This article originally appeared on MUNCHIES.
While we'll happily chow down on all kinds of Mammalia—cows, sheep, goats, pigs, deer, and even adorable little lambs—the Western world still isn't so keen on eating cats and dogs. While many people are revolted by the idea that these animals are still consumed in some parts of the world, that reaction may be a tad hypocritical, considering the staggering numbers pertaining toglobal meat consumption.
We're certainly not saying that we're down with eating felines when given the choice, but there are a lot of contributing factors when talking about cultural dietary trends. For example, there's food insecurity. Economics. Religion. Good old-fashioned preferences. Superstition. These are all variables most of us in the West don't think much about when we select our next meal. But elsewhere on this shiny blue marble, things are different.
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In fact, it's estimated that 4 million cats a year are eaten in Asia alone. That's exactly why one group of researchers decided to study the Malagasy people of Madagascar to get to the root of this dietary tradition.
The researchers—a multi-national team from Temple University, the Mpingo Conservation & Development Initiative in Tanzania, and the University of Antananarivo of Madagascar—interviewed 512 people in five towns in Madagascar. The researchers used semi-structured interviews to find out the answers to several questions that may raise the hairs on the back of any cat lady's neck.
For example, the researchers wanted the respondents to "clarify the preference for, and prevalence, correlates, and timing of, cat consumption." And, of course, if you are looking into how people eat cats, you'd certainly want to know how they procured said cats, so the respondents were asked that too. The researchers also inquired into their "motives" for cat consumption and if any taboos influenced the Malagasy peoples' eating of the felines.
The study revealed that, indeed, many Malagasy citizens do eat cat. Thirty-four percent answered "yes" to that delightful question, with over half of that consumption occurring in the last decade.
Oddly, the researchers did not find a correlation between cat consumption and food insecurity. We're sorry to say that the researchers report that the cat meat was obtained in the following ways: "the owners consumed their own pet cat, [a cat received] as a gift, or by hunting feral cats." It turns out, in fact, that the cat meat was almost always a gift. What do you think you'd get if your Malagasy friends didn't like you?
The underlying reason for consuming cat seems to be different depending on where the diner lives in Madagascar. In small towns, people eat cats who piss them off—by attacking their chickens, for example. In big cities, roadkill is a favorite.
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In either event, the researchers conclude, "cat-meat consumption is typically an opportunistic means to obtain inexpensive meat, rather than principally serving as a response to economic hardship."
So, animal lovers, if you can't find your own reason not to eat your cat, consider this. The researchers warn that cat consumption "present[s] a potential pathway for transmission of several diseases, including toxoplasmosis."
Looks like eating Fluffy might not be such a good idea, after all.