From China, word comes of a confrontation between animal advocates and a trucker hauling 520 dogs to slaughter. The man was eventually persuaded (200 protesters and 15 hours later) to sell his cargo at a loss. It did not escape some that it was a Mercedes driver who initially forced the truck off the road. One angry human advocate even posted threats to kill a dog per day until the canine rescuers donated money to poor people instead. The Washington Post quotes the trucker as saying, “I still don’t understand what was immoral about my shipment. People also eat cow and sheep. What’s the difference? They were just a group of rich bullies who own pets and have nothing better to do.” As China’s economy has grown, so has pet ownership and a new sensibility on animals. Still, buying dogs for the home (as opposed to the plate) is viewed as a luxury for the haves. Class warfare, Chinese style.
Though dog may, in fact, be cheaper than pork, the indignant working-man need not resent those who can afford more expensive cuts; they can simply become vegetarians. In other words, if there is classism at play (and those Beijing advocates who continue to eat pigs while liberating dogs are probably being classist), it is largely self-imposed. Furthermore, the belief that vegetarianism (veganism) is only for the affluent self-righteous is misinformed or, worse, a rationalization meant to absolve the holder of any personal responsibility.
Controversial issues are rarely black and white. But in this case, an either/or clearly applies: If this (picture gallery on Chinese dogs) is wrong, then so is this, and this. Either all of it, or none of it. The dog pictures are, admittedly, a bit more shocking because I can imagine my three rescues hanging on those hooks; the forms and faces are uncomfortably familiar. But I also realize that emotional attachments can cloud rational thinking. The 10 billion animals slaughtered annually in America are not offered a chance to be our friends. They could be though. As a test, visit an animal sanctuary. The pigs (and many other species), you will soon discover, are intelligent and sensitive; they have personalities. Just like our dogs and cats.
To be sure, the lack of animal welfare standards in the land of Buddha is appalling (though some are trying to change that), and any effort to bring a measure of kindness to a dog’s wretched existence should be commended. But until Westerners (and any nonvegetarian Chinese protesters) get their own houses in order, they lack a moral authority to rebuke those who eat canines (roughly 10 million annually in China alone). Some meateaters argue that man is an apex predator acting in concert with nature. At least they have staked a position, misguided though I think it is. But most choose to ignore the issue altogether, either nonsensically complaining that it is too disturbing to contemplate, or comforting themselves with abstract notions of ethical standards and watchdog agencies. But this is, forgive the analogy, like turning away while the Auschwitz trains roll by.
To paraphrase Darwin, any difference between a pet animal and a livestock animal is one of degree, not of kind. Certainly, no rational distinction can be drawn between a pig and a dog. Once the outrage over these dog pictures subsides, a simple truth emerges: there is no valid reason to spare one and not the other.