Let’s Eat Dog! Cancel Culture and the Death of Satire

by Noah Ebner | August 05, 2020

eating dog

I know what you’re thinking, so before we get started let me assure you that dog meat is absolutely delicious. No, it doesn’t taste just like chicken, but it is similar in texture and taste to other lean animals with relatively large muscles like horses and kangaroos. And unlike cow, dog cooks exceptionally well with very low amounts of fat or marble. It is, perhaps, the lean cut of meat par excellence. Have no fear: your taste buds will not be disappointed by the introduction of dog meat at the dinner table.

Now that we’ve gotten the obvious reservations about eating dog out of the way, let us elaborate on the many virtues of, and justifications for, consuming the domestic dog. Firstly, there is an excess of dogs, worldwide. During a time when environmental catastrophe and responsible global citizenship is on everyone’s minds, dog is an excellent substitute, and hopefully an eventual replacement for, the cow, whose ecological footprint is literally destroying the planet. Unlike cows, dogs do not require acres upon acres of grassland – nor the concomitant tonnage of water to support that grassland – to be raised for market. Nobody is clearcutting the Amazon for a dog farm. Dogs, like pigs, are scavengers and can literally be fed trash up until the point of slaughter.

Apropos of the first point, stray dogs roam the streets in abundance in the underdeveloped world precisely because they have easy access to trash (in the developed world, where we have different sanitation standards, stray dogs don’t fare so well). In those parts of the world where regular access to affordable meat is most difficult, dogs are the perfect solution! Dogs provide a valuable source of animal protein to the people who need it most with the added benefit of ridding the streets of stray dogs which, in turn, would boost tourism with no negative consequences. We could quite literally cure world hunger by culling stray dogs from the streets of the poorest countries. No importation of foreign suppliers or first world intervention is needed at all for this solution. All it would take is simple policy changes and a minor consumer attitude adjustment.

Which brings me to my next point: the only reason our ancestors domesticated dogs in the first place was because they provided a reliable and easy source of mobile protein. Dogs helped us to transition from hunter-gathering to sedentary civilization precisely because we no longer had to follow the herd – the “herd” now followed us. Every historical record available, from modern day Turkey, to Ireland, to Mexico, has provided ample evidence that dogs were kept for dinner long before they were kept for pets. To this day, dogs comprise a staple of human diet in many parts of Asia and Africa.

Some of us in the new world might find this reality a bit unpleasant, but consider that even in Europe, where consumption of dog meat isn’t so popular (with the exception of Switzerland, where dog is a Christmas delicacy), horse meat is readily available everywhere; from the corner snack shop in Ghent to the finest restaurants in Paris. Only in North America are we so finicky about where exactly our meat comes from. It’s time to put our snobbery aside and face the facts: dogs are cheaply raised, already abundant, and a far superior alternative to vegetarianism for the overwhelming majority of the planet.

Furthermore, imagine the amount of government resources that would be freed up if every domestic animal shelter in the world were closed. Let’s face it: animal shelters are really "dog shelters" because there’s no reason at all to keep a cat in a shelter. (This is, at the end of the day, truly what separates cats from dogs - dogs are domesticated to the point of total reliance on human caretakers while cats are exaptated or “pre-adapted” to living symbiotically with humans. If humans disappeared from the planet tomorrow, domestic dogs would be extinct in six months while cats wouldn’t even notice we were gone.) That’s more money that could go to social programs, police, housing, parks and recreation, etc. You could essentially eliminate animal control in urban areas which, in many parts of the US, is a burden placed entirely on the police (Defund dogs, not the police!). Redirecting that money to other much worthier projects and providing easier access to cheap protein for the masses is a goal that everyone can get behind!

Well then … To some of you, it will be patently obvious that the argument outlined above is entirely satirical. The rest of you have either stopped reading or are furiously trying to cancel me in the Court of Twitter by taking things I’ve said entirely out of context. This is exactly what happened to Rip a few months back when he used the same sort of satirical approach to advance the argument that we should eat homeless people on his podcast. The stupidest and most ignorant among us – the bottom 3%, as Rip refers to them – are unfortunately often the loudest voices in the room, so theirs are the voices that get heard most clearly (Coronavirus says, “Hold my beer!”).

But what’s the point of this sort of satire? This is the question that this article has set out to answer. Rip and I are both teachers by trade – he a strength coach, me a college professor – which means we’ve both spent a good portion of our lives reflecting on pedagogy. What has always drawn me to Rip is that while the subjects we teach have absolutely nothing in common, our method of teaching is nearly identical; we both use satire to get our points across. Oxford defines satire as, “the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.”

