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Introduction

When I told people I was writing a term paper on the human consumption of dog meat, I nearly always received the same response. “…Oh,” they said, brows furrowed and noses wrinkled. It was easy to picture what they were thinking at that moment:

You don’t eat dogs, you eat chicken or beef or pork!

But puppies are fluffy and cute and love you!

What kind of sick person are you for even thinking about eating your pet?!?

The idea for this paper stemmed from a family trip to the Philippines I took a few years ago. During my time there I was struck by the conditions animals were in. At our resort, a solitary monkey chewed on a wire running through its cage. We would drive past fields full of roosters bred for cockfighting. Perhaps most memorable was the abundance of stray dogs that wandered the streets. The dog pictured in the header was one particularly curious stray. I didn’t notice him until I felt his nose sniffing my flip flop.

"...so, are you gonna feed me or not?"

 

A search for information about stray dogs in the Philippines led me to articles about the dog meat trade in Southeast Asia. Why would you eat dog meat? I shuddered. But soon, the devil’s advocate in me crept out: Well, why WOULDN’T you eat dog meat? At that moment I knew I had my research topic.

This website will first give a brief history of dog eating by humans. Next, current views and laws regarding dog eating will be discussed. The benefits and costs to eating dog meat come afterwards, and are followed bywelfare concerns in the dogs. Finally, some suggestions as to how we can improve the welfare in these dogs will be presented.

You can navigate this site by just scrolling down the page. Alternatively, you can read each post by category by looking under the “Categories” menu on the right.

A word of caution: some images and content may be disturbing.

Dog Meat Consumption in Asia

Dog meat consumption in Asia dates back to the Neolithic times. In China, they were regularly used for sacrifices, and their meat was often featured in the main dishes at ceremonial banquets. The Chow Chow was believed to be bred by Chinese people for their meat.

Chow @ MnM

Characteristics of the Chow Chow include a curly tail, blue tongue, and fluffy fur.

Around 400 BCE, overall meat consumption in China dropped significantly. An increase in China’s population decreased the amount of land available for grazing. Pork and dog meat soon replaced beef and mutton as the main sources of meat; pigs and dogs were scavenger animals, meaning they needed less space to eat and hence were easier to raise.

The practice of dog eating in other Southeast Asian countries (Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines, among others) likely originated when Chinese people arrived and settled in their countries.  Like in China, dishes containing dog meat were a popular choice during celebrations in the Philippines. Dog meat has also been historically eaten in Korea, where it was seen to be good for one’s health. Dog meat was most commonly eaten during the warmest times of the year, in an effort to help one overcome the heat; this belief is based off of the theory of Yin-Yang and the Five Elements.

Historical evidence of people eating dogs has also been found on other continents. A 9,300 year old skull fragment of a dog was found in the Texas area, embedded in fossilized human excrement. The Olmec, one of the first inhabitants of Mexico 3400 years ago, perceived dogs as a major source of food. Farmers fed dogs maize to fatten them up, then offered them to their leaders as a tax payment. Dog eating continued to be popular in this area as centuries passed; the Aztecs bred a hairless dog, the Xoloitzcuintle, that they used for both food and companionship.

not totally hairless

Fun Fact: The Mexican Hairless Dog is not completely hairless!

Parts of Europe also once consumed dog meat. In different regions of Greece, dog bones dating back to the Bronze and Iron Age have been found to contain cut marks; the position of these cuts indicate they were caused by butchering the carcass for meat.

In Africa, dog eating mainly occurred in the West Africa and Congo region, where it was thought of as a delicacy. Other parts of Africa only rarely consumed dog, mostly because of a lack of other resources. Dogs were also used as sacrifices, although not always eaten.

History – References

Eberhard, W. 1977. A History of China. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles.

Kim, R. E. 2007. Dog meat in Korea: A socio-legal challenge. Animal Law 14: 221-236.

Lobell, J. A., and Powell, E. 2010. More than man’s best friend. Archaeology, September/October, vol. 63, no. 5, pages 26-35.

Simoons, F. J. 1961. Eat Not This Flesh: Food Avoidances from Prehistory to the Present. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison.

Snyder, L. M., and Klippel, W. E. 2003. From Lerna to Kastro: further thoughts on dogs as food in ancient Greece; perceptions, prejudices and reinvestigations. British School at Athens Studies 9: 221-231.

Tito, R. Y., Belknap III, S. L., Sobolik, K. D., Ingraham, R. C., Cleeland, L. M., and Lewis Jr, C. M. 2011. Brief Communication: DNA From Early Holocene American Dog. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 145: 653-657.

Vila, C., Maldonado, J. E., and Wayne, R. K. 1999. Phylogenetic relationships, evolution, and genetic diversity of the domestic dog. Journal of Heredity 90: 71-77.

Dogs and the Western World

In the Western World, dogs are synonymous with pets. At least, according to Google.

I see what you did there, Google.

 

Many Westerners argue that dogs are too intelligent and sociable to be eaten. Of course, pigs are also smart, outgoing animals, but really, they’re just good for making bacon, right? The difference in how we perceive these two animals today is likely due to how our ancestors used the animals. Pigs have predominantly been raised for their meat, while dogs have served humans in many other ways, such as herding, hunting, guarding, and companionship. This age-old bond between dogs and humans has led dogs to effectively understand human social cues better than chimpanzees. In the Old World, a functional relationship between dogs and humans was positively correlated with avoidance of eating dog meat. Because the Western World views dogs as Man’s Best Friend, they are not killed for their meat.

