Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Korean Takes All Comers in the Dog Meat Debate

The Korean, from Ask A Korean! has thrown down a heavy gauntlet at Busan Haps, where he's written a  very, very strong argument in defense of Koreans who wish to eat Dog meat.
Busan Haps, who are kind enough to volunteer to moderate this discussion (yikes!) have been hosting a three-part "Great Dog Meat Debate"
Part one was a food writer talking about eating Dog meat.
Part two was a vegan food writer explaining why Dog meat is bad. Unfortunately, her argument gets thoroughly dismantled in the comments.
and The Korean! is part three.

[UPDATE: This is a response to The Korean's article on the topic, by Leo Mendoza, founder of the Busan Abandoned Pet Sanctuary" - someone who's face-up close to the issues, and offers a more pragmatic view than the keyboard warriors and idealists, enriches that pragmatism with eyewitness experience... but also has a few straight attacks/insults, disappointingly.]

You may remember The Korean for drawing the hate of every animal lover on the internet for his original defense of Dog Meat, here.

As happened recently when Dog meat came up at The Marmot's Hole, the discussion board has become a bit of a free-for all. My own thoughts are below the jump.

soundtrack: hit play and read. "Love Dog" by TV on the Radio. So... they love dog.

I encourage you all to read -- actually read -- the Korean's defense of dog eating, if you have any interest in the topic... and even if you don't, to see how a one can mount a defense of cultural particularities, in the face of people claiming moral superiority through "international norms"... which might might just be the new code language for Imperialism -- now that the terms "progress" and "democracy/freedom" have had holes punctured in them. Words like "humanity" and "compassion" are nice words too... but without specific definitions, they don't have much meaning, when brought into a discussion.

The main takeaways I have this time...

First: If you have a cause you care about, which you like to talk about on the internet...

I pity you.

Because here are the things that happen:
1. NetizActivist goes online with good intentions, and enters into online discussions in good faith.

2. NetizActivist comes across the Same. Arguments. Again. (I just answered that argument on a different website two days ago!)
2A. NetizActivist gets tired of responding to the same comments again and again.

3. NetizActivist gets into discussions with their counterparts, on the other side of the argument, and gets frustrated at trying to converse with those who have ossified views.
3A. Meanwhile, NetizActivist's views ossify, perhaps through sheer repetition. Or...
3B. Through discussing them at AgreeWithNetizActivist.net, the most famous website where NetizActivists for that particular cause, gather and build an echo chamber. All that reinforcement makes it hard for NetizActivist to understand why people disagree with him/her, NetizActivist gradually loses the ability to spot the legitimate points made by those who disagree with him/her, loses the ability to frame their arguments in ways that appear sensible not only to regular visitors to AgreeWithNetizActivist.net, but those who are undecided, or opposed to those views.

4. Somewhere along the line, NetizActivist gets trolled a few times, and stops assuming the good faith of everyone who engages them.
4A. NetizActivist gets frustrated, and a little angry, both that not everyone enters the discussion in good faith, and that leads NetizActivist to stop offering the benefit of the doubt to newcomers in the discussion, which means that sometimes, rather than have the frustrating (on NetizActivist's side) experience of assuming good faith in someone who's a troll and... getting trolled... NetizActivist instead assumes the worst, and treats as trolls people who are actually entering the discussion in good faith. (frustrating on the other side)

Animosity builds. Cycle repeats, and we end up with NetizActivists who started out simply meaning to persuade the world to see things their way, instead hewing about like Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, taking tree-felling swings at people who disagree with them.

A few of the anti-dog advocates responding to The Korean's post have expressed their views well, in a way that I can "get" it too.

A few others have been extremely rude, arrogant, dismissive, and...

well, if I was on the fence, or if I started out arguing for Dog meat mostly to play the devil's advocate (and I did), I might find myself on the "Pro dog meat" side now, simply because I find the tactics and communication styles of some of the anti-dog meat folks appalling, and do not wish to be aligned with people who convey their ideas in such an ugly way.

The Dog Activists are in a difficult position, because it seems like too many of the vocal ones are idealists who will only be satisfied when nobody, anywhere, eats meat at all anymore.

The problem is, if that's the only thing that they'll consider a victory, they end up asking so much, going so far, in their argumentation, that they don't get any of the goals of theirs that would be very, very achievable, if they would scale back their demands.

Imagine North Korea demanding US Troops all leave the Korean Peninsula, as a precondition to resuming six party talks. North Korea won't get any of the things they could well have gotten if they'd asked for them, if they won't budge from that pipe-dream opener.

