By JONATHAN SAFRAN FOER
Despite the fact that it's perfectly legal in 44 states, eating "man's best friend" is as taboo as a man
eating his best friend. Even the most enthusiastic carnivores won't eat dogs. TV guy and sometimes
cooker Gordon Ramsay can get pretty macho with lambs and piglets when doing publicity for something
he's selling, but you'll never see a puppy peeking out of one of his pots. And though he once said he'd
electrocute his children if they became vegetarian, one can't help but wonder what his response would
be if they poached the family pooch.
Dogs are wonderful, and in many ways unique. But they are remarkably unremarkable in their
intellectual and experiential capacities. Pigs are every bit as intelligent and feeling, by any sensible
definition of the words. They can't hop into the back of a Volvo, but they can fetch, run and play, be
mischievous and reciprocate affection. So why don't they get to curl up by the fire? Why can't they at
least be spared being tossed on the fire? Our taboo against dog eating says something about dogs and a
great deal about us.
The French, who love their dogs, sometimes eat their horses.
The Spanish, who love their horses, sometimes eat their cows.
The Indians, who love their cows, sometimes eat their dogs.
While written in a much different context, George Orwell's words (from "Animal Farm") apply here: "All
animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
So who's right? What might be the reasons to exclude canine from the menu? The selective carnivore
Don't eat companion animals. But dogs aren't kept as companions in all of the places they are eaten.
And what about our petless neighbors? Would we have any right to object if they had dog for dinner?
OK, then: Don't eat animals with significant mental capacities. If by "significant mental capacities" we
mean what a dog has, then good for the dog. But such a definition would also include the pig, cow and
chicken. And it would exclude severely impaired humans.
Then: It's for good reason that the eternal taboos—don't fiddle with your crap, kiss your sister, or eat
your companions—are taboo. Evolutionarily speaking, those things are bad for us. But dog eating isn't a
taboo in many places, and it isn't in any way bad for us. Properly cooked, dog meat poses no greater
health risks than any other meat.
Dog meat has been described as "gamey" "complex," "buttery" and "floral." And there is a proud
pedigree of eating it. Fourth-century tombs contain depictions of dogs being slaughtered along with
other food animals. It was a fundamental enough habit to have informed language itself: the Sino-
Korean character for "fair and proper" (yeon) literally translates into "as cooked dog meat is delicious."
Hippocrates praised dog meat as a source of strength. Dakota Indians enjoyed dog liver, and not so long
ago Hawaiians ate dog brains and blood. Captain Cook ate dog. Roald Amundsen famously ate his sled
dogs. (Granted, he was really hungry.) And dogs are still eaten to overcome bad luck in the Philippines;
as medicine in China and Korea; to enhance libido in Nigeria and in numerous places, on every
continent, because they taste good. For centuries, the Chinese have raised special breeds of dogs, like
the black-tongued chow, for chow, and many European countries still have laws on the books regarding
postmortem examination of dogs intended for human consumption.
Of course, something having been done just about everywhere is no kind of justification for doing it
now. 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
This need not challenge our civility. We won't make them suffer any more than necessary. While it's
widely believed that adrenaline makes dog meat taste better—hence the traditional methods of
slaughter: hanging, boiling alive, beating to death—we can all agree that if we're going to eat them, we
should kill them quickly and painlessly, right? For example, the traditional Hawaiian means of holding
the dog's nose shut—in order to conserve blood—must be regarded (socially if not legally) as a no-no.
Perhaps we could include dogs under the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. That doesn't say anything
about how they're treated during their lives, and isn't subject to any meaningful oversight or
enforcement, but surely we can rely on the industry to "self-regulate," as we do with other eaten
Few people sufficiently appreciate the colossal task of feeding a world of billions of omnivores who
demand meat with their potatoes. The inefficient use of dogs—conveniently already in areas of high
human population (take note, local-food advocates)—should make any good ecologist blush. One could
argue that various "humane" groups are the worst hypocrites, spending enormous amounts of money
and energy in a futile attempt to reduce the number of unwanted dogs while at the very same time
propagating the irresponsible no-dog-for-dinner taboo. If we let dogs be dogs, and breed without
interference, we would create a sustainable, local meat supply with low energy inputs that would put
even the most efficient grass-based farming to shame. For the ecologically-minded it's time to admit
that dog is realistic food for realistic environmentalists.
