Man’s Best Friend?
Dog lovers will have no problem telling you why the dog is regarded as man’s best friend: Faithfulness, unqualified love, friendship and laughs. By convincing us to be more active, having a dog simply makes our lives better and makes us healthier.
No matter how lethargic we may feel, who can resist Muffin or Flossy or Toby or Buster or Coco when they saunter up to us pleading to go for a walk? Or maybe that wagging tail is an appeal for a gentle rub?
Not only can dogs be incredible friends, but they also give us humans much needed support, as well as affection and companionship: From guiding the blind, to warning the deaf that something needs their attention, to being there for the lonely, dogs are remarkable creatures!
Man’s best friend? Well not for everyone. The photograph above, which I snapped in Du’an in South West China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, is particularly upsetting. Typical of the street-wise dogs commonly seen roaming around rural villages and towns the length and breath of China, this bewildered mongrel, compressed into a tiny wire-mesh cage, is destined for a wok – to be stir-fried, or perhaps slow-cooked as a soup or stew, seasoned with spring onion, spices, rice wine and ginger. The terror in its eyes says everything: This abused dog knows its fate. All dog lovers should be revolted by this image.
The Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region is infamous for its annual Summer Solstice Yulin Dog Meat Festival 玉林狗肉节 (#stopyulin2015), the most cold-blooded and barbaric festival in the world, where every year 1,000’s of dogs are savagely killed and eaten, the run up to which involves a nefarious trade by dog peddlers in abducted stray and domestic dogs covering the length and breath of China.
What’s wrong with eating dog meat?
Before I start ranting on about the obvious cruelty, it is only fair to point out what I would imagine is the viewpoint of ‘dog for food’ farmers and dog-eaters across China, Korea, the Philippines, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
In China, dogs have been reared for their meat since Neolithic times. Farmers see no difference between pig eating and dog eating. The degree of objection lies in the means of rearing, transport, killing and cooking rather than in the choice of animal species. With respect to the Yulin Dog Meat Festival 玉林狗肉节 (#stopyulin2015) locals assert their right to eat dog meat based on traditional custom, stating if they are cruel then what about those who eat pork, beef and chicken?
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), dog meat is considered a health food coordinating Yin and Yang. With the Yin character it is considered warming to the body, which is why Chinese tend to eat more dog meat in winter. In Korea the opposite happens, dog meat is eaten mainly during the hot summer months.
The popularity of dog eating is increasing at an explosive rate – evolving rapidly from its traditions as a cottage industry. While considered expensive compared to other meats, in northern and southern parts of China dog is an exotic banquet dish to be savoured on special occasions, especially when trying to impress your guests. The most recent information available through Google shows 43% of respondents in a Shanghai and Beijing lifestyles survey confirming they eaten dog meat, at least once.
Dog eating is big business
Now it is no longer a case of a few peasant farmers breeding a female dog once a year and taking the grown puppies to the market for a little extra pocket money.
With official local government approval, huge dog farms are being set up across the north and south China using modern scientific factory farming principles. Faster growing methods and more submissive breeds of dog are being introduced (for example, Saint Bernard mountain dogs) and the whole business is being scaled up with modern distribution and marketing techniques.
Here are the English translations from various websites regarding two Saint Bernard breeding centres in China:
1. Breeding base of Meat-producing Breeding St. Bernard of Lin Xing Raising and Propagating Company of Shanxi, Datong Coal Mining Administration
“For a local coal mine owner faced with financial problems and mine safety issues the production of Saint Bernard mountain dog was a ‘no brainer: In comparison to chicken and pig farming breeders of Saint Bernard mountain dogs can expect to earn three to four times more income”
2. Shenyang Food Dog Research Institute, Shenyang City, Liaoning, China
“The Shenyang Food Dog Research Institute has created over 50 sites with over 6,000 Saint Bernard dogs, which are considered both tender and tasty to eat”
What’s been done in China to put an end to this?
Unfortunately, much of the anti-dog meat campaigning is tainted by racial discrimination, as is the resistance to the anti-dog meat campaigning.
‘Dog for food’ farmers and eaters view anti-dog eating campaign as another example of the conflict between Oriental and Western cultures, arguing that dog eating has gone on for thousands of years. Such campaigns actually cause resentment and ill will among people who have the potential to actually see the “man’s best friend” side of the argument, rather than the protein side, and stop eating them.
The good news is more and more people in China believe that dogs have earned their place in society as companions and helpers – they want the eating of dog meat to end. In May 2011, animal rights activists stopped a truck in Beijing containing 500 dogs destined for the dinner table. Following a stand-off involving over 200 people and a toothless police contingent by the roadside the animal rights activists purchased the dogs from the dog peddling lorry driver for US$18,000. More recently, in the summer of 2014 a dog lover noticed a truck full of dogs packed in open air cages along the Jingha Expressway (Beijing-Harbin Expressway) he alerted netizens on Weibo, China’s leading micro-blogging app. Volunteers quickly coordinated rescue organisations and citizens in many cars and vehicles to encircle the truck. The truck contained 400 dogs; together with four more trucks that were subsequently captured, 2,400 dogs were rescued, the most rescued dogs ever. Most were adopted, while the remainder, after receiving emergency treatment, were sent on to dog shelters in Hebei province. Unfortunately one truck escaped.
While an outright ban on the traditional custom of dog eating, especially with respect to the Yulin Dog Meat Festival 玉林狗肉节 (#stopyulin2015), is unlikely to be effective, as a first step authorities should enforce rigorous controls aimed at ensuring the source of the dog meat is legal and safe. A concentrated effort against those who steal and abuse domestic and stray dogs must also be imposed.
Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Taiwan have already banned the practice – this is the example for China to follow.
Stop eating dogs! Stop the Yulin Dog Festival 2015!
Note: Original article was written on June 20, 2011. Latest revisions to this article are dated February 4, 2015