Animal rights advocates, led by former actress Bridgett Bardot, are urging the World Cup committee to boycott countries that routinely consume dogmeat as food. The country most affected would be South Korea, which is bidding for the 2002 World Cup games. The fracas over dogmeat reveals quite vividly the semantic relativity of food. Few Americans would even consider eating a dog, yet in other parts of the world dogmeat is considered a delicacy. One wonders whether in South Korea dogs are also prized as pets. If not, what takes their place as man's best friend?
In our world one person's food is another person's pet. This past week a lot of my students took the oath of vegetarianism after we dissected a fetal pig. Of course, I did the same as a child when my parents chopped off the head of my pet rooster and plopped it on my plate expecting me to eat it. This little youthful experience triggered a Pavlovian reaction in me that kept me away from chicken for more than a decade. The emergence of reconstituted chicken in the form of chicken sandwiches finally helped me transform my Pavlovian reaction into a Korzybskian (flexible) one.
Despite the wide diversity of preferences for food throughout the world, there is widespread agreement regarding the necessities of human nutrition. The same set of 40-some nutrients are considered essential throughout the developed world. A Korean needs vitamin C as much as an American, although they may get their vitamin C in different ways. The methods of science cut across national borders, largely because of the tremendous predictability they yield us.