Let Them Eat Dog

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Let Them Eat Dog

By Jonathan Safran Foer on Disinfo.com
November 2009

Our taboo against dog eating says something about dogs and a great deal about us....OK, then: Don’t eat animals with significant mental capacities. If by “significant mental capacities” we mean what a dog has, then good for the dog. But such a definition would also include the pig, cow and chicken. And it would exclude severely impaired humans.

Despite the fact that it’s perfectly legal in 44 states, eating “man’s best friend” is as taboo as a man eating his best friend. Even the most enthusiastic carnivores won’t eat dogs. TV guy and sometimes cooker Gordon Ramsay can get pretty macho with lambs and piglets when doing publicity for something he’s selling, but you’ll never see a puppy peeking out of one of his pots. And though he once said he’d electrocute his children if they became vegetarian, one can’t help but wonder what his response would be if they poached the family pooch.

Dogs are wonderful, and in many ways unique. But they are remarkably unremarkable in their intellectual and experiential capacities. Pigs are every bit as intelligent and feeling, by any sensible definition of the words. They can’t hop into the back of a Volvo, but they can fetch, run and play, be mischievous and reciprocate affection. So why don’t they get to curl up by the fire? Why can’t they at least be spared being tossed on the fire? Our taboo against dog eating says something about dogs and a great deal about us.

The French, who love their dogs, sometimes eat their horses.

The Spanish, who love their horses, sometimes eat their cows.

The Indians, who love their cows, sometimes eat their dogs.

While written in a much different context, George Orwell’s words (from “Animal Farm”) apply here: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

So who’s right? What might be the reasons to exclude canine from the menu? The selective carnivore suggests:

Don’t eat companion animals. But dogs aren’t kept as companions in all of the places they are eaten. And what about our petless neighbors? Would we have any right to object if they had dog for dinner?

OK, then: Don’t eat animals with significant mental capacities. If by “significant mental capacities” we mean what a dog has, then good for the dog. But such a definition would also include the pig, cow and chicken. And it would exclude severely impaired humans.