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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Tastes Great, Less Filling

Native Americans ate dogs. Lewis and Clark ate dogs. Asians still eat dogs. For instance, the South Korean dog meat industry alone reportedly involves about 1 million dogs, 6,000 restaurants, and 10 percent of the population, according to Slate.com writer William Saletan.

But, as Saletan wisely pointed out in 2002,
You can abstain from meat because you believe that the mental capacity of animals is too close to that of humans. You can eat meat because you believe that it isn't. Either way, you're using a fixed standard. But if you refuse to eat only the meat of "companion" animals—chewing bacon, for example, while telling Koreans that they can't stew Dalmatians—you're saying that the morality of killing depends on habit or even whim.
Exactly.


If we are not careful, science and technology - the pre-eminent way by which we change the world to match our preconceptions of how it ought to be - lead us ineluctably to conclude that all of creation should match our desires. Because we have bent so much of the world to our will, we come to the erroneous conclusion that we can even change the fabric of reality itself.

Thus, we decide whether a member of the species homo sapien can live or die depending on whether or not s/he is "wanted", either in extreme youth, illness or extreme old age. The utility of companion animals undergoes a similar transformation: if we want the cute doggie, we transform it into a quasi-person. If we don't, we eat it.

The hallmark of the culture of death is precisely the attempt to define the world according to our desires instead of recognizing the world exists apart from our desires. The culture of death is a culture of illusion, and we are deeply immersed in it.
Americans spend an astonishing $41 billion a year on their furry friends. That's double the amount shelled out on pets a decade ago, with annual spending expected to hit $52 billion in the next two years, according to a Business Week Article published in August, 2007.
Now, one of the common complaints made against pro-lifers is, "Pro-lifers only care about unborn babies - they ignore the ones already born. They should spend their time helping children already in the world!" Notice how rarely this objection is raised against pet owners.

I recently made this point to Bruce Tomaso, the editor of the religion blog at The Dallas Morning News. From all reports an essentially fallen-away Catholic, Bruce - like most lax Catholics - frequently shows a blatant disrespect for religion in general and Catholic Faith in particular on the DMN blog.

And, as one would expect from a basically anti-Catholic personality, he has a remarkably poor grasp on reality.

For instance, when a drunken Rodney King was recently shot in the face, Bruce felt it an excellent occasion for political jokes. Although I pointed out in the comments section of another article that this was not particularly humorous, he actually defended his post, saying,
And, to answer your question, Yes: Rodney King getting sprayed with buckshot (but not seriously injured) while riding his bicycle, drunk, through the streets of San Bernadino IS funny.
So, in addition to being both remarkably liberal and an anti-Catholic bigot, the Dallas Morning News religion blog editor apparently finds it hilarious when a drunken black man gets shot in the face - he seems to be a racial bigot as well.

Now, compare his reaction to a man being shot to his reaction over the recent death of his dog. A man who cares nothing for black men subjected to random street violence apparently spent thousands of dollars to fix his dog's spinal cord before finally having it killed.

As one might have foreseen, his followers gave him moral support. I, on the other hand, detected a certain lack of consistency, which I pointed out in a comment to his dog's eulogy:
Get over it.
It was a dog.

Why didn't you spend the money on helping poor children instead of having the vet perform surgery?

Oh, that's right - we never chastise pet lovers for the money they spend on pets, do we? I forgot.

Well, you could at least have followed Native American Indian practice and eaten it for supper.
Bruce found this comment, which apparently struck too close to home, to be "hateful." So, I am now banned from commenting on any articles posted by him on the Dallas Morning News religion blog.

The situation is rather surreal: The Dallas Morning News defends jokes about a drunken black man being shot in the face, but will not permit discussion concerning the consumption of certain kinds of animal meat.

After all, that's hateful.

Update: CNN reports on a related event.

19 comments:

Amy said...

So, here's the rule

How about "a little charity goes a long way" or "you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar"?

Despite being an anti-Catholic hypocrite, the man was grieving the loss of the dog he loved, and that's not the time to score points in an argument. You were uncharitable in your response, and for that you owe him an apology.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Do I owe him an apology for having confused an animal with a person?

I don't think I do.

Having one's illusions stripped away is painful, but it's not something that needs an apology.

Fr Joe Mack said...

I'll weigh in with you on this one, Steve. The guy needs a serious wake-up call and unfortunately some folks just don't respond to politically correct "playing nice".

Search me, but I haven't yet found a single Gospel verse with Jesus telling his disciples to "be nice" to each other....

Patrick said...

