Skip to content

Roger Cohen Realizes Dogs=Pigs, Sort Of

"Dog Days in China" is a small piece with no gruesome slideshow. But it's also remarkable in that Roger Cohen, a 50-something man who writes for the New York Times, wonders:

But do pigs have any more or less of a soul than dogs? Are they any more or less sentient? Do they suffer any more or less in death? Are they any more or less part of the mysterious unity of life? I think not.

There is a rational, and for some people a spiritual, case for being a vegetarian: Killing animals is wrong. However I cannot see a rational argument for saying eating dogs or cats is barbaric while eating pork or beef is fine. If you eat meat you cannot logically find it morally or ethically repugnant to eat a particular meat (I’m setting cannibalism aside here.).

I repeat: If you eat meat (I'd say: products that come from animals), you cannot logically find it morally or ethically repugnant to eat a particular meat (i.e., product that comes from an animal).

The theory is sound. There's no way out.

But as Cohen experiences, humans don't live "in theory." The theory that the mind finds inescapably well-formulated is often overwhelmed and overturned by human emotions.

I must confess I’ve been having a hard time. My bout of anguish began a few weeks back on a wintry night in central China, in the restless megalopolis of Chongqing. I was cold, wet and seeking refuge.

His "anguish" leads him to a dog restaurant where he dines on dog. His "refuge" could easily taken the form of the Sichuan noodles he likes, sans dog. Or pig, or duck, or fish. "Dog was not easy for me," he writes. "The memory has proved hard to digest."

When it comes to the legislation (which may or may not mean anything for dogs and cats), Cohen sides with the people who recognize that cats and dogs are no different from chickens and geese. He writes, "I’m not happy that I ate dog. But I’m happy China eats dog."

This is a good news/bad news story. It's great that someone realizes that there is no real difference between dogs and cows. However, remember that he understands that emotion ("the heart") is what ultimately governs what most of us do, and certainly what he does, so he won't be eating any more dogs.

And, presumably, he will continue to eat other animals. And that's the bad news.

Stay tuned tomorrow as I question setting aside cannibalism.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. As children we are dependent on our parents for mental and emotional well-being. For awhile the love in unconditional, and this is also mirrored/experienced in the child’s relations with nature and household animals. All of these experiences become part of the self.
    When adults begin the societal indoctrination of children that animals are ‘food’, there comes a conflict, a rift 1-within the self and 2-between the self and parents.
    The child must maintain ties with the parent for all aspects of self-survival, and thus splits off and confines the universal and basic love aspects of itself in order to contain the conflict safely.
    Unconditional love is replaced with unconditional ambivalence that can be utilized at any time to protect the self from experiences of isolation and potential ‘annihilation’.
    The animal thus contains projected and disavowed aspects of the self, and becomes the subject (symbol) of domination by the survival defenses.
    The developing child continues to grow and absorb the societal self, all the while ritually killing/eating (reabsorbing) the animal (disavowed aspects) to maintain dominance/control over the splitting experience. This repetitive restoration of balance is experienced as the ‘comforting’ cycle of life.
    Cohen is reacquainted with this original struggle in his encounter with the the micro pig as pet (intelligence/love/attachment VS. food) and later while ‘seeking refuge’ in China. He describes himself as isolated much like his original rift experience.
    The predictable outcome is to instinctively protect himself by enlisting the defensive ambivalence to its fullest. In China, he consumes ‘a dog’ while also consuming (via simultaneous memories) his own dog as well as the disavowed aspects of himself.
    This form of intrapychic cannibalism proves “difficult to digest” , yet he is successful because he maintains(survival) ties to the parental/societal union aspects of his self. By interchangeably seeing the pig/dog as either pet or food, he maintains the societal commodifcation /ownership embedded in both views. This results in continuing to confine and dominate both the animal and his split off self, rather than (both) living free and whole.

    February 6, 2010
  2. And they say AR folks are the "irrational" and "emotional" ones. How completely ironic.

    February 6, 2010
  3. What I found odd, yet predictable was even more "hair-splitting" (pun not intended), as to *which* dogs were the best to eat: 22 pound "yellow haired dogs". Seems like humans are determined to go through the whole Earth-Ark to figure whose flesh we (won't) eat… And in what state… The idea of beating these animals beforehand just disgusts me.

    February 7, 2010

Leave a Reply

You may use basic HTML in your comments. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS