Barnyard Morals

They execute people and harvest their organs and stuff, and I wouldn’t mind only they eat cats and dogs, says Ian O’Doherty.

But is there much of a difference between eating cats and dogs and eating, say, cows and sheep?

And, before the cultural and moral relativists start to point out that there is no substantive difference between cats and dogs and eating, say, cows and sheep, let’s get this straight — you’re wrong, there is a huge difference. And you’re an idiot for suggesting otherwise.

Oh, ahh’m sorry. What, then, is this huge difference?

For starters, livestock bred for food are not companion animals

He’s not gonna like this, but the categories of ‘livestock bred for food’ and ‘companion animal’ are both cultural constructs. It is people who decide what constitutes both categories. So what he’s saying here is that eating this animal here is morally different from eating that one because he -and not the animal to be eaten- says so. But sacred cows taste just the same as ordinary ones, ceteris paribus. A previous generation of my family for a while kept a runt pig as a companion animal (which I presume is the same thing as a pet, only with more professional and vocational overtones). At one time it accompanied my granny, and later it accompanied cabbage and potatoes.

But if you’re going to talk about morality and animials, it behooves (no pun intended) you to take into account what the animal feels. The problem with this, generally, is that animals can’t speak. So you have no way of knowing if a cow would object more strongly in cow terms than a dog would in dog terms if he was able to know you were going to eat him.

Now, the writer adduces other considerations to demonstrate why it is wrong to eat dogs and cats, but these have to do with the cruelty of their treatment, and not the act of eating them. Such considerations are not sufficient for finding eating dog sandwiches morally worse than eating cow sandwiches, since you don’t need to treat an animal badly in order to eat it. So, whilst you might not eat Chinese dogs because they are badly treated, why not eat your own dog? If we assume humane treatment as our criterion, we could conclude that it would be better to eat a cat that had had a lifetime of creamy saucers of milk and lots of loving stroking from her spinster keeper, before falling prey to a speeding Scania lorry cab, than a chicken that had been raised cruelly in a battery.

Cruelty is cruelty is cruelty but because we live in an era where we have been hamstrung by cultural sensitivity and paralysed by the fear of being seen to be racist many of us are now prepared to allow unspeakable practices to continue in other countries.

He says that ‘two million dogs and cats are killed each year for food’. That’s 1 dog or cat for every 650 Chinese people. In Ireland, approximately 14,000 greyhounds are ‘disposed of‘ each year, or 1 greyhound for every 357 Irish people. And that’s just greyhounds. Still, best not to judge them, it’s their culture innit?


11 Responses to “Barnyard Morals”

  1. 1 Longman Oz April 14, 2008 at 10:16 pm

    The debate around what is acceptable in one culture when it is taboo in another is always intersting. Although, I find this one a little distasteful.

    Anyway, ahead of a trip to China that I made a while back, I was reading about the country and it turns out that dogs are actually bred on farms there, just as cows might be here (although deer might be the closer example, noting your “per capita” point above). Consequently, there is a very simple rebuttal to IOD’s remarks. It simply takes an idiot to point it out.

    By the same token, I wonder what Hindus or Jews make of the meat-eating habits in Ireland…

    P.S. At one time it accompanied my granny, and later it accompanied cabbage and potatoes.


  2. 2 Hugh Green April 15, 2008 at 7:01 am

    Have to say, when I start thinking about these matters, I don’t come out on the side of the guy with a dog kebab; I start to think that maybe I should stop eating meat altogether. But it’s easy for me to say that when the room isn’t filled with the delightful aroma of bacon on the pan.

  3. 3 Seán Báite April 15, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    A former workmate’s kitten bit her wrist a couple of years back and a resulting infection of the bone in said wrist caused a number of week’s sickleave and must’ve cost the French social security system thousands. Another kind and thoughtful workmate found a recipe for ‘civet de chat’ somewhere and passed it on to her but as far as I know the little beggar is still frolicking around and no doubt eating processed shite made out of unlentionable bits of not so humanely slaughtered basted twice daily.
    On behalf of we cultural relativists, Mr. O’Doherty, widen your bloody horizons a bit…

  4. 4 Hugh Green April 15, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    Indeed, it would appear that Mr O’Doherty is so hell-bent on his moralistic crusades to protect the welfare of cats that he is blind to the real damage they wreak on our society.

    I heard that a scrake of cats went on the rampage throughout the Middle East, ripping curtains to shreds and sliding down blackboards, all because they heard we’d been watching Tom and Jerry cartoons celebrating the humiliation of cats.

    Are they so laughably ignorant that they do not know that the West is the home of Top Cat, and Cringer from He-Man?

    We should batter them all. Then eat them. But only the mad cats, though. We have to look after the brave cats that speak out against the trouble caused by cats.

    I also think we should kill the hares at the long term car park at Dublin Airport, and serve them up in stew at the arrival gates.

  5. 5 Seán Báite April 16, 2008 at 8:20 am

    Go easy on the last one there Hugh, you might be giving Ryanair fresh ideas for their in-flight catering…

  6. 6 coc April 16, 2008 at 9:42 am

    I wonder how many cat burgers you’d get from a cat fed only on processed shite made out of unlentionable bits of Ian O’Doherty?

    I assume unlentionable means ‘that which you cannot give up for lent.’

  7. 7 Hugh Green April 16, 2008 at 10:07 am

    Or ‘unluncheonable’ misspelt?

  8. 8 Longman Oz April 16, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    Also recalls for me “luncheon meats”! Indeed, being given hazlett or pork brawn sandwiches to take to school put me off meat eating long before this post ever did! Thanks Mum – have not looked back!

  9. 9 Seán Báite April 16, 2008 at 8:10 pm

    Sorry mads, a recent study in the Mancet has indeed proven that excessive consumption of feline-based leat products can mead to occasional confusion between the letters ‘l’ and ‘m’ – that should have been ‘unmentionable’.
    This comment was, of course, typed by my lovely Personal Assistant, Svetlana….
    ‘Muncheon leats’ – Jesus – yet another reason never to return to Ireland (even though I’ll be there fri. evening, for my sins)

  10. 10 Longman Oz April 16, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    mead to occasional confusion between the letters ‘l’ and ‘m’

    I think that you might mean the letters ‘m’ and ‘l’.

    We still only eat fish here on the Friday, don’t you know. So you’ll be safe enough!

  11. 11 Hugh Green April 17, 2008 at 9:14 am

    I have a weakness for all forms of pork products, however processed. So I have no bother eating luncheon meat or hazlett. The Italians have this stuff called Mortadella, which seems to me the same sort of crap, but gets sold at pig-sized prices in the supermarkets here.

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