Pit bull on the menu

Pit bull cross

Pit bull cross

Man bites dog

Journalists are taught that ‘Dog bites man’ is not newsworthy, but ‘Man bites dog’ is. Paea Taufa found this out when he was discovered cooking his pitbull terrier cross in an umu (oven) pit in Māngere.  Apparently, dogs are cooked and eaten in Tonga.  As it turns out, because the pit bull cross was killed humanely, what he did wasn’t illegal. So why the fuss? Ultimately, it’s a cultural issue surrounding eating pets.

Lambs at pet day

Lambs at pet day

No eating pets

My grandmother used to get a pet lamb for her birthday when she was little. Every year her lamb would disappear not long before Christmas dinner. Naturally, she refused to eat Christmas roast the year she discovered it was her pet. Because we build emotional ties with pets, the thought of eating them upsets us. This aversion is even stronger to animals that are solely pets. While in New Zealand we may make pets out of animals we raise for food (chickens, lambs, calves, ducks), we will not eat animals that are domestic pets (cats or dogs). This is a cultural aversion, described in Te Ara’s Pets entry as the pet paradox. While we have a strong aversion to eating cats or dogs, in other parts of the world the cultural aversion to pork or beef is as strong, or stronger.

Kuri - Polynesian dog

Kurī - Polynesian dog

Dog eating in New Zealand history

Cooking and eating dogs, was for a while, an important way to access protein in New Zealand. The four main meat animals today are the pig, sheep, cow and chicken. In Polynesia the four meat animals were the pig, dog, rat and chicken. Māori only managed to bring the dog (kurī) and rat (kiore) to Aotearoa New Zealand. As the sole edible land mammals, both were considered delicacies. The explorer James Cook, following Polynesian custom, ate dog, as did Joseph Banks. Cook said it was as tasty as English lamb. West Coast explorer Thomas Brunner was forced to eat his dog Rover and earned the name ‘Kai Kurī’ (dog eater) for his troubles. As various stock animals were introduced into New Zealand from the late 1700s, kurī gradually fell off the menu.

One comment added so far

  1. Comment made by Kerryn || August 25th, 2009

    It would be very interesting to know whether the SPCA representatives are vegetarian. Are the against the slaughter and mistreatment of all animals or just pets? That would give us a clear indication of whether they are displaying the ‘pet paradox’, especially since the mutt in question was deemed to have been killed ‘humanely’ (such a strange word). The pet paradox is harmful to organisations like the SPCA because it weakens their arguments. But, I guess they think they need to be pragmatic in a meat-eating world. Protecting pets in the easier job.

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