Does this image of a live dog being thrown into a shopping cart in China bother you?

Eating a Dog in China

Would it make any difference if the dog were already cut up and filleted and placed on a Styrofoam tray and sealed in plastic wrap? Is it culturally illogical to claim: “I love dogs but not cows or pigs or fish.”

Pigs are smarter than dogs. Pigs can save people. Cows are sacred in India.

Is there a distinction without a difference between a dog thrown into a shopping cart and a lamb led to slaughter? Can we judge the values of other nations based on our own cultural biases? In China dogs are food. In America dogs are man’s best friend. Should all American animals household pets or not be provided the same cultural protection as the dog and the cat and the parakeet to not end life gnashed between molars?

If we are offended by the Chinese eating dogs should we also be offended by Americans eating cows, cooking up rabbits and pulling the legs off frogs to fry them up for a snack? Here’s a discussion that addresses the question if kosher slaughterhouses are humane or not and while I invite you to visit the following link, I WARN YOU THERE ARE BLOODY IMAGES OF SUFFERING ANIMALS on the page: http://www.chai-online.org/slaughter.htm

We’ve discussed animal cruelty here before in Killing Riccardo and Benjamin and Numbing the Wild Will and Sixth Animal Sense and Hurting Fish for Asthma Awareness and Dolphins Killed by Submarine.

I once again recall the sage words of the great Count Leo Tolstoy — a vegetarian — who said in the early 1920’s, “As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will always be war.” If we are not similarly broken to the core when cows are slaughtered with chainsaws and dogs have their necks broken when tossed into a shopping cart, we begin to understand why the flinch response is missing when we learn of children in far-off lands who are bleeding to death from landmines and bombs for the bubbling oil beneath their cold feet.

54 Comments

  1. It’s a shocking picture to see “man’s best friend” having his neck snapped as he falls into a grocery cart. However, there isn’t much difference between that dog and the cows that are wandering around my uncle’s farm eating and eating until they are fat enough to go to the slaughterhouse. I guess the nifty packaging and most American’s lack of cows as house pets makes a difference in our feelings toward them. Same thing for chickens and pigs. Most of them are kept on farms far away from the urban and suburban areas where most Americans live.
    I love meat and there’s nothing better than dropping a hamburger or a steak on the grill on a summer afternoon.
    But, I wonder if we’d be better off if we put more emphasis on vegetables. I know our health would be better. Maybe we should think about eating less meat.
    The post reminds me of the horror my mother-in-law expressed one day as she was riding in the car with my wife and me. She started talking to my wife in Cebuano excitedly. My wife later explained that my mother-in-law had seen a sign for “Dogs” at a hot dog stand and was shocked that people were lined up to eat dogs. She didn’t realize “Dogs” referred to hot dogs.

  2. Hi Chris —
    I agree the image is hard to look at for any length of time.
    There’s a saying if we had to slaughter our own food instead of having the slaughter done beyond us that we’d all eat less meat because the process the meat must go through to get to our table would have much more personal meaning.
    The “Hot Dogs” story is terrific! It proves a fine point about cultural sensitivity in a wonderful way.
    Less meat and more veggies mean healthier bodies!
    😀

  3. What is the difference between eating a dog and eating a cow? Nothing — except our cultural bias. We pet our dogs and bbq our steaks, and never the twain shall meet. I mean, personally, I can’t imagine frying up my little Harry, but ultimately it’s no different than eating Bessie the cow.
    American revulsion at eating cat/dog is strange when one considers the lives that our food sources DO have. It’s positively schizophrenic. Some chickens never take a step in their lives; they are often bred for white breast meat so they have such large chests they can’t even walk. People who treat dogs and cats like this are fined/jailed. I was a vegetarian for many years because of this. Now, I’m all for eating meat, but I’m also for some quality of life for animals when they’re alive.
    To be fair, I should make a confession. I strongly suspect our neighbors across the street take in stray dogs and then slaughter them for food. I can’t QUITE get rid of my cultural prejudice and plus, the thought of animals being slauhtered yards away bothers me. We all have our inconsistencies. 🙂
    Still, back to the schizophrenic attitude, I’ve never really understood the anti-hunting attitude that seems to prevail among people who have no problem buying chicken or beef or even fish at the store. First, haven’t hunted animals had much better lives? Second, while there are trophy hunters, the VAST majority use all the meat. And somehow that seems much more honest to me than going to the store and buying prepackaged stuff. It recognizes that eating meat entails death, and is part of the circle of nature. Not that I hunt. Or want to hunt. But I do eat meat now, so who am I to judge the kind?

