Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Culture vs. Famine

On the one hand you've got Kenya where 4 million people are starving due to drought and the inability of the government to lay up stores to feed its people in times of famine. On the other hand you've got a New Zealander who wants to help feed Kenyan children. This New Zealander owns a food company. She is willing and has made a special formula to feed to Kenyans as a nutrional supplement. Only this particular Kiwi food enterprise manufacturers dog food.;_ylt=Au_KlEBtm2yRSNZf_H8PEhgZ.3QA;_ylu=X3oDMTA3NW1oMDRpBHNlYwM3NTc

"The offer was very naive and culturally insulting given the meaning of dogs in our culture," he said. "We understand where she was coming from, and we appreciate, but it is culturally unacceptable."
Being called a dog is one of the worst insults in Africa where people generally do not keep dogs as pets. The government says four million people are facing hunger in Kenya due to severe drought. Aid agencies say dozens of people and thousands of livestock have died in recent months. "

It can't be culturally insulting if the woman has no idea that dogs are so despised in Kenya. It's only an insult if that is her intention. A great man once said, "He who takes offense when none is intended is an idiot."

I don't know how I feel about this. On the one hand, everyone has their dignity and asking someone to eat pig slop in our culture would be repugnant. HOWEVER, if you're starving, if four million people are at least malnourished and the drought showing no signs of slacking, what then? I can fathom being hungry enough to eat anything. Hell, I could scarf down even processed tuna if I were hungry enough.* Cat food and tuna can't be that different. This lady makes dog biscuits, which I could fathom trying if I had better teeth. I feel this is government playing political games at the expense of their populace. If your culture despises dogs, then don't call it dog food. She was willing to do that. It's not like there is any difference. Hummingbird feed is also known as Kool-Aid. Cow feed is corn. Dog food is corn and protein. I believe that most pet food has to be fit for human consumption anyway. I've heard anecdotal stories of non-english speakers buying tuna with cat mascots on the labels until they understood that 9 Lives was cat food.

I do not understand the cultural taboo surrounding dogs in Africa. Dogs are revered in my culture. I know that I personally hate dogs, but I would be willing to eat "dog food" if I were starving. I'd eat anything if I were hungry enough. In Costa Rica there were times when I was starving. I ate anything...a true omnivore. I absolutely hated iguana eggs, but if I were hungry enough, you betcha....those sulfur bombs would become part of me.

The crappy part of all this is that this is the first story I've heard about a famine in Africa, and it wasn't even from a US news source. Maybe african famina fatigue has set in the way Katrina fatigue has.

*An interesting thought, me starving to death. A pound of fat= roughly 2,500 calories. A person of my size needs about 3,500 calories a day to maintain their body weight. If you tied me to a tree and fed me vitamins, minerals, and fluids I could live off (of) fat alone for 142 days before I got down to my ideal body weight. A gradual tapering off of weight loss would occur though, and my body would cannibalize muscle mass as well. But if you put me on a starvation diet of 1000 calories a day, I could go 200 days and still be in peak health. 500,000 calories stored in my body = 2,777 Coca-Colas that I shouldn't have drunk. I was freaking stupid in my 20s.

1 comment:

darlamay said...

Well, if you talk to Fred Phelps (is that his name?) he'll tell you that Africa is starving because God is mad at them.

I'm being sarcastic of course, which may not be appropriate given the subject matter, sorry. I've got Phelps and Sheehan on the brain.

Just because the woman makes dog food doesn't mean the food she'd give Africans is dog food does it? Besides, what constitutes dog food? Dogs will eat anything humans will eat and everything humans won't even step in. It's too bad that starvation and malnutrition is "culturally acceptable" but "dog" food isn't.