Cultural norms vs. diet choice

Updated: 2014-06-09 10:02

By Xin Zhiming (

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“Before we point the finger and call such people hypocrites, think of people in the Western world who have ‘pet’ hens and pot-bellied pigs yet still eat fried chicken and ham sandwiches. They balk at eating animals they ‘know’ but have no problem eating an animal they never met who invariably endured a miserable life on a filthy factory farm and ended up in a very scary place: the slaughterhouse.”

Interestingly, in a Huffington Post poll in 2012, answering the question “Is consuming dog meat worse than regular farm animals”, nearly half of the respondents (I guess most of them are dog-loving Americans, not dog meat-loving Asians) ticked “No, meat is meat.”

As a cultural thing, one of its inherent qualities is that it takes time for it to change — if it does — and it is unjustifiable for outsiders to force such a change, since it is not something that can be defined as “right” or “wrong”. It’s simply a choice legitimately made by a group of people growing up in a specific culture.

For example, for religious reasons, many Hindus in Indian do not eat cow meat. But in the US, beef is probably the most common food at the table. If the Indian people protest against Americans eating beef, how would the US consumers react?

Some people may oppose eating dogs; it is equally legitimate for them to call for a stop; and they are entitled to organize campaigns to lobby the public and lawmakers to make laws to their favor. But they should not resort to any illegal means to stop it, such as what those animal rights activists did on the Beijing expressway in 2011.

In this sense, it is absolutely normal for celebrities and their fans to appeal to the public that dogs should not be served as food, so long as they do not use force or other illegal means to their end.

For those who still love dog meat, they have the unchallengeable right to stick to their choice. Only it is advisable for those who raise dogs and those who slaughter them to treat them better and in a more humane manner. Even if we “must” eat them, we should abide by good animal welfare standards.

Social and cultural evolution takes time. It is predictable that such debate will continue for years in China. Before an ultimate social consensus can be reached, both sides should get more patient, civilized and law-abiding. After all, the end does not necessarily justify the means.



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