  4. I didn’t visit the kosher site discussion (it simply does NOT go well with morning coffee), but doesn’t kosher (and its Muslim counterpart halal) entail slitting the throat and letting it bleed to death?

  5. I didn’t visit the kosher site discussion (it simply does NOT go well with morning coffee), but doesn’t kosher (and its Muslim counterpart halal) entail slitting the throat and letting it bleed to death?

  6. Dave!
    I love the fake turtle and fake snake story! Amazing. I wonder if snakes are viewed in America as vile because of the deep religious connection in the bible.
    One interesting thing about the “Fear Factor” TV show:
    http://urbansemiotic.com/2006/01/09/fear-factor-and-fake-breasts/
    …is they have contestants eat “disgusting” things to the American palette that are delicacies in other countries. It’s telling to watch the contestants try to eat a baby duck still in the egg while they would love to eat a grilled burger.
    Ugh! Slaughtering a lamb on the back porch. Ugh! That’s the process, though. Many of my students don’t even know what a “slaughterhouse” is — let alone what goes on in there.

  7. Dave!
    I love the fake turtle and fake snake story! Amazing. I wonder if snakes are viewed in America as vile because of the deep religious connection in the bible.
    One interesting thing about the “Fear Factor” TV show:
    http://urbansemiotic.com/2006/01/09/fear-factor-and-fake-breasts/
    …is they have contestants eat “disgusting” things to the American palette that are delicacies in other countries. It’s telling to watch the contestants try to eat a baby duck still in the egg while they would love to eat a grilled burger.
    Ugh! Slaughtering a lamb on the back porch. Ugh! That’s the process, though. Many of my students don’t even know what a “slaughterhouse” is — let alone what goes on in there.

  8. zia —
    Thanks for your usually perceptive comments!
    You are right about raising animals for slaughter. Chickens have it especially hard when their beaks are “shaved off” with a hot razor so they won’t peck the flesh of the others packed in their cage.
    Hunters are fond of saying they eat what they shoot. The problem with hunting is when it is done solely for the thrill of the kill and not to retrieve the carcass for processing after the death.
    The kosher link is fascinating if you can get beyond all the blood.
    A Vegan Jewish friend of mine told me a while back that for a cow to be kosher-slaughtered — in addition to the strict rituals — the cow must be hung upside down by its hind legs and then its throat is cut with a chainsaw so the blood will bleed down over the head and not over the body to be eaten.

  9. David,
    How very true about different cultural sensitivities.
    The baby duckling still in the egg is something I’ve never tried, but have been told is very delicious by those who enjoy eating the snack. My wife says that people love to buy balut as a snack. It’s sort of like stopping by McDonalds’ to get an order of Chicken McNuggets. It’s just a different form of fowl.
    Here’s how a “Fear Factor” food is described by an Asian Cuisine website:
    “Balut is a very nutritious snack food, which most Filipinos appreciate. …
    “The balut are those incubated up to the 18th day and which contain a healthy living embryo. Like penoy, they are boiled and eaten as a snack food. In fact, these two are sold together just as one is given a choice of coffee or tea. Filipinos are used to the calls of young street vendors peddling their wares: ‘Balut . . . penoy!'”
    http://www.asiacuisine.com.sg/Nacws/1998/9/314/
    Notice that something that is fearsome in American culture is wonderful and exquisite in another.

