Eating Ethically While Travelling 

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Dog Meat In Vietnam

If there’s one thing you do when travelling to a new part of the world, it’s embrace local cuisine. I rarely shy away from a new dish, but when I do, you can be sure there’s good reason!

While roaming the morning meat market of the northern Vietnamese town of Sapa, my attention was turned to a market stall on which laid several dog’s heads, a cluster of severed paws, and several bags of blood. While this disturbed me somewhat, I couldn’t be too judgmental, after all, I am a meat eater!

Food For Thought

Although I’m not a vegan, I do align myself with vegan philosophy. I guess i’m just a hypocrite about the whole thing. Nonetheless, I do believe in eating “ethically”.

Admittedly, “eating ethically” is a fairly oxymoronic term when used by a meat eater. For me, it simply means to have an awareness of the impact of my dietary habits on the environment at large. Having said that, I struggle to understand why many westerners are guilt free when eating beef, but are disgusted at the mere thought of eating dog meat.

I don’t see why it is acceptable to farm and slaughter one species and not another, as if ones right to life were inherently more sacred than the other. That being said, I’m yet to be totally convinced that eating meat is a necessity in the first place.

Food Or Pet?

In the west, we teach children that a cow is food while a dog is a pet. Unfortunately not every culture shares this sentiment. Eating ethically has become somewhat of a western concept, although it’s still far from perfect.

“The Chinese will eat anything with four legs except the table, and anything that flies except an aeroplane” – Unknown

The truth is, a part of me was curious and tempted to give dog meat a try. And even though I was told that these dogs had been bred for purpose, I just couldn’t bring myself to consume the meat of an animal that I’d only ever known as “man’s best friend”.

Although dog meat is available in Vietnam, keeping them as pets is probably more common. Suffice it to say, I was pleased to hear that the tribe I was staying with preferred to keep dogs as pets!

I was however more surprised to learn that it is in fact legal to eat dog meat in my own country, the United Kingdom!

Pondering over this whole experience later led me to question my entire philosophy. Why had I been ok with eating a camel steak in Egypt and Crocodile in Cambodia, yet felt sick at the idea of consuming dog meat? Is a dog, bred for purpose, more worthy of not being eaten than a camel or a crocodile? And are camels and crocodiles more worthy of not being eaten than a cow or a chicken?

This line of reasoning makes little sense to me. You either eat meat or you don’t. I guess eating ethically isn’t as straight forward as it seems.

The Problem With Eating Whale Meat

Occasionally, local food can be far from glamorous, but sometimes, a local food has the ability to raise serious ethical concerns. An example of this can be found in the consumption of whale meat by Icelanders.

According to an educated local I spoke to on a trip to Iceland, only 2% of Icelanders eat Whale meat on a regular basis. Unfortunately, tourists turn up at Icelandic restaurants with the misconception that whale is a part of the Icelandic experience.

Early Icelandic settlers would have followed the Whales along the coast as they depended on them for sustenance. While this is no longer the case, a sour legacy remains. The sooner tourists cease consuming whale meat, the sooner whaling will stop. I wish I could say the same for the killing and consumption of other species that are today considered delicacies worldwide.

Icelandic restaurants are increasingly taking a stand against whaling by advertising their disapproval of whale meat consumption.

If you happen to be in Iceland, look out for the “whale friendly” sign on the restaurant door. While we may want to indulge in a range of local dishes while on our travels, I think it is important to consider what we are supporting in the process. Eating ethically is worth consideration while travelling, local food isn’t always great.

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