UserpicDog (as) Food

Dogs - apparently the Chinese are considering not eating them any more:

Although some are tempted by the compromise position of merely not cooking them while still alive:

8 comments 8 comments ( 1517 views )

UserpicMark Rowlands
Thanks Jo. Agree with you absolutely on the difference between custom and ethical responsibility. M

Just on the bile bears, I'm sure you know there is an Australian woman Mary Hutton who, in retirement, is dedicating her life to rescuing bile bears - she has been profiled a little in Australia

and.. please tell me cooking dogs alive does not happen, I can't stand the thought of this and it makes me incredibly ashamed to be part of the human race. It occurs to me that there has to be a universal recognition of the difference between cultural need & custom and, ethical and (godamit!) emotional responsibility.

For those in the UK, Panorama on TV tonight looks behind the labels of some of the most popular brands and finds a key ingredient that is fuelling the destruction of the rainforest and threatening the orang-utan with extinction.

In the UK (as in much of the rest of the world) we consume thousands of tonnes of palm oil - an ingredient found in scores of products including biscuits, fish fingers, cosmetics and toiletries.

The programme journeys into the rainforest of Borneo to uncover evidence of palm oil companies cutting down trees illegally and developing plantations on protected land.

This deforestation releases huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the global environment. As the forest disappears, at a rate of two football pitches every minute, so too does the habitat of man's closest cousin, the critically endangered orang-utan.

Dying for a Biscuit:

UserpicMark Rowlands
Thanks Pauline, I share your mystification. And thanks Harry. I did see The Secrtet Life of Dogs, or at least the bits of it I could piece together from You Tube. fascinating stuff - I was particularly struck by the way they look at the right half of the human face as that is a more accurate expression of the person's emotions.

I was actually thinking more about the bears kept in cages for their bile. I'll write something about that soon. Thanks again.

UserpicHarry E
Following on from Pauline’s comment, there was a fascinating Horizon documentary shown a few weeks ago on the BBC called the Secret Life of the Dog.

Research into dog evolution and evolutionary behaviour is still a relatively new area of study and the documentary revealed some surprising (and frankly not so surprising if you’ve ever had a dog) revelations.

The two that struck me the most were the evidence suggesting how long dogs have been domesticated for and how dogs appear to have evolved almost symbiotically with humans.

When biochemists examined mitochondrial DNA samples of domesticated dogs they discovered two things. The first was that domestic dogs have evolved exclusively from North American grey wolves. There’s no element of coyote, jackal, fox or any other canid in there. Secondly, and this was the really surprising thing to me, the relationship between dogs and humans and the domestication process (although process implies some kind of conscious decision making whereas it was almost certainly just mutually beneficial) stretches back far further than anyone had imagined. Fossil evidence seemed to have placed human dog relationships back about 12,000 years but this DNA data showed that changes in dog DNA from the wild wolf markers couldn’t have happened in such a short period of time. The evidence now suggests that man and dog/wolf have lived side by side for probably 100,000 years.

How that has manifested itself was again demonstrated brilliantly in the documentary. Humans are the only species (based on current evidence) that use their eyes for communication purposes. If we’re at a party, having a conversation and I suddenly spot someone I don’t like across the room, I’ll motion my eyes towards them and you’ll follow my eye movement to see who I’m talking about. When dogs interact with each other they rarely look at each other’s eyes but they do when they interact with humans. You can look at a ball on the ground and the dog will know what you mean (and possibly not care, in the case of my dog). Pointing at things is another purely human interaction. I point at that person and you know to look at the person and not my finger. Dogs have learned this too from thousands of years of combined evolution. It really is quite amazing but it saddens me that animals are so often tested, measured and judged for “intelligence” from such an anthropocentric point of view.

Chris Packham highlights the various hats people wear when talking about animals. Are you animal rights, animal welfare, environmental conservation? Choose dammit! You can’t possibly be more than one! Each has its own agenda and assigns a different level of importance to individual animals, species or biodiversity as a whole. I understand the logic of his argument but just don’t like his choice of hat on this particular issue.

I’d love to talk about bears with you sometime, Mark. WSPA have got a team going out to India next week to look at the dancing bear situation. It was reported recently that dancing bears were a thing of the past in India but we estimate there are probably still about 50 dancing bears there (down from 500-600 a few years ago). Unfortunately the last few bears are proving the hardest to rescue.

It seems strange to us that there are people exempt from the bonding impulse that normally takes place between humans and dogs. Dogs are domesticated creatures that have evolved over centuries to live with humans. An unknown dog will strike up a rapport with you at the drop of a hat, come running, tail wagging and follow you down the street if you talk to him/her a certain way - sometimes if you just give them a certain look. Their appearance and manner appeal to a profound nurturing instinct in us. An analogy can also be made about cats. As Harry says, this shouldn't afford them greater rights; it's just that we find it hard to understand that people don't feel this.

Incidentally, when reading the above articles, I noticed this one in which zoologist Chris Packham surprisingly argues that China should stop trying to prevent the panda from going extinct:

UserpicMark Rowlands
Thanks Harry. Excellent resposne, and I agree with everything you say. Thank you for your work with the WSPA. We must talk about bears some time - you probably know the ones I mean?

UserpicHarry E

WSPA have been campaigning and working with regional groups to ban the dog meat trade for several years.

As a vegetarian it is a clear cut argument for me but as someone who actually works for WSPA the justification for a ban when dealing with other cultures can be extremely problematic.

In a western culture where dogs and cats are treated as pets and (for the most part) regarded with certain rights, it is easy for us to look at an Asian society and deplore their treatment of animals. However, arguing the case for change when they can just point a finger at the treatment of other livestock and the inhumane and often brutal way in which they are slaughtered makes it very difficult when you’re trying to keep the moral high ground.

“Why should we not eat dogs when you eat cows?” they will ask.

The focus from WSPA is not to ban the trade because one species should be afforded greater rights than another but rather to highlight the barbarity of the methods and the sentience of the species. If there is no humane way of breeding, rearing, transporting and slaughtering dogs and cats, then how we feel about them as lower or higher species is irrelevant, it is simply a matter of the situation and methods being unjustifiable.

Of course if you ask me personally I wouldn’t be so diplomatic but unfortunately, for change to happen you have to approach things from different angles depending on the audience you’re trying to convince.

In this case, China is proposing this ban not because they suddenly care more about the dogs and cats today than they did yesterday but because they are aware that the trade creates a negative perception of their country. Whatever the reason, I applaud them for raising an issue that they have dismissed and shied away from for so long.

In the end it’s the dogs and cats that will benefit from this and however the result was reached, it can’t be a bad thing.