  10. Ha!
    Funny stuff, Dave.
    I do like the trend towards healthier options in restaurants. You can get a Boca Burger or a Garden Burger as easily as a traditional beef version in any greasy spoon in the tri-state area now.
    Burger King also has a Veggie burger as does McDonalds (The McVeggie) — both good first steps in the right direction.

  11. I don’t know whether it’s a cultural bias or an individual response to certain aspects of life.
    I am a meat-etarian by nature; I eat whatever I like and whatever suits my health. Though I don’t know if I will be able to have a bite of meat after making a trip to any kind of slaughter-house! While reflecting it sounds a bit hypocritical….may be that’s human nature!

  12. Hi Katha —
    I’m disappointed by your comment. Of all the people I know you have always seemed to be one of the few who are able to actively resist the duplicity of human nature.
    I wonder how you’d feel if you had a cholesterol test now — and then again in three months after removing all animal fat from your diet — and if you saw a big difference in your lipids if that would change your mind. Perhaps the indirect lesson doesn’t have an effect, but the direct one stings with greater substance for you?

  13. Dave —
    A veggie patty — to me anyway — isn’t a burger replacement. It’s a shape that fits on a bun and cooks up really fast for convenience. For others a Boca burger might be a meat replacement and that’s fine with me.
    For mayo, we use Veganaise:
    http://www.followyourheart.com/vegenaise.php
    Veganaise is healthy and incredible!
    I’m glad you changed your diet. We are much more aware of the trouble of saturated fats now than even 10 years ago. Perhaps you could start smoking the bit of meat you eat to release you from the chain of cigarettes?
    :mrgreen:

  14. David,
    I am sorry if I disappointed you, I didn’t mean to hurt yours or anyone’s feelings – I was just honest. I am surprisingly healthy with my current food habit (with an enviable cholesterol level) with a very balanced height and weight ratio.
    My point is – should I become a vegetarian just for the sake of my health or to stop the barbarianism of animal killing? If it is the second one, why do we have to use a shield?

  15. David,
    I hate to say this in this way, but your vegan jewish friend is full of it. There is no such thing as the use of chainsaws in kosher slaughter. The process is done exactly how it has been done since it was taught to the jewish people oh so many years ago.
    It’s easy to edit film to make things look a certain way. See ‘brokeback to the future’ on youtube.com – makes the back to the future trilogy look like brokeback mountain without any dubbing or what not.
    A quotation from the article I linked: “studies have shown that after the cutting of the trachea, esophagus and carotid arteries – the shechita process in essence — an animal’s consciousness is lost within approximately two seconds, and irreversibly.”

  16. My take is, it’s easy to stay somewhere for weeks, film hour after hour of proper kosher slaughter, manage to film a couple of unfortunate incidents that happen (very rarely) and edit the film to make it look like it happens all the time.
    It reminds me of the episode of the Simpsons where they arrest Homer for sexual harassment and ask him a series of questions on tape (with a clock behind him) and then they edit the video to make him look like he’s confessing, but when you look at the video they show the clock jumps around. 🙂

  17. David,
    Mostly the North Indians and South Indians are strictly vegetarian by nature.
    I am from Eastern region – fish and meat is a delicacy in Eastern and Western part of India.

  18. That’s interesting, Katha!
    You’ll have to explain to me how India is broken up into regional cultural beliefs.
    I don’t think I’ve met many Indians who identify as Eastern.
    I’ve met North and South Indians and I remember someone telling me there’s a North/South division in India where the North looks down on the South — or is it the other way around — because one side is naturally darker than the other and the “lighter” side is more well-to-do or something?

  19. If the pools of blood indicate anything, I would imagine it’s poor cleaning ethic on the person’s part.
    I got a badly burnt piece of Peanut Butter Captain Crunch. Should they stop making that? I guess would say I am not one of those who argue that if it happens once it’s too much.

