Friday, February 19, 2010

Cat Stew, Anyone?

Italian television cooking host Beppe Biggazi, a grandfatherly 77-year-old chef, was suspended from the state-run RAI television network for singing the praises of "cat stew," a Tuscan delicacy.

It is almost painful to watch the clip of Biggazi describing the stew to his twentysomething co-host, Eliza Isoardi. The video is posted here, and even though it's in Italian, Isoardi's reaction just about says it all.

At one point, Biggazi said: "Cat, soaked for three days in the running water of a stream, comes out with its meat white and I assure you I have eaten it many times.... Now there will be letters from nature lovers. Why don't they defend rabbits?" (Source)

You can almost anticipate the standard animal rights response to this situation. "What hypocrites! Do they think the life of a cat is any more sacred than that of a pig or chicken or cow?"

But rather than being self-righteous about the matter and condemning the Italian television station for suspending Biggazi, we should instead find reason to be hopeful that people love their dogs and cats so much that they find it taboo to eat them.

The brilliant author and animal rights advocate Jonathan Safran Foer - who converted actress Natalie Portman to veganism with his stunning book Eating Animals (I have it, I've read it, and I say: check it out!) - points out that even though it is legal to make dog stew in 44 states in the United States, people refuse to do it and they will not eat it. Why? Because people love dogs. And they love cats.

Safran Foer points out that pigs are "every bit as intelligent and feeling" as dogs and cats. The key to success for the animal rights movement - if it is to be successful - is to carefully navigate the psychological maze within the mind of meat eaters until they arrive at that special place in their hearts that cherishes the lives of dogs and cats. Once we get there, that is the place to cultivate compassion for pigs, cows, chickens and other factory farm animals, as well as all animals being killed and exploited.

The way to get to that spot in people's hearts is not through anger. It's not through finger pointing. It's not through calling people hypocrites.

The way to get there is through reason, truth and compassion. Call it a pipe dream, but if animal rights advocates follow this course and stick carefully to it, there will come a day when eating beef or pork or chicken stew is every bit as taboo as eating cat stew.

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