For those already convinced, here's a classic Filipino recipe I recently came across. I haven't tried it
myself, but sometimes you can read a recipe and just know.
Stewed Dog, Wedding Style
First, kill a medium-sized dog, then burn off the fur over a hot fire. Carefully remove the skin while still
warm and set aside for later (may be used in other recipes). Cut meat into 1" cubes. Marinate meat in
mixture of vinegar, peppercorn, salt, and garlic for 2 hours. Fry meat in oil using a large wok over an
open fire, then add onions and chopped pineapple and sauté until tender. Pour in tomato sauce and
boiling water, add green pepper, bay leaf, and Tabasco. Cover and simmer over warm coals until meat is
tender. Blend in purée of dog's liver and cook for additional 5–7 minutes.
There is an overabundance of rational reasons to say no to factory-farmed meat: It is the No. 1 cause of
global warming, it systematically forces tens of billions of animals to suffer in ways that would be illegal
if they were dogs, it is a decisive factor in the development of swine and avian flus, and so on. And yet
even most people who know these things still aren't inspired to order something else on the menu.
Food is not rational. Food is culture, habit, craving and identity. Responding to factory farming calls for a
capacity to care that dwells beyond information. We know what we see on undercover videos of factory
farms and slaughterhouses is wrong. (There are those who will defend a system that allows for
occasional animal cruelty, but no one defends the cruelty, itself.) And despite it being entirely
reasonable, the case for eating dogs is likely repulsive to just about every reader of this paper. The
instinct comes before our reason, and is more important.
—Jonathan Safran Foer is the author of the novels "Everything is Illuminated" and "Extremely Loud and
Incredibly Close." His new book, "Eating Animals," a work of nonfiction, comes out next week.
The Singer Solution To World Poverty
By Peter Singer
Sept. 5, 1999
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The Australian philosopher Peter Singer, who later this month begins teaching at Princeton University, is
perhaps the world's most controversial ethicist. Many readers of his book ''Animal Liberation'' were
moved to embrace vegetarianism, while others recoiled at Singer's attempt to place humans and
animals on an even moral plane. Similarly, his argument that severely disabled infants should, in some
cases, receive euthanasia has been praised as courageous by some — and denounced by others,
including anti-abortion activists, who have protested Singer's Princeton appointment.
Singer's penchant for provocation extends to more mundane matters, like everyday charity. A recent
article about Singer in The New York Times revealed that the philosopher gives one-fifth of his income to
famine-relief agencies. ''From when I first saw pictures in newspapers of people starving, from when
people asked you to donate some of your pocket money for collections at school,'' he mused, ''I always
thought, 'Why that much — why not more?'''
Is it possible to quantify our charitable burden? In the following essay, Singer offers some
unconventional thoughts about the ordinary American's obligations to the world's poor and suggests
that even his own one-fifth standard may not be enough.
In the Brazilian film ''Central Station,'' Dora is a retired schoolteacher who makes ends meet by sitting at
the station writing letters for illiterate people. Suddenly she has an opportunity to pocket $1,000. All she
has to do is persuade a homeless 9-year-old boy to follow her to an address she has been given. (She is
told he will be adopted by wealthy foreigners.) She delivers the boy, gets the money, spends some of it
on a television set and settles down to enjoy her new acquisition. Her neighbor spoils the fun, however,
by telling her that the boy was too old to be adopted — he will be killed and his organs sold for
transplantation. Perhaps Dora knew this all along, but after her neighbor's plain speaking, she spends a
troubled night. In the morning Dora resolves to take the boy back.