I just had a conversation with someone who believed that all animals go to heaven because they have souls and that harming an "innocent animal" in any way was evil, but had no issue with abortion all the way to up actual delivery. Their logic was so twisted, especially when they considered their dog a member of their family, more important to him than his own kids "until they grew a little older and became thinking beings" (actual words). Scary as it is, it's even more scary that this is the type of society that this commentator is trying to tap into.

Michael said...

Actually, Steve, you owe him an apology for acting like a complete jerk and being deliberately cruel.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

I do not remember any of the saints apologizing to the pagans for having destroyed the pagan idols they were used to worshiping.

Spending thousands of dollars on a dog is idolatry. I know I am not a saint, but I don't believe I need to apologize for attacking idols.

Americans need to stop their love affair with animals, treating them as human persons.

In this particular age of man, I have no sympathy for people who engage in this kind of idolatry.

Amy said...

Do I owe him an apology for having confused an animal with a person?

I don't think I do.


No, that wasn't my point. My point was your lack of charity and bad timing. The way you presented your argument indicates that scoring points and winning the argument was more important than winning his soul. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers.

As I said, you owe him an apology for your lack of charity, and pray that the self-righteousness of your tone doesn't drive him further from God.

Fr. Joe Mack:Search me, but I haven't yet found a single Gospel verse with Jesus telling his disciples to "be nice" to each other....

No, but He did say "Love one another as I have loved you." As an impartial observer (and all I've read was Steve's link to the post, and his self-report of what he said and why), there was no love in his response, just a deliberate insult.

The quote about catching more flies with honey than vinegar is from St. Francis de Sales. He had no fear about speaking the truth despite the serious repercussions, but it was always the truth in charity.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Alright, Amy, you want me to follow the example of Christ. Let's see.

Mat 23:13 But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites...
Mat 23:16 Woe to you, blind guides...

Mat 3:7 And seeing many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them: Ye brood of vipers, who hath shewed you to flee from the wrath to come?
Luk 3:7 He said therefore to the multitudes that went forth to be baptized by him: Ye offspring of vipers, who hath shewed you to flee from the wrath to come?
(Those two are admittedly, John the Baptist, but...)

Mat 12:34 O generation of vipers, how can you speak good things, whereas you are evil? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
Mat 23:33 You serpents, generation of vipers, how will you flee from the judgment of hell?

John 2:14-15 And he found in the temple them that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting. And when he had made, as it were, a scourge of little cords, he drove them all out of the temple, the sheep also and the oxen: and the money of the changers he poured out, and the tables he overthrew.

Not a whole lot of honey in those passages. There are more like them.

Paul was provoked by idols but spoke nicely to the pagans because they didn't know any better. He was not so nice to those who DID know better, or should have known better.

Bruce Tomaso claims to be Catholic. Thus, it would be disrespectful to hold him to the same low standard we would hold pagans to.

He should know better. He's under obligation to know better.

Patrick said...

Often, charity requires a well-intended verbal slap to the face to wake someone from their faltering path. Christ knew this, as he reserved his worst phrases for those who should have known better. Political correctness and charity doesn't work for people who should know better and there is no cruelty in pointing out their faltering ways. In fact, it is the most charitable of acts if it keeps them from continuing that way of thinking. Remember, to be the fishers of men you may have to use hooks, because honey-laiden words will only get you flies.

Michael said...

Patrick said Often, charity requires a well-intended verbal slap to the face to wake someone from their faltering path.

and

Remember, to be the fishers of men you may have to use hooks, because honey-laiden words will only get you flies.

OK, I'll go along: I've known too many people turned away from God by self-appointed "disciples" like Steve. Steve, Amy is right and you are wrong.

Jordan Potter said...

I've known too many people turned away from God by self-appointed "disciples" like Steve.

Self-appointed? Steve conferred baptism and confirmation on himself??

Steve, Amy is right and you are wrong.

Well, with such cogent reasoning as that, who could disagree with you? You have expressed, but not substantiated, your opinion that Steve was "acting like a complete jerk and being deliberately cruel." Amy has expressed her opinion that it was uncharitable and ill-timed to challenge a man who values his deceased pet above his fellow man so soon after the pet's death, but I haven't seen anything to support her accusation that Steve had no love in his response, only a deliberate insult, that Steve's tone was self-righteous. It does appear, however, that you and Amy may not have a proper, Catholic understanding of what "charity" is. For indeed, if Amy is right, then Jesus also lacked charity, which is simply an absurd conclusion.

Michael said...

