I strongly condemn today’s slaughter of thousands of dogs for the Yulin Dog Meat Festival in the southern Chinese province of Guangxi. Some dogs are being boiled alive, some are being beaten to death, and some are being skinned alive.
All dogs suffer, more than anybody ever should, and all are eaten.
An online petition to stop the festival has been signed by more than three-and-a-half million people who are rightly disgusted and outraged over the ongoing anguish and death. Making the very reasonable assumption that the overwhelming majority of these signatories are not vegans, their concern, however, demonstrates an all-too-common confusion for which the American legal scholar Gary L. Francione has coined the term moral schizophrenia.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, we kill approximately two thousand animals for food per second, not including fish and other sea animals. Most of these animals are not dogs, but chickens, ducks, pigs, rabbits, turkeys, geese, sheep, goats, and cows, all of whom are capable of experiencing pain just like dogs are, or you and I for that matter, and all of whom are severely mistreated before their flesh lands on our plates, some every bit as much as the dogs in Guangxi.
Yet, most of us rarely spare a thought for the animals we eat.
Even when we do read or hear about the horrible conditions in which food animals are raised and killed, we continue to eat them anyway, and enjoy doing so. No pangs of conscience. What is the difference between what happens in Guangxi today and what happens in every part of the world, on any given day?
Morally, I think there is not much of a difference. The killing of dogs in Guangxi might (or might not) be more cruel than the killing of animals for food usually is. But both are cruel, and both are equally unnecessary. There is no more need to eat chicken, lamb, or beef than there is to eat dog meat. In fact, careful studies have found that a well-balanced plant-based diet decreases the chances of suffering from diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers. If so, are meat-eaters really in a position to point fingers?
Rainer Ebert is a PhD candidate at the Department of Philosophy at Rice University in Texas, and an Associate Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics.You can follow him on Twitter at @rainer_ebert.