'Let Them Eat Dog': A savage attack on your dinner plate...and our dogs?
In his “Let Them Eat Dog: A modest proposal for tossing Fido in the oven,” which appeared in the Wall Street Journal’s Life and Style section last Saturday, acclaimed novelist Jonathan Safran Foer tackles a topic we treat here on Dolittler with occasional regularity: eating animals.
In advance of his first nonfiction book release––title eponymous with topic––Foer’s WSJ contribution was enough to tickle my palate with a taste of what I hope will come: an impressively well-reasoned series of polemic-free writings on the controversial issue of how we’ve come to eat what we do...and why it matters.
Too bad most of Mr. Foer’s online commenters didn’t share my enthusiasm. No doubt that’s because Foer chose to take this introductory opportunity to strike at the heart of the food chain with a shocking treatment of canine cuisine as it applies to our culture. As in, dog on the menu. Recipe included.
Now that you've been warned, here’s an excerpt for your consideration:
“But unlike all farmed meat, which requires the creation and maintenance of animals, dogs are practically begging to be eaten. Three to four million dogs and cats are euthanized annually. The simple disposal of these euthanized dogs is an enormous ecological and economic problem. But eating those strays, those runaways, those not-quite-cute-enough-to-take and not-quite-well-behaved-enough-to-keep dogs would be killing a flock of birds with one stone and eating it, too.
In a sense it's what we're doing already. Rendering—the conversion of animal protein unfit for human consumption into food for livestock and pets—allows processing plants to transform useless dead dogs into productive members of the food chain. In America, millions of dogs and cats euthanized in animal shelters every year become the food for our food. So let's just eliminate this inefficient and bizarre middle step.”
If you find Foer’s suggestions offensive, probe just a tad deeper. Willing readers will recognize the layers of irony buried none-too-deeply in his breezy (if lurid) style––not to mention the giveaway title. But Foer’s pseudo-Swiftian exposé of our culture’s culinary biases transcends mere satire. It takes this American dinner-table taboo and turns it on its head––if only to better bludgeon you with it’s implications.
No, this is no Yorkie-roasting free-for-all (accompanying photography notwithstanding). If anything, it more closely resembles an enlightened attack on fast-food non-thinking and blind reliance on industrial animal agriculture. In doing so he preaches to the Dolittler choir (reference previous discussions with respect to dog consumption, slaughter, antibiotic resistance, our pets' hefty carbon pawprints, along with a zillion other animal welfare-slash-industrial animal agriculture treatments).
But Foer takes it further, pushing the boundaries of our arguments into more treacherous territory––and pushing our collective buttons along the way. After all, holding up society’s sacred cow (i.e., the abused stray) as both albatross and hypocrisy’s acid test...well, it smarts. But do we not deserve the bruise?
Indeed, Foer’s deadly aim is never off the mark when it comes to exposing our culture’s artificial food animal vs. companion animal constructs. In doing so, he boldly challenges us to look at food animals through the prism of our dog-deification model.
Effective. That is, if you’re willing to let Mr. Foer take you for a ride only a novelist can manage with such soul-probing passion.
All of which would make you believe Foer is a militant animal rightist, if it weren’t for the fact that his cold-blooded musings actually raise more questions than they offer solutions. No, this is no categorical indictment of our cultural norms or thinly veiled plug for vegan living. Rather, this piece reeks of a highly personal exploration into the heart of darkness buried deep within our palates.
Michael Pollan fans be warned: this is no journalist’s dispassionate rendering of carefully crafted industrial agriculture arguments for you to take or leave. Foer’s characteristic, take-no-prisoners approach assails you with twin blows of elitist erudition and savage charm. This guy doesn’t want to convince you. He wants to wrest what you hold most dear from your cold, dead hands by any means necessary. And if that means you have to work to keep up with him if only to refute it...so be it.
If Foer’s “modest proposal” is any guide, it’s a harbinger of more gut-wrenching stuff to come. Yet as my Kindle awaits the imminent download of “Eating Animals,” I have cause for concern: Much as I’ve lapped up Foer’s meagre spread so far, will I enjoy a fuller fare?
Because truly, if anyone’s likely to alter my view of the universe with respect to what hits my plate it’s someone who raises my own preferred themes in ways that make me cringe. But then, I relish the challenge, as should we all. Bring it, Mr. Foer!