I promised myself when I started this that I would try my best to avoid anything outright offensive. Cheeky, yes. Outrageous, maybe. But just not outright offensive. I am actually a little bit proud of myself that I have made it all the way to the second post before hitting this low water mark (pun intended). But seriously, I am not actually really trying to offend here. But offend I will, I am sure. Again, for those of you who know me, this probably doesn't come as a huge shock. For those that don't, all I ask is that you bear with me. I'll try to make it all better in the end.
So, I found myself wondering why we don't eat dolphins. We seem to eat just about everything else in the sea, whether it tastes good or not. We eat it cooked, steamed, and raw. It has been posited that most Scottish food is based on a dare, but whoever came up with that theory missed the even larger dare that Icelandic folk have been involved in with their seafood. And, it's not like there is just one crazy dish, there are dozens. I won't go into huge detail, but one obvious example is Rotted Shark. Bury a shark in sand for six months and then serve cold. And don’t eat too much. It is easy to point overseas to consumption of strange foods, but right here in the
Of course, it is hard to read anything about the movie The Cove, a film about dolphin slaughtering in
Here are some of the arguments I came up with.
It is inhumane to eat dolphins. This argument is really a non-starter. We, as dwellers in the 21st century have been made to feel bad about eating pretty much any meat. We’d like to believe that our food dies of old age after a nice life on an organic, free-range, eco-friendly commune with all sorts of enrichment activities to keep the animals happy until they give their lives willingly for our sustenance. Let’s be honest here- if the range were really that free, the chickens wouldn't come back. I wouldn't. Well, unless there was a really good buffet before the neck-wringing. But the reality is that we are made to feel guilty about pretty much everything we eat. But we still eat all the things we know we shouldn’t. There is a huge difference between what we like to think we do and what we actually do.
Dolphins are endangered. This argument fails on two points. First, it is not true – most common dolphin species aren’t endangered . Second, Americans don't really seem to care about endangered seafood. We eat it all the time. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a great resource to use to help know what to avoid and what to eat. But, in all honesty, no matter how endangered the Chilean sea bass is, there is a small part of me that can't help but want to order it and damn the consequences. Fortunately for the Chilean sea bass, in almost all instances, the larger part of me that is incredibly cheap starts to look elsewhere on the menu for lower cost fare. So, just a fair warning - if you are picking up the tab, I will probably offend you on two counts. First, you will be a party to the further destruction of an overfished species. Second, I'm pretty much ordering the priciest thing on the menu.
Dolphins are mammals. Well, this one fails pretty easily. We eat plenty of mammals. I am sure cows would love for the mammal rule to be put into place.
Dolphins are higher mammals. Obviously, eating humans is something pretty much all of us avoid. Pretty much. But not all. It turns out that not eating humans is a pretty good practice, due to some nasty side effects . I would have to say next on the "do not eat" list would have to be chimpanzees. I'd throw gorillas on the list next, and then orang utans, and then a bunch of other higher primates. But it is not entirely obvious where to go next. Which mammal gets the next "get out of jail card”? It seems somewhat arbitrary.
Dolphins are crazy smart. Well, dolphins are crazy smart. They can do tricks. They can rescue stranded boaters. They can problem solve. But, as smart as they are, they rank below ferrets and minks. Which, although rarely served as a dish, sometimes end up as part of a stole. But, probably most damning, pigs often end up on the Animal Mensa list, and the distinction doesn’t really seem to be helping them.
And, to round out the last three: Dolphins are cute; dolphins communicate; dolphins frequently have names. Again, we fall back on the humble pig here. Pigs are cute, at least until they get too large. Dolphins whistle and click, pigs squeal. Flipper, meet Wilbur.
In the end, what it domes down to is that dolphins are called "dolphins". If dolphins were called something else, their consumption would be more palatable. It all comes down to marketing - rename the dolphin the "sea pig", and suddenly people would be rushing out to eat them. Most Americans love pork, or more precisely, bacon. We'll put bacon on anything. And when it's not handy to carry around a rasher of bacon to layer on top of all of our meals, we can carry around Bacon Salt. There are nine flavors available to date and it is also vegetarian and kosher. Think about that for a second. We love bacon so much that we want to make sure that the people who have vowed not to eat pork or even _any_ meat are not deprived of it's flavor.
The English have a long history of rebranding their meats. When was the last time you sat down for a nice big helping of cow. You didn't. We have a name for the animal, a name for the meat, and then all sorts of names for different cuts and servings of the meat. And cows are not the only example. We call the animal pigs or swine, but the meat pork. Bambi was a deer, but after the hunter is done with him, it's venison. We use all sorts of these methods to distance ourselves from our carnivorous natures. This naming tradition came to us during the hundreds of years when control of
So, I am not asking you to rush out and catch yourself a dolphin, rebrand it a sea pig, and consume it in one sitting. I'm just asking you to let the concept of a sea pig to rattle around in your brain for a bit and to realize that a lot of the way that the world works is really based in large part on how we as individuals, as a community, and as a nation think that the world works. If you can change the way that you think and pass that change on to those around you, you can change the world. Plus, "sea pig" sounds funny.