There are few laws in Western countries banning the consumption of dog meat, largely because it is socially frowned upon. It is only banned in 6 of the 50 American states, and it is legal in Canada, although slaughter and preparation of the dog meat must be in accordance with the Meat Inspection Act.

Western culture has had a massive influence on the rest of the world. Many areas that have once eaten dog have stopped due to their citizens’ growing adoption of Western worldviews. Some Asian cities have banned the sale of dog meat when hosting major international events in order to appease the uproar of viewers around the world. Seoul banned restaurants from selling dog meat dishes during the 1988 Olympics, and Beijing did the same when they hosted the Olympics 20 years later.

Olympic Fever, Side 1

Instead, dogs were used for decoration.

 

Religious groups have also been key to people rejecting dog meat. The Islamic view on dogs is that they are ritually unclean. As a result most Muslims avoid dogs altogether, much less eat them. Buddhism and Hinduism believed that killing any animals for their flesh was morally wrong; dogs were also looked down upon because they were scavengers who would eat anything. These three religions are incredibly widespread in Asia, where most dog meat consumption frequently took place.

The influence of religion and Western culture has convinced most of the world that eating dog meat is wrong.

Dog Eating Today

Parts of the Philippines, namely rural areas and the Mindanao region, consume dog meat. It is also not unusual for one to see dog meat for sale in urban markets. Filipinos can perceive dog meat as either a delicacy, a necessity, or as a cultural food. Efforts to stop the consumption of dog meat have already begun in the Philippines, with Metro Manila Commission issuing in 1982 an ordinance prohibiting the killing, sale and transport of dogs and/or dog meat. The Animal Welfare Act of 1998 also prohibits the killing of dogs, except for religious, cultural, research, public safety, or animal health reasons. Unfortunately, little enforcement of these laws takes place, as those in charge of enforcement may be prone to bribery, or may eat dog themselves.

In Korea, dog flesh is the fourth most popular meat, with roughly 2 million consumed a year. Over 20,000 restaurants serve a dog stew called bosintang. Consumption of dog meat still continues in Korea, despite the Ministry of Health and Society banning the sale of dog meat in 1984. Little enforcement by local governments has taken place to stop Koreans from eating this “disgusting food”.

Sopa de Perro / Dog Soup / Bosintang 보신탕

If you didn't know what it was, it'd look pretty good.

 

In China, eating dog meat is most prevalent in the southern province of Guangdong. Dog meat consumption in Vietnam and China peaks during special occasions such as the New Year, as it is believed to bring good luck. Prices for dog meat in Vietnam markets usually range from $16-32 USD; a high-quality dog can sell for up to $60 in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi. Due to growing pressure from animal welfare activists and pet owners, China is beginning to develop a law banning the consumption and sale of dog meat. Last summer, China cancelled the 600-year-old Jinhua Hutou Dog Meat Festival after much online protest; this prevented the slaughter of thousands of dogs.

Griffith, M., Wolch, J., and Lassiter, U. 2002. Animal Practices and the Racialization of Filipinas in Los Angeles. Society & Animals 10(3): 221-248.

Hare, B. and Tomasello, M. 2005. Human-like social skills in dogs? Trends in Cognitive Science 9: 439-444.

Joy, M. 2009. Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism: The Belief System That Enables Us to Eat Some Animals and Not Others. Conari Press, San Francisco.

Kim, R. E. 2007. Dog Meat in Korea: A socio-legal challenge. Animal Law 14: 221-236.

Simoons, F. J. 1961. Eat Not This Flesh: Food Avoidances from Prehistory to the Present. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison.

Perceived Health Benefits

Eating dog meat is said to have many health benefits. Of the Five Elements, dog meat is considered to be “fire”. In the winter, consuming dog meat is believed to help keep one warm, while in the hottest months it will help one overpower the heat.

A few weeks in Vietnam 570

...know what, I'll just put on a sweater instead.

Those in the Guangdong province believe dog meat has medicinal value and can make you healthy. Many Vietnamese people think that eating dog meat will lead to good luck. Dog meat is also considered to be an aphrodisiac for men in many countries, including Korea and the Philippines. However, none of these health benefits actually have any scientific basis behind them.

The Dangers of Rabies

As most dogs used for food are either strays or farmed in close quarters, disease is common. Dogs can carry a multitude of pathogens, including Leptospira, Listeria, Salmonella, Trichinella, roundworms, and Rickettsia (which cause typhus).

One particularly dangerous pathogen dogs can carry is the rabies virus. The rabies virus is found in the nervous tissue and saliva of infected individuals, and can be transferred to another host if it comes into contact with an open wound. Rabies is most commonly spread through the bites of infected animals. However, in the past several years, at least three human deaths due to rabies have been linked to the preparation or consumption of dog meat. Although few humans have died because of rabid dog meat, the dog meat trade still presents a risk for humans to become infected. The overcrowded conditions and abuse found in dog farms contributes to the spread of rabies in dogs, which increases the chances of people getting bitten by rabid dogs.

 get out of my Photo!!!

China is currently experiencing an outbreak of rabies in humans, with 3,302 people infected in 2007.  Rabies results in acute encephalomyelitis; it causes aggressive behavior, anxiety, and insomnia, eventually progressing to delirium and hydrophobia. Once symptoms show, rabies is always fatal.

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