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General News    H4'ed 6/29/15

They Are Eating What in Yulin China?

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China Dog Eating Festival Puts Focus on "Speciesism"

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.

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Supporters of the event charged that critics were hypocrites. "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 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 defenders, PETA was the first to amalgamate the human use/abuses and plead for work 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. Clearly some animals are more equal than others.

Speciesism reaches a zenith when it comes to food animals. People can be appalled at one practice-- boiling a lobster alive, putting a newborn calf in a cold, isolated, force-feeding ducks--to make foie gras--but not another. Those of us who are vegan are appalled at all such practices and eschew animal-based agriculture.

Speciesism has two corollaries which also fuel debate. One is style and squeamishness. Here in the US, 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 they arms and hands are too tired. Whee!

Members of the 41,000-member Sarafi 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. How can this even be legal?

Recently the FBI elevated cruelty to animals to a Group A felony, as serious as homicide, arson, and assault first class felony, 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.

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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? Many people accept killing animals for meat but not for fur. Many accept performing research on animals for a cancer cure but not a new mascara. More than 100 years ago, killing entire families of birds for the "purpose" of decorating women's hats was stopped. Clearly our compassion as a species is evolving but, when looking at the Yulin Dog Fest, not fast enough.

(Article changed on June 29, 2015 at 13:47)

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Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative public health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by (more...)

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