Conservatives this week finally found their response to liberals' favorite Mitt Romney story, his tale of strapping the family dog Seamus to his roof. The answer came in a passage in Obama's "Dreams of My Father" in which the President admits that, as a young boy in Indonesia, he once ate a dog for dinner.
With Lolo, I learned how to eat small green chill peppers raw with dinner (plenty of rice), and, away from the dinner table, I was introduced to dog meat (tough), snake meat (tougher), and roasted grasshopper (crunchy).
Obama is unlikely to be rejected in November for eating the local food as a 7-year-old, though the juxtaposition of these two stories does underscore the extreme discomfort that exists in this country around the idea that some dogs are pets and some dogs are dinner.
And dogs are not, in fact, widely eaten in Indonesia either. Due to its predominantly Muslim population, which considers dog meat haram, the country has a considerably smaller dog-meat trade than some other Southeast Asian countries. Amongst non-Muslims, dog is often eaten as a festive dish at weddings or on holidays.
These images (and the vastly more horrifying ones that emerged from a recent investigation into the dog-meat trade in China) are certainly jarring, but the fact of the matter is that the squeamishness and outrage that this subject seems to generate is somewhat misplaced. When I raised this issue with Matt Prescott, who is the Food Policy Director at the Humane Society of the United States, he brushed it off:
Abusing dogs for their meat is certainly horrible. Though it’s important to note that the way chickens and pigs are abused on U.S. factory farms is also horrific, with animals crammed into tiny cages and crates, suffering immensely for much of their lives.
If that's the case, we should probably drop this whole obscure Indonesian dog meat issue and ask both the candidates about these pictures. I won't hold my breath.