Eating Dogs in China

eating dog in China

Earlier this year, I was on a slow highway on the outskirts of Hanoi when my daughters said something like “look at all those dogs being prepared for eating. Eewww.” Without looking, (and thinking they were referring to live dogs in cages) I tried to put the best spin on things for my 13-year old by saying, “those dogs aren’t for eating, they’re for pets.” My daughters laughed and conclusively disputed that by noting they had “already been grilled and had their heads removed.”

We then talked about the morality of eating certain animals and not others and whether we as Americans have any right to impose our values on others on something like this. The point was in the talking, not the resolution. I have to say though that I love discussing issues like this with my children because no matter how they come down on them, it forces them to think.

The Washington Post just came out with an article that does the same thing. The article is Chinese dog eaters and dog lovers spar over animal rights and it is an issue-spotters dream.

Before anyone accuses me of anything (and I know you will), let me explicitly set out my own biases. I have not had meat of any kind for nearly twenty years. I like knowing that animals are not getting killed for my meals, but I do not think my forsaking meat makes me any more moral than anyone else. The morality of an individual is based on the totality of the circumstances. Hitler was supposedly a vegetarian.

Dogs are by far my favorite animal. On the other hand, I have trouble distinguishing on moral grounds between the eating of dogs on the one hand, and cows and baby sheep on the other. What, other than cultural background, makes one okay and the other appalling? I am not asking this as a rhetorical question; I am asking this as a question I would like to see answered.

All this makes it very complex, I think.

But there is even more to this. As the Washington Post article makes clear, the eating of dog issue goes even deeper in China (and no doubt elsewhere as well) where the dividing lines are very much class and wealth based:

But in many ways, it was a battle that has been brewing for years between the rural and the urbanites, the poor and the rich — between China’s dog eaters and its growing number of dog lovers.

*   *   *   *

And the debate is the latest sign of China’s rapidly changing mores and culture. For centuries, dog meat has been coveted for its fragrant and unique flavor; it is an especially popular dish in the winter, when it is believed to keep you warm. But pet ownership has skyrocketed in recent years as China’s booming economy produced a burgeoning middle class with both money and time for four-legged friends. And with the new pet stores, a once powerless animal rights movement is slowly gaining traction.

The article focuses on a recent and highly publicized incident in China where a truck hauling dogs was forced off the road. The truck drivers and many others in China see the issue as rich versus poor:

“I still don’t understand what was immoral about my shipment. People also eat cow and sheep. What’s the difference?” he asked. Of the activists, he said, “They were just a group of rich bullies who own pets and have nothing better to do.”

Several others have also raised the specter of class warfare — a common meme in modern China amid the widening gap between rich and poor. In online debates, many have noted the symbolic nature of the confrontation: a working trucker forced off the road by a black Mercedes-Benz whose driver was on his way to a resort hotel with his girlfriend.

There is also “historical baggage” in China that says those who treat dogs well treat peasants badly:

The issue comes with historical baggage as well, notes Jiang Jinsong, a philosophy professor at Tsinghua University. “During the Cultural Revolution, having a pet was seen as a capitalist activity. Only the rich and arrogant had dogs and allowed them to bite poor people,” he said. “So there’s this implication that if you treated pets well, you will treat those who are weaker badly.”

At least one netizen has taken this argument to the extreme. Enraged by activists fighting for animals while ignoring the plight of so many rural, impoverished Chinese, a man in Guangzhou posted threats online to kill a dog a day until animal activists donate the money they raised to peasants living in poverty instead of to dogs.

“I felt I had to do something to represent the grass-roots people,” said Zhu Guangbing, 35, who recently plastered his threat on Twitter-like microblogs in China. “I grew up in a poor village. We raised one dog to watch the door and one to be killed in the Lunar New Year because we were too poor to buy pork. I don’t understand what’s wrong with that.”

The animal activists challenge this by contending that being kind to animals leads to being kind to humans as well:

But dog activists have defended their fervor as a necessity. China does not have any laws against cruelty to animals, and by some estimates, as many as 10 million dogs — some vagrant, others stolen pets — are sold for consumption each year and are often kept under horrible conditions.

“People are saying it’s a silly thing protecting animals,” said Wang, the activist. “But it is a question of civilization.

