Mind Matters: What we eat

Where do we draw the line in what we eat?

Long ago when I lived in Florida I took a visitor out to dinner.

We went into a restaurant and saw that the special was dolphin.

We were irate about people eating dolphins and left without sitting down.

I learned weeks later that the restaurant was serving dolphin fish. I had nothing against that.

Later when I was offered a job in Australia, I came to look things over, and several academics here went out to dinner with me.

Most of them ordered kangaroo. I thought back to my dolphin mistake, but this time the food was real kangaroo

A few weeks ago I visited Malta and noticed that rabbit was a common food.

I could not help thinking about a video interview that Michael Moore had done with an American woman who had a sign up that said: bunnies for sale - for pets or meat.

For most Aussies, eating lamb is OK, and so is beef. Dog meat is out of the question.

To horse meat, we say "Neigh." Other cultures have different standards.

A friend of mine told me that on a dare she would eat snake.

I would not knowingly eat insects, although I have heard that they are tasty, if a bit crunchy.

What determines the animals we will eat? Mostly, we follow family and cultural norms.

We rarely think about the morality of our choices. We humans have been determined predators since way back when starvation lurked round the corner.

Still, there have been some vegetarians for thousands of years.

I eat parts of some animals, and lately I have followed a Native American custom of thanking the animals for sustaining me. Or I apologise to the dead animal.

When I eat tuna, I sometimes think about all the anchovies I am saving from hungry tuna fish.

I would like not to eat any animal, or as TV legend Mr Rogers, said: "anything with a face".

I eat phony burgers rather than real ones. I would like to try meat grown in vats from a few animal muscle cells.

If this new technology takes off, it may disrupt whole industries.

I am glad that cannibalism has essentially disappeared. Don't get me talking about that form of consumption.

Writing this column makes me hungry for fruit and veggies.

Even a lowly tuber seems appealing. Sweet potato, anyone?

John Malouff is an Associate Professor at the School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences, University of New England.