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Eating dogs

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So long as we're talking about meat, I might as well link this op-ed by Jonathan Safron Foer arguing that we should all eat dog. Foer is coming out with a book on vegetarianism soon, and though the initial excerpt in the New York Times seemed plodding and banal, this takes more, and more useful, risks:

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? ... 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, as he notes, it's not as if dogs are always treated humanely, or always excluded from the food production system:

But unlike all farmed meat, which requires the creation and maintenance of animals, dogs are practically begging to be eaten. Three to four million dogs and cats are euthanized annually. The simple disposal of these euthanized dogs is an enormous ecological and economic problem. But eating those strays, those runaways, those not-quite-cute-enough-to-take and not-quite-well-behaved-enough-to-keep dogs would be killing a flock of birds with one stone and eating it, too.

In a sense it's what we're doing already. Rendering — the conversion of animal protein unfit for human consumption into food for livestock and pets — allows processing plants to transform useless dead dogs into productive members of the food chain. In America, millions of dogs and cats euthanized in animal shelters every year become the food for our food. So let's just eliminate this inefficient and bizarre middle step.

Foer even includes a recipe in his op-ed, but you'll have to click over for that.

Photo credit: By Greg Wood/Getty

By Ezra Klein  |  November 2, 2009; 12:16 PM ET
Categories:  Food  
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Comments

Generally speaking, humans prefer to eat non-carnivorous animals - I think it has something to do with the chemicals that a meat diet leaves in the body flavoring the meat in an unpleasant way.

Posted by: StevenAttewell | November 2, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the first poster. Don't eat carnivores.

Posted by: vorkosigan1 | November 2, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

I agree about not eating carnivores, but depending on your definition that could well include cows, pigs, and chickens. My understanding is that they are all given feed that contains meat byproducts, (that's how mad cow disease got to be a problem.

Posted by: jeirvine | November 2, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

I'm reading Stephen Ambrose's Undaunted Courage, about the Lewis and Clark expedition. Not only did they resort to eating dogs they traded for with Indians, they actually liked the taste of them and turned out to be one of the favorite dishes during the trip! And we know that dogs are eaten in some Asian countries, so it's not an unheard of notion. I still couldn't do it, though.

Posted by: mslavick | November 2, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

A somewhat related question: Is Michael Vick opening a restaurant?

Posted by: rmgregory | November 2, 2009 1:29 PM | Report abuse

How about "don't eat members of your family?" Most people have absolutely no experience with the intellegance and sensitivity of pigs (really, Foer is asking us to take a huge leap that they are equal to that of dogs) but we absolutely know that our canines play fetch with us, lick our faces, and curl up with us at night.

Posted by: cafeconleche | November 2, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

It is really quite simple:

If you consider yourself a moral person, you should make the choice that causes the least amount of suffering. Choosing to eat an animal instead of a veggie burger causes unnecessary suffering -- there is just no way around it (and believe me, I spent a lot of time in my past trying to create a rationalization that could stand).

Posted by: AZProgressive | November 2, 2009 1:37 PM | Report abuse

I think we're overlooking the big issue here. Are dogs tastier than cows/chickens/pigs/fish? If so, worth a try.

Posted by: etdean1 | November 2, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

1) should we eat dead humans & fetuses too?

2) it's not true that dogs don't have special intellects. they're the only animal which is really good at reading our expressions and manners and what intents they signal. they seem to have evolved for this (wolves can't do it). they are far superior in this to animals with greater general intellects, like chimps. in fact, probably in some ways they're better at people themselves (or at least, our social intelligences have different strengths because of different needs).

Posted by: razibk | November 2, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Certainly pigs are highly intelligent, social creatures. But dogs are unique in that they have coevolved with us, taking advantage of our interest in them and desire to help them out. No other animal spends as much time watching us, learning about us in order to modify our behavior to their advantage. I imagine that the taboo against eating dog is only because so many of us live in intimate connection with them.

Posted by: tediouspedant | November 2, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Oops--I see that I was posting at the same time as razibk, who made the same point.

