Why are we disgusted at the thought of eating dog or cat?

On June 21, as every year since 2009, the Chinese city of Yulin celebrated the summer solstice with a festival of eating lychees … and dogs. Strongly contested around the world – every year signature collections are launched calling for an end to this “horrible festival” – this event also arouses – but to a lesser extent – the debate in China.

According to several studies conducted in recent years, the Chinese people – the vast majority of whom do not eat dogs – even support the ban on the festival, while local associations call for dogs to be considered pets and for trade in their meat to be banned.

An indignation with variable geometry

Seen from home, it seems crazy to eat dog. French animal welfare organizations do not really need to convince anyone of the cruelty of this festival … but like to use it to highlight the cruel treatment reserved for animals bred and killed on French territory, for our own local culinary customs and festivities.

The Christmas holidays are also regularly highlighted by wildlife, outraged at the treatment reserved for the millions of geese and ducks being forcibly fed to the apartment. “One must have an outside and impartial look at these customs, wherever they come from,” says Amandeus VG Humanimal, president of the Humanis Association. And if they cause significant suffering in animals, they must be condemned. We sometimes imagine that traditions have always been and always will be there, while a certain number of them have disappeared or been banned. »

Cultural differences…

Each human culture develops its own categorizations about animals, mainly based on the use for which they are used: some animals are intended for food, others serve as companions for us, still others are considered useful scientific models. These categories are associated with important influences: especially dogs and cats are now widely perceived as full members of the household. We develop an attachment to them and their well-being is important to us. Our relationship with domestic animals is more utilitarian. We also know them by terms that explicitly refer to their use, such as “laying hens” or “dairy cows”.

For some species, the categorization is more vague: rabbits, for example, are perceived as wild, companion, slaughter or experimental animals at the same time. These categorizations vary greatly from one culture to another (in the United States, horses are not seen as a food source), but also over time. For example, dog butchers existed until the beginning of the 20th century in France, and later still in Germany and Switzerland.

… And carnist ideology

On what basis are its categories made? A famous American psychologist, Melanie Joy, believes that cultural habits are not enough, and puts forward a hypothesis in her “Introduction to Carnism: Why we love dogs, eat pigs and carry cows (L’Age d’Homme, 2016)”. Carnisism, according to Joy, would be a mind-conditioning system from an early age to consider that it is normal, natural, or even necessary to eat certain animals and not others. “And never to perceive this practice as something strange or above all morally dubious,” clarifies Élise Desaulniers and Martin Gibert in the overall work La pensee végane (PUF, 2020).

Will we all one day be disgusted at the thought of eating veal, pork, salmon or lamb … as vegetarians already are, and as most French people are when it comes to dog or cat meat? ? A market that is still marginal, but growing, has at least in recent years developed around imitation meat, these plant products, which reproduce the taste and texture of the meat, but without resorting to animal breeding.

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