“By teaching people in this country to love little animals, maybe we can help them to love their fellow human beings better.”

Like I said, it’s very complex.

Where does law fit into this? Laws can help lead people to do the right thing (witness the 1964 Civil Rights Act in the United States), but if they get too far out in front of what people want, they will usually be ignored and might actually give ammunition to those who oppose them. What should the United States’ and Europe’s role be with respect to China’s eating dog? No matter how you feel about this issue on moral grounds, the reality is that the United States and Europe have virtually no influence on something like this and their trying to impose their will on China will likely be counterproductive.

What do you think? Does this issue have legs in China? Might it become a stalking horse for the rich-poor divide? Or is this just a side issue I am blowing out of proportion?

69 responses to “Eating Dogs in China”

  1. I am surprised that in this argument – which I first heard nearly a decade ago in Shandong – never mentions how the Chinese middle class (new and established) seems to be toeing the line on western social mores.
    Alert! Broad generalization to make a point ahead!
    Chinese people seem intensely keen on doing things their way and not having western will imposed on them, but interestingly they completely get on board with western squeamishness and hypocrisy about this and that animal. For the record, I have NEVER heard any citizen animal activists complain about the eating of horse in the parts of Europe, Canada, and Asia where it’s popular. I ate donkey meat at a restaurant in Jinan years ago, and as far as I know (I’ve since given up meat) one can still partake of donkey in parts of China. Yet no one is complaining. So for me, it’s not just/so much the idea of respecting man’s best friend as it might be the newly monied trying to look like a good deal of the world’s (particularly the US and UK) middle class, and not like the unwashed masses in the hinterlands.
    I’m not Chinese so I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I think that if anyone believes that Chinese are likely to give up their taste for dogs after it’s become a class issue, they are barking up the wrong tree.

  2. I could come up with various quips like “you are what you eat” (who said that?) but even though I just did, I won’t (much). Two points:
    One, what people eat should not be anybody else’s business, as long as hungry peasants (or rich turds in search of fragrant foods — yech!) don’t go and eat other people’s pets. Eat your own dog if you must, but leave mine be.
    Second, if people are serious about this, then their only recourse must be, yes, even in China, to go about this democratically (i.e. pester local officials to the point where they think their cushy “job” depends on banning dog food) and get a law passed banning eating dogs. In fact, didn’t they already pass one of those, or was that just about eating cats? Or is this law being enforced with Chinese Characteristics?
    Third bonus point (oops): having eaten dog meat myself, I can attest that it tastes like crap and does NOT warm you, unless they refer to the potential ‘warming’ effect it produces in your pants a day later. So, maybe you could safely ban dog meat and just replace it with beans? Problem solved, until the vegetable-welfare people start attacking trucks laden with cute and cuddly beans…

    • You have no idea what you are talking about. Cushy jobs? Cuteness?
      I simply can’t believe the level of misinformation you have about the real reasons people protest, and what our lives are like.
      And I think I would know, being an original point of reference. Don’t dare to presume you’d know better.

  3. This doesn’t answer your question at all, but it’s funny how vastly different cultures are with Hong Kong, which is culturally so close to China.
    A few years ago, when Hong Kongers reported seeing dog meat sold at a ParkNShop over the border in Shenzhen, there was an uproar, over both moral and health issues. Dog meat is illegal here in HK, but legal in China. ParkNShop is Hong Kong owned.
    Sometimes Hong Kong guys, trying to prove how tough and rebellious and mainland-y they are, will brag of eating dog-meat. (The codeword is apparently the number “9”, which sounds like the word for “dog” in Cantonese). But push comes to shove, I’ve only met one or two people who will actually admit to having tried dog.
    There is a funny tone-deaf-ness towards the issue. I was having a working lunch when a Chinese host asked me what kinds of foods I liked. I said I preferred vegetarian, though I am not a strict vegetarian (not like you). We chatted along and she — totally casually — asked if I liked to eat dog. Not a big deal, but something of a social mis-fire, to ask that of someone who generally doesn’t eat meat!
    No, it’s not a black and white ethical issue, but one of social mores — most people feel uncomfortable eating animals that we keep for pets, helping the blind, searching for disaster victims, etc.

    • Yes you’re right. However there’s an evolution toward recognizing ‘non-pets’ as the sentient beings they are.

  4. Robert Nozick made an interesting argument in Anarchy, State and Utopia regarding cows. We justify eating cows by some difference between us and them. Say, we have language, or we have a certain type of consciousness, etc. Many differences to choose from (we’re not so tasty…?)
    Then one day a bunch of aliens visit and start eating humans. We complain that we have a right not to be eaten! But the aliens don’t agree, because they have some difference by which they justify eating humans – maybe they can hover, or can see in 4-D. Can we legitimately claim to have a right not to be eaten? Or is it just a matter of us vs them, no rights involved?
    We could argue that there is a dividing line between humans and cows that is definitive – it is an essential difference above which all superior creatures are equal in rights not to be eaten. We don’t eat the aliens and they don’t eat us because we respect the rights granted by being superior in some way to those delicious and justifiably edible cows. This requires an essential difference in the cow-ness of cows and the humanity of humans.
    In China, humans are the aliens and dogs are the cows. Is there some non-incidental characteristic of dogs which means we shouldn’t eat them? Is there some non-incidental difference between dogs and cows? Cultural differences are incidental – it’s nothing to do with dog-ness that some Chinese eat dogs and some Chinese own dogs. But go back far enough and these incidental differences seem to be essential – dogs are man’s best friend, used for hunting, for herding and for companionship. Dogs have evolved to fit their function. So did cows.
    I don’t think the animals have any more rights than people are willing to give them. I don’t know whether or not the dividing line about dog eating in China is between rich and poor, but I do think it has nothing to do with rights of dogs and everything to do with ‘us vs them’.

  5. Someone who normally goes by another handle, but won't in this post for reasons about to become appa says:

    I’ve eaten them all: dog, donkey, horse, turtle, tortoise, snake, shark, whale. None of these things did I eat willingly, but out of a habit ingrained in me by what was a far-from-prosperous upbringing of simply eating whatever was put in front of me. None of them were, in my view, worth the slight feeling of moral hazard that came when I found out what I had eaten. In fact most of them tasted pretty awful, especially the whale, which was essentially just greasy, off-tasting blubber foisted on me by a Japanese fascist who was trying to score a point.
    Yes, I know that there is no real distinction between eating dogs and eating – say – pigs, which are equally as intelligent (I worked for a few weeks on a pig farm when I was in high-school, so I know what I talk about). However, I am also a creature of my upbringing, and I was brought up around dogs. It feels an awful betrayal of them to eat them, so I won’t.
    On the other hand, I know that this distinction cannot apply to people who do not have the same background as myself. I therefore do not criticise anyone who eats dogs simply for doing so. What I do criticise is the unnecessarily cruel conditions in which dogs raised for slaughter are kept and killed, what I do criticise if the theft of dogs for the purpose of selling them as meat – but this goes for other animals as well.

  6. I agree with you about “trouble distinguishing on moral grounds between the eating of dogs on the one hand, and cows and baby sheep on the other.” I lived in Ireland for a year after college and raised a lamb that was orphaned when its mother died giving birth. I worked for a vet at that time, who knew I was a soft touch he could hand it over to. That lamb, named Conor, became as loyal as a dog, he followed me eveyrwhere, came running when I called his name, fell asleep on my lap by a warm fire in winter, and showed enormous love and devotion…everything one expects in a good dog. I still can’t eat lamb, 20 years later.

  7. As late as Victorian Era, Europeans used to eat dogs and cats. (Well documented by poems of the time).
    I once commented that this is an issue between Moralities and Traditions, and it is relative.
    Some may say, Chinese (and other Asians) should catch up to the Moralities of the West.
    Others might say, Why have modern Europeans lost their ancient cultural heritage of eating dogs and cats?
    (Same could be said of Whaling, Native American tribes and Japanese claim that Whaling is their cultural tradition, and should be protected and allowed).
    In the end, the story is about Europeans having given up their cultural traditions of eating certain animals (in preference of eating more of other types of animals, and thus establishing a new cultural tradition of meat eating), and whether Asians should do the same.
    This is where I find the general concept of Morality to be dubious. Most Indians consider cows to be sacred, shouldn’t they be outraged that most of the world is eating beef?
    and keeping “pet” to “love”? Dogs on leashes and Cats in doors as toys for amusement and entertainment of humans is hardly “love”. It’s a receipe for animal abuse, animal over-population, dog fight rings, trained attack dogs, etc.
    If humans really “love” dogs and cats, we should reverse the centuries of “domestication” and turn the animals back to the wilderness for their “freedom”.
    What makes humans think that we have any more rights to keep the animals as “pets” than eating them?
    As far as history goes, both domesticating animals for meat and pets can be traced back to about the same traditions.

    • Awesome, educated and civilised response! You really understand what it’s all about. Thank you for telling the truth. People are people. No one is perfect, no matter where they come from. Meat is meat. Animal is animal. Let’s not be hypocritical.

    • In this case there’s a wrinkle missing in what you’re saying, which is how the animals are treated.
      Research chinese/thai/korean etc dog and cat meat markets. “Dogs on leashes and Cats in doors as toys for amusement” will not compare.
      It’s also not a receipe for animal abuse. Well cared for pets love back, and its just as pleasurable to them as it is for us. And I suppose feeding them is wrong too? Hardly. Thats why when they are “let go” to their “freedom”, they keep coming back.

  8. I almost skipped this one, but am glad I read it. I continue to be facinated with various differences between US and Chinese cultures. This one is a clear example of a noteable difference. The blog causes me to slow down and contemplate differences that are initially grotesque, but ultimately intellectually challenging. Something else to think about…

  9. A very complex topic, indeed, but much more manageable once we drop our deeply-rooted biases and prejudices and instead embrace our common-sense, mainstream ethical intuition.
    To address Dan’s original post: No, there is no ethical distinction between eating a dog and eating any common, Western food animal. We should all, East, West, North and South, strive to consume fewer animals.
    The use of animals for food is, except in extreme cases of necessity (which are rarely present and not helpful to get bogged down in), not ethically justifiable. This reasoning is twofold. First, all animals (human and non-human alike) possess an intrinsic life interest, which encompasses a right to live free of undue suffering. Eating animals and animal products deprives animals of this intrinsic life interest in a fundamental way. By negative implication, not eating animals would reduce human-imposed suffering and prolong the lives of animals (or prevent their coming into a suffering existence in the first place). Humans are thus not ethically justified in their use of animals for food unless the benefit to an individual human’s life interest outweighs the suffering inflicted on animals in so doing.
    This goes to the second half of the reasoning why eating meat is ethically unjustifiable: avoiding the consumption of animal products is easy and healthful, and abstention from animal products results in no human suffering. Because no human life interest is compromised by not eating animals, there is no justification to violate the life interest of an animal simply to turn that animal into an entree.
    Nothing above pertains only to a certain type of animal. There is no reason to distinguish between the life interest of a dog or cat and the life interest intrinsic to a pig or a chicken. This fundamental interest (the right to “flourish” free of undue suffering) is shared by all beings, even though the discrete qualities that make up that interest will vary among species and individuals.
    The sticking point for most people will be in acknowledging that the cost of eating animals outweighs the benefit to the humans who eat them. This conclusion, however, is common-sense, mainstream intuition. First, we intuit that less suffering is preferable to more suffering. We also intuit that suffering inflicted unjustifiably is wrong. Third, we know from observation and relevant evidence that the production, housing and slaughter of animals for food causes tremendous suffering. (I would say that this is a mainstream view today, particularly in the context of so-called factory farms, which produce approximately 98% of all animal-based foods consumed in the USA.) Couple this with the fact that the joy/benefit humans gain from eating animals is minimal as compared to the suffering endured by food animals. Ask most people, “Why do you eat animal products” and they will answer, “because they taste good.” We know that humans can live long(er), healthy(ier) lives without consuming animal products, saying nothing of the environmental consequences that stem from mass consumption of animals.
    Does this mean that those who eat animals are bad people? Hardly. A lapse in ethical judgment does not diminish a whole person, particularly where there is no malicious intent. I would, however, suggest that the more we strive to be conscientious, ethical beings, the better off we all are. We must let our hearts be our guide. We should not wish any fate upon an animal raised for slaughter that we would not wish upon a beloved family pet. This is not a cultural issue — it is more fundamental.

    • You said it better than I ever could. Now this is an extremely balanced, knowledgeable, and well thought out response. I’m jealous!

  10. I don’t eat dogs; I hate pets…I hope it does give me a objective perspective to talk about this.
    Just Imagine all vegetarians attack meat eaters. Go a step further, they wanted the government to pass a law stipulate that eating any meat is illegal, then we may found discussing the matter is necessary. My point is, it could be just a matter of legality. Since its a law blog we are on so we might as well stick to laws: IT IS NOT AGAINST CHINESE LAWS TO EAT DOGS!! If you eat dogs, go to eat dogs as long as you are not eating others’ dogs; if you love dogs, do things to protect your pets but stop attacking/insulting dog eaters, at least not to cross the line of law.
    I think Cultural differences are overrated. If people chose to be small-minded, live biased and prejudiced even they had chance to be more than that, they are who they are. This kind article is not gonna change the brainwashed (dog-eater or non-dog-eater) who wouldn’t even try to think independently – most likely none of those people would even have enough patience to read this articles through.

    • Eva Gao it actually is illegal. Its simply not enforced.
      And no, whether it’s illegal or not has nothing to do with whether it should be done or not. If people didn’t ever object to things which were legal but wrong, we’d still be living like cavemen!
      P.s. If you “hate pets” it makes you less objective, not more!
      If you said you didn’t care either way – THAT wd make you more objective.
      I’m sorry, but it ain’t easy to abide such blatant nonsense.
      Another consideration about the eating of cats and dogs in the mostly Asian countries is the conditions the animals are ‘processed’ under.
      Long trips crammed into tiny metal cages to the point where bones break, the animals are strung up and beaten so they cant fight back. This means cracked skulls, broken jaws, all paws cut off while alive- then skinned alive. Then the skinned animals are thrown into pressure cookers with boiling water – ALIVE.
      The idea being the more the animal suffers, the more adrenaline is released and therefore a medicinal benefit is somehow attained.
      How selfish.
      Hopefully the bias in even a “pet-hater” like you can see how barbaric and evil this is.
      If not, you certainly have other problems.

  11. Several years ago I came to a theory about what animals people will or will not eat. It is the cuteness-edibility bell curve. The closer to either end of the bell curve of cuteness, the less likely someone will eat the animal. Whereas, the closer to the center of the curve, the more likely someone will eat the animal. What is cute is culturally defined. Thus, what one culture finds at the center of the cuteness-edibility scale and thus edible, another culture may place at the inedible ends of the scale. Nevertheless, cuteness is subjective and as a result each person may drift from the norm of the culture they are within.
    For example, most of the world finds cats to be cute and rats to be hideous. Cats and rats are on opposite ends of the cuteness-edibility bell curve. As a result most of the world does not eat them, unless it needs them to fulfill a nutritional deficit. Whereas, many people find cows to be cute, but not as cute as dogs and cats. Thus, cows are edible. However, horses fall in line with dogs and cats on the cuteness scale and are thus generally inedible. But, move to a culture that uses horses as a work animal and not as a show animal and you find that horses are considered beasts of burden, which are inherently less cute than animals for play, and thus are edible.
    As a result you end up with an interest difference across the world when it comes to dogs. If you look at American culture, dogs are highly cute and inedible, whereas in Middle Eastern culture dogs are often seen as disgusting animals and those ugly and inedible, but in China many people tend to be historically indifferent and thus they are edible.
    However, the problem with this scale is when you reach seafood. Seafood is often delivered to plate unseen of its original form, thus people eat it merrily. However, show someone a monkfish before they eat it or a clownfish before offering it to them to be consumed, they will be less likely to chow down.
    Thus, at the end of the day, I believe cuteness is the controlling factor here. Now, what does that say about us as meat eating inhabitants of this planet?

  12. we worship cow here in india. and for us, cows are extremely social and emotional beings. we had cows since my childhood for milk, for the fields and for worship. and cows we had have been as capable as some of the pet dogs do i have seen.
    americans eating cows, chinese dogs…once you start the meat path, why differentiate and discriminate then? eat all animals…this hogwash that dogs have heart and cows dont or domesticated vs wild is just for convenience, save me this false argument.

  13. We share 75% of our DNA with Dogs, and Harris’s ancestors will also have eaten them. His being a vegetarian does disservice to his omnivore heritage and cannot be healthy. Here’s in China, dog is regarded as a heating food and is popular in North China in winter. Here’s a recipe to make Dan a meat-eater again:
    Finds a dog. Batter it to death with a large heavy stick (the fear & pain improves the flavor)
    Skin it and joint it
    Set aside legs and part of the rib cage, cover in flour and lightly brown in butter, remove from pan
    Prepare a braising juice: Qingdao dark beer, salt pepper, sliced ginseng root, 8 sliced mouse-shit peppers, & mushrooms
    Place browned meat in with braising juice and bake for 3 hours at medium heat.
    Serve with rice and quantities of Baijiu.

    • Great. “We do it because we always did it”. Apparently you’re culturally inured to the spectacular suffering the cats and dogs from these markets endure.
      It’s nothing to brag about, I can tell you.

  14. Attitudes towards dogs – are they really a moral battleground? It seems a slightly ridiculous place to entrench. All the better, I say!
    When one group seeks to impose its views on another, it can do so through force (physical or legal), buying allegiance or through morality. It’s a tough, endless task analysing whether one’s moral justifications are true moral principles which everyone should respect or whether they are simply abstractions to justify personal preferences, be they cultural or individual.
    Anyone claiming that these differences are purely cultural risks being accused of moral relativism. This is an accusation worth avoiding – but there is a space between moral relativism and evangelising. China faces moralising from all corners on all aspects of its culture. Some moral arguments may have legitimate aims but shoddy reasoning, others may have sound reasoning but illegitimate aims. Forbidding the eating of dog or meat – legitimate aim? Sound reasoning?
    Andrew J Roth argues for fundamental rights to life for all living creatures. He expresses many of the common moral arguments for vegetarianism clearly. He omits the agronomic argument (meat is a less efficient use of land valued by energy consumed). He argues for a Utilitarian system where benefit (measured in extension of life) is weighed against suffering to decide the best outcome. Proponents of such morals must answer several questions to add weight to their arguments beyond personal preference.
    ‘All animals have a right to live free from undue suffering’. Really? Eagles are morally wrong for eating rabbits? Cats usurp the rats’ right to live without suffering? Or perhaps you would say that the rats’ suffering at the hands of the cats is not undue. Then why is it undue suffering for a cow to be eaten by a human? Because we eat ‘more than necessary’? Is a greedy cat morally wrong too?
    ‘By negative implication, not eating animals would reduce human-imposed suffering and prolong the lives of animals’. Really? Anteaters eating ants increases the anteater-imposed suffering and curtails the lives of animals?
    ‘Humans are thus not ethically justified in their use of animals for food unless the benefit to an individual human’s life interest outweighs the suffering inflicted on animals in so doing.’ Really? Sharks are thus not ethically justified in their use of fish for food unless the benefit to an individual shark’s life interest outweighs the suffering inflicted on fish in so doing.
    How do you weigh the benefit of a human against that of a dog? See JS Mill regarding whether it’s better to be a miserable Socrates or a gleeful pig. I would like to see a table measuring the relative weightings given to all creatures, then we can inform the animal kingdom who may eat whom and when.
    Do we eat out of necessity? Do animals eat out of necessity? If so, is the necessity forward looking – I must eat to survive, I eat because I want to see the next day – or is it backwards looking – I eat out of habit, I eat because my ancestors ate this way, I eat because I am compelled to do so by my natural instincts?
    What about plants? Can we eat them because they don’t suffer? What about fish? Goldfish with minute memories? But science now says goldfish have memories of several minutes. Has scientific knowledge changed what is moral? What about somebody in a coma? They have no brain activity, no suffering, can we eat them? (Secretly of course, their families would probably suffer).
    If your wish is to minimise suffering, I have a dilemma for you. The world and animal life will continue indefinitely. Not infinitely, but for an indefinite time. We are good people who wish to minimise suffering. All people will die eventually. The more people and animals who live, the more who suffer. Would it not be better, morally better, to destroy the planet now and spare the suffering caused by the rest of Earth’s existence?

  15. If we want to talk about the legality of eating dog meat, we should 1st ask the question, “is eating/selling dog meat illegal in US or other Western nations?”
    The answer is simply NO, at least not in many Western nations.
    Dog meat, as long as inspected for food safety, is legal for sale in Canada (per 2003 case), and in many states in US, and many European countries.
    (I think Germany and possibly France have outlawed sale of dog meat).
    “The consumption of inspected dog meat is legal in many countries including Canada and parts of the United States, where it is especially common in Hawaiian cuisine. For a truly authentic Hawaiian pizza, you can replace ham with dog meat.”
    So at the end of the day, the debate needs to go no further than the doorstep of the Western nations. The same argument has not effectively banned dog meat in the Western nations, one can hardly expect the argument to carry the day in China.

