Eating dog meat in China might only be an annual affair, but why does such sick tradition continue?
Will the rising number of pet owners on the mainland improve attitudes?
The strident debate over the moral issue of “why eat pork and not dog?” stirred more emotions than usual this year at the Yulin Dog Meat Festival in China. For a time the festival was rumoured to be facing a ban, but it took place again, and an estimated 11,000 to 15,000 dogs, and sometimes cats, were slaughtered in the name of tradition.
Unfortunately, the sick practice of eating dogs in Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region is not only a local custom – it’s a common occurrence and a lucrative business in many Asian countries, which, in total, butcher more than 25 million dogs each year. Case in point: there is a street in downtown Seoul that is lined with restaurants that serve dog meat.
China is being prominently singled out because of the notorious Yulin Festival, and, though difficult to verify, about 10 million dogs and four million cats are slaughtered for their meat on the mainland each year. Many are beaten to death because the promoters believe this method makes the meat more tender and tastier.
I first came face to face with this cruel tradition when I was visiting a small town in Guangdong province three decades ago. I was surprised to see there were no dogs roaming the streets and mentioned it to the local guide, who told me they were all in the kitchens.
I innocently asked: “Wouldn’t it be a bit unhygienic to allow animals in the kitchen?” He replied: “Not when they’re on meat hooks.”
Years ago I was once told by an acquaintance that her father would adopt a stray puppy and then fatten it up for a year, only to be served in a dog meat hotpot in the winter.
In many Asian cultures, some even believe they can derive optimal health benefits from eating animals alive. A wide variety of seafood is boiled alive. And in another gruesome practice, eating the brain of a live monkey is also accepted in parts of this region.
These inhumane culinary rituals are allowed to continue in the name of exotic traditions. But I think it’s just some sick pleasure these people get from seeing animals suffer. Seriously, what health benefits can one derive from skinning, boiling or eating an animal alive?
Animal torture comes in many forms, and it isn’t confined to killing and eating them. Just recently a man was caught on video throwing and kicking a dog in a supermarket in Tuen Mun, apparently for no valid reason. He was later arrested by police.
The moral debate over dog meat consumption has yet to be settled and understandably it’s going to drag out for a while. But now we are hearing stories about more and more Chinese on the mainland reversing their attitudes and adopting dogs as pets rather than for slaughter.
In 2014, about 7 per cent of mainland households, or some 30 million people, owned a dog, according to data from Euromonitor Intelligence.
Yulin in China to ban sale of dog meat ahead of annual dog meat festival, say Chinese animal-rights activists
So, be warned aspiring dog owners. Domestic animals contribute to our carbon footprint because of their meat-based diet. The best practice should be to do everything in moderation. Don’t unnecessarily force an increased demand in dogs as pets; maybe adopt a rescue dog instead.
Most importantly, remember that dogs, cats and all other animals don’t have a voice. We need to defend them and give them a dignified existence.
Dogs are our life companions, we should treat them well.