February 4, 2009
Would you eat your own pet? Someone else will slaughter, prepare, season and cook it for you.
No fucking way. And it’s not like I’m squeamish about eating animals or preparing them for cooking, or even hunting, really. I just couldn’t consign an animal that I honestly regard as a friend to the kitchen because I’d get a huge payout. If I were starving to death then it would be another story, but this is a case of greed, not need.
One thing I wonder, though, is how my response to this dare is colored by what kind of pet we’re talking about. In my case, it’s a dog–one who has been with my family for almost 12 years (since I picked her out as a puppy) and who knows to wait by the back door when my mother says that I’m coming home. But what if I had a fish? I’m afraid that Goldie would be in the frying pan before you could say Arthur Treacher’s. Or a rabbit? Hmm…who am I to turn my nose up at a nice fricassee? What if I was, like many of my friends, a cat-owner? Actually, that would probably be a “no way,” but not due to any streak of sentimentality. As we all know, cats are filthy.
The pets I had growing up that I remember most were dogs (a cock-a-poo we got when I was five that I named “Michelle” because my mother told me poodles were French and so was the name; a pekignese that couldn’t come down the stairs by herself that I called “Cynthia” for reasons I can no longer recall). I have vivid memories of forcing these dogs to ride around in a toy pink plastic baby carriage and to sit in baskets that I would swing over my head; I was under the highly mistaken impression that we were both having fun. When I think back on these scenes, mostly I feel very, very sorry for them. But also, I feel a fondness that would guarantee their survival (were they still alive) in the face of any amount of money.
Hang on, though: I had a lot of other pets I tend not to remember quite so lovingly. More hamsters than I can count (there was a special one I named “Sandy” – oh man, if you could only have seen her roll around the kitchen floor in her clear plastic ball); a salamander (which I would actually pick up and touch and oh my god it grosses me out to even think about it); a slew of guppies and goldfish (including a trio that lived for almost a year until one turned white and developed red spots and infected and killed the other two); and at one point, a tank full of tadpoles (from a nearby creek. Ultimately, I left them at school one evening after science fair and never saw them again). Frankly, I would probably eat any of those guys (not Sandy, for god’s sake) now – although it should be noted that if you’d asked my fifth grade self to even consider such a thing, I would have instantly started crying. Evidence, I guess, that my heart is slowly – but surely! –turning to stone.
I have no pets now and haven’t for years, but my mother has cats (Zoë, Jillian) that she occasionally accidentally calls by my name (your parents miss you more than they burden you with. It’s true.) and treats like prize ponies. I wouldn’t eat them, because 1) cats have always seemed a little like weird, furry aliens to me and 2) it would devastate her. I can only imagine the stunned, confused look on her face upon being told. I picture myself yelling to make her understand me through her shocked stupor while pointing at my stomach: “Did you hear me? I said, I ate your cat. For money.”
So, there’s my answer: It depends.