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"To eat or not to eat cats and dogs: The making and breaking of animal taxonomies and dietary taboos in contemporary South Korea" Dr Julien Dugnoille (University of Exeter)

Egenis Seminar

South Korea is widely regarded as a nation that eats cats and dogs. The consumption of these animals has attracted a considerable amount of international animal activist attention since the late 1980s, and raised questions about the nation’s indifference to violent methods used to tenderize and process the meat while animals are still alive. Today, South Korean civil and state discourses about the nation’s cat and dog meat trade mobilize principles of wellbeing and welfare inspired by those marshaled in Western discourses about democratic moral values. These Korean discourses also emphasize a clear boundary between cats and dogs regarded as pets and those consumed as food. However, an ethnographic approach to the South Korean cat and dog meat trade reveals that these moral and taxonomic discourses do not adequately represent how cats and dogs are treated or eaten in practice. Furthermore, a closer analysis reveals how maintaining this discrepancy between discourse and practice may benefit those with ulterior political and economic motives. Bringing together anthropological scholarship on cultural taxonomies, dietary taboos and the anthropology of ethics in the context of South Korea’s largest cat and dog meat marketplace, this paper interrogates conventional understandings of ethnicity, morality and cosmopolitanism.

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Byrne House