To Eat Or Not To Eat: The Politics of Taste Buds |

To Eat Or Not To Eat: The Politics of Taste Buds |

On July 3, 2020, the Chief Secretary of Nagaland tweeted, "The State Government has decided to ban commercial import and trading of dogs and dog markets and also the sale of dog meat, both cooked and uncooked. Appreciate the wise decision taken by the State’s Cabinet @Manekagandhibjp @Neiphiu_Rio".

Earlier in March, Mizoram also banned the consumption and sale of dog meat.

While this move has garnered widespread applause from animal rights groups and dog lovers, it has also invited the ire of people who detest the hypocrisy and selective outrage that motivated this decision.

Activists who speak for animals, demand their ethical treatment, whose compassion transcends their ties to their own species have brandished the practice of consuming dog meat as "savage" and "unethical".

To Eat Or Not To Eat: The Politics of Taste Buds |

The likes of prominent activists like Hema Choudhary went on a rampage on social media, verbally abusing the people of Nagaland and shamelessly using racist slurs, even threatening to cut off necks.

Is eating a dog not just as cruel as eating a chicken or a goat?

What makes one culinary practice "uncivilized" and the other a socially accepted and less frowned upon norm?

In a country of diverse cultures and ethnicities, contrasting sensibilities and habits are bound to exist. Whose sensibilities serve as the accepted norm? Who decides what should be on our plates? Is the push for homogeneity not immoral too?

The Northeast has long been ridiculed for the different culinary traditions the various tribes have carried on for centuries. A variety of animals, wild and domesticated, ranging from boars, snakes, insects, etc. are savored, often to the disgust and contempt of the mainland.

Indigenous groups in the region are already under the threat of losing their ancestral lands, livelihoods, and culture. Several movements for self-determination, political, social, and economic rights are underway.

Is an attack on their food culture warranted?

To preserve one's culture and tradition is a constitutional right. Banning a certain type of meat that is not consumed by a majority of the country and hence considered "unsavory" only reveals the bigotry, utter lack of respect and intolerance for unique cultural practices and heritage.

To Eat Or Not To Eat: The Politics of Taste Buds |

The Beef Ban in 2017 had evoked mass outrage by millions across the country. Many protested the unjust imposition of one religious group's sensibilities over the other. The argument revolved around the inalienable hallmark of our nation, that of secularism and tolerance.

But the majority of the people who had fiercely advocated for the freedom to exercise one's freedom to culinary independence are nowhere to be seen now. This selective outrage/activism reeks of hypocrisy and exposes the neglect and indifference that the east has been routinely been subjected to.

Non-vegetarians are bullying dog eaters online, hurling racist expletives, insulting Nagas, and their way of life. Consuming chicken or beef is just as amoral as eating a dog. This ban is masquerading as a civilizing mission, to absolve indigenous people of their perceived "barbaric" customs.

To Eat Or Not To Eat: The Politics of Taste Buds |
Chicken meat processing at a large scale.

The narrative that has been built around this issue centers around saving "Man's best friend" from the evil clutches of "brutes", who have no compassion for animals.

This misconception is a result of ignorance and lack of knowledge about the history of the tribes. Many Naga tribes value dogs as companions who used to accompany them on hunting trips in the past.

Dogs hold deep cultural and spiritual significance in Naga society and are not just a source of protein. Richard Kamei, in his article, "Dog meat ban in Nagaland is about showing Naga tribes as uncivilized", for East Mojo writes, "Naga tribes do not discriminate animals on the basis of some animals to be more equal than others, and they treat them equally, be it for food or domestication, and they don’t let greed take over them which may lead to exploitation of animals for more meat or simply commercialization".

To paint an entire community as savage and dehumanizing them is outright racist and demeaning.

Indigenous people around the world are fighting to preserve their age-old practices that stand in contrast to the dominant and hegemonic belief systems of those in power. The Inuits, an aboriginal group that has historically relied on whale hunting for sustenance have also been under fire for engaging in the killing of endangered whales.

To Eat Or Not To Eat: The Politics of Taste Buds |
Greenpeace ocean liners scouting and defending aquatic life.

Organizations like Greenpeace who are global crusaders fighting climate change and other critical environmental issues only recently recognized the need to acknowledge and respect indigenous customs, given that it doesn't cause the extinction of a species.

A 2014 article in the National Post titled "Save (most of) the whales: Greenpeace now supports Inuit hunting, but Native groups still wary", stated that, "Greenpeace respects the rights of Clyde River and other indigenous communities to sustainable, traditional hunting and fishing”, said Greenpeace Arctic campaigner Farrah Khan in a statement.

It is not wrong to be a proponent of one's beliefs, but imposing it on other people, while labeling them as lesser human beings for following practices that are culturally in contrast to your own is not justified.

To Eat Or Not To Eat: The Politics of Taste Buds |

There is no universal norm, no mode of existence that is inherently more civilized or better. If one fights against the pathetic treatment meted out to animals, they cannot let their activism be marred with prejudice, racial bias, and double standards. It defeats the purpose of their own ideals and principles.

Targetting one group and being completely ignorant of their heritage and culture is highly distasteful. Selective outrage needs to be condemned and shunned. All cultures and races should be equally respected.

Share with us your thoughts on the issue in the comments section below.


#eat #eating #dogmeat #hemachaudhaury #animalactivist #indigeniousfood #greenpeace #beefban #supremecourt #nagaland #mizoram #northeastindia #northeast #dog #dehumanizing #deaththreats #meatconsumption #ayeyouth #youmatter

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