For Dog Meat Nationalism

Recently two youths from Manipur were caught for killing and eating dog meat in Munirka, Delhi. This incident opens up debate on consumption of dog meat again. In India, dog meat consumption is largely confined in the states of Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland. So, the perception of public to beef meat is not same here where beef meat consumption enjoys its place among upper class and liberals apart from Muslims, Dalits and Tribes. Dog meat consumption is restricted to tribal communities and this brings out the significance of its cultural identity on food.

Consumption of dog meat is alien to so called ‘mainstream’ society and when incidences of dog meat consumption are noticed in metropolitan cities, legal cases follow. The inability of societal perception and legal aspect to comprehend food habit different from theirs is glaring and speaketh of its tone deaf ignorance.The in-your-face racist question “why do they eat dog meat” tells simply of the meeting of different cultures and inability to accommodate differences leading to shaming of people who consume “dog meat”. The legality aspect and the public notion are shaped, dictated and guided by popular and dominant culture. Basically, laws are not absolute, they need to be reframed every now and then. Public notion is rooted to one’s culture it belongs to, even if it empathises with different cultures, everything continues to be pre determined on what should be consumed and likewise.

Food as cultural identity in regards to dog meat is an under researched area in South Asia or places where dog meat is consumed; in the case of Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram- consumption of dog meat is very much in their cultures (for some it is a choice) and can be counted as an expression of their cultural identity. When practice like this happens in places like Delhi, it is meted with sneering and disgust from the pedestal of high moral ground. There are counter arguments which come in in the form of dogs being loyal and friendly, which is fine but dictating what one should eat. Dogs which are raised for pets and for consumption are different, and tribals have been doing that for ages. But for tribals when they are faced with multiple realities threatening their existence, meat consumption means survival and celebration of life. Bringing emotion to food is a privilege where upper class people can afford, and the apathy towards people consuming dog meat has a tone of racism. And to think over recent Supreme Court ruling, just as beef consumption has the possibility to be included under privacy as fundamental right, so does dog consumption or for that matter even cat, or pork!

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Richard Kamei Written by:

Richard Kamei, PhD Candidate, School of Management and Labour Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

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