In the West, when it comes to which meat is for dinner, we nearly always choose beef, pork, or chicken. Yet cows and pigs are only two of more than 5,000 species of mammals, and chicken is one of nearly 10,000 species of birds. Meanwhile, at different times in history and in different places around the world, people have enjoyed dining on all sorts of animals, from elephants to flamingos to jellyfish. So how do individuals and cultures decide which animals to eat, and which they don’t? And why is this decision so divisive? Why do many Americans look with such horror on those who eat, say, horse or dog? Listen in this episode for a healthy serving of myth busting—about domestication, disgust, and deliciousness—as we explore this thorny question.
Growing up in the United States, Soleil Ho, a journalist and a host of two podcasts, Racist Sandwich and Popaganda, was asked repeatedly whether she ate dog. “I didn’t understand why people thought this,” she told Gastropod, “because we never even talked about eating dog at home.” But as Ho grew up, she came to realize that the question wasn’t born out of curiosity about her Vietnamese family’s dining practices, but rather on “ancient prejudices that the West has had against the East.” The question’s subtext, Ho told us, is “Why would they do that? That’s insane!”