The first weekend of this month, apparently started on merriment note for the Nigerian world record holder for longest cheffing hours at a stretch in a Cookathon of over 100 hours — Hilda Baci, but it ended in attrition with debilitating anticlimax after she came under attack from an acclaimed Animals Rights crusader, Jackie Idimogu following a viral video showing her devour dog meat with gleeful braggadocio.
The incident was a comic relief for so many Nigerians who had been under depressive melancholy following the knee jerk declaration by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on his swearing-in ceremony that "Fuel subsidy is gone!" As the two videos found their ways into social media, attention was temporarily shifted from the biting harsh economic atmosphere in the country, resulting from the hiked fuel prices, to discourses on the morality or otherwise of Hilda's "escapade" with dog meat.
While the debate raged on, some commentators toddled between moral relativism and ethical extremism. One rose in defense of Hilda, affirming her right to eat any flesh meat of edible animals; the other in condemnation, proclaiming "an international charter" against dog meat eaters. The former argued that there's nothing wrong and special about dogs, neither is there any impediment against one who choose to eat any animal that one relishes its meat. But the later argued that dogs are pets, nicknamed "man's friends" and not a livestock like goats, and therefore it is unfair to eat their flesh meats.
The denouement of public emotional exercises on the subject matter came without delineated definition of terms. As usual, in the court of public opinions, gavels are slammed at different and often contradicting notes.
What is a dog? What is a livestock? Who holds the authority to define which animal should be pet and which should be livestock? For instance World Health Organization (WHO) defines which disease should be designated as pandemic or not. In the case of animal status speciation, one would ask, who defines it? Does Nigeria have animal rights law? Does our culture(s) uniformly define what phylum or class of animals should be eaten or not?
Honest answers to these questions can help us elucidate on the hullabaloo and understand the justification of the position(s) each party favoured in the conversation.
Nigeria (like the world) is a multiethnic, multicultural society. And every ethnic group has what appeals to it. For instance, python which is revered and never killed or eaten in Anambra State is a cherished proteinous delicacy in Ebonyi State. But does Anambrarians have any moral temerity to berate Ebonyians for enjoying a creature they choose not to eat?
To a typical Nsukka man, the meat of wild rabbit (ewi) is a good source of protein diet. But to a native Nnewi man, it is a revered sacred vicarious animal of Édò deity (the ancestral deity of community protection to Nnewi people). It is against the custom of the land to kill it or even treat it with levity. If one, by accident, kills a bush rabbit, one is bound by tradition to accord it a full burial rite, to appease the gods.
Same goes to some other wild cold-bloodied animals such as reptiles amongst not a few communities in the Southeast.
Some of them avoid these animals due to their belief that certain species of animals are impure/unclean, while others do same out of traditional religious piety. It was a common practice among ancient adherents of Judaism (Lev. 11:1-48), until after Christ (Acts 10:9-15).
Everyone in Nigeria knows that three states of Plateau, Cross River and Akwaibom have widespread and prevailing dog meat-eating culture that dates back to antiquity. Hilda is a proud Akwaibomite, and I doubt if that makes any sense to Jackie. Does she know that her inflammatory advocacy and berating comments on Hilda may be offending not just Akwaibom and Cross River and Plateau people but also to every other states whose citizenry delight in dog meat?
It is understandable that the Western world has culture of keeping some animal species as pets (e.g parrots, tilapia fish in aquariums, cats, dogs etc). But such zoonotic acquiescence was never given global appeal. While England for instance, has Animal Welfare Act through which it fined French and West Ham United star Kurt Zouma in February last year, for kicking his cat, countries like China, South Korea, Philippines republic have reputation for eating cats without incurring the guilt of conscience or hurdle of civil law.
As posited above, from religious point of view, some can argue that Hilda, like every other Christian is justified to eat any animal created by God which she deem safe as contained in Acts 10:9-16.
In Islam, pork (flesh meat of pig) is outlawed. The main reason pork is forbidden for Muslims is because it says in the Holy Quran that some food is allowed, while others are explicitly declared "haram," which means forbidden. And pork is one of those forbidden foods. In fact, it stands boldly written in their holy book: “He has forbidden you only dead animals, and blood, and the swine, and that which is slaughtered as a sacrifice for other than God.” (Quran 2:173).
But in the streets of Nigeria, pork barbecue spots are common sights, yet our Muslim brothers and sisters never attacked Christians who patronize spots, as Jackie attacked Hilda for relishing dog meat.
Contextually, Jackie seems to be indicting Hilda more from place of emotions than reason. When she brought her recent rare feat of Cookathon in the foray, she triggered suspicion of envy among critics.
“And now that the torchlight of the world is on Nigeria through Hilda, she decide that what she want to show the world is that Nigerians are dog eaters? No, no. I’m making this video to refute the fact that Nigerians are not dog eaters” emphasized Jackie in her video.
Was she trying to blackmail Hilda from being true to her native culture? Or is she merely envious of her chef d'œuvre accomplishment that she had to injure her chances of getting the official recognition plaque by inciting the managers of Guinness Book of Records to say that she is "brutal" to pets? How do they even connect?
On the flip side, she seemingly posed like someone doing image-laundering for Nigeria by saying she made the "video to refute the fact that Nigerians are not dog eaters.”
How does her video help Nigeria? Will her Nigeria's "non-dog eating" status make Nigeria be ranked more prominently than China, Korea and other first world countries in Asia that delight in the meat?
Another unsettling aspect of her "righteous" advocacy for dog rights is her desperation to impose European culture of idolizing selected animals (pets) as man's friends. Irredentism with a touch of neocolonialist mentality. To many Africans nay Nigerians, dogs are treated in line with what they truly are — a carnivores (flesh eaters) of the fox family that can be handled like every other animal, or domesticated like fowls.
However, another critical look at Hilda's video reveals scandalous flippancy in the way she ate the meat which doesn't send good message to our younger generations who look up to her as role model. She displayed such voracious savagery in devouring the meat while persuading her 'accomplice' — Enioluwa Adeoluwa to have a bite. A hideous lack of table manners, judging from culinary ethical point of view. Popular Igbo adage say that "onye a na-ekiri ekiri adiro mma igba oto" — Icon of admiration ought not scandalize him/herself. To whom much is given, much is accepted.
May daylight spare us!