On the Menu: Dog

Carnivorousness is a challenging position to defend

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By David Hammond

Eating dog is a horrible thought. Even I, a committed omnivore, would have a hard time hacking down a canine (or for that matter, though with less hesitation, a cat).

But maybe that’s a little hypocritical.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is a British chef, television personality and author of the best-selling River Cottage Cookbook. Recently, Fearnley-Whittingstall told the U.K. Press Association that "You can't object [to eating dogs], unless you also object to the farming of pigs. It's an artificial construct of our society, a cultural decision, to make pets out of dogs and meat out of pigs ... Both animals could be used the other way round, although pigs probably do make better meat than dogs and dogs better pets than pigs."

A few years ago at the Printer’s Row Book Fair, I was introduced to the late Harvey Pekar, the culture-hero-author of American Splendor graphic novels (and portrayed by Paul Giamatti in the movie of the same name). Hearing that I was a food journalist, Pekar explained that he recently turned vegetarian because his wife had bought a cat and, as he said, “I couldn’t bring myself to eat it.”

By “it,” Pekar meant an animal, any animal. He felt a close connection with another creature and  realized that eating flesh was not for him. So after that realization, he took what I’m sure seemed to be the only intellectually and morally consistent action possible: he went vegetarian.

Jonathan Foer, author of the very well-reasoned Eating Animals, was similarly motivated to go vegetarian after getting a dog as a pet. As with Pekar, a pet was the tipping point that brought home the reality of eating meat, and Foer didn’t see how he could keep on that path.

Many of us, I believe, understand at some level that carnivorousness is a challenging position to defend. Yet many of us have a hunger that seems impossible to satiate without regular ingestion of flesh. I like meat…but I don’t think that’s a very solid defense for eating it.

Still, People who can’t bear to eat deer (“It’s Bambi!”) or rabbit (“Thumper!) should maybe reassess the basis for their eating meat at all.  If you think of animals as having personalities and feelings – and it’s hard to deny that they do – then there seems no more justification for eating pigs or cows than there is for eating cats and dogs.

 

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