Bernard Darnton delivers this week’s dispatch from the war on terriers.
In a week where it was confirmed that the sentence for killing a family member is 150 hours community service as long as you’re particularly bewildered, the biggest story in the news was that journalistic cliché “Man bites dog.”
Or rather man barbeques and eats dog. Auckland man Paea Taufa had a pet Staffordshire Terrier that was becoming a nuisance. He hit it on the head with a hammer then slit its throat, roasted it in the umu, and had it for dinner. Which led to the number one question on everyone’s mind: Should barbequing a dog as part of a good Tongan cook-up be a criminal offence in New Zealand?
All sorts of people were predictably horrified. “Animal lovers” were “appalled” and demanded a law change.
Auckland Mayor John Banks suggests that the dog roaster should be “educated” rather than prosecuted. Which is very generous of him, given that what Mr Taufa did isn’t illegal. “Educating” (i.e. incessantly nagging) people is second only to banning things in the nanny statist’s arsenal of illiberalism.
But why is a eating a dog different from eating a pig? My pasta alla carbonara last night had sliced up bits of dead pig in it. Muslims, Jews, and vegetarians might find that distasteful but it doesn’t generate outrage. Pasta allo cane, however, and it would have been a different story.
But why? Some would claim that it’s OK to eat dumb animals but that we shouldn’t consume the smart ones. Presumably this is why we’ve built a nation on notoriously dumb sheep carcasses but no-one outside the Congo would consider chowing down on a chimpanzee.
A pig is an intelligent, inquisitive animal that has the misfortune to taste great. The only thing better than bacon is bacon-wrapped bacon. Dogs, on the other hand, are a bit dim. (People say “loyal,” but there’s a fine line between loyal and dim.) By this measure we should be munching on mastiffs and letting Piglet curl up in front of the fire.
Perhaps, then, the opposite is true. Dogs are safe pets because they’re less of a threat. If Farmer Jones had turned Napoleon and Snowball into crackling he’d still be running Manor Farm.
Is it a general prohibition on eating pets? A couple of weeks ago on Gordon Ramsey’s Cookalong (a show known at our place as The ‘C’ Word), guest-irritant Johnny Vegas regaled his audience with a rant about his father cooking his pet rabbit. The intention was comedy, not tragedy.
Our countryside is full of small children bottle-feeding pet lambs until the day the stock truck arrives and they’re turned into little ovine treasure troves. The eating of pets per se doesn’t generate much upset.
The problem isn’t genetic distance because humans are more closely related to rabbits than we are to dogs. Dogs aren’t endangered, which seems to be the problem with whale meat. Mr Taufa’s dog was a Staffordshire terrier so cuteness isn’t a factor.
There’s something special about dog meat. It’s there to a lesser extent with horse meat too and it’s not quite rational. If it’s OK to eat sheep, deer, pigs, and rabbits I can’t see any good reason that it’s not OK to eat cats, dogs, and horses.
Vegetarianism makes sense. Broad carnivorism makes sense. Reacting with horror and anger at the consumption of a dog while digesting a ground up cow is absurd.
* * Read Bernard Darnton’s column every Thursday here at NOT PC * *