Prose: An Email to Monique Truong from The New York Times

From: ——————- <———>
: February 22, 2005 11:59:02 PM GMT+01:00
: ——
: an op-ed

Dear Ms. Truong,

This might be a long shot, but our eye was caught by an A.P. story out of Hawaii yesterday (that I’m attaching below) that we wondered might provide a good Op-Ed topic for you. We all still remember your Summerscapes piece for us. For this to work, it would have to be a defense (though not necessarily a strong defense) of eating dogs and the role it plays, or not,   in Asian culture. What do you think?




HEADLINE: Ethnic debate stirred by bill that would ban eating of dogs and cats in Hawaii

BYLINE: By JEANNETTE J. LEE, Associated Press Writer



A state legislator is pushing a bill that would ban the slaughter of dogs and cats for food, drawing protests from members of some Asian ethnic groups who believe the measure is aimed at unfounded and racist stereotypes of their cultures.

Animal rights groups pushed for the bill’s introduction this month, even though joint investigations last year by the Hawaiian Humane Society and Animal Crimestoppers yielded no proof that anyone uses the pets as food.

State Rep. Glenn Wakai, who introduced the measure, said it is aimed at stemming the growth of a “cottage industry” with the potential to threaten public health. He said news reports last August about dogs being stolen and butchered in some Oahu neighborhoods proves there’s a problem.

Eating dog meat is tolerated in some Asian cultures, but many families from Asia settled in Hawaii generations ago and now consider the practice repugnant.

The measure was scheduled for a vote in the House this week, but the state Senate has not scheduled a hearing, Wakai said. It would make it a felony to kill, purchase or distribute any dog or cat for human consumption.

The news reports he cited were based largely on tips from Carroll Cox, president of the local environmental activist group Envirowatch, who said his own undercover investigation found evidence of the practice on Oahu.

But investigations of two of those tips came up empty, said Letha DeCaires, a Honolulu police detective and a coordinator for Animal Crimestoppers, part of the local nonprofit Crimestoppers program.

“Either the Humane Society or the police department followed through with every tip that we had,” DeCaires said. “There was no evidence of slaughterhouse equipment, butchering tools, or anything to substantiate such claims at the time we visited the locations.”

Cox claims the Humane Society mishandled the cases and blew his cover by alerting the media to his investigation.

“It is commonplace in Hawaii. It’s a practice that has been known, noted and documented and no one has touched it because it’s a cultural issue,” Cox said.

State Rep. Alex Sonson says the proposed measure is a reaction to hearsay and would harm the image of Filipinos, Koreans and other Asian ethnic groups who make up the majority of the state’s population.

“It perpetuates this myth that every Filipino is eating it,” Sonson said. “But they’re not.”

Frank Wu, dean of Wayne State University Law School in Detroit, believes the issue of eating dog is stressed “to caricature and condemn particular populations,” namely Chinese, Koreans, Vietnamese and other Asians. Wu wrote about dog-eating in his book “Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White.”

Wakai said race is irrelevant to his proposed legislation.

“There’s no language in the bill that distinguishes certain ethnic groups or cultures of partaking in this type of practice,” Wakai said.

Rather, it is aimed at protecting pets or companion animals, said Jodi Buckman, director of animal protection services for the Denver-based American Humane Association.

“I cannot imagine this issue arising with the intent of racial and cultural bias,” Buckman said.

The slaughter and sale of dogs, cats or other animals considered companions is prohibited only in California, Delaware, Georgia, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey and New York.

Honolulu resident Kim Soiti, who has a dog and two cats, thinks Wakai’s bill should be passed even if there is no evidence that anyone in the state is consuming dog or cat meat.

“Cats and dogs are great companions. They’re not stupid. They have emotions,” said Soiti. “Dogs and cats are generally household pets and are like part of the family.”

On the Net:
Animal Crimestoppers:



Staff editor, Op-Ed

The New York Times




* editor’s note: on November 27, 2006, The New York Times ran the Op-Ed piece “My Life as A Dog” by Jonathan Safran Foer.   In the October 31, 2009 edition of The Wall Street Journal, Foer would publish the article “Let Them Eat Dog: A Modest Proposal for Tossing Fido in the Oven,” which includes a recipe for “Filipino Stewed Dog, Wedding Style”.

One thought on “Prose: An Email to Monique Truong from The New York Times

  1. Aha, a variation of “When did you stop beating your wife?” What was the outcome? I wonder what would happen if the word “pork” was substituted for “dog.” After all, we all know pigs are highly intelligent animals… Is there a demarcation or a values hierarchy of animals?

    By the way, let it be noted that Jonathan Swift’s original “A Modest Proposal” was a SATIRICAL response to English grumblings that the Irish were multiplying too fast and stressing the food supply. Nothing, of course, on the fact that the Irish famine was caused by British ships leaving Ireland daily loaded with food, leaving the Irish to starve.