Westerners are often mortified when they find out that it is common to consume dog meat in Asia. However, when people in Europe discovered that some of the meat they had eaten was actually horse meat, they didn’t react in the same way. So why is consuming dogs a big deal when compared to the consumption of cows, pigs and even horses?
Firstly, this could be attributed to Western society’s view on the consumption of the type of meat. As dogs are largely considered man’s best friend and often kept for companionship and protection, people view them as pets rather than food. After all, dogs are domesticated and not bred for consumption, unlike cows and pigs.
However, research has shown that human beings have the ability to empathise with all the animals which are being consumed – regardless of whether they are dogs, cows or pigs. Thus, a portion of them are vegetarians and choose to not eat any of these animals. The thing is, if all human beings are capable of having equal levels of empathy when it comes to the treatment of animals, wouldn’t this mean that dogs aren’t really any different from cows and pigs?
Studies have shown that human beings are less willing to consume animals which have a higher level of intelligence. However, this does not explain why pigs and cows are still being consumed since they are just as – if not more – intelligent than dogs.
Scientists call this phenomenon the meat paradox, which happens when we care about animals but are also able to eat them. When our beliefs and emotions about animal treatment do not align with our eating behaviour, cognitive dissonance can then be created. This happens when we accept two contradictory beliefs for the sake of seeking consistency among our thoughts and beliefs. Hence, in this case, some individuals attribute a lower intelligence and capacity for suffering in the animals that are reared to be eaten. Thus, creating distance between the food to be consumed and an animal with the ability to feel and think.
Apart from that, the presentation of meat by the food industry helps to facilitate this process. When we refer to our food as “beef” instead of “cow”, or “pork” instead of “pig”, we are able to disregard the fact that the meat on our plate was once a living animal which got slaughtered. Thus, we are not able to effectively emphathise with the animals that had to live in poor conditions and ultimately get killed – and we don’t think twice about the origins of the meat we eat.
There’s no doubt that people around the world would have different views about this topic. However, it boils down to the simple fact that these animals – whether dogs, pigs or cows – are all living things, with the ability to think and feel.