Eating Fido

I read an article the other day from my other home country, New Zealand. The article was full of outrage at a Tongan man who had attempted to eat his dog Ripper. The dog, a pitbull-terrier cross, had been given to him by a family member. But as the dog had a nasty habit of biting any visitors to the house, he decided to hit Ripper on the head (thus knocking him unconscious), slit Ripper’s throat, and then put him in an umu (a fire pit) to cook.

He had just done this when the SPCA turned up and stopped him. According to the SPCA, it’s totally unacceptable to eat dog in New Zealand, although it may be normal practice in the islands. They think the law should be changed so it is illegal for people to cook and eat dogs.

HANG ON, thought I. What authority did the SPCA have to stop this man? By the SPCA’s admission the dog was killed humanely. It wasn’t against the law. So what right did they have to march onto this man’s property and ruin his barbecue?

The whole tone of the article disturbed me. It came across as hypocritical and, frankly, racist. The suggestion was that we should be educating these island savages not to eat their pets, because that’s just not done in New Zealand.

Which of course is crazy, because white people in New Zealand have been eating their pets since they settled there. In Spring, plenty of children hand-rear pet lambs (often known by names such as “Mint Sauce” and “Gravy”) that later end up on the Christmas dinner table. No one has a problem with that. Why this special status for dogs?

Although I don’t eat any meat I don’t really see the difference between eating dog and eating any other animal, provided the animal is not endangered of course. In fact, dogs are probably one of the most sustainable animals I can think of. Once the Christmas lambs are gone, you could go down to the SPCA and select one of the hundreds of puppies that are abandoned after the festive season. These puppies often end up being euthanized if there is no one to claim them. What a waste! Why not take them home, fatten them up, and pop them on the barbie? According to our Tongan friends they are very good eating!

In fact, I would be happier to eat a dog that had had a pleasant life with a family that had played with it, fed it well, and given it a good life, than for example a pig that had been stuffed into a crate too small for it to even turn around. Bacon is pretty much the national food of New Zealand. You can’t order a salad, soup or sandwich without it being full of the stuff. So the national demand for cheap pig meat has led to these poor animals (which are more intelligent and sensitive than dogs) being kept in horrific conditions. Ok, some people have a problem with this, but is bacon off the menu? If it’s not bacon then it’s chickens packed in tiny cages, debeaked and featherless. It seems the message is that animals raised in suffering are ok to eat, but happy animals raised with love are a no-go.

I wonder if the real reason the country has reacted so violently to this issue is that the entire economy of New Zealand is built upon the raising and slaughter of animals. I suspect no one wants to think about that too hard, or examine their own personal guilt. So draw an arbitrary line, animals on one side of the line are perfectly ok to kill and eat, animals on the other side are not ok and if you eat them you are an uncultured savage. How does that make sense?

Today the media seems to have realised that perhaps it was a tiny bit hypocritical and one-sided in that last article, and have finally presented the other side of the story:

Cultural experts in New Zealand have spoken out against a proposed ban on the eating of dog meat, saying to do so would be culturally insensitive and deprive people of a viable food source in tough economic times.

Euroasia director Kenneth Leong, whose company specialises in cultural consultancy, said the uproar was “a demonstration of cultural insensitivity bordering on ignorance and hypocrisy”.

So, what do you think? Would you eat dog (or have you eaten dog)? Would you stop someone else from eating it?

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6 thoughts on “Eating Fido

  1. I haven’t eaten dog, but I would.

    I completely agree that there’s no fundamental difference between a dog and pig or sheep that means one can be eaten, and another not. The only meat that makes me feel squicky on principle would be Ape and Cetaceans. So I guess that means I draw the line at what I feel to be a certain level of intelligence. I guess this is just reverse logic, based on the fact that I’ve eaten meat for years, so there can’t be anything wrong with it. Hurry up and invent vat grown meat!

    And don’t see what right the SPCA had.

  2. I have a personal policy of trying any cuisine once, so yes, I would try dog if it were offered, but it’s not something I’d particularly seek out. I do agree that allowing the consumption of some varieties of meat and not others is hypocritical. Also an argument could be made that the tangata whenua were dining on canines long before they’d ever been introduced to sheep.

    The one thing I’d have a bit of a problem with is the public hygiene aspects of doing a home-slaughter in an urban area.

    Personally, living here, I was unaware of the entire fuss. Media beat-up?

  3. I watched an interview with the head of the SPCA, and he ended up agreeing that it’s a bit rich to point fingers at people eating dog when we raise pet lambs for slaughter etc. I think they don’t want to be seen as endorsing the practice because although this guy pretty much did everything right when it came to the law, there’s bound to be people who won’t.

    I was actually reading about Korean cuisine yesterday and how although they have a tradition of eating dog, they also keep them as pets and the only ones that are considered food are farm-raised. I would probably try it if it was on offer, as I would most things, but like Sarah W I’d be concerned about the hygiene – I’m generally suspicious of most wild game meats because you can never be sure how healthy the animal was to start with or how well it’s been prepared (then again, after reading “Fast Food Nation”, I can never be sure of that with factory-farmed & -slaughtered meat either!)

    • Exactly. My parents only eat lamb (because it’s too young for anything bad to have happened to it) and meat they’ve raised themselves (venison). Mum doesn’t trust anything else now.

  4. I wouldn’t eat dog, but that’s because I haven’t eaten any meat for ten years. I read the news when it came out, and had pretty much exactly the same reaction as you. I get really angry at the hypocrisy of people who will eat particular animals but become outraged at the eating of others (like dog).

    • Yeah the racial aspect of it really disturbed me. Colonialism is apparently live and well in NZ. And now this man says he won’t eat dog again because he has been made to feel ignorant and second-class by people who had no right to be telling him what to do.

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