Cultural experts in New Zealand have spoken out against a proposed ban on the eating of dog meat, saying to do so would be culturally insensitive and deprive people of a viable food source in tough economic times.
The comments come after Tongan man Paea Taufa was caught cooking his dog in the back yard of his Mangere home, prompting a public outcry across and a call from the SPCA demanding a law change.
It is currently not illegal to kill a dog for consumption provided it is done in a humane way and the dog dose not suffer.
Euroasia director Kenneth Leong, whose company specialises in cultural consultancy, said the uproar was "a demonstration of cultural insensitivity bordering on ignorance and hypocrisy".
Mr Leong, who describes himself as a Malaysian Chinese New Zealander, said he was opposed to any ban on eating dogs, pointing out that New Zealand is a nation of meat eaters.
"Why ban the consumption of one type of meat but not another?" he said on his blog.
"The argument that we cannot kill dogs for food because they are cute/friendly/small/intelligent doesn't wash."
Mr Leong said arguments that it was inhumane were also misguided and pointed to the recent controversy over pigs being kept in sow crates before being slaughtered.
While he personally didn't eat dog meat, it was not within the mandate of the SPCA to determine what was culturally appropriate and what was not, he said.
New Zealanders needed to be more open minded and culturally aware. Cultural clashes were inevitable as New Zealand became more multicultural and minority populations grew, he said.
"No one's asking dog lovers to actually consume dog meat, it's just being more culturally aware."
Mr Taufa, who sparked the row, told the Sunday News he didn't know there was anything wrong with cooking his dog.
"I didn't know I couldn't cook the dog. In Tonga, anytime there I cook the dog and it is okay. Dog is good food."
Auckland University social scientist Jeanie Benson blamed the incident on the economic climate rather than cultural norms and criticised the media coverage of the event, saying it stoked anti-immigration sentiment.
"The issue is not really the barbecuing or anything of dog," she said.
"The issue is more about firstly how the media jumps on something... and they do this with great abandon and they don't think about that they're actually bullying and that they're actually opening up what I would call immigrant debate."
She said some people could not afford to keep pets and food was becoming increasingly expensive "and it's just very easy to immigrant bash and jump on them".
She said the laws were useless and "rather stupid".
"I actually think it's just more about poverty".
While conceding she didn't know how prevalent it was for people in New Zealand to eat dogs, she said it was more important to ask why.
"I think the really sad thing to do in this economic climate is to just jump on these people and bring up the anti-immigration polarised debates."
SPCA inspectors said at the time that there was evidence that killing and eating dogs was becoming more common in New Zealand.
Mr Leong said it wasn't the law that needed to be changed: "It's the hypocritical mindset of protesters coming from the second biggest meat-eating country in the world that does," he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News