The Korean gives a good explanation of how the pro-Dog people have (in his view) hurt their own cause by starting with such an extreme posture... and sticking to it. I haven't seen anything from the pro-Dog side that's convinced me he's wrong.

But if an anti-dog meat advocate is too idealistic to acknowledge that here are the options, and that while D looks nice, option B is better than option A...

A. No regulation of a shady industry, and thus no oversight over the treatment of dogs at all, such that dogs are eaten, and their treatment and slaughter is a lawless free-for-all.
B. Regulation of the industry, such that dogs are still eaten, but they are raised and slaughtered according to standards similar to other animal meat industries.
C. Banning of the dog meat industry entirely, such that dogs are never eaten.
D. Banning of all commercial meat industries, such that everyone is a vegetarian.

there's no point in discussing it with them, because they've drown the line in the sand so far on their side that there will never, ever be a common ground between them and people who like meat.

And a lot of people like meat. Good luck convincing the world to become vegans.

And if an anti-dog meat advocate is unable to acknowledge that it is possible to have a moral code that one believes in, and follows, and still eat meat... that yes, a moral person can eat meat, then, again, it is impossible to actually have a discussion. Because a discussion requires participants who listen to, and respect, each other.

A guy named Phil Plait gave a speech a while ago, and I posted about it once (here). His topic is  skepticism - more particularly, the way skeptics engage non-skeptics on the internet, and the fact it's important -- VITAL to take a strategic tack, rather than going in to score the strongest punches.

"how many of you...became a skeptic, because somebody got in your face, screaming, and called you brain damaged, and a retard?"

Here are the links to part one and part two of his speech, which are good. Part three is the real dragon-slayer, kicker, coup de grace, enough so that I'll put the video here, because I think you should watch it -- he discusses the way skeptics need to communicate their message, in a way that anybody who has a cause they argue about on the internet, really needs to hear, because they'll be able to take some valuable insights away from it.

Because when I discuss something on the internet, I'm not trying to change the whole world's minds. That's just too much. And if I write as if I'm trying to change the whole world's minds, I'm not going to get very far.

And if I address the person who disagrees with me, not as an individual, but as the symbolic encapsulation of all the ideas I disagree with the most....

I'm not likely to speak to that person as a human.

And a human has a chance at opening another human's mind to a new direction of thinking. That's the best a human can hope for. A human cannot change another human's mind; they can only open the path they have to walk. (horse, water, make, drink)

A human can browbeat another person into silence, but they've often actually had the opposite effect they intended: when I feel bullied or browbeaten, I usually retreat into the exact prejudices, ideas, or conceptions the person was attacking me for... just because screw them. This is why it it bothers me so much when religious folks tell someone they're going to hell.

Because "is your goal to score a cheap point... or is your goal to win the damn game" in the words of Phil Plait up above.

So talk about it. Talk to me like a human, not like a cardboard cutout of the ideas you hate. And don't be a dick. And I won't be a dick to you, either. I tend to respond in kind to comments on my blog, so...

Because I'd love to read a discussion about dog meat between a dog-lover and a dog-eater, who respect each other, who carefully read each others' points, who are both pragmatic about goals and hopes on either side, who don't call people savages or uncivilized, who don't compare people who kill animals with people who kill humans (which firmly puts you into the batty category for outsiders, just so you know), who recognize and respect the differences between cultures, who don't tell each other to "F off," who suggest achievable objectives, and retreat from positions that sound good, but would never gain traction anywhere except at HitlerEatsMeat.com (or at BigBrotherWantsMeToBeVegan.com), and who don't put words into each others' mouths, to try and make them into the straw men who are easier to argue with. That'd be awesome.

So go read the article at Busan Haps. It's a good one. Leave a comment, maybe.

I wrote about Dog Meat before. Please read that one before you engage me in the comments here. Basically: I have mixed feelings about eating dog, but calling people who do it savages is not going to make them stop. In fact, it might make them eat it more, just because screw you and your superiority complex.


The Sanity Inspector said...

A good rule of thumb was proffered by Dennis Prager: Clarity is better than agreement.

T.K. (Ask a Korean!) said...

Thanks for the plug! And apparently C.A.R.E. is submitting an article as well. Given that there is already an outstanding fatwa against me from KARA, it will be great to attract non-stop hateration from the two of Korea's most vocal animal rights groups. :)

Roboseyo said...

Pardon the pun, but it's weird to me that animal rights groups are hounding you.