Jordan, anyone who says "it's just a dog" to a pet owner who has just had that dog die is an ass, and an uncharitable one at that. It's you who doesn't understand charity, whether Christian or any other kind. Steve has acted in a way that turns decent people from him; he has acted in a way that St. Francis would denounce him for; and he has demonstrated once again that he is not righteous, but self righteous.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Michael, today I received a phone call from a Catholic farmer I know in Texas.

He told me that he has never paid a vet bill or a euthanasia bill in his life. When the family dogs get sick, he gives them "a lead injection", dumps their bodies by the side of the road and gets a new one.

Is it possible that pet owners who react as you indicate set far too much store by their animals? Is your reaction based in a Catholic understanding of the world, or have you inadvertently become more attached to animals than a Catholic should be?

If Bruce or you or anyone else grieved over the loss of an automobile or a precious gem, would you say my response was wrong?

What if I had told such a person, "It's just a car. Get over it. On the bright side, the thing can at least be cannibalized at the junk yard to fix other cars."

Would I have been a heartless jerk to say such a thing to the owner of a valuable car? I don't think so.

Why is a dog any different?

Michael said...

Why is a dog any different?

Steve, that you would say that without irony makes it clear that you will never understand the viciousness and indecency of which you are guilty. You're like a sociopath who has no sense of guilt or remorse for the crimes he's committed.

The farmer you cite is evil, vicious, and cowardly. I would never allow my children near either of you.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Michael, you haven't answered the question.

Dogs do not go to heaven, they do not go to hell. Jesus never healed any animal, He never wept over any animal. Apart from riding an ass into Jerusalem, we have no evidence He ever even interacted with an animal.

The Temple sacrificed animals day in, day out for thousands of years and Jesus said not a word against it.

The only time an animal is saved from anything in Scripture is during the Flood - at which point God permits Noah to begin eating flesh.

We shouldn't torture animals, but there's nothing wrong with eating them. There is no Catholic prohibition on the consumption of pets. What, exactly, is the problem here?

Jordan Potter said...

Jordan, anyone who says "it's just a dog" to a pet owner who has just had that dog die is an ass, and an uncharitable one at that.

How so? Are all pet owners idolaters of their pets, and is it really asinine and uncharitable to tell idolaters of their pets that they shouldn't care more about pets than they do about human beings, even if their pets have just dead? You keep making assertions without even trying to explain why you think you are right.

It's you who doesn't understand charity, whether Christian or any other kind.

There's another one of those unsubstantiated assertions of yours. How do you know that I don't understand charity?

Steve has acted in a way that turns decent people from him;

Perhaps it does turn decent people from him, but what you really seem to be saying is, "I am right and decent people agree with me, and those who disagree with me on this point are not decent or else they would agree with me."

he has acted in a way that St. Francis would denounce him for;

I wouldn't be so sure of that.

and he has demonstrated once again that he is not righteous, but self righteous.

Once again?

Look, Michael, it's really simple: either come up with something substantial to back up your beliefs, or bow out. So far all you're doing is expressing outrage and hurling ad hominems, engaging in circular reasoning and because-I-said-so, and uttering condemnations. You're not giving us anything to work with, just a big wad of emotion and wild irrational fulminations.

YaknYeti said...

Steve,

If your blog conversations with Tomaso have been regular and consistently confrontational, such that he would understand your tone, what you've posted makes sense. But if you posted on his web site only once or twice and expect him to get your point from that, you probably should have added a little more explanation (and even sympathy).

Sure, spending thousands of dollars on dog surgery is excessive. But is it more excessive than other "entertainment" spending in this country (movies, books, video games, pro sports)? Tomaso's love is commendable, if misplaced, and a little acknowledgment of that wouldn't be bad.

Patrick said...

"Tomaso's love is commendable, if misplaced, and a little acknowledgment of that wouldn't be bad."
Wait, are you talking about his love of the dead dog and not his love for cracking jokes about a drunken black man getting shot in the face? It's hard to see how anyone can say that the priorities of this individual are commendable or decent. There are some seriously twisted people out there.

YaknYeti said...

Patrick,

Wait, are you talking about his love of the dead dog and not his love for cracking jokes about a drunken black man getting shot in the face?

Only the dog, yes.

It's hard to see how anyone can say that the priorities of this individual are commendable or decent. There are some seriously twisted people out there.

... of whom I am chief, to paraphrase St. Paul.

Steve made a judgment call on how he should approach Tomaso. That judgment call shocked a number of readers, myself included, when we read it, because we don't know Steve's history with Tomaso. Having chatted with Steve in person (Peoria Theology on Tap) and read some of his work on Theology of the Body, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt in this case. But I was definitely surprised at the harshness of his tone, because it isn't something I would use when posting on a stranger's blog.