Saturday, April 12, 2008

Should You Eat Dogs?

My gut reaction: NO!! You are surprised?

Matt Miller pointed me to this piece in Salon by Ted Kerasote about a horrifying experience he had in China. My take is not quite the same as his but close enough, especially for dogs.

Matt wrote:

"Thinking about the grouse watching trip's participants: have you seen
Ted K.'s piece in, on Chinese treatment/eating of dogs. I had
mixed opinions but am still sorting through them. I agree 100% on the
Chinese human rights abuses, to say nothing of what is happening to the
wildlife. It is beyond belief, and criminal. But I don't know that I can
oppose eating dogs just because they're dogs. Couldn't someone with a
close connection to elk, or bears, or pigs, or whatever, make the same
argument against eating those species? What we hunt/kill/raise/eat all
comes down to our personal values and cultural attitudes. "I'll eat a
trout or a cow or a deer but not a mountain lion?" to paraphrase Quammen
from memory. Since you're a dog guy, I wonder if you draw a similar line
to Ted's--no one should not be eating dogs, period. Stephen Rinella ate
dog meat but found that he could not get past his own preconceptions. I
think I'd be the same way, but that doesn't mean everyone should live by
my choices."

I responded:

"Oddly I DO think dogs are different because I think the nature of the bond not only dates to pre- human times but that it is a deeper social one than with any other species. Dogs have evolved to "talk" to us and listen , quite literally. My old pal McLoughlin calls them a social hybrid of man and wolf which catches it exactly I think.

"Of course illegal and immoral do not always sort out exactly-- I'd likely rely more on social disapproval. Ted is a lot less small- l libertarian than I.

"Interesting note: in Vladimir Beregovoy's primitive breeds book he writes that the made- for- eating breed has far less social "affect" than normal dogs-- bred to be distant? Even some dog- eaters must feel bad!"


Peter said...

I've heard dog eating is even more popular in South Korea. Unlike China, it's a democratic country with reasonable respect for human rights, which somehow makes the practice even worse.

Luisa said...

Stephen wrote: Oddly I DO think dogs are different because I think the nature of the bond not only dates to pre-human times but that it is a deeper social one than with any other species.

I totally agree -- I oppose eating dogs just because they're dogs.

People who study the subject say that dogs domesticated themselves: they linked up with us of their own accord.* The dog/human bond is ancient and powerful and important. So consuming dog meat isn't cannibalism, exactly, but it ain't right, either, if you ask me.

A Korean-American poster on the Border Collie Boards has written that 1) eating dog meat in Korea is not common; 2) her middle-class Korean parents, relatives and friends have never and would never think of eating dog meat; and 3) eating dog meat is a largely seasonal/ceremonial custom in Korea, practiced mainly by rural people. [I think about her exasperation on this subject whenever anyone writes about those Asians/Chinese/Koreans and their cruel eating habits.]

I'm inclined to think the custom of eating dog meat will fade away on its own, hastened by the countless Asians who oppose it. [What really freaks me out? China's interest in feedlot beef.]

*[And yes, so did head lice, but that is completely different.]

Matt Mullenix said...

I wonder if the question is not whether we would eat dogs, per se, but whether we would farm dogs for human consumption? Or perhaps hunt dogs for food?

I love dogs, especially my own; I hope that's clear. I would never "hunt" dog, although I can imagine several circumstances under which I would kill one. I would also not care to farm them for food, even if I could dream up a scenario under which I might. Something about "farming" predators doesn't seem right.

Nonetheless I would (and I think almost everyone would) eat a dog if it came to that. We're not talking about basic survival, right?

An interesting spin on that situation and one I've given some idle thought to is whether I would kill and eat my own hunting dog if somehow we were lost together and unable to get back to civilization. I don't hunt in wilderness areas (never too far from a cold beer!) but just "what if?"

I'd have to be pretty hungry I guess.

Mike Spies said...

Native Americans maintained a utilitarian view of dogs - for a very long time their only domestic animal - and used them for beasts of burden, bed warmers, and, yes, food.

The Inuit, who live in possibly the most unforgiving climate on earth, have historically depended on their dogs as partners in survival, perhaps their dogs were too valuable to eat.

Meriwether Lewis, during the journey of the Corps of Discovery, according to accounts, came to prefer dog to other meat, and often traded with Indians for dogs to supply meat to the expedition.

That said, I doubt that I will be eating any of my bird dogs.

Steve Bodio said...

Matt-- there are actually dogs bred to eat in Asia, according to Vadim-- rather like small chows. ("Chow"?)

If I had to eat say, Ataika, I'd probably be as likely to starve as to do so-- might as well eat a human friend-- at that point not worth it.

PBurns said...

Lewis and Clarke ate a lot of dog (one of them prefered it to Elk) and the native Americans considered it a delicacy. As I noted in an introduction to an article about eating rats:

"Some people think cows are sacred and pigs are filthy and never to be eaten. No one thinks twice about eating a bit of mutton or a nice rabbit or chicken, but most recoil at a bit of dog. I have eaten snake (quite good) but shudder at eating eel, though everyone tells me it is excellent, especially if smoked. Squirrel and groundhog? No problem. Possum? Not on a bet. In every culture, one man's rat is another man's ratatouille, and the rules of cuisine do not always make perfect sense."

And as someone who has raised goats, let me tell you that the bond between dog and man is not unique, and entirely coincidental. Dogs (like cats) will revert to feral form in a single generation as can be seen all over the world.


Steve Bodio said...


Hmmm- I think the evolutionary biologists who study dogs would disagree. (I don't THINK this is an argument from personal prejudice, though I admit I will eat virtually anything else and might eat it if offered it in another culture.)

AS to feral dogs-- of course. But if you took their pups they would revert to tame dogs again, whereas wolves and coyotes never become really tame or "civilized".

Anonymous said...

The recent discovery that even young puppies understand what you mean when you point(something chimps and wolves do NOT get) "points" to human-dog coevolution.

I don't know if they have tested domestic pigs or goats.