Petting Dogs and Eating Burgers: An Open Letter to Animal “Lovers”

From the food at In-N-Out Burger to the cute little kittens at Petco, we absolutely love animals! Before I start, let me just clarify that this piece is not an angry, elitist plea for everyone to go vegan. It’s just so baffling that we love animals so much — in two vastly opposing ways. I wanted to do some research on how we came to have this dichotomy in America and so many other societies.

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In the wake of new high-fat and low-carb diet trends claiming to be based loosely on “how our ancestors ate,” I decided to do some research on when humans started eating animals. Based on the fossil record, it is widely theorized that the first human ancestors came around about five to seven million years ago, and that the first humans appeared around two million years ago (History.com). It turns out that these Paleolithic diets that are trending right now are only based on two specific human ancestors — Homo erectus and Neanderthalis. They’re not our first ancestors, but our most recent ones from around two million years ago (The Scientific American).

Homo erectus are theorized to have started eating meat approximately 2.5 million years ago. This point is when the climate and food sources began to drastically change for our ancestors. Vast climate variation occurred throughout Africa during this time (where Homo erectus resided), causing forests to turn into grasslands. Due to this change, they had to adapt. Homo erectus began using tools and eating meat, and they were possibly the first of our ancestors to cook (Discovery News). Humans probably changed their diet to deal with difficult times, and more modern humans just decided to keep eating meat. However, our guts suggest that we're doing something wrong. The human gut more closely resembles and functions like those of monkeys and apes (The Scientific American). These animals occasionally eat insects and other small animals, but their diets are mainly plants — a vast difference from the ginormous portion sizes of meat found in the typical American diet. 

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So, why do American people love eating cows and pigs, while petting dogs and cats at the same time? The answer is not really clear. The thing is, Americans hate it when other people kill the animals that we love. Which, well, is pretty hypocritical. There is always a huge outcry when American people hear about the annual Yulin Dog Festival in China or about animal testing for commercial products. But...Americans eat pigs? And pigs are actually smarter than dogs. So why is it utterly terrible when others eat dogs but completely acceptable and normal when Americans eat pigs? There really is no difference between “pet” animals and “food” animals. If you eat one kind, getting angry at another culture for eating a different kind is just downright racist.

So why are people so hypocritical when it comes to loving some animals and eating others? The simple answer is that it’s just American culture, and that there is no overarching truth to why we have this dichotomy in our society. I believe that it’s important to critically think and question social norms. Just because something is the way it is doesn’t mean it’s “correct.” There are many correct answers, and we shouldn’t just fixate on one because it’s what’s normal.