Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Time to Eat the Dog - the new green cuisine

The public reaction to the book Time to Eat the Dog: The Real Guide to Sustainable Living by Robert and Brenda Vale (father/daughter?, husband/wife?, both?) is, for the most part, one of deserved ridicule - and guess what - it ain't gonna stop here.

Maybe you've heard of the book already? It's the one where the Vale braintrust suggests that dogs (and cats as well) should be eaten because their existence is harmful to the environment.

A joke, right? One of those provocative tabloidesque titles meant to create shock and awe and pump up sales? Well, if it is a joke, it's a poor one. Regardless of the nuances within the covers, the suggestion that we should eat our pets because they are impacting on the environment will only give animal haters and abusers more reasons to hate and abuse.

The Vales seem to be taking their own joke rather seriously, though:

Eat your dog - because its carbon footprint is bigger than a Toyota Corolla's.

That's what Wellington city councillors have been told by Victoria University research fellow Brenda Vale, who is an authority on sustainable architecture.

Her latest co-authored book, Time to Eat the Dog, investigates ways to modify behaviour to save energy. It will be published next year.

She told a city council briefing last week that all pets should be edible because their carbon footprints - or pawprints, as the case may be - contribute to global warming.

Acting mayor Ian McKinnon said she explained that "a big dog can have a carbon footprint that is the equivalent to a small car and therefore the best way forward, if you are going to have a pet, is to make sure it is edible".

To enable this to happen, the council would need to ensure that it was legal for humans to eat cats and dogs. Or it could ban traditional pets and let people keep conventional food animals, such as chickens and pigs, in their homes.

Blaming the impending environmental disaster on pets is kind of like me blaming the current global economic meltdown on the fact that Bill didn't pay back the $10 he still owes me for lunch. Sure, the default in repayment might be an aggravating factor in my finances thus contributing to the overall financial debacle but should he really be chopped up, battered and deep fried for it?

Surprisingly, the Vales themselves used to have pets.

"We used to have lots of cats. But we've got to the point where we feel that we shouldn't," Robert Vale said Monday from Wellington. "It's quite sad. We were very fond of our cats."

Well they might be sad but I guess at least their stomaches are full.

Robert: Want some ketchup with that?

Brenda: No, you'll ruin it.

Robert: You know, it tastes surprisingly like chicken or monkey brains - I'm not sure which.

Brenda: Did you try the Siamese yet?

Robert: No, I'm saving the best for last.

Brenda: Speaking of Orientals, I've been eyeballing the neighbour's Pekinese. What a cutie ... pie.

Robert: Oh you don't want to get neighbours angry at us. I'm sure you can pick up something cheap at the pound.

Brenda: Which reminds me, did you take the dog out?

Robert: I took it out of the freezer this morning.

Brenda: Do you think it'll be enough for everyone? You know how the families like to gorge themselves at Thanksgiving.

Robert: Yeah, no kidding. Especially your dad. He's fattening up pretty nicely.

Brenda: What do you mean by that?

Robert: Nothing. Oh, look. I got the wishbone.

Brenda: I wish for a greener world, honey.

Robert: So do I, honey. So do I.

In the spirit of saving the planet through culinary creativity, here's a list of some other things which commenters have suggested should also be eaten because they are harmful to the planet:

1. all animals
2. children
3. neighbours
4. ex-spouses
5. SUVs
6. the Vales' brains
7. oil rigs
8. nuclear missiles
9. farts
10. people who eat cats and dogs

Whether or not the Vales really want people to eat their dogs is debatable and perhaps what the Vales are getting at is that we need to look at how we can reduce our environmental impact in every aspect of our lives and that's all good and fine but the key words there are "our lives". Pushing the blame onto the creatures around us isn't going to solve a problem that is essentially created by humans and perpetuated by humans. It's like when people build their suburbs out further and further into the once wilderness and then complain when bears, coyotes and deer start "invading" their backyards. I can understand not wanting a zoo in one's backyard but the animals aren't the ones doing the invading and killing them is not the solution, at least not a good one.

We're at the point now where we humans have so depleted and ruined the land and resources around us that some people are starting to feel that any other living species which may compete for those same necessities can be considered a threat to our survival and thus deserving of extinction. It's sad to see that this type of human-centric thinking has even infiltrated academia. Of course academia, especially the fringes of it, has always been fraught with misguided, illogical notions.

I think if the Vales were to logically tackle the what-to-eat-to-save-the-environment question head on, they'd realize that the best thing they could consume is, of course, themselves. I'd suggest they start with their feet. It's hard to eat without hands.

And they'll probably want ketchup with that.


K said...

Who has a bigger footprint? Me and my one small dog, or those families (no names) that have 8, 9, 10... even 19 children??

And I'll pass on eating their brains, thanks very much - the stupid might be contagious!

Anonymous said...

Before subscribing to the Dales' hare-brained theory, how about eating less meat? The industrial production of livestock is responsible for 18 per cent of the world's greenhouse gases. The cutting of forests to make room for fields of cattle, the environmental impact of slaughterhouses,transportation costs and the sheer amount of methane gas emitted by cattle herds are all far more damaging to the planet (than dogs & cats). Of course, that would mean humans would actually have to change their habits, so I'm not holding my breath.

Jon said...

Jonathan Swift sugggested the kids some time ago in "A Modest Proposal" I propose that the Vales stop wasting space.

Joanne said...

I think you should move the Vales to the top of the list..however, considering their brain power, that would constitute only a small snack. Well, at least they put paid to the theory of evolving human beings and the development of compassion and empathy....did these idiots get a grant for this????? If so, the person or persons who granted it should be introduced to Hannibal Lecter ..with some fava beans and a nice Chianti....

Cathrine said...

Actually, Fred, this article is very encouraging. Your first sentence tells me that the majority of people are perfectly able to recognise idiocy when they see it.

And, the fact that the Vales are no longer keeping company with cats is very reassuring. Their 'self-sacrifice' has undoubtably made life that much better for the cats who might have had to put up with being in the same room as these dorks.

Dee said...

Even if this book is ridiculous we should all try to engage in Sustainable Pet Care (it's a book I bought last year). If you try to live a "green" life then you should have your pets as part of that life. It's really quite easy. Read the book it's pretty good except for not bringing up the fact that pets should eat raw as that would produce less waste than recyclable bags.

Anonymous said...

Man's best friend is mankind's worst enemy? Really? Because I thought our worst enemy was our own stupidity and egocentrism.

EB said...

A practical guide to leaving a small carbon footprint: Never leave the house. Never have children. Take only shallow breaths to avoid releasing excessive CO2 into the atmosphere. Only eat what is within arm's reach as you sit on the couch, such as mold from the wall or your own flesh, both of which are renewable resources that will grow back after a few weeks. Do not read (waste of paper), connect to the outside world via technology (waste of power), or work (perpetuates a consumer-centric economy whose byproducts will some day end up in landfills). Wallow in self-hatred and guilt until dead.

borderjack said...

Show me a single factory farm that exists exclusively to supply the pet food chain. These people are morons using old data out of context and I can't believe I'm letting my blood boil over them. I read something cute in a paper today: 'save your breath to cool your porridge'. That's what i'm gonna try to do, rather than stew over the Vales, who I'm guessing didn't actually love their cats all that much.

Fred, you must've been a fly on their dinner wall...nicely done.