Pacific Standard magazine has an interesting article that suggests that Americans should start eating guinea pigs, as some cultures in South America do. There are several good reasons for this, including that they are healthier for us and the natural environment:
Andeans have been eating guinea pigs for thousands of years, so long that there are no longer undomesticated members of the species Cavia porcellus around, although (apparently much smarter) wild cousins like the Brazilian guinea pig and wild cavy do exist in unthreatened abundance. The proto-guinea pig was thought to be larger and meatier—not capybara size, to name another tasty South American rodent—but several-pounds-of-meat size. So while millennia of inbreeding have probably seen the species shrink, modern breeding is re-inflating the cuy…
Most recent scientific work looking at guinea pigs and diet mostly concerns what the animals eat (as a proxy for humans), and not having them eaten (by those same humans), but research from the 1980s finds guinea pig is good for you, with more protein and less fat than flesh from pigs, cows, sheep, or chickens. Guinea pig is also good for Mother Earth—you don’t need a Ponderosa-sized spread to raise them, and they convert their feed into edible protein twice as efficiently as a cow.
Some will undoubtedly have an “ewwwwwwwwwwww” reaction, thinking of them as pets rather than as food. But what is the difference, other than cultural assumption? Someone from India is every bit as shocked and appalled that you would eat a cow as you are at the thought of eating a guinea pig or a dog or cat. But they are all sources of protein; they are, in short, meat. And there is no coherent moral distinction between eating a guinea pig and eating a real pig. As for me, I would gladly try guinea pig if I ever have the chance. But then I draw the line at bugs, which many cultures have eaten for thousands of years without thinking it in any way odd or icky.
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