Posted by: tediouspedant | November 2, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Some of Foer's defenses of eating dogs are surpassingly silly: that they are eaten in other cultures. So have people been. If dog meat were to suddenly go on sale in the US, even though of course dog lovers are free not to buy it, it would be felt as a shocking break in the bond of trust between man and dog developed over the centuries, a bond requiring that we not kill or eat each other. It would be a bold exhibition of the breaking of a taboo, even though those offended would not participate. They would see, and see every day. I do not believe the impulse to do this is purely utilitarian. No, forcing upon people the daily viewing of what has always been taboo is an aspect of domination. It's always been used by despotisms.

Posted by: truck1 | November 2, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Best article the WSJ has ever published.

Posted by: thescuspeaks | November 2, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

I am not sure I would have a problem eating dogs, but I wouldn't eat my dog because I have an (intense) emotional attachment to him. Once the choice is made to eat meat, I am more interested in whether the cows, chickens, pigs, and dogs are treated humanely while they are alive and killed relatively painlessly than what kind of animal they are...I am reminded of the scene in Roger and Me where the woman has a sign out saying Rabbits: Pets or Meat, and then her butchering the rabbits in the back yard.

Posted by: srw3 | November 2, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

i read this, while my little dog was right next to me.
he is fifteen and a half years. old. he cant hear anymore, and he cant see very well, but he is one of the gentlest, most sentient creatures on earth.
nowadays, i cant tell if people are joking or not when they write things. was that excerpt, a joke?

i went to a petting zoo this weekend, and there was a llama there, with the most tender and beautiful eyes, with long, curling eyelashes...and there were many small goats with their mom, and a lovely and goodnatured pregnant goat.
how can anyone love and appreciate animals, and recognize their individuality, and then see them as food on the table?
let animals live out their lives in peace and dignity.
find something else to eat.
no~one liked to hear the story about the coyotes eating the young folksinger. what do human beings do, gratuitously....make jokes about slaughtering animals and allow them to be mass-murdered in industrial plants, with not even a prayer or word of thanks that they are giving up their lives for someone's hotdog or pork chop.
last night, the moon was more beautiful that i had ever seen it. and i thought to myself, the way we repay the moon for its abiding, exquisite, mystical presence in our lives, is to set off explosions there.
we need to evolve to a place of seeing the sacredness in nature, and living things.
becoming a vegetarian is a good way to start.

Posted by: jkaren | November 2, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

This is an amazing animal for me for the following reasons:

1) I just became vegetarian about a three months ago.

2) One of the reasons I became a vegetarian is because I met a goat whose eyes reminded me very much of my beloved dog.

3) That goat was to be slaughtered for dinner by family friends who were raising it for this purpose.

At that point, I began to seriously re-evaluate my rationalizations for eating meat. And I just could not justify it.

Nevertheless, I still ate meat occasionally. Then:

4) A few months ago my dog died.

5) He died while I was in an expensive steak house when I got the call from the vet that he'd been in an accident.

I haven't really touched meat since.

Looking back, I can't believe the rationalizations I made about eating meat my entire life. I grew up on a farm and watched when I was young my grandfather slaughter animals. We ate meat and potatoes for every meal practically. I always thought my childhood and the things I witnessed gave my rationalizations added gravity because unlike the countless meat eaters out there, I had actually witnessed animals slaughtered.

Now, after reading this, I am really quite happy I finally made the decision to become vegetarian.

Culture is strong. The instinct to eat meat and the learned behavior from childhood is hard to overcome. Articles like this serve to slap some cold truth on the rationalizations we make to support these instincts and learned behavior.

Cheers!

Posted by: MyrtleParker | November 2, 2009 5:51 PM | Report abuse

The author is setting the bar pretty low to lump chicken intelligence in with dogs,pigs, & cows.

A chicken is not even close to comprable to the other three. The bird cortex is much smaller than the mamallian cortex. Perhaps more importantly, the surface area is significantly more reduced that what you would expect from difference in volume. The mamallian brain has sulci and gyri, folds in the brain, which massively increase its surface area. This allows much for a larger blood supply and a correspondingly more effective and larger cortex.

A mamalian brain has at least an order of magnitude larger processing capacity than the avian brain. In most cases, significantly moreso.

Posted by: zosima | November 3, 2009 2:31 AM | Report abuse

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