As I said in the post: browbeating people into submission is not the same as persuading them, and if they're treating you this way for disagreeing with them, it makes me lose a lot of respect for their methods, even if I agree with some of their goals. In a democratic society, people who have no space for dissenting opinions strike me as... undemocratic, and probably bullies.

When I discover someone with whom I disagree, who has demonstrated that they are determined not to change their mind, I generally ignore them: to keep bugging them might lead to an ugly backlash, and it certainly makes me look like a dick.

I'm no Picasso said...

You know, as I've said before, people who don't want to eat dog meat because it gives them the willies because it just does and it makes them feel like crying to think about puppies and and.... that's cool.

But people have to understand that once you cross the line from, "I don't do X because I believe Y," into, "You should not do X because Y," you're entering yourself into a whole other arena of debate, and you have to be prepared to back that up. Too often people want to flip-flop back and forth between the two forms of argument, which are very different.

wetcasements said...

The abject cruelty of _how_ Koreans slaughter dogs for their meat is horrible (basically, they're beaten/bludgeoned to death to "tenderize" the meat).

But a McDonald's burger or chicken nugget comes from a factory farm where the treatment is just as bad, if not worse, only they have PR firms and lawyers who get paid very well to cover up this similar sort of abuse.

Roboseyo said...


that's why I don't have a whole ton of respect for the position held by people who have a problem with dog meat, but not with other kinds of meat.

As I said in another comment discussion: all the arguments against dog meat that make sense to me can be generalized to ALL meat... and the ones that single out dog meat as somehow MORE objectionable than consuming other meats, usually end up problematic to me, either for singling out dogs, or privileging a particular cultures' values above another... usually in a way I don't buy.

-something other said...

By the way! Was wondering if I might be able to make it on your blogroll list : ) -noe www.no-kancho.net

Random Stuff said...

I'm American and I have no interest in eating dog meat. Not surprising. I realize it's a culturally specific thing so I have no problem with Korean's eating dog meat in Korea. Go right ahead, but I won't be joining in. (I will of course gladly try lots of other tasty Korean food.)

I think it's a bit disingenuous to blame animal activist for the lack of regulation of dog meat or even more so for the inhumane treatment of dogs in Korea. *The one who does the wrong action is the one responsible 1st and foremost.* Even if animal rights activist are being obstructionist about a particular law, the guy beating and caging dogs is the one who is...well, beating and caging dogs. Labeling animal rights activist as basically enablers of these sorts of actions is a weak argument in my opinion and more importantly, unnecessary since there are much better and stronger arguments as to why Koreans eating dog meat is fine.

It would be interesting to see a humane dog farm. I don't know how it's possible. I imagine it would be very hard to work there because in humane conditions, dogs and people invariably form emotional connections. It's hard to kill what you care about...

Roboseyo said...

You make some really good points, Random Stuff, particularly about who bears the chief responsibility for cruelty on animals...

except that I don't think a human connection necessarily precludes killing something. We euthanize pets and other animals when we know they're suffering, and farm kids involved in 4H raise cows and pigs which they later either sell for slaughter, or eat... after having raised them personally from birth. Find me a kid who can do that without becoming at least a little attached.

I'd even go so far as to say, in a cultural context where eating horse, cow, or dog was accepted, that eating your longtime companion or field-work partner, could be seen as a special, more consecrated meal, than eating other meat, BECAUSE of that relationship. Framed a certain way, eating your companion dog would be the final closing of the relationship, and a celebration that the animal that sustained you emotionally for a long time, is now sustaining you physically, for one last stage in the relationship.... which is the same metaphor Christians use when they eat the bread that represents Christ's body when they partake in communion.

If all of us only ate animals we raised and slaughtered ourselves, I think most of us would have a lot more respect for the meat we consume, and animal cruelty would probably go WAY down.

DuncanM said...

Hi Roboseyo
I think your "if pigs - why not dogs?" argument is a bit simplistic 
yes it is the most 'consistent' option.. but is it the most 'moral' option?  the science and philosophy of animal cognition is making this entire debate seem a bit dusty...
This just in (you might have seen...)

If moving away from factory farming is an ethical and environmental necessity (not many supporters)then why subject another highly intelligent animal species to horrible ff suffering  - no dog meat supporters are insisting on free range are they? and the juries well out on if regulation will decrease overall suffering for this reason..
could it be another betsy in your boshingtang? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betsy_(dog) - so therefore would you have any qualms about eating chimpanzee? (maybe not?)..

btw hope your little one is doing well - mine is 3.5 months and great fun these days...

roboseyo said...

the point you're missing, Duncan, is that the choice is not between "nobody eats dogs" and "factory farm conditions for dogs" -- the current state is "no controls whatsoever on raising or slaughtering of meat dogs" which could be on par with, but could also be far worse than factory farm conditions, and given the choice between factory farm conditions and a horrific free-for-all, I'll pick the factory farm.