Suppose Dora had told her neighbor that it is a tough world, other people have nice new TV's too, and if
selling the kid is the only way she can get one, well, he was only a street kid. She would then have
become, in the eyes of the audience, a monster. She redeems herself only by being prepared to bear
considerable risks to save the boy.
At the end of the movie, in cinemas in the affluent nations of the world, people who would have been
quick to condemn Dora if she had not rescued the boy go home to places far more comfortable than her
apartment. In fact, the average family in the United States spends almost one-third of its income on
things that are no more necessary to them than Dora's new TV was to her. Going out to nice
restaurants, buying new clothes because the old ones are no longer stylish, vacationing at beach resorts
— so much of our income is spent on things not essential to the preservation of our lives and health.
Donated to one of a number of charitable agencies, that money could mean the difference between life
and death for children in need.
All of which raises a question: In the end, what is the ethical distinction between a Brazilian who sells a
homeless child to organ peddlers and an American who already has a TV and upgrades to a better one —
knowing that the money could be donated to an organization that would use it to save the lives of kids
Of course, there are several differences between the two situations that could support different moral
judgments about them. For one thing, to be able to consign a child to death when he is standing right in
front of you takes a chilling kind of heartlessness; it is much easier to ignore an appeal for money to help
children you will never meet. Yet for a utilitarian philosopher like myself — that is, one who judges
whether acts are right or wrong by their consequences — if the upshot of the American's failure to
donate the money is that one more kid dies on the streets of a Brazilian city, then it is, in some sense,
just as bad as selling the kid to the organ peddlers. But one doesn't need to embrace my utilitarian ethic
to see that, at the very least, there is a troubling incongruity in being so quick to condemn Dora for
taking the child to the organ peddlers while, at the same time, not regarding the American consumer's
behavior as raising a serious moral issue.
In his 1996 book, ''Living High and Letting Die,'' the New York University philosopher Peter Unger
presented an ingenious series of imaginary examples designed to probe our intuitions about whether it
is wrong to live well without giving substantial amounts of money to help people who are hungry,
malnourished or dying from easily treatable illnesses like diarrhea. Here's my paraphrase of one of these
Bob is close to retirement. He has invested most of his savings in a very rare and valuable old car, a
Bugatti, which he has not been able to insure. The Bugatti is his pride and joy. In addition to the pleasure
he gets from driving and caring for his car, Bob knows that its rising market value means that he will
always be able to sell it and live comfortably after retirement. One day when Bob is out for a drive, he
parks the Bugatti near the end of a railway siding and goes for a walk up the track. As he does so, he
sees that a runaway train, with no one aboard, is running down the railway track. Looking farther down
the track, he sees the small figure of a child very likely to be killed by the runaway train. He can't stop
the train and the child is too far away to warn of the danger, but he can throw a switch that will divert
the train down the siding where his Bugatti is parked. Then nobody will be killed — but the train will
destroy his Bugatti. Thinking of his joy in owning the car and the financial security it represents, Bob
decides not to throw the switch. The child is killed. For many years to come, Bob enjoys owning his
Bugatti and the financial security it represents.
Bob's conduct, most of us will immediately respond, was gravely wrong. Unger agrees. But then he
reminds us that we, too, have opportunities to save the lives of children. We can give to organizations
like Unicef or Oxfam America. How much would we have to give one of these organizations to have a
high probability of saving the life of a child threatened by easily preventable diseases? (I do not believe
that children are more worth saving than adults, but since no one can argue that children have brought
their poverty on themselves, focusing on them simplifies the issues.) Unger called up some experts and
used the information they provided to offer some plausible estimates that include the cost of raising
money, administrative expenses and the cost of delivering aid where it is most needed. By his
calculation, $200 in donations would help a sickly 2-year-old transform into a healthy 6-year-old —
offering safe passage through childhood's most dangerous years. To show how practical philosophical
argument can be, Unger even tells his readers that they can easily donate funds by using their credit
card and calling one of these toll-free numbers: (800) 367-5437 for Unicef; (800) 693-2687 for Oxfam
Now you, too, have the information you need to save a child's life. How should you judge yourself if you
don't do it? Think again about Bob and his Bugatti. Unlike Dora, Bob did not have to look into the eyes of
the child he was sacrificing for his own material comfort. The child was a complete stranger to him and
too far away to relate to in an intimate, personal way. Unlike Dora, too, he did not mislead the child or
initiate the chain of events imperiling him. In all these respects, Bob's situation resembles that of people
able but unwilling to donate to overseas aid and differs from Dora's situation.