  20. The people who perform shechita have to be very well learned in the Torah – I think that all orthodox rabbis know in theory how to perform shechita because in a lot of small towns, the rabbis were also the butchers. They are very careful about what they do and put a lot of thought into it.
    Personally, I’m not that crazy about meat. If I were a little less lazy I’d use my soy milk machine to make my own tofu and then use recipes to make delicious meatless high protein recipes.

  21. David,
    India is a fascinating because of its extremely diverse population with all possible cultural, religious and ritualistic beliefs and customs. I am from Calcutta, one of the major metropolis and probably the second most cosmopolitan city by nature. Following is an interesting link if you want to know more about my city.
    It is said that after the Chinese, South Indians are the most intelligent and smartest people in the world. It is true that they are ‘’darker’’ than the rest because they are the most ancient and original race (something like Native Americans) in India. South Indians can claim to be the most authentically ethnic than the others.
    North and Central North India was invaded by the ‘’Aryans’’; and because of that they have a much lighter skin than the others – you can call it a ‘’peach and cream complexion.’’ The following link of the famous Indian actress and model can be the epitome of the fact. Today’s North and Central North India is the business hub and economically powerful.
    Eastern Indians are known as ‘’Intellectual fish eaters’’; in 1900 the ”Renaissance of India” started from Calcutta and supported mostly by the Western region.
    In today’s date Bombay (the most important metropolitan city of Western region) is the wealthiest and so called ‘’modern’’ city in India – so is the population.
    There goes my two cents……!

  22. Hi Katha —
    I thank you for a fantastic lesson on India and for the blunt insight into your country.
    One of my students — a darker-skinned Indian from the South — was adopted by an American family as a baby. She lived here in America all her life and when she turned 18 she decided she should return to Indian to meet the family she never knew.
    It was then when she first tasted discrimination because of her darker skin color. Her “color” was more obvious to her there than there and after her three week visit she was happy to return to New Jersey and her established life here.

  23. Hi David,
    Every country has its darker side as its flourishing one. Some people hide it – I don’t. At times people forget that the skin tone comes by birth! South India is the most educated belt in India now and South Indians are the most technologically successful/ savvy people amongst Indians in the world. They are very tradition oriented too. It will be really hard for a person to gel well with a typical South Indian lifestyle after spending most of her life in NJ, regardless of her skin color. We used to crack a joke regarding this skin tone – may be I should share this with your student!

  24. Well said, Katha!
    Share your joke about skin tone! Post it here so we can all enjoy it even if it is racy or an inside cultural joke or something…
    My student was surprised when she returned to Southern India because her extended family there wanted her to feel comfortable so they made her an “American sandwich” with nan and fresh vegetables including slices of raw potatoes.
    She didn’t want to hurt their feelings, so she ate the raw potato sandwich with her entire extended family staring at her and watching every bite.
    When she was finished, they asked her if she liked her “American sandwich” and when she politely answered, “Yes, thank you.” They replied, “We made you another one!”
    They presented the second sandwich to her and they had doubled the amount of raw potato slices.
    She tried to explain she was full and no longer hungry but they became concerned and asked her if she did not really like her sandwich.
    When she confirmed she did, in fact, like her sandwich, they all smiled again and said, “Well, we made you another one!”
    She ate the second sandwich and then excused herself to bed to “enjoy dreaming about both sandwiches.”
    She said it took her a year to be able to say the word “sandwich” again without tasting raw potatoes.

  25. That video is the most sickening thing I’ve ever seen. It goes right up there with a documentary I watched a few years ago. I can’t remember which country it was, but it involved skinning Cats whilst they were still alive, then dropping them into a vat of boiling hot oil. All I remember is the sick and pathetic images of the cats STILL ALIVE, and TRYING TO MOVE after they pulled them out of the oil.
    It just shows the huge cultural and religious differences between the countries of our world, but those images are no less disturbing.
    Yes I’m a meat eater, always have been and will continue to be a meat eater. But being a meat eater does not make me impervious to suffering. There are humane ways of killing an animal. The people at the slaughterhouse are, I’m sure, just doing their job, but those animals are put through a living hell. That’s NOT humane!

