Honolulu Lite
Charles Memminger

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Eating dogs is a sign
of bad taste

Reason No. 235 as to why it's great to live in Hawaii: The only state where laws must be passed to keep people from eating dogs and cats.

Yes, the state Legislature is considering a bill that would make eating dogs and cats illegal. I suspect it originally came up as a bill to stop people from eating dogs, but the cat lobby put its paw down and said if eating dogs is going to be illegal, then eating cats should be, too. Sadly, the hamster, gerbil, parakeet and gecko lobby missed the boat on this legislation.

A hearing was held last week on the proposal to stop human consumption and trafficking in dog or cat meat. That's the actual wording in the bill: "dog or cat meat." See, this is where I feel kind of stupid. I never considered cats or dogs meat. Sure, my dog Boomer gets on my nerves sometimes, but I'd never consider throwing him on the barbecue.

There have been urban legends of certain cultures in Hawaii indulging in "the other dark meat" (i.e., livestock that goes woof-woof instead of moo). I heard the same rumors when I lived in Guam and when I visited the Philippines and South Korea. And although I did eat some rather exotic food at buffets in all three places, I'm pretty sure I never inadvertently ingested Rover Ravioli.

On the other hand, I always considered the consumption of pet products something of a "don't ask, don't tell" kind of deal, so how do you know?

APPARENTLY, the term "dog food" doesn't refer in some parts of Hawaii merely to food that is consumed by dogs.

Last year, the police investigated reports of someone selling pooch pupus out of the back of a van. And the head of a group called EnviroWatch says he went undercover and bought dogs from people who were selling them for the dining room table, not for the back yard. Carrol Cox even has a photo on his Web site (envirowatch.org) of the dog, Koko, he bought for $100 from an alleged meat marketer. Koko's a cute mutt, but I'd never describe him as tasty-looking.

Bad dog-food puns and joking aside, it's outrageous to think anyone is eating dogs in Hawaii. To say it's part of someone's cultural tradition is a red herring. (Red herrings, by the way, are OK to eat and delicious sautéed.)

There are many "cultural traditions" that aren't practiced today, cannibalism being among the least alarming. It's the culture you are living in at the moment that decides social norms.

For instance, if you live in Hawaii, where it takes longer to adopt a cat or dog from the humane society than it does for your wife to give birth and get the child home, then cats and dogs are not to be considered part of a party platter.

Hawaii hasn't reached the ridiculous levels of places like Berkeley, Calif., where dogs and cats not only are considered legal citizens, but are entitled to their own bedrooms, TV tables and rights of inheritance. We're not that crazy. Yet. But we do consider our pets part of our families. Boomer is known down at the animal hospital as "Boomer Memminger," and God knows I've spent more money on that knucklehead than my dad spent on my entire college education.

So if it takes making eating dogs and cats a felony, then let's do it. I can't support, however, the eating of mice, gerbils, parakeets and geckos as anything more than a misdemeanor.

Charles Memminger, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists' 2004 First Place Award winner for humor writing, appears Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. E-mail cmemminger@starbulletin.com

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