If you still think that it was very wrong of Bob not to throw the switch that would have diverted the train
and saved the child's life, then it is hard to see how you could deny that it is also very wrong not to send
money to one of the organizations listed above. Unless, that is, there is some morally important
difference between the two situations that I have overlooked.
Is it the practical uncertainties about whether aid will really reach the people who need it? Nobody who
knows the world of overseas aid can doubt that such uncertainties exist. But Unger's figure of $200 to
save a child's life was reached after he had made conservative assumptions about the proportion of the
money donated that will actually reach its target.
One genuine difference between Bob and those who can afford to donate to overseas aid organizations
but don't is that only Bob can save the child on the tracks, whereas there are hundreds of millions of
people who can give $200 to overseas aid organizations. The problem is that most of them aren't doing
it. Does this mean that it is all right for you not to do it?
Suppose that there were more owners of priceless vintage cars — Carol, Dave, Emma, Fred and so on,
down to Ziggy — all in exactly the same situation as Bob, with their own siding and their own switch, all
sacrificing the child in order to preserve their own cherished car. Would that make it all right for Bob to
do the same? To answer this question affirmatively is to endorse follow-the-crowd ethics — the kind of
ethics that led many Germans to look away when the Nazi atrocities were being committed. We do not
excuse them because others were behaving no better.
We seem to lack a sound basis for drawing a clear moral line between Bob's situation and that of any
reader of this article with $200 to spare who does not donate it to an overseas aid agency. These
readers seem to be acting at least as badly as Bob was acting when he chose to let the runaway train
hurtle toward the unsuspecting child. In the light of this conclusion, I trust that many readers will reach
for the phone and donate that $200. Perhaps you should do it before reading further.
Now that you have distinguished yourself morally from people who put their vintage cars ahead of a
child's life, how about treating yourself and your partner to dinner at your favorite restaurant? But wait.
The money you will spend at the restaurant could also help save the lives of children overseas! True, you
weren't planning to blow $200 tonight, but if you were to give up dining out just for one month, you
would easily save that amount. And what is one month's dining out, compared to a child's life? There's
the rub. Since there are a lot of desperately needy children in the world, there will always be another
child whose life you could save for another $200. Are you therefore obliged to keep giving until you have
nothing left? At what point can you stop?
Hypothetical examples can easily become farcical. Consider Bob. How far past losing the Bugatti should
he go? Imagine that Bob had got his foot stuck in the track of the siding, and if he diverted the train,
then before it rammed the car it would also amputate his big toe. Should he still throw the switch? What
if it would amputate his foot? His entire leg?
As absurd as the Bugatti scenario gets when pushed to extremes, the point it raises is a serious one: only
when the sacrifices become very significant indeed would most people be prepared to say that Bob does
nothing wrong when he decides not to throw the switch. Of course, most people could be wrong; we
can't decide moral issues by taking opinion polls. But consider for yourself the level of sacrifice that you
would demand of Bob, and then think about how much money you would have to give away in order to
make a sacrifice that is roughly equal to that. It's almost certainly much, much more than $200. For most
middle-class Americans, it could easily be more like $200,000.
