Many in China and the rest of the world were horrified that once again the Yulin Dog Meat Festival was held in June, over the protest of horrified animal lovers. As many as 10,000 dogs were eaten in the Chinese town, many skinned alive, as feasters also bought ram heads and live civet cats.
Supporters of the event charged critics’ hypocrisy. “What about the consumption of beef when cows are considered sacred in India, they say, or guinea pigs in Latin America, or dogs in Korea or turkeys in the United States? What makes eating dog meat any different from eating the flesh of chickens or pigs, they ask?” reported the New York Times.
The Yulin Dog Meat Festival supporters are referring of course to speciesism, a term first heard over 30 years ago from PETA. While there were vegetarian groups back in the 1980s, anti-animal research groups, anti-sport hunting groups and anti-pet cruelty groups, PETA was the first to amalgamate the human use/abuses and plead for ethical “treatment” of all animals.
As long as people swerve to avoid an animal on the highway, we all have the concept that an animal can suffer and feel pain—we all draw the line somewhere. Back in the 1980s when animal advocates were highlighting Norway and Iceland’s continued whaling against international sentiment, one whaling country was reported to ask, “what about bullfights” which are “much worse.” Of course two wrongs don’t make a right but the whaler defense again highlighted the concept of speciesism.
Speciesism is demonstrated in the fact that people eat pigs over dogs though they are equally smart and possibly smarter, that many care about primates in research labs but not necessarily other animals and that the US’s Humane Slaughter Act excludes birds and other animals which are allowed to suffer in unforgiveable ways. In other words–some animals are more equal than others–usually the ones we like or think are “cute.”
An article a few years ago about a dog meat producer in Asia who rounded up, slaughtered and sold stray dogs added he had a beloved pet dog—which goes beyond speciesism to incomprehensible hypocrisy.
Speciesism reaches a zenith when it comes to food animals. Which is “worse”—boiling a lobster alive, putting a newborn calf in isolation in a cold hut awaiting slaughter or force-feeding ducks until they cannot walk to make foie gras? Obviously they are all egregious which is why a growing number of us are vegan.
Speciesism has two corollaries which also fuel debate. One is style also called squeamishness. Here in the United States, most of us do not wring the necks of the chicken we eat and the sights and sounds upset us. But obviously someone kills the frightened chicken before it appears beheaded and cellophane wrapped at Costco.
“Squeamishness” often makes people who eat meat but could not kill the animal defend hunters because they are more “honest.” Yes and no. Certainly, some hunters eat what they kill but others like Dick Cheney think killing is fun unto itself and patronize canned, “sure shot” hunting preserves. At dove hunter lodges in South America such as the one former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford frequented, “hunters” stand smiling in front of mountains of deceased birds of peace which they boast they kill until their arms and hands are too tired. Whee!
Members of the 41,000-member Safari Club International which includes former President George H. Bush, former Vice President Dan Quayle and the late Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf derive some warped pleasure in killing exotic and endangered animals. The second President Bush tortured animals for fun as a child—a chip off the old block?
Recently the FBI elevated cruelty to animals to a Group A felony, as serious as homicide, arson, and assault, recognizing its very strong links to psychopathy. Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer and Anders Breivik (who killed 77 people in Norway in 2011) all began by torturing animals. It is exactly such people who thrill at canned hunting operations in which an animal cannot escape or evade its own painful demise. Many feel such pre-ordained slaughter should be illegal.
The other corollary to speciesism is utilitarianism—what is the purpose for the suffering? Are animals being killed for “fun” or for a purpose like meat? Some think killing an animal for meat is defensible but not for fur. Some think animal research for a cancer cure is defensible but not for a new mascara. One hundred years ago almost everyone thought killing entire families of birds to decorate women’s hats was defensible but not today. Clearly, our compassion as a species is evolving but not fast enough when looking at the Yulin Dog Meat Festival.
Martha Rosenberg is author of the award-cited food exposé “Born With a Junk Food Deficiency,” distributed by Random House. A nationally known muckraker, she has lectured at the university and medical school level and appeared on radio and television.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.