Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dog: It's what for dinner!?

Via Ezra Klein

Jonathan Safran Foer notes in the Wall Street Journal that, if our food choices were rational, we'd all eat dog meat. Many other cultures across the world do it. Dogs are no smarter than a pig... so it's not like they're special on a cognitive level. Besides, we're already euthanizing 3-4 million dogs annually and turning their remains into "the food for our food"... so why not eliminate the middle man? Indeed, doing so, and moving straight to eating dogs would be better for the environment and our planet:
Few people sufficiently appreciate the colossal task of feeding a world of billions of omnivores who demand meat with their potatoes. The inefficient use of dogs—conveniently already in areas of high human population (take note, local-food advocates)—should make any good ecologist blush. One could argue that various "humane" groups are the worst hypocrites, spending enormous amounts of money and energy in a futile attempt to reduce the number of unwanted dogs while at the very same time propagating the irresponsible no-dog-for-dinner taboo. If we let dogs be dogs, and breed without interference, we would create a sustainable, local meat supply with low energy inputs that would put even the most efficient grass-based farming to shame. For the ecologically-minded it's time to admit that dog is realistic food for realistic environmentalists.

Clever as it is, presented in the Swift-ian style... the idea that our food choices "are not rational," should not surprise anyone who won't, for example, touch brussels sprouts... or isn't interested in eating puffin meat... or is, ahem, offended by the mere existence of rye bread. Indeed, I imagine you could concoct a similar article from the other direction... mocking the impossibility of living a life free of animal cruelty while citing the vegetarian with the leather pumps and cosmetics tested on animals. The rational choice of "cruelty free" or "locally grown" can only take most of us so far. While I'd like to think I'm dedicated to the idea of "locally grown", I only made it to the farmer's market a handful of times this summer... and, uhm, it's... like... almost winter and I live in Massachusetts... do you expect me to just eat root vegetables for the next 6 months? So yeah... there are obviously (very low) limits to what effort I will put forth and I what inconvenience I will endure, for a food related ideal. I don't imagine that is unusual... but I won't eat a dog, and that instinctual revulsion takes absolutely no effort on my part.

So how do we change our food culture to inspire such revulsion in factory farmed meat? Field trips to slaughterhouses? Mandatory butchering classes in middle school? Or do we just take the decision out of the consumer's hand and regulate the cruelty (as best we can) out of our meat?