Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pet food

Luke Stein at Stanford points me to Brian Palmer's column in Slate about where it is illegal to eat pets: Is it legal to eat your cat?

"Few states have specific laws barring the use of pets for food. The ones that do typically ban the slaughter or sale of dog and cat meat. The state of New York expressly prohibits "any person to slaughter or butcher domesticated dog (canis familiaris) or domesticated cat (felis catus or domesticus) to create food, meat or meat products for human or animal consumption." It's not clear whether the eating itself is outlawed or only the butchery. If you managed to buy dog or cat flesh from someone else who broke the anti-slaughter law, you might be OK. The law also doesn't cover ferrets, gerbils, parakeets, or other less familiar pet species. (Although the general anti-cruelty law might protect exotics.)

"California's anti-pet-eating law has a broader reach. It bars possession of the carcass, so having bought your cat steaks from someone else wouldn't be a useful alibi. The California law also protects "any animal traditionally or commonly kept as a pet or companion," rather than just Fido and Fluffy. The statute is somewhat untested, though, so no one really knows which animals are included. Pigs are not, even though they are commonly kept as pets, because they are farm animals. Horses are specifically covered by a different section of the code. There's no precedent on iguanas, goldfish, or boa constrictors.

"In most of the country, the legality of pet-eating would come down to the specific language of the general animal cruelty statute and how a judge interpreted it. Some states, such as Virginia, bar the unnecessary killing of an animal, with a specific exemption for "farming activities." In those places, it's very likely that killing a cat for dinner would get you in trouble, because the killing wouldn't be necessary, and cats aren't commonly associated with farming.
...
"Worldwide, cat and dog meat seem to be at a crossroads. China pulled dog meat off the market for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and is considering a law barring it permanently. South Korea, on the other hand, has inched toward explicitly legalizing the widespread and officially tolerated dog-meat trade."

Back in February, Roger Cohen described eating dog in China: Dog Days in China
"Now, we are appalled in the West at the notion of eating dog while considering it natural to have a dog as a pet — I own a Beagle myself (“Ned”) and I’m very fond of him. This is the inverse of the preponderant Western view of pigs: fine to eat (religious objections aside) but not to pet."

On a related matter, Abe Othman  writes about Horseflesh and Hypocrisy

"Remember, if they can come after the horse slaughterers, they can come after the hedge funds. So if you really believe in free markets, have some horse today!"

And see my earlier post: Why can't you eat horse meat in the U.S.?

This raises the question of why some people are disgusted by the idea of eating horse meat.
Michael Webster points me to the Boston Globe article "Ewwwwwwwww! The surprising moral force of disgust," which reports on a recent conference of psychologists.

"Psychologists like Haidt are leading a wave of research into the so-called moral emotions — not just disgust, but others like anger and compassion — and the role those feelings play in how we form moral codes and apply them in our daily lives. A few, like Haidt, go so far as to claim that all the world’s moral systems can best be characterized not by what their adherents believe, but what emotions they rely on.

"There is deep skepticism in parts of the psychology world about claims like these. And even within the movement there is a lively debate over how much power moral reasoning has — whether our behavior is driven by thinking and reasoning, or whether thinking and reasoning are nothing more than ornate rationalizations of what our emotions ineluctably drive us to do."

See my earlier post on this, Repugnance and/or disgust.

1 comment:

JS Allen said...

This touches on something I've always wondered. Why is it morally acceptable to raise a cow, considered by a billion people to be holy, purely for the purposes of gorging yourself on its flesh -- yet it's reprehensible to humanely put your dog or cat to sleep after it has passed the cute puppy or kitten stage? It's not as if you're even planning to eat the little creature.