The Fourth Of July, Hot Dogs & American Exceptionalism
The theory that the United States is inherently different from other nations is known as American Exceptionalism. Many (especially political candidates and commentators) use the term to imply that we are superior to other countries.
In this article I explore how the reaction by many Americans to a recent news event, the Chinese Dog Meat Festival, is best explained by a belief in American Exceptionalism and, in this instance, the belief is grossly misplaced. In reaching my conclusion I compare our Fourth of July celebration with the Chinese Dog Meat Festival. I end by offering an alternative to animal loving Americans.
CHINESE DOG MEAT FESTIVAL
Every news outlet from Fox to CNN and from USA Today to the New York Times covered the recent Chinese Dog Meat Festival. To celebrate the start of Summer, approximately 10,000 dogs were slaughtered and eaten two weeks ago in the southern Chinese city of Yulin.
The tender meat of puppies is favored over that of older dogs. The dog meat is typically made into slow-cooked soups and stews, but it may also be roasted or grilled, or served cold as an appetizer.
Millions of Americans were outraged over the photos and videos of dogs crammed into small cages and then being barbecued. Over 3 million signed a petition for the Yulin government to stop the festival. Celebrities led the charge. People donated money to rescue the dogs.
We called the Chinese “barbaric” and “cruel.” We in the United States would never be so barbaric and cruel. We are different. Perhaps morally superior. American Exceptionalism.
FOURTH OF JULY CELEBRATION
Two weeks after the Chinese Dog Meat Festival we celebrated Independence Day in the United States—the Fourth of July. Many of the same Americans who were outraged over the Dog Meat Festival ate a different kind of dog on the Fourth of July – a hot dog.
According to the National Sausage and Hot Dog Council, we ate 150 million hot dogs over the Fourth of July weekend. That is enough hot dogs to stretch from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles more than five times. This is part of the 7 BILLION hot dogs eaten from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Eating a hot dog is an iconic part of Americana.
The Yulin local government disavowed any tie to the Dog Meat Festival, issuing a statement that it did not sponsor or promote the festival. But in the United States we celebrate the hot dog as being American as baseball and apple pie. Millions of us watch ESPN’s live television broadcast each Fourth of July of Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. The record is 69 hot dogs in 10 minutes. We have a Hot Dog Eating Hall of Fame.
In Yulin the government prohibited the display or serving of dog meat outdoors. But in the United States every amusement part and baseball stadium will be serving hot dogs outdoors on the Fourth of July. Every park will be filled with the smell of hot dogs on the grill. Political candidates will be photographed holding babies and eating hot dogs.
In Yulin you have to go to a restaurant to eat dog meat. But 87% of American households have an outdoor grill and we cook the hot dogs ourselves. And American Exceptionalism requires that we do not stop with just hot dogs. In the week leading up to the Fourth of July we purchased 700 million pounds of chicken and 190 million pounds of beef and pork. We then lathered the chickens, cows and pigs in barbecue sauce and grilled them on our patios and decks surrounded by our family and friends.
As we grilled the pigs, cows and chickens there was no outcry that it was barbaric or cruel. Pigs, cows and chickens are sociable and enjoy the company of humans as do dogs. Pigs learn their names and respond when called as do dogs. Yet there were no petitions to urge our local governments to halt the grilling of these animals. No celebrities took up the cause. American Exceptionalism.
BUT C’MON, DOGS ARE PETS
Some readers will ignore the fact that pigs, cows and chickens suffer just like dogs and argue that dogs are different because we keep them as pets. So let’s just talk about dogs. Each year we kill approximately 1.2 MILLION dogs in U.S. shelters. Yet at the same time we purchase 2 million puppies from breeders. American Exceptionalism allows us to criticize the Chinese for killing 10,000 dogs though we kill 120 times that many. At least the Chinese kill their dogs for food—we kill our dogs because we want puppies.
AN ALTERNATIVE FOR ANIMAL LOVING AMERICANS
I have been a vegetarian for many years and a vegan for over two years. Until recently I never tasted a veggie-dog that I liked, and I tried them all. That has now changed.
A Seattle company by the name of Field Roast has recently come out with veggie-dogs that are delicious. They are made from grains, vegetables and seasonings. I recently took some Field Roast veggie-dogs (they call them frankfurters) to a cookout at a friend’s house where he was grilling the standard hot dog made from animal parts. My friend knew my dogs were vegan, but the other guests did not.
He put my Field Roast dogs out and the guests gobbled them up. Not one guest knew he was eating grains and vegetables instead of animal parts, they just knew they loved them.
Field Roast also makes burgers, sausages and cheese. In fact, the burgers are so realistic that some vegans object because the taste and texture is too much like meat.
Do you love animals but also like your meat? If so, the next time you fire up your grill I challenge you to try Field Roast frankfurters and burgers. If you can love your burgers and hot dogs without killing animals, why wouldn’t you try it?
Doug Meier is attorney that practices in Colorado and is a regular contributor to VegansEatWhat?
Doug Meier is an attorney who practices in Colorado the area of insurance bad faith and legal malpractice. He became a vegetarian 13 years ago and went vegan approximately 2 years ago. He can be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org