Monday, November 2, 2009

Eat Fido? No way!

We have been gob-smacked at the number of recent articles proposing (Modest Proposal-style, we hope!) that we should eat our pets. First, we have environmentalists trying to place our dogs on buns. The authors of the forthcoming Time to Eat the Dog: The Real Guide to Sustainable Living argue that because dogs and other pets have a significant carbon footprint we should, well, get rid of them. "A lot of people worry about having SUVs but they don't worry about having [dogs] and what we are saying is, well, maybe you should be because the environmental impact is comparable," says Brenda Vale, one of the authors.

This is, of course, intentionally provocative, and we appreciate a good polemic here at Happy Dog Land as much as anyone. However, let's be honest -- arguing that we should not have pets because of the adverse environmental impact is akin to saying that we should not have children because of the adverse environmental impact. Or, for that matter, do almost anything associated with modern life because it has an adverse environmental impact. Unless, of course, the authors are prepared to quit their jobs teaching at a university and return to the land as hunter-gatherers.

This type of (and Jill's husband Darren will provide the pretentiousness here) "utilitarian fiddle-faddle" is not far from the type of "ends justifies the means" logic that would justify government control over our daily lives in the interest of the "greater good." As we do not defend Grindlewald (or Stalin) we strongly encourage the Vale and the other authors to consider where this type of logic leads us. We should all do our share to improve the environment, but never presume that entire categories of behavior (and, by implication, entire populations of animals) should be eliminated.

Our next provocateur is novelist Jonathan Safran Foer. A talented writer (he gave us the classic Everything is Illuminated) he now tries to use our love of dogs to convince us all to become vegetarians. In the Wall Street Journal, Foer argues that there are fewer things that separate our beloved pets and the animals we consume that folks would generally like to admit. Thus, suggests Foer, why not eat dogs?

While we were quite surprised to find that it is legal in 44 states, Foer doesn't really want us to eat Fido. Instead, he wants us to avoid eating animals altogether. Here at Happy Dog Land, we are not proscriptive about the eating habits of our friends and visitors -- and count both vegetarians and omnivores amongst our close companions. However, we do agree that industrial agriculture is bad for animals and people alike, and try to be as cruelty-free as we can.

More importantly, however, we do strongly encourage all of you to be aware of the decisions you make. Why are we feeding ourselves (or our pet?) certain types of food. Could we do better? Could we help prevent animal cruelty by purchasing meat (or dog food) from certain types of vendors, rather than others?

While we are not planning on eating Zeke, Arthur or Shadow anytime soon, we are always glad to have the opportunity to think about the role played by dogs in our lives, and how it differs from other relationships we have with the natural world.

That said, if we see you chasing Fido with a fork, we've got his back.

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