The Korean, apparently has been having some issues with this individual, who has decided to attack a post he made about eating dog. I thought it would be a good opportunity to address the issue, and to cover something that, for some reason, I didn't address in this blog at the time. I guess because I just didn't think it was that big of a deal. This "something" is that I have, in fact, eaten dog.
Back before The Bartender opened his new bar and became insanely busy, we were meeting every Saturday and Sunday for a couple of hours in the afternoon before he opened. The Bartender is someone who's company I enjoy immensely, because he's sort of atypical for the sort we Westerners usually get to spend much time with here in the ROK -- that is, from a solidly working class background, un-college educated and, for the most part, non-English speaking. Which is why we were meeting. He wanted to improve his English and I, having tried 'language exchange' with English speaking Koreans before and having found it to be far too easy for me to weasel my way out of the Korean speaking part of the deal, thought it would be a good opportunity. We mostly matched each other, nearly literally word for word, English and Korean.
Before The Bartender, there were two main categories that the reactions of nearly every Korean I spoke with about dog eating would fall into:
1. No! I would never do that! That is an old thing from the past and modern Koreans could never imagine it.
2. Temporal baiting about how common and amazing it was, until I looked them dead in the face and said I wanted to try it, at which point they would usually turn red with embarrassment and change the subject.
The Bartender, however, is (refreshingly) a man without pretenses. And -- it's probably important to note -- a blossoming ajeosshi at the age of 35. One Saturday afternoon in early fall while the weather was still sticky and warm, we strolled along the streets downtown pecking back and forth in our little mix of English and Korean, trying to decide what we wanted to eat.
"아.... 보신탕? ...아! 보신탕! 네."
"몰라요. I've never tried it."
"Never? ... Oh! Never!? Really? Today, eating!"
And that was that. We took a couple of turns, headed off the main road into the market, a couple of more turns, down an alley and straight into a restaurant completely empty, save for the old couple who owned the restaurant (and seemed to know The Bartender quite well). The couple seemed quite uncomfortable with having a foreigner in the establishment, and told The Bartender as much, but he reassured them that I knew exactly what it was I was doing there, and that everything was fine.
It was a decidedly anticlimactic experience. No cute little puppy face with dead eyes showed up on a plate in front of me and, contrary to what I had gotten out of a younger Korean guy particularly keen on trying to stir up some kind of Western outrage from within me, there was not a scrap of fur in sight.
Am I grossing you out? Well, just calm the fuck down.
What did appear in front of us was a large, broad pot of the typical mix of rice water heavily saturated with red chilli powder and vegetables, with an all-together tame looking sort of meat in the mix. No bones. No little puppy dog ears. Just what could have been, for all appearances, a normal Korean beef stew. And the taste was much the same.
Now, before you lay into me, there are two things you should know:
1. I was a vegetarian for nearly six years, and would probably still be one, had I not made the decision to give it up when moving to Korea, so that I wouldn't be limited in my experience of the culture (ie the food). I get it. I get animal rights and animal cruelty and all such other kind of stuff. Don't start in on the lectures. I'll get back to why you shouldn't in a minute.
2. I come from a family heavy in farming on both sides. Both of my grandfathers owned farms and, while one was far more directly involved than the other, both grandfathers had cattle on their farms. And not just so that they could lead free and happy lives until dying sweetly in their sleep of natural causes in old age.
That's my background. That's my culture. Did my grandfathers lock thousands of cows in small pens and feed them ground up bits of other cattle? No. The cows wandered around on hundreds of acres of land, feeding on grain and hay, and just about whatever else struck their fancy. I see absolutely nothing wrong, at the end of the day, with said cattle being carted off and made into good, healthy sustenance for ordinary people to live off of. I don't. I'm never going to. Don't even bother to try to make the argument with me. It's an honest living, an honest meal and, in my humble (but firm) opinion, an honest way of life.
Now. Somebody please. Please. Explain to me, in all sincere honesty -- from the very bottom of the core of all of the honesty with yourself that you can muster -- what is the difference between eating cow and eating dog? There isn't one. Not morally, at least. I respect personal preferences and hangups -- you don't want to eat dog because you have a dog and you think they're adorable and they have "personalities" or whatever, that's fine. I'm not going to get into your business and tell you that's not how it should be. That's your personal decision. Me, personally, I spent a hell of a lot of time around cows when I was younger, and I'm quite fond of them. They're strangely bashful animals, and they do react to you, to your presence. That's not going to stop me from having a fucking hamburger.
Now. To take on the tougher crowd -- the ones who make arguments about how the dogs are raised/killed/whatever. Listen. Unless you are a. a vegan who does not purchase leather products, or other animal-based goods or b. someone who assesses the source of their consumed animal products extensively (including restaurant food -- that is what we're talking about here, after all) to be sure that the sources are all organic, free range, grain-fed, what have you .... our discussion ends here. Especially if you are American. You are simply delusional if you think that anything that could possibly happen to dogs here in Korea could be worse than what happens to nearly all of the animals raised for profit in the States. That's it -- that's all there is to it. I'm sorry that you are so divorced from reality that you can't bear to process what that fast food you consume or those leather boots you wear actually involve, but that is not my (or anyone else's) problem.
As for the vegans and fully conscious consumers, fair enough. You have the right to make the argument that eating dog is morally and ethically unsound. But, at the end of the day, that is still just your opinion. And if you condemn a culture that eats dog any more strongly than you condemn your own for consuming animal products that come out of practices so cruel the average person would instantly vomit upon observing them, then you're still making a mistake. But I imagine, at this point down the line, I'm pretty much addressing an empty room.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the eating dog post.