Isn't it counterproductive to ask people to do so much? Don't we run the risk that many will shrug their
shoulders and say that morality, so conceived, is fine for saints but not for them? I accept that we are
unlikely to see, in the near or even medium-term future, a world in which it is normal for wealthy
Americans to give the bulk of their wealth to strangers. When it comes to praising or blaming people for
what they do, we tend to use a standard that is relative to some conception of normal behavior.
Comfortably off Americans who give, say, 10 percent of their income to overseas aid organizations are
so far ahead of most of their equally comfortable fellow citizens that I wouldn't go out of my way to
chastise them for not doing more. Nevertheless, they should be doing much more, and they are in no
position to criticize Bob for failing to make the much greater sacrifice of his Bugatti.
At this point various objections may crop up. Someone may say: ''If every citizen living in the affluent
nations contributed his or her share I wouldn't have to make such a drastic sacrifice, because long
before such levels were reached, the resources would have been there to save the lives of all those
children dying from lack of food or medical care. So why should I give more than my fair share?''
Another, related, objection is that the Government ought to increase its overseas aid allocations, since
that would spread the burden more equitably across all taxpayers.
Yet the question of how much we ought to give is a matter to be decided in the real world — and that,
sadly, is a world in which we know that most people do not, and in the immediate future will not, give
substantial amounts to overseas aid agencies. We know, too, that at least in the next year, the United
States Government is not going to meet even the very modest Umited Nations-recommended target of
0.7 percent of gross national product; at the moment it lags far below that, at 0.09 percent, not even
half of Japan's 0.22 percent or a tenth of Denmark's 0.97 percent. Thus, we know that the money we can
give beyond that theoretical ''fair share'' is still going to save lives that would otherwise be lost. While
the idea that no one need do more than his or her fair share is a powerful one, should it prevail if we
know that others are not doing their fair share and that children will die preventable deaths unless we
do more than our fair share? That would be taking fairness too far.
Thus, this ground for limiting how much we ought to give also fails. In the world as it is now, I can see no
escape from the conclusion that each one of us with wealth surplus to his or her essential needs should
be giving most of it to help people suffering from poverty so dire as to be life-threatening. That's right:
I'm saying that you shouldn't buy that new car, take that cruise, redecorate the house or get that pricey
new suit. After all, a $1,000 suit could save five children's lives.
So how does my philosophy break down in dollars and cents? An American household with an income of
$50,000 spends around $30,000 annually on necessities, according to the Conference Board, a nonprofit
economic research organization. Therefore, for a household bringing in $50,000 a year, donations to
help the world's poor should be as close as possible to $20,000. The $30,000 required for necessities
holds for higher incomes as well. So a household making $100,000 could cut a yearly check for $70,000.
Again, the formula is simple: whatever money you're spending on luxuries, not necessities, should be
Now, evolutionary psychologists tell us that human nature just isn't sufficiently altruistic to make it
plausible that many people will sacrifice so much for strangers. On the facts of human nature, they
might be right, but they would be wrong to draw a moral conclusion from those facts. If it is the case
that we ought to do things that, predictably, most of us won't do, then let's face that fact head-on. Then,
if we value the life of a child more than going to fancy restaurants, the next time we dine out we will
know that we could have done something better with our money. If that makes living a morally decent
life extremely arduous, well, then that is the way things are. If we don't do it, then we should at least
know that we are failing to live a morally decent life — not because it is good to wallow in guilt but
because knowing where we should be going is the first step toward heading in that direction.
When Bob first grasped the dilemma that faced him as he stood by that railway switch, he must have
thought how extraordinarily unlucky he was to be placed in a situation in which he must choose
between the life of an innocent child and the sacrifice of most of his savings. But he was not unlucky at
all. We are all in that situation.
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“The Ugly Truth About Beauty” by Dave Barry
If you're a man, at some point a woman will ask you how she looks.
"How do I look?" she'll ask.
You must be careful how you answer this question. The best technique is to form an honest yet sensitive
opinion, then collapse on the floor with some kind of fatal seizure. Trust me, this is the easiest way out.
Because you will never come up with the right answer.
