Hundreds of dogs were crammed on a truck heading north along a major highway in Beijing on April 16th of this year.
The dogs were headed for restaurants in Changchun, a city in northeastern China. Have you been? If yes, you'll know that in Changchun restaurants you can choose from a long list of dishes, including dog soup (Gaejang), boiled dog mixed with spices and vegetables (Jeongol), and dog-red pepper paste pickle. Most people in this region take their dog spicy. Thirsty? Wash it all down with a drink made from cooled dilution of digested dog. Side note: For those of you that "need" ketchup with every meal, ketchup made from digested dog and tomato puree is available year-round, so not to worry.
Back to that truck.
Mr. An, driving north along the same highway, saw the truck and heard panicked barks and anxious whimpering. An, a volunteer at the Beijing-based China Small Animal Protection Association, posted an alert on a Twitter-like site to the local animal protection community. Within the hour, a group of two-hundred animal lovers blockaded the truck at a toll booth. Some of the dogs were dehydrated; others were suffocated by disease. And one delivered five puppies through the rusty bars of her cage. The truck driver eventually released the dogs for $17,000, saving most of them from being slaughtered and eaten hundreds of miles up the highway.
Would you have stopped the truck?
I wonder if we're too quick to judge the residents of Changchun, the city where the dogs were headed. Is it truly that bizarre to consider the potential benefits of including a little dog meat in our diets?
Think about it: Do you care about the American worker? With the unemployment rate stagnating, a bi-partisan bill ramping up investment in the "processing" of dogs for food consumption would create thousands of new jobs. And who doesn't want cheaper food? Dog-processing farms ("DPF's" in industry speak) would produce megatons of nutritious meat for the least cost. Dog meat is loaded with protein, particularly at the base of the tail, and has 5% less fat per ounce than that "other" white meat. And many of our ancestors ate dog. Our digestive systems and teeth are practically designed for it. For the sake of efficiency, we could start by collecting and processing the millions of dogs in animal shelters. Why waste all that meat?
Our arbitrary emotions shouldn't stand in the way of progress.
Why save dogs, but eat other animals? Pigs are more intelligent. They can dream, recognize their own names, fetch a tennis ball, and lead social lives of a complexity previously observed only in primates. Some -- sadly unlike my dog Jake -- even enjoy cuddling. Pigs "have the cognitive ability to be quite sophisticated, even more so than dogs," says Dr. Donald Broom, a Cambridge Professor of Animal Welfare. And don't forget Louie. Last year Louie the pig spent his afternoons running a dog agility course and playing fetch. His favorite treat? Ginger biscuits. You can watch him do his thing here.
Today, like every day before, hundreds of trucks crammed with thousands of pigs (read: thousands of Louie's) destined for our kitchens and restaurants and family barbecues fill our major highways. To say there is a difference between "our" pigs and "their" dogs heading north on that truck to Changchun seems absurd, doesn't it?
The difference between "our" pigs and "their" dogs is us. When we look at a pig and see only a meal, we aren't really seeing the pig anymore. We're seeing the fairy tales we tell ourselves about where our food comes from. One minute inside one of these animal factories would leave you shaken -- and sickened. And, yes, this unequivocally includes the chicken, cow, and other factories used to produce milk or eggs.
Here's what I'm sure of: I wouldn't tolerate someone ripping my dog's teeth out (baby pigs); stuffing him in a crate so small he couldn't turn around (pregnant mother pigs); or ending his life with a bolt gun between his brown eyes (virtually all pigs). All standard and legal violence behind the walls of pig factories.
And to shake one's head at the cravings for dog in China while texting friends "How many McRibs should I order from McDonald's for the football game?" shows just how deep the rabbit hole of denial around all this really is.
This mechanized system of violence politely labeled "factory farming" is responsible for 99% of all the animals eaten or used to produce milk or eggs. There are so many reasons to turn our backs on this system, but here's one to remember: We are better than this.