Which isn't that MOST moral option (the MOST moral option, both in terms of environmental cost and animal treatment, would be humans getting proteins from locusts and larvae and nuts and legumes, but it's a pipe dream, and delusional to start advocating for something SO far along the scale of "things I'd like," kind of like if my starting asking salary for my entry level company job was a million dollars a year). But that factory farm is better than what we've got going right now.

Dogs are hella smart. But so are pigs, and so are octopi. I've never eaten dolphin, and wouldn't, because while I believe meat is meat is meat, enough dolphins species are on the endangered list that I'm not going there.

Any response to my re-framing the eating of a pet as a consecrated ritual? I know that if I ate a longtime pet, that's how it would be to me.

The_Korean said...

"Any response to my re-framing the eating of a pet as a consecrated ritual? "
That's how Koreans have traditionally approached eating beef. Have you watched 워낭소리? The plowing cattle in a traditional Korean farm was as important as children. So when it is time for the cow to die, Koreans ensure that they do not waste a single freakin' thing coming out of its body -- tongue, blood, hoofs, tail, everything. (How many cultures around the world eats all of the above? Not many.)

DuncanM said...

thnks for the reply..

The key is this - will regulation decrease net suffering for the dogs?- CARE/KARA groups say no and that a  black-market of 'properly killed' dog-meat will continue anyway for the people who want it for those precise mythical benefits- ( we know how much 'illegal' activity is allowed to go on in Korea in other areas - what makes this area suddenly a hot policing point?).
The Korean and others in favour of dog-meat consumption seem to say yes (reduction in suffering for dogs).. and that the torture-to-death element must then be irrelevant to Koreans...? not sure about that for a start.. and in any case why isn't banning torture-killing also western imperialism  as much as being anti-dog meat in the first place? you can't have your cultural relativism cake and eat it.  It would be an interesting (but truly consistent) person who argued we should leave torture killing well alone.  because that opens a whole can of international ethics worms, right there. 

plus other pro-dog meat people have argued that torture killing is fair enough anyway because it's no worse than treatment of animals in factory farms in our own respective countries- I think I agree with you that regulation would be better instinctively......but... i'm more inclined to trust CARE/KARA  who spend a lot of time looking at these issues that it will not be a better world for dogs if we do go this route..for reasons mentioned above

Rubbish that these groups don't care about animal suffering like The Korean implied - I'm not surprised that activist Leo reacted so furiously to those accusations (even though he agreed with 'regulation')  It's the same old BS about people who advocate for animals not caring for people etc...spewed out by internet warriors.... reality is activists of all types are much more likely to be vegetarian than not... think Caesar Chavez think Coretta Scott King + son. Think Peter Tatchell.. 

what I do suspect is the Westerners who eat dog meat and are now arguing for the regulation side - never cared one jot if it was regulated or not. did they? - let's be honest? - how many people mentioned that they would only  eat dog-meat if it was regulated...they either eat it anyway or just don't.  At some point they decided to go ahead and eat the stuff and continue doing so knowing well that it might be an animal brutally tortured... now they claim to be caring about the fate of Korean dogs..rings hollow..

Anyway...your position re: endangered species is great and everything (very utilitarian) but it's missing my point - that we're heading into an area whereby highly sentient animals are being seen as 'people'. Spain has already given human rights to some Great Apes
That's the direction we are heading in - see the dolphin example too.   That's why the debate has seemed so tired.  It's the old vegetarian (if not dogs - why pigs -or octopi indeed) that has been reversed and turned on it's head...but simply to extend our definition of livestock.... which I find depressing..

One other thing - I can't remember if it was mentioned  - that Koreans do seem to care about how the outside word sees them.
Lots I know are sick and tired of being known as 'that dog eating country'.. would not regulation just cement this view for another generation or two until it really dies out?...  seems like some westerners are keen to keep Korea that way cos they think they have had a profound Asian experience by eating dogmeat...and are not helping Korea's international image nor do they care about it..

Any response to my re-framing the eating of a pet as a consecrated ritual? I know that if I ate a longtime pet, that's how it would be to me. 

Yea - but when you've read Singer you realise this could be applied to humans to some degree too for 'consistency' if we're talking practical ethics- it's not a route I'd recommend..