When Rip says, let’s cure homelessness and hunger by eating homeless people, thus killing two birds with one stone(r), this send-up perfectly fits the definition of satire. Rip has nothing at all against homeless people as individuals, nor does he wish to engage in the consumption of human flesh. You’ll just have to trust me when I say this because I know the man personally, and, more importantly, I know a whole lot of people who know him – none of whom have ever said anything short of he’s the nicest, most compassionate, and most generous person they have ever met, in spite of the fact that he would cringe at the thought of people describing him that way (turns out, he’s also incredibly humble). He is that mythical figure that would actually give you the shirt off his back (some might say this is only because he wears a thick coat of hair under that shirt, but I digress…).

The ire of Rip’s satire is not directed at homeless people. Rather it is directed at the sort of bleeding-heart liberal that would simultaneously be offended by the suggestion of eating the most downtrodden of our society while also voting for and supporting government regimes that create the exact conditions under which homelessness flourishes and thrives. Rip hates the political and economic policies that create and allow homelessness, as we all should.

Similarly, I have nothing at all against dogs (for the record, neither does Rip. He actually prefers the company of dogs to that of people. How a rabid individualist came to cherish an animal that completely depends on him for even its most basic needs is the topic for a separate essay). I have kept a few as pets and never eaten dog meat. As my name suggests, I love all animals, even the ones that aren’t so tasty. I do however, have an acute disdain for “dog people”; that all-to-common breed of dog owner that thinks that dogs should enjoy the same status as people and that their only use to humans should be as a fetish of self-reflection to be coddled and adored. Unlike the dog person, I understand the value of the social good that dogs provide, one whose importance far outweighs whatever individual benefit you or I may gain by keeping them as pets. Dogs are incredibly valuable in animal research, as work animals, and as a dietary staple in some cultures.

So why use satire to get this point across? I can’t speak for Rip, but what I’ve learned in over a decade of teaching is that most people cannot be convinced of anything by the straightforward presentation of facts and logical arguments. (The repetition of the same questions on the Starting Strength forum and podcast should provide ample evidence for this assertion.) In order to educate the majority of people, you must first force them to unlearn what they’ve previously accepted as The Truth. (Similarly, the ratio of CrossFitters to Starting Strengthers aptly illustrates this point.) For most people, it is simply not enough to say, here is why this is true and here are the facts. A teacher who truly wants to reach students must first expose why the accepted knowledge is flawed and wrong.

Again, facts fall woefully short when it comes to this task. I try to communicate through the use of satire; I push certain points of view to the logical extreme and exaggerate their clauses in order to expose their flaws. If the question is, how do we solve the homelessness problem? Pushing the status quo answer of simply ignoring the problem until it fixes itself to the extreme results in, well, let’s just eat them. It’s easy to see how that solution is totally absurd. From our new vantage point at this extreme distance, we should ideally be able to look back and more clearly see how the current status quo is equally absurd. That is the function of satire. It intentionally forces a death grip on wrong-headed ways of thinking, with the goal of forcing silly ideas to slip through the fingers.

Unfortunately, as of late, we live in an overly punitive culture where words are totally divorced from their context and every clause of every sentence is taken as fundamental truth – if it suits the hearer. Intention no longer matters when it comes to things we say. We are currently living in a perverted version of Orwell’s dystopian future, where thought police enforce the use of Newspeak and satire is suppressed as being heretical to Doublethink. What Orwell failed to anticipate is that social media has totally eclipsed the purview of Big Brother. Sadly, it turns out that people self-police far more effectively than the government could ever hope to.

“Cancel Culture” and satire cannot coexist under the same social regime. Satire, by definition, is shocking. It’s intentionally insensitive and inherently offensive to some people. That is precisely the point. Rip and I are trying to shock our students out of their ignorance. When it works, it works brilliantly. Often it doesn’t work, but we didn’t want to teach those people anyway, because they’re never going to learn. Cancel culture only wants to police, not learn, so by necessity it must stifle satire and limit the number of tools available in the pedagological tool shed.

I issue this jeremiad at this particular historical moment with the sincere hope that cancel culture passes us by. As Starting Strength continues to gain momentum and popularity, that hope grows increasingly Pollyannaish (this is especially true now that Joe Rogan has announced he’s moving to Texas. Rip can no longer use having to travel to LA as an excuse to ignore Joe’s phone calls). It’s also naive to hope that cooler heads will soon prevail and cancel culture will be canceled. The parallel growth of cancel culture and Starting Strength means that a reckoning is likely inevitable. Our strength as a community will be stressed. Fortunately for us, stress is the necessary precursor to getting stronger.

Discuss in Forums

Starting Strength Weekly Report

Highlights from the StartingStrength Community. Browse archives.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.