Monday, August 31, 2015

Man bites dog

Like most Trinbagonians everything I know about the ancient civilisation of China and the customs of Chinese people comes from watching Bruce Lee movies. That's why I wasn't surprised by the public outcry over a video that went viral last week showing Chinese people appearing to skin a dog for eating.

Citizens will fully support you if you need to enter a secret Kung-Fu tournament to avenge your dead father. But just don't do anything weird while you're there, like eat dog meat.
The people in the video were most likely recent Chinese migrants. In China eating dog meat is not widely practiced but some do include it as part of their diet and it is acceptable throughout many Asian cultures. The circumstances surrounding the video are unclear, including whether it was even filmed here. But in our culture, not having all the facts about something doesn't mean you can't still exhibit self-righteous outrage over it.

And all over social media people were indeed outraged that people could be so cruel to a dog. You perhaps can't blame them for this; after all in our culture dogs are pets, not food. They are our loving companions. We treat them just like humans. Specifically homeless humans. That's why we ignore the many abandoned, sick, or starving stray dogs living on our streets. It's not because we don't care. It's just, let's face it; they probably have drug and alcohol problems. Stray dogs need to be willing to take the first step and not be stray anymore.

The other issue some people expressed concern with was whether or not Chinese restaurants were surreptitiously serving dog meat to customers. It is a bizarre idea but it was a fear whose flames were fanned by the Minister of Health. The minister warned that Chinese restaurants could be capturing and cooking stray dogs and using chemicals and they could alter the taste of dog meat to make it taste more like beef or chicken.

It's a plan that sounds so complicated and time consuming, that if it were true, we should all be really impressed. Firstly because it would mean Chinese restaurants have found an innovative and delicious way to deal with the stray dog population. And secondly, it would also mean Chinese restaurants are putting far more effort and thought into creating tasty meals at value for money than the majority of places serving food in T&T.

Eating dog meat may not be to everyone's tastes but those of us rushing to condemn it as inhumane or uncivilised should perhaps visit any one of our abattoirs first. Or perhaps learn about how animals are killed in halal slaughter. There are many things about our own cultural cuisine that probably equally disgusts Chinese migrants. Like eating pig feet, cow heel soup or drinking coffee from Rituals. Just because we have an emotional attachment to dogs in our culture, doesn't mean they are any less tasty.
Plus we already eat a wide range of animals. In fact hunters use dogs to track and kill animals considered part of our cultural diet like manicou and agouti.

There are serious questions to be asked surrounding the way citizens treat wildlife like these. We are always ready to eat anything with the words “wild meat” in front of it. As much as the thought of eating dog meat repulses me, if someone offered me “geera wild pot hound”, I have to admit I'll probably eat it.

What is especially alarming though is the level of xenophobia now being directed at Chinese migrants. Social media have been filled with outrageous online posts calling for Chinese migrants to “Go back home”. Though presumably, only after they have finished building all our major infrastructural projects.

Tempting as it may be, it's unfair to judge our society by morons on Facebook. But it's clear we know little about the lives of the many Chinese migrants who have come here.
Who are they? How is their life here? What challenges are they facing?
These are all important questions that we should be asking. But as any news editor will tell you, the only stories that really grab our attention are along the likes of “Man bites Dog''.

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