The problem is that women generally do not think of their looks in the same way that men do. Most
men form an opinion of how they look in the seventh grade, and they stick to it for the rest of their lives.
Some men form the opinion that they are irresistible stud muffins, and they do not change this opinion
even when their faces sag and their noses bloat to the size of eggplants and their eyebrows grow
together to form what appears to be a giant forehead-dwelling tropical caterpillar.
Most men, I believe, think of themselves as average-looking. Men will think this even if their faces cause
heart failure in cattle at a range of 300 yards. Being average does not bother them; average is fine for
men. This is why men never ask anybody how they look. Their primary form of beauty care is to shave
themselves, which is essentially the same form of beauty care that they give to their lawns. If, at the end
of his four-minute daily beauty regimen, a man has managed to wipe most of the shaving cream out of
his hair and is not bleeding too badly, he feels that he has done all he can, so he stops thinking about his
appearance and devotes his mind to more critical issues, such as the Super Bowl.
Women do not look at themselves this way. If I had to express, in three words, what most women think
about their appearance, those words would be: "not good enough." No matter how attractive a woman
may appear to others, when she looks at herself in the mirror, she thinks, "woof." She thinks that at any
moment a municipal animal-control officer is going to throw a net over her and haul her off to the
Why do women have such low self-esteem? There are many complex psychological and societal reasons,
by which I mean "Barbie." Girls grow up playing with a doll proportioned such that, if it were human, it
would be seven feet tall and weigh 81 pounds, of which 53 pounds would be bosoms. This is a difficult
appearance standard to live up to, especially when you contrast it with the standard set for little boys by
their dolls . . . excuse me, by their action figures. Most of the action figures that my son played with
when he was little were hideous looking. For example, he was fond of an action figure (part of the He-
Man series) called "Buzz-Off," who
was part human, part flying insect. Buzz-Off was not a looker. But he was extremely self-confident. You
could not imagine Buzz-Off saying to the other action figures, "Do you think these wings makes my hips
But women grow up thinking they need to look like Barbie, which for most women is impossible,
although there is a multibillion-dollar beauty industry devoted to convincing women that they must try. I
once saw an Oprah show wherein supermodel Cindy Crawford dispensed makeup tips to the studio
audience. Cindy had all these middle-aged women apply beauty products to their faces; she stressed
how important it was to apply them in a certain way, using the tips of their fingers. All the women
dutifully did this, even though it was obvious to any sane observer that no matter how carefully they
applied these products, they would never look remotely like Cindy Crawford, who is some kind of
I'm not saying that men are superior. I'm just saying that you're not going to get a group of middle-aged
men to sit in a room and apply cosmetics to themselves under the instruction of Brad Pitt, in hopes of
looking more like him. Men would realize that this task was pointless and demeaning. They would find
some way to bolster their self-esteem that did not require looking like Brad Pitt. They would say to Brad,
"Oh YEAH? Well what do you know about LAWN CARE, pretty boy?"
Of course many women will argue that the reason they become obsessed with trying to look like Cindy
Crawford is that men, being as shallow as a drop of spit, WANT women to look that way. To which I have
1. Hey, just because WE'RE idiots, that does not mean YOU have to be; and
2. Men don't even notice 97 percent of the beauty efforts you make anyway. Take fingernails. The
average woman spends 5,000 hours per year worrying about her fingernails; I have never once, in more
than 40 years of listening to men talk about women, heard a man say, "She has a nice set of fingernails!"
Many men would not notice if a woman had upward of four hands.
Anyway, to get back to my original point: If you're a man, and a woman asks you how she looks, you're
in big trouble. Obviously, you can't say she looks bad. But you also can't say that she looks great,
because she'll think you're lying, because she has spent countless hours, with the help of the
multibillion-dollar beauty industry, obsessing about the differences between herself and Cindy
Crawford. Also, she suspects that you're not qualified to judge anybody's appearance. This is because
you have shaving cream in your hair.