Was Gold Coast mayor Tom Tate racist when he joked about Chinese people eating cats?

ANALYSIS-OPINION: Tom Tate the Mayor of the Gold Coast in Australia has been accused of being racist because he went off script at a press conference in Townsville on Monday when he said: “You wouldn’t want to put a Chinese next to someone who’s got a cat, you know. She might be breakfast.”

Tom Tate

Tom Tate. Photo; Nine.


He was immediately accused of directing a racist comment at the Chinese population and asked whether he regretted it by the host of the show he was on. In defence Tom Tate said that he was not racist. He said that he is probably the least racist person around and everyone knows that he is half Asian.

However, he did say that he would not make the comment again but slammed people for being too “woke” because he was trying to be humorous. But was he racist?

The definition of racism is “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism by an individual….against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group”.

Essentially, Tom Tate was being factual. A lot of Chinese in the south of the country do eat cat and dog meat quite extensively. These are a mixture of stray, feral and sometimes domestic cats. Some Chinese also eat tiger and lion body parts and bones. However, domestic and stray cat meat is not eaten across the whole country therefore you cannot say that Chinese people eat cat meat because it is generalising far too much. A lot of Chinese have domestic cat companions and they love their cats. The same goes for dogs. And there are rescue groups in China saving cats and dogs from the cat and dog meat market.

I don’t think that he was prejudicial and I don’t think that he discriminated against the Chinese or said something antagonistic (or that was not his intention) but he did lack precision. So what he said was factually correct but he generalised and he should apologise for that.

But if somebody states an undeniable fact which is critical of another ethnic group, it cannot, in my opinion, be racism. Further a statement may be critical of another race’s culture but that, too, is not racism.

I suppose, because Mr Tate generalised you have to agree with the host of the show that his statement was an example of racism but in his defence he said he was trying to make a bit of a joke. Not that being humorous is a great defence. He made a mistake but there is certainly a ‘woke’ movement going on and people have become incredibly critical of anybody who slips up in how they describe the behaviour of people of a different race and ethnic minority.

The moral of the story really is to keep your mouth shut and never get involved with a conversation which could leave you vulnerable to making a racist remark. Incidentally, I believe that every person on the planet is racist because I believe that racism is a form of tribalism and it is within all of us no matter what your colour. It is in our DNA. The trait goes back to when homo sapiens was evolving 100,000 years ago.

Those people who do not come across as racist have been able to control this inherited trait to the point where it is subdued completely and has become invisible.


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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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3 Responses

  1. tamara beinlich says:

    No. He’s right they do eat cats and dogs. Some claim it’s tradition but it’s not. During the great revolution people were starving. They began eating anything and everything. They began eating their cats and dogs then moved to bats and pangolins. Even after they weren’t starving they still continued to have wet markets and thank you very much Covid19 was born. I kept telling the Chinese government one day they will eat a diseased animal and it would spread to others. I begged them to close their wet markets. And today they still have wet markets and so do we here in the USA. You can’t fix stupid…

  2. Riverside Robyn says:

    When my husband and I visited China in 2005, our Chinese tour guide said, “Japanese take pictures of everything, Americans buy everything, and Chinese eat everything.” Back then, I only remember seeing one fairly prosperous city (Jinan) where people had dogs and cats as pets. On television, there was criticism of open animal markets where cages were stacked on top of each other, as the avian flu was raging at the time.

    • Yep, they do eat everything. And nowadays it is frowned on because it severely damages conservation. For instance the pangolin is going extinct because they think that eating the scales gives them better health. The scales are made of keratin, the same stuff that makes our nails. The same goes for rhino horn. It is insane superstition and it is killing million of animals often in a brutal, unregulated way. Thanks for commenting.

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