Post Mortem

Cross-cultural perceptions in food choice

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 7/13/2020 12:51:22 PM IST

 The proud tweets of the Nagaland Chief Secretary about the cabinet’s decision on banning the sale of dog meat in Nagaland were well received by the animal activists and individuals from mainland India. However, this decision did not please the many Nagas. I appreciate the government for the concern and steps taken against the cruelty of animals. Yet, the statement, “The State Government has decided to ban… the sale of dog meat, both cooked and uncooked,” is nothing but dictating the food choice of the people. Isn’t this violating the right to food provisions? Instead of banning commercial import and trading of dogs and dog markets, the law shouldconcern the food safety regulations, including the sale of dog meat. We all agree that wet markets in Nagaland are unhygienic.

It is a pity to see that rather than giving a befitting reply to those NGOs and individuals, who made an exaggerated criticism discriminating the Nagas over eating dog meat, the government timidly submitted to their pressure and emotions, just because others find Nagas culture alien and intolerable. What next? Tell Nagas to eat only gluten-free food because others say so? This is hypocrisy at its finest. I would not endorse the state that takes its citizens for a ride where the wind blows.

It is imperative to note that dog meat is not popular, nor it is a traditional food of the Nagas. The majority of the Naga families prefer dogs as pets and companions, and not as a source of food. It is not as People for Animals in India (who barely know Nagaland) assume. Few people consume dog meat, and they do itvery seldom. In any case, eating dog meat in no way impair the image of the Nagas, nor make us savages. Whosoever assumes that, apparently has had no exposure beyond their communal confinements, and it only conveys their naive temperament. It is all about the cross-cultural perspectives. Nagas have ethnic practices distinct from other Indian cultures. We cannot afford to compromise this simply to please others.

Many Indians worship cows and consider them as sacred, whereas, for the rest of the world, it appears bizarre and insane. The bottom line is, what is right to them is wrong to us, and what is right for us is wrong to them. 

Nagaland Government does not have to be wrong to the Nagas while trying to be right for others. Who is more valuable for the state government? Them or us?

The food choice differs from country to country, and province to province. Simply because one section of the community considers a dog as a companion, and find it strange to see others eating dog meat, does not mean the rest have to adhere to their perceptions. It is significant to maintain the principle of “Give respect and get respect.” 

The glaring hypocrisies surrounding the animal activist against eating dog meat in Nagaland somewhat appear to be overreacting without understanding the reality of the society they are discrediting. The so-called animal activists, with full of bigotries in their perceptions often fail to look at the opinions and the context of other communities. It is blatantly exasperating that trying to alter the lifestyle of Nagas and its culture, which they find unfavourable, is nothing but cultural ethnocentrism. 

Cruelty against animals and killing and selling animals for consumption are two different things. The example of the former is the order of shooting dogs issued by some village councils. Such verdict, of course, has to be intervened and condemned.

I am astonished and startled about the fact that the Nagaland Government acted sensitive towards others’ emotions, and overlook the sentiments of the Naga community, whom they represent. 

The state cabinets ought to reverse and retract their decisions about banning dog meat in the state. Adopt proper regulations against animal cruelty, and food safety, but do not dictate the citizens on what to eat, and what not to eat under the pressure of others. Let us be proud of who we are.

Philip Nyam 

Phom, Geneva

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