    • Boy how I wish we were living with the same laws which were on the books 200 years ago, you know, slavery and child labor legal, woman not voting, etc., b/c no one had the stones to question any of it…

  16. I guess the real solution is to not eat meat.
    There are “human friends” that are also considered food animals in Western culture. European import huge quantity of horse meat from US, and in America rabbit is considered both pet and food. Let’s not even get into the fact cows are gods to a significant % of human population.
    As to cruelty, I would opin that

  17. I guess the real solution is to not eat meat.
    There are “human friends” that are also considered food animals in Western culture. Europeans import huge quantity of horse meat from US, and in America rabbit is considered both pet and food. Let’s not even get into the fact cows are gods to a significant % of human population.
    As to cruelty, a disjointed issue, I would opin that cruelty imposed by intensive farming practice in the West, aka factory farming, exceeds anything the Chinese does, both in terms of scale and severity.
    BTW, the animal activist quoted is mistaken, China does have animal welfare and livestock management laws that stipulate humane treatment. What is true is animal cruelty in China is a civil not criminal offense.

    • Thank you! Laws do exist, theyre just not enforced.
      I wonder if that will change a lot of people’s minds of what should really happen or not. Somehow I doubt it though.

  18. While I appreciate that this is a complicated issue, especially in terms of why some animals are considered “food” and others aren’t, what hasn’t been addressed here is that many of the dogs in question were stolen pets. The same thing with many of the cats that end up in cook-pots. This is more than a clash of values; this is about pets being kidnapped and eaten.
    So, we can argue about the larger issues here, but on just about any level you’d care to consider it, I think we can agree that kidnapping peoples’ companion animals, or if you’d prefer, stealing their property, is wrong.

  19. Whale can be delicious, when it is cooked correctly. You need someone who really understands how to cook the animal to prepare it.
    But overall, I think vegetarianism is the way forward. Meat production is bad for the environment.

  20. My two cents’ worth.
    Humans began eating meat thousands of years ago in the millenia before they learned to cultivate crops. The early hunting- and gathering-homo sapiens didn’t have the knowledge of how to farm, much less produce surplus crops. They were nomadic and ate those fruits, grains, and wild game that they could catch and consume. Without a body of knowledge that we today would term “science”, they acted on their most natural and basic impulses to survive and succeed as a species. It speaks volumes that the first known tools made by man were those used for hunting and cleaning animals killed in the hunt. It’s also significant that settled farming and animal domestication for consumption purposes appear to have occurred almost simultaneously in man’s prehistorical period. Hence, it seems clear to me that homo sapiens were (and are) driven by something natural and deep within them to eat meat, much the same as lions, or tigers, or bears. Because this drive is natural, it’s somewhat difficult to condemn it on moral terms ipso facto. We need a factual context and set of normative standards to condemn any human activity, the eating of animals included.
    Despite our pride-driven wishes to consider ourselves different from our distant ancestors, modern homo sapiens are NO DIFFERENT biologically than their ancestors who lived 20,000 years or more ago; we differ from them only as to how we perceive the world in moral, philosophical, intellectual and scientific terms. In developed/rich world countries we have longer life spans and often are taller on average than our distant ancestors, but fundamentally we are the same species driven by the same biological impulses and imperatives. We therefore eat, mate, produce and raise offspring and spend all of our lives in activity to support these basic biological needs. Meat eating being a product of some innate and natural drive in homo sapiens, condemning another culture’s or person’s choice of what meat they eat on moral terms is a waste of time (cannibalism excepted and maybe even that stance may be no more than the product of religious and/or cultural arrogance). Perhaps when it all comes down to it, it’s only the luxury of having choices in what foods we can eat that drives the decision on the morality of eating certain animals as opposed to others.

    • “Meat eating being a product of some innate and natural drive in homo sapiens” really? Says who now? Speak for yourself please.

  21. Charles Liu — While I am no fan of mass farming practices in the West