I received the following email from a Korean student, and published it along with my response in the weekly newsletter. Below my response are two contrasting emails I received from subscribers.
I felt that all of this might be of interest to others.
QUESTION: Hello, I'm a student that I love my country, korea. So I have a question about our culture. Getting to the point, it's our dogmeat culture that is being issued these days.
Dogs are specially bred to be eaten in South Korea, notably in poshintang, literally 'body preservation stew,' which advocates say is good for your health and is considered a delicacy by some.
What causes particular alarm abroad and among animal rights activists in South Korea is the illegal way some dogs are killed to make the meat more tender -- by beating, burning or hanging. Seoul has also vowed to stamp out those practices.
In my opinion , however, Eating dog meat is a Korean custom, and doing so is our choice to make. The fact that our culture is unlike those of other countries does not make it wrong or inferior, that I thought. And what do you think of it? Please answer me logically, in detail. so I appreciate you.
ANSWER: I am in total agreement with you. Eating dogs is neither wrong nor inferior. There is no difference with raising dogs, cows, kangaroos, cats, camels, rats, horses, or any other animal for food purposes. Different cultures have different animals they have traditionally raised for food.
Misunderstanding arises because most cultures have settled on cattle, pigs, and sheep as their primary source of meat. Add to this the fact that most cultures view the dog as a 'pet', and many people take the totally incorrect view that eating dog meat is wrong.
Most western cultures also take the same view today about eating horse meat, although not that long ago, this was considered acceptable. There are cultures that draw and drink blood from their horses as a primary nutrition source. This is also different, but not wrong or inferior.
People who view the raising and eating of animals such as dogs, horses, camels, cats, rats, kangaroos, etc. as wrong, are reacting emotionally from their own cultural bias. Unfortunately, because of the status of dogs as household pets in many cultures, most people in these cultures will continue to view the practice as wrong.
I personally would not like to see the practice discontinued, because this would diminish the cultural diversity in the world. And when this happens, we all lose.
(I vehemently condemn all inhumane treatment of any animal being raised for food - such as the practice of beating, burning or hanging the animals - whether they are dogs, cows or any other animal. Some of the practices of the veal (and poultry) industry in the United States are also inhumane, and I condemn them also.)
First subscriber response: James, thank you for your sound and rational reply to the Korean student asking about the cultural practice of eating dogs. I lived in Korea 1984 and 1985 and in other countries as well (I have a 'portable' profession; I am qualified to teach English as a foreign language), and have learned to condemn nothing that is eaten, only to sorrow when the animals to be eaten suffer first, and like you, I deplore how veal calves (and chickens, too) are treated in the US. I'd far rather eat humanely hunted (shot and killed quickly after a life in the wild) deer (venison) than a chicken that spent its life crammed in a tiny prison cell and force fed.
Mind you, I also know the sound of a dog howling all night while being beaten to death for the sake of tenderness, and wish they'd slit its throat first and then beat it when it'd dead. That, then, would be no different from pounding flank steak with a meat mallet.
Do you know that horse meat is still loved in France? I have thoroughly enjoyed rabbit in North Carolina and Spain, and a good jugged hare is a delicacy in England.
I wish more people were as open to appreciating other cultures’ choices!
Second subscriber response: Hi James, I must say you surprised me with your comment on dog meat. I think that is what seperates the 3rd world from civilzed nations. How repulsive! Bugs, dogs, cats, PLEEEEAZE!
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