Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Why Not Wok the Dog?

Back in Janury 2002, William Saleten dared to ask why people like French actress and lunatic racist turned animal-rights activist Brigitte Bardot thought it was OK to eat pig and cow, but not dog. Writing in Slate he notes that:
Dogs are "friends, not animals," Bardot told a Korean radio interviewer. "Cows are grown to be eaten, dogs are not. I accept that many people eat beef, but a cultured country does not allow its people to eat dogs."

Strip out Bardot's silly arrogance and her Korean colleagues' sentimentality, and their philosophy boils down to this: The value of an animal depends on how you treat it. If you befriend it, it's a friend. If you raise it for food, it's food. This relativism is more dangerous than the absolutism of vegetarians or even of thoughtful carnivores. You can abstain from meat because you believe that the mental capacity of animals is too close to that of humans. You can eat meat because you believe that it isn't. Either way, you're using a fixed standard. But if you refuse to eat only the meat of "companion" animals—chewing bacon, for example, while telling Koreans that they can't stew Dalmatians—you're saying that the morality of killing depends on habit or even whim.

The joke is on you because in Korea, until recently, dogs haven't been pets. Therefore, by the "companion" standard, it's OK to eat them. In fact, the "companion" standard is exactly what South Korean newspapers and government officials are using to justify an emerging system of dog Nazism. In the city, Koreans raise "pet dogs." In the country, they raise "meat dogs," also known as "junk dogs" and "lower-grade" dogs. But you don't become a "lower-grade" dog by flunking an IQ test. You're just born in the wrong place. Then you're slaughtered and fed to a man who thinks he's humane because he pampers a Golden Retriever that has half your brains. And Bardot, who says that cows can be butchered because they're "grown to be eaten," can't fault this arrangement.

If dog-eating isn't intrinsically wrong, why should South Koreans give it up? Because, Bardot told her radio interviewer, "Eating dog meat seriously hurts the image of your country." FIFA President Blatter likewise told South Korea that the practice was bad for its "international image." He urged the country "to show the world that it is sensitive to vociferous worldwide public opinion." But absent an underlying moral argument, appeals to "image" and "sensitivity" are as likely to disguise snobbery or evil as to promote good.

There's more than a whiff of cultural supremacy, if not racism, in French attacks on Korean dog-eating. When Bardot's radio interviewer told her that some Western visitors eat dog meat in Korea, she replied: "French people, German people, and Americans never eat dogs. If they did, it is most likely that South Koreans served them dog meat, saying it was either pork or beef." The French soccer team supports Bardot's campaign. A French state TV channel recently ridiculed Korean dog-eating in a piece full of distortions. Never mind that some Frenchmen eat horse meat or snails or that, according to a Seoul waitress, more than one staffer from the French Embassy has sated his canine tooth at her restaurant. Norwegians didn't stop eating reindeer during the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics. American restaurants didn't stop serving bull testicles during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. No one forced Spain to outlaw cat stew during the 1982 World Cup, and no one is hounding Japan, the co-host of this year's World Cup, to shut down its sushi bars.
I have written on this issue before, of sorts, in this piece, entitled: Rat or Ratatouille?

1 comment:

Curt said...

Some years ago I read a biography of John James Audubon, and I remember in his later life he visited the Yellowstone area where he ate dog for the first time. It was prepared by Indians and he claimed it was the finest meat he'd ever eaten, and that's revealing coming from a guy who ate virtually every bird he'd ever killed and painted!