Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Food For Thought: Reflections on Double Standards

I love this image.

About ten years ago, I was in Vietnam and I was horrified to see dogs and cats squirming in small cages, barely bigger than their own bodies, a thought that still horrifies me.

When I came back to the United States, these images continued to haunt me in my memories. Those poor animals, in that sweltering heat, cramped together, with hardly any room to move around.

The Vietnamese sold these cats and dogs in open-air markets as pets. Eventually, the animals would be freed and sent to live with people. But seeing them in those cages, in triple-digit, equatorial heat and muggy humidity, nearly broke my heart.

It took me a while - another seven years - to put two and two together and realize that what we do in North America to pigs and chickens and cows is really no different.

We have social taboos about cramming dogs and cats into tight, tiny cages like the ones pictured above, where they hardly have any room to move around. Sadly, we don't have any taboos about dropping them off at shelters and letter other people do our dirty work for us. But there should be a taboo against that.

Nor are there any taboos in our society about cramming livestock into cold, dark spaces, where they'll live short lives of being frightened and disoriented. There should be a taboo against that, too.

Images like this one help bring our double standards into perspective. We should feel an instinctive revulsion about the prospect of imprisoning any animal in a tight space, not meant to be inhabited by a sentient being, as much as we feel that revulsion toward doing the same thing to a human being.

The Vietnamese typically set their animals free from those little cages. Can we say the same about our pigs, chickens and cows?


  1. I was struck by the fact that what you write irrefutable shows that "taboos" are absolutely no guide at all to what is just or fair or 'right'. What is 'taboo' in one place is common and accepted in another.

    There aren't any shortcuts, we can't rely on convention, 'taboos' or 'tradition' to guide us in the direction of justice, compassion and life-affirmation. It usually isn't difficult to see that direction...it does however take a willingness to look.

  2. I eat a lot more Pig than Dog just because it is much more available here, Nowadays society has weird and out dated views of which meats are 'socially exceptionable' and which are not, so some sections of society get upset when you eat different animals.
    Thank you, 'planet of the animals' for your open-mindedness and support of peoples right to eat meat.