and try not to eat it).

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