Cows, pigs, dogs and other livestock

Somewhere on the Internet is a list of tips for westerners traveling to South Korea. And I’m pretty sureDogmeat
the list includes this piece of advice: If you go to an ordinary roadside restaurant, don’t expect to be served burgers and fries or other western food. Order hot dog instead.

SEOUL (AFP) –
The Seoul city government is seeking to classify man’s best friend as livestock in order to set food safety standards for South Korean lovers of dogmeat, officials say.

Somewhere between two and four million dogs are estimated to be consumed in South Korea every year but the slaughtering and processing is carried out in dirty
environments and poses a risks to diners’ health, they said.

Since dogs are not currently classed as livestock there are no hygiene regulations on their slaughter, officials said.

"Dogs are consumed in their millions in this country every year. That’s
a fact. We have to take care of this situation," said Lee Hae-Woo, head
of the city government’s department of food safety.

"We plan to recommend to the central government that dogs are
classified as livestock," he told AFP. "This is like a hot potato but
we don’t pretend the issue does not exist." [Link]

A hot potato? Ah yes, remember back in the 17th century when potatoes were not yet classified as food?

The potato was carried on to Italy and England about 1585, to Belgium and
Germany by 1587, to Austria about 1588, and to France around 1600. Wherever the
potato was introduced, it was considered weird, poisonous, and downright evil.
In France and elsewhere, the potato was accused of causing not only leprosy, but
also syphilis, narcosis, scronfula, early death, sterillity, and rampant
sexuality, and of destroying the soil where it grew. There was so much
opposition to the potato that an edict was made in the town of Besancon, France
stating:"In view of the fact that the potato is a pernicious substance whose use
can cause leprosy, it is hereby forbidden, under pain of fine, to cultivate it." [Link]      
   

I don’t expect dogmeat to ever be as popular as potatoes, not even if restaurants serve it with ketchup and call it "Man’s Best Fried." But some folks might change their attitude if the Dog Producers Association spent a few million bucks on a good advertising campaign and created a catchy slogan, such as: "Dogmeat: Bite it before it bites you."

Perhaps they also need to stop calling it "dogmeat." If cow meat is marketed as beef and pig meat is marketed as pork, it only makes sense for dogmeat to be marketed as dorf. And maybe, just maybe, if the advertising campaign is successful, dorf will be served at the Waldorf.

Chances are, however, dogmeat will never be popular in any country where dogs are widely kept as pets. And that’s understandable. But unless you’re a vegetarian, you probably shouldn’t feel indignant toward any South Koreans, Chinese or others, even if they call themselves dog lovers. It’s all what you’re used to, really. If I was swimming in the ocean and came across a lobster, no way would I be saying to myself, "Mmmm … yummy!" No, I’d be saying, "Help! Mummy!"

It’s good to be adventurous in your eating habits, because you never know when you might get stuck on some remote island, just you and your faithful dog, Rover.

So if you happen to come across some dogmeat in an Asian restaurant, go ahead and take a small bite. Just a teeny-weeny bite. As people who own chihuahuas and dachshunds will tell you, a little dog never hurt anyone.

Photo by Jutta Hendry

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through Amazon.com and McNallyRobinson.com You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.

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