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Dogs as Food

Dogs have been eaten since the beginning of history, but the first written evidence comes from the ancient Phoenicians, where puppy was a delicacy.

Dogs are still raised for food in many parts of the world (China in particular, although the consumption of dog meat is illegal in Hong Kong - but it thought to be sold under the names "goat meat" or "special beef") as they were by the Indians found in the Caribbean by Columbus and by Captain Cook in Tahiti.

Perhaps, as the geographer Carl Sauer has suggested, our Western taboo against dog meat is related to the cultural taboo against pork. Because their superior senses of hearing and smell helped early man hunt for meat, dogs were the earliest domesticated animals.

In time, says Sauer, the dog "came to be an object of sacrifice, and of ceremonial consumption". In later ages the religious connotations were forgotten and "the dog became a food item, especially at feasts". But where dogs were venerated in one culture, they became "objects of antipathy in neighbour cultures of other ceremonial and religious orientations" just had pigs.

Dogs and other animals have in fairly modern times, been most venerated by the English, who baited bears in Elizabethan days but are now famous for their soft-hearted emotional displays toward our animal friends.

Anthony Lewis, in the New York Times, suggests the possibility that the British upper classes, which "can be the most contrilled people in the world" may "in expressing their emotion towards dogs and cats and horses . . . [be] letting go what they so often suppress in human relationships. That is, they come right out and admit they have feelings".

The dogs found by Cook in Tahiti, were in fact herbivors, and bred out of existence by the larger species Europeans introduced; they were extinct within a few decades of Cook"s visit.

But the practice of eating dog meat is no more extinct than that of eating snake meat or insects, or that of not eating pork or shellfish! See 'Sauer, Carl'

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