I saw a number of articles on Facebook in recent weeks about an annual “dog-eating” festival in Yulin, China. Of course, all of the comments on these articles were full of anger and disgust over the eating of dogs. Some of the commenters went further and said that some of the dogs were tortured or in some other way not treated humanely. Many would argue that there is no “humane” way to kill and eat a dog but regardless, the majority of the commenters were put off simply by the idea of eating dogs.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I’m just as disgusted by this festival as anyone else, and the idea of eating a dog is unfathomable to me. I’ve eaten some unusual things like bison, shark, and alligator, but I’d never consider partaking of man’s best friend. My question is more a philosophical one:
Why are we disgusted by eating some animals while others are OK?
Obviously there are vegetarians and vegans for whom eating any animal is disgusting to some degree. And there are different cultures around the world – well over a billion people in India would never think of eating beef. But I’m talking about your standard North American omnivore who eats beef, ham, pork, chicken, turkey, and maybe others like venison, goose, and duck. Most of these people don’t think twice about those animals but those same people would never think to eat a horse. Why is it that eating a cow or pig is OK but horse or dog is not?
I imagine the reason is mostly “that’s just the way it’s always been”. We all know that people as a group are resistant to change, and if that’s the way it is and has always been, then that’s likely the way it will stay until people have a good reason to change. Our parents didn’t eat horse, and so we don’t eat horse. We don’t eat horse, and so our kids don’t eat horse. And so on. Over the years it’s gradually changed from something we simply don’t do into something we would never even consider doing, and now it’s gotten to the point where people who would consider doing it are sick twisted bastards. Is that overly judgemental? Perhaps. I imagine there’s a billion people in India who think that North Americans are sick twisted bastards for eating cows.
Or maybe they just don’t taste good.