  26. Yes David! I can see that!
    I told you once- extending hospitality is a very popular norm in India and feeding someone tops the list. We believe God visits in the disguise of a guest and provides opportunities to serve Him. If you ever visit the poorest family in any corner in India they will offer you at least a tall glass of water with a pinch of salt, sugar and lime mixed in it and you will be expected to drink that no matter how full you are and even if you can’t find a so called sophisticated rest room in the vicinity!
    So many times I have seen people offering their share of food to an unexpected guest reaching at a not so civilized hour!
    The joke might sound racially prejudiced……I would like to apologize beforehand…..
    There goes a belief – God has an oven in Heaven which he uses while creating life. When he first decided to create the human species he was not sure about setting the temperature so the result of the experiment came out under baked: the light skinned one. Next came the tribal, over baked and finally came the browns – perfectly baked, a proper example of an ideal timing – the finest creation by God as far as the skin tone goes!
    [This joke is dedicated to those light skinned people who are proud of their skin color got by sheer coincidence! ……….. :-)]

  27. Hi Dawn —
    Wowser! What a terrible story about the cats! Was it a thrill video or a video demonstrating how to cook cats for eating or something?
    The slaughterhouse effect is a hard thing to avoid if you have a mass demand for animals consumption. I’m not sure how to avoid it as long as people continue to be hungry for flesh.

  28. Thank you for the wonderful comment, Katha! Your joke is inviting and it teaches and I thank you for sharing part of the humor of your culture with us. You related the joke with class and great sensitivity.
    Water with salt and sugar and a pinch of lime — is that home-brewed Limca or something?
    😀

  29. Hey David,
    This is getting out of context but I can’t help but sharing this experience with you guys – fortunately I experienced this only once till date.
    In my very first semester I had to work on a group project in a team where the supposed to be group-leader asked me to write the first section of a particular project. Sections 1s are mostly no-brainers. I am an observant by nature and don’t come across as a very assertive person in the very first instance – so even if I thought he didn’t do justice to my capability – I kept quiet. Later I realized that the project was not going the way it was supposed to and everybody seemed to be very confused and it was an utter chaos. I wrote the whole 40 page paper alone in four days and presented in front of my other teammates for fine-tuning. All of them were jubilant and I was happy to come out with a quality product.
    Our ‘’leader’’ was not very happy as we didn’t follow his direction. In one of our group meeting he made a comment like ‘’I am happy that my children are not so dark like me (he was a 2nd generation Hispanic with black hair, black eyes and a tanned skin but much lighter tone than mine and was married to a Caucasian blonde woman)’’ – and that comment pissed me off. Even my other Caucasian team mates were stunned by his rudeness. I just narrated this joke after certain improvisation. I still feel sorry remembering his facial expression because everyone in our team was laughing so hard…… 😀

  30. A lot of cultures eat different and “weird” things. Personally I prefer my meat dead, thus why I’ve never eaten a live huhu grub, though I’m not so sure I consider a little wiggling bug larva to be “meat”. I’ve grown up eating shellfish raw, just sitting on the beach eating them straight out of the shell, now I’m being told this is “strange”. I’ve even been told that some of the shellfish, such as a puipui (also known as a catseye) isn’t even food. Of course this leads to the issue of frying up juvenile little fish type thingies, whole, with a little salt and pepper as a kind of fritter. Most people look at it and are horrified, others look at it as a delicacy and call it whitebait.

  31. Katha!
    Thank you for sharing that story. I am always surprised by the cruelty and rudeness of people. There’s an old saying in American that applies that situation you experienced. The phrase is a twist on the moral American homily of “do a good deed daily” and it says “No good deed goes unpunished.”
    To have your group leader lower the discussion to one of skin color is anti-intellectual and cruel and wounding.

