Monday, 28 March 2016

Is it Okay to eat dogs?

by: Julian Baggini

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One so-called hypocrisy is nothing of the sort. If you find yourself disgusted by the thought of dogs being killed, cooked and eaten, but you eat other animals, that does not make you a hypocrite. If you’ve grown up seeing dogs as companion animals and haven’t even seen the reality of livestock slaughter, of course you’re going to find the idea somewhat distressing. You only become a hypocrite if you take your personal revulsion as a reason to morally oppose the eating of dogs. If you accept that your gut reaction – quite literally, in this case – is no more morally significant than the disgust you might feel when thinking about eating insects, you are no hypocrite for feeling it.
If you are one of the more than 3.8 million people who signed an online petition against the festival, however, you might be standing on shakier ground. Obviously if your only objection is that the animals being eaten are dogs rather than pigs, who are equally as intelligent, your indignation is fairly hollow. But I imagine most objectors believe there is more to it than just their preference for friendly, furry beasts with names.
For instance, some may be moved to sign because the petition claims the dogs are “beaten to death, skinned alive and eaten”. The festival organisers dispute this. I have no idea if the claim stands up, but given that we know that the web is awash with misinformation, I would think it irresponsible to simply believe it without question. After all, if you want to skin an animal it makes much more sense to kill it first, purely for practical reasons. Is there not a whiff of orientalism here: a too-quick readiness to believe that the Chinese behave barbarously?
Others might have been motivated by the pictures of dogs crammed together in cages. This is indeed cruel, but this is how animals are abused in many parts of the world. If you don’t like how the Chinese treat their dogs, then protest against their pork and chicken farming, too. Remember also that in westernised industrial farming, animals are often kept in similar conditions all their lives, not just on market day. So do sign the petition, just as long as you also campaign against intensive farming and studiously ignore any meat that comes from it.
That point also applies to vegetarians. Vegans are the only group who can oppose the festival without any fear of hypocrisy. Vegetarians who do not avoid dairy products or eggs from intensively reared animals cannot complain when they see dogs in cages. Saying “at least dairy cows and egg-laying hens aren’t killed” is no escape clause. It is an odd kind of concern for animal welfare that accepts animals suffering day after day but objects to swift slaughter. The moral choice between killing a well-reared animal and keeping a tortured one alive only until it has fulfilled its use is clear.
Some might be appalled by the petition’s claim that the trade relies on “the abduction of strays and pets”. But “abduction” is a loaded word when it comes to strays. After all, usually it is considered more ethical to eat wild animals than farmed meat, not less. The stealing of pets is of course wrong, but not primarily on animal welfare grounds.
Moral outrage is always easier when the target appears to be far from home. What should appal us about Yulin is not which particular animal is being killed, but that too many animals in the west are treated nearly or just as cruelly. Our problem is not that we ought to be less disgusted at what’s happening in China, but that we ought to be more disgusted by what’s going on in many farms here. Signing a petition about what’s happening in China is easy – and unlikely to have much effect. Refusing to buy from producers here that treat animals just as badly takes more work. But at least it might have an effect.
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Why We Shouldn't Eat Dog Meat

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Each year more than 58 billion farm animals and countless aquatic animals are unnecessarily killed for human consumption. Eating animals has largely been justified on the grounds of human health, but thankfully these myths have now been discredited with many mainstream healthcare professionals claiming animal products actually do us more harm than good.
However, health is not the only reason to stop slaughtering animals for food. The animals that we exploit to put food on our tables are forced to bear the brunt of our eating habits every single day in factory farms and smallholdings, as we take away from them everything that is rightfully theirs denying them of a life filled with any other purpose other than one which serves to meet our own personal end. To take a line from Edgar’s Mission, one of my all time favorite farm animal sanctuaries, “If we could live happy and healthy lives without harming others…why wouldn’t we?”

1. We don’t need to eat animals to survive

Unlike many other animals who kill for their food, humans can survive on a completely plant based diet. We’re not living in the dark ages anymore. Our understanding has evolved and in the process we have come to learn that eating animals is no longer the necessity we once believed it to be. Research has proven that plants contain all the vitamins and nutrients that the human body needs to thrive.

2. We are creating emotional pain and suffering for the animals

The animals we slaughter for food are extremely intelligent and sensitive creatures, and the way in which we treat them, regardless of whether the meat is factory farmed, free range or organic, is abhorrently cruel. From stealing their babies from them at birth to keeping them locked in confinement and denying them their natural behaviors, our actions cause animals immense emotional pain and suffering.

3. Animal agriculture is an environmentally destructive industry

Whether it’s air pollution, water pollution, land degradation, or a negative effect on biodiversity, there is no getting around the fact that animal agriculture is an environmentally destructive industry. The livestock sector is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, and 64 percent of anthroprogeneic ammonia emissions, which acidify ecosystems and cause untold damage to natural habitats. If that’s not bad enough, an estimated eight percent of global human water consumption is used for irrigation of livestock food crops, a staggering amount of freshwater resources have become polluted from animal waste, and reports of up to 70 percent of the cleared Amazonian forest is being used for animal agriculture purposes.

4. We are blindly following tradition

We find it so difficult to overcome traditional ideas and ways of thinking, that we very rarely stop to question the fundamental ethics and underlying morality of slaughtering animals for food. Just because something has been done a certain way for thousands of years, doesn’t make it automatically right. A perfect example of this is the fact that when born into the American culture, you are taught to believe that certain animals are for eating, others are companion animals, and others are wild animals. The idea of eating a dog is repulsive, yet in other parts of the world is perfectly normal.

5. There are so many alternatives available

With so many vegan alternatives for just about anything you can possibly think of, there are no excuses to continue slaughtering animals for food. Contrary to popular belief, veganism is not about deprivation. From “faux meats” for people craving their favorite traditional meals to vegetable sausages, burgers, pates, mince, jerky, and everything in between, transitioning to a plant-based diet is easier than ever before. You can check out some amazing plant-based recipes right here on OGP!
Image source: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals
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