Thursday, March 09, 2006

Eating dogs

Daniel told me today that one of his Timorese colleagues likes to eat dog meat. I know it’s irrational, but I felt instantly and irrepressibly sick at the mere thought. Meat eating Westerners choose to eat certain animals over others, but still, I can’t help feeling repulsed.

We don’t eat any animals (whether they swim, fly or walk) for ethical reasons. This is primarily to reduce in a small way the suffering in the world. As we both come from countries where there is an abundance of food, we don’t need to eat animals. Hence, we feel a definite moral obligation not to increase the suffering of animals when there is no equally compelling moral reason to do so (as there would be if we needed to eat them to survive ourselves).

In Timor, people do not eat animals every day (unless they are very wealthy). Most eat animal meat a couple of times a week at most and the poorer you are the less you eat. Animal meat is the major source of protein for Timorese (for Daniel and me it is beans/legumes of various kinds, tempeh, tofu and nuts). Understandably, vegetarianism is unheard of in Timorese culture and people are always perplexed as to why so many “malae” in Timor are vegetarian. Daniel tried to explain the ethical and philosophical reasons to his colleague but she just doesn’t understand (and nor has any other Timorese person I’ve tried to explain it to). She cannot fathom why someone would be so concerned about the welfare of an animal because to her and her culture, they are simply a food source, nothing more. They have no intrinsic value or worth as living beings who deserve to be treated with compassion. If there is any awareness of our inter-connectedness with animals and nature, it is only present in very very small amounts.

Daniel and I talked about this and concluded that unless one’s religion forbids the eating of animals (Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism), there is no room/time/freedom to think about the welfare of animals until all basic humans needs have been met. Furthermore, only with increasing urbanisation and an attendant move away from subsistence agriculture does one’s attitude to animals change.

However, this shift must also include a decent education that encourages independent and critical thinking, particularly of the dominant religion’s precepts (in Timor’s case Catholicism which historically has never shown the slightest regard for the welfare of animals). The study of philosophy and in particular, secular morality and ethics would also assist in this regard. The modern animal rights movement was born in the English speaking world (predominantly England), although many European philosophers dating back to Pythagoras have extolled the virtues of not partaking of animal flesh.

When Daniel lived in China, we visited the city of Kunming in Yunnan Province and in the process of trying to locate a Buddhist vegetarian restaurant, we came across a dog meat restaurant and I felt so repulsed I thought I was going to be sick. To this day, the thought of that moment fills me with dread. Now I have this Timorese experience to add to it.

Timorese do eat dogs. I’m not sure how widespread it is, but given the numbers of dogs roaming around the place and the high levels of poverty and malnutrition, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s higher than I think. Daniel’s colleague told him it was a practice introduced during the Indonesian occupation.

Tonight I dreamt about people killing and eating dogs and I woke feeling most upset. After all, in my culture, dogs are companion animals, and usually well loved and cared for ones at that.

Category: Timor-Leste (East Timor)

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1 Comments:

In Jogjakarta, Indonesia, you can see many places sell dog meat food, usually they make it to be Sengsu (Oseng-Oseng asu,Asu=dog, oseng-oseng=fried with ketchapand chili and others...i don't know the spicy the used)

if you see a tend shops selling food, and you can read their name TONGSENG JAMU (jamu is anonim for dog meat), because jamu is something to make you health and strong like ginseng, and they believe dog meat will make you strong (in term of sex).

eventhough eating Dog and pig is prohibited in islamic practice but in jogjakarta and central java, they do not strongly practising islam. so some people still eating dog.

they said DOG MEAT is THE MOST DELICIOUS MEAT in the world compared with other animals meat.

westerner may be shocked to see all of it, because they usually treath dog as pet, but for asian the pets is CAT not DOG, so asian will shock if they found somebody eat CAT MEAT just like when westerner saw somebody eat DOG.

By Anonymous Moentheng, at 4:26 pm  

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