  32. There is issues with eating shellfish in general, such as what’s called algae bloom. But I don’t eat shellfish from polluted areas, that’s just stupid. Other than that I’ve never herd of issues here with eating raw shellfish. It’s a rather normal thing for Maori to eat raw shellfish .. especially kina. I guess it has a lot to do with tolerance. I grew up eating watercress, you boil it up with pork bones and eat it with fresh fry bread. I’d never recommend anyone not use to it eat it, it could make them sick (I’ve seen many people who’d never tried it before pig out on it because they loved it and they ended up spending several painful hours in the bathroom). Like rotten corn. Yes, another “specialty”. I’d never recommend anyone who hasn’t eaten it before eat more than a “taste” or else they’d probably get really sick. I think of dog in the same context, I’d try it, but I wouldn’t eat much because I doubt my body would appreciate it.

  33. Hay David,
    I don’t know how far it is true but I have read that in some corner in the world eating a monkey’s brain is a delicacy!!!
    You are right about the slaughter house effect – if I ever have to kill an animal for my own food probably I will quit eating meat.
    What is the basic objective then – quitting meat for our own health, stop killing animal or innovating a way to kill animal that is less brutal and traumatic? (this sounds contradictory….killing is killing…no matter how you do it….)

  34. Hey Katha —
    Money Brains = No Thank You! Here’s a website that suggests that may be a cultural myth:
    http://www.maxent.org/ch/monkey_brains.html
    The historic argument for eating meat has been that it was the best and most healthy protein source. At one time that may have been true but now we know better. We now have other alternatives to eating meat that makes that “we need it to live” argument null.
    The idea between loving animals and not eating them is that no animal should be killed to fulfill a hunger. There are cheaper and more efficient ways to fuel the body. Tradition and culture play a big role in the continuance of the one-life-for-another cycle of death.
    There are some who believe if you must kill an animal for food make the death fast and clean and let them run around as if they have a real life and not one imprisoned in pens but that argument doesn’t strike me as very effective.
    One of my Gurujis is John Robbins — Dr. John McDougall is the other — and John Robbins is a really interesting guy. The book he wrote, “Diet for a New America” changed my life and my way of thinking about living and eating. John Robbins was raised a wealthy child and he gave up the family ice cream business to dedicate his life to not eating animals:
    The only son of the founder of the Baskin-Robbins ice cream empire, John Robbins was groomed to follow in his father’s footsteps, but chose to walk away from Baskin-Robbins and the immense wealth it represented to “…pursue the deeper American Dream…the dream of a society at peace with its conscience because it respects and lives in harmony with all life forms. A dream of a society that is truly healthy, practicing a wise and compassionate stewardship of a balanced ecosystem.”
    http://www.foodrevolution.org/bio.htm
    John Robbins is a hard person for the “pro-meat” side to ignore or defeat because he put his money where his beliefs are — he renounced the millions of dollars of what he considered “blood money” from cows that created his family’s ice cream empire. When a guy is that hardcore in what he believes he carries great weight for doing the right thing.
    There is a lot of great stuff on his website and the Q&A section is interesting. Here he talks about his “bias” in advocating animals over dietary concerns:
    http://www.foodrevolution.org/askjohn/48.htm

  35. Thank you for this wonderful explanation and resource David!
    This will definitely make me think!And yes, I will be more than happy if the concept of eating monkey’s brain is a myth.

  36. Hi David, sorry for not replying sooner. Things have been hectic here.
    The thing about the cats was actually a Documentary. It showed the horrors of these Cats being forced to live in tiny cages at market, till someone buys them, same as the dog in this post you’ve done. But what they also showed was that people can buy these cats and then have them cooked. It was pretty sickening by all accounts. Even now a few years down the line, I can’t get the images of that out of my head.

  37. thats disturbing. its disgusting.its horrible. its completely wrong. how can these cruel crule cruel people ever get away with such such such evilness. its horrific. Dogs/pigs/cows/ wat ever the animal. shud be left alone in peace. How dare these people !! i am truley hurt and outraged. I hope they die for all i care. and come back as that poor dog they shoved in a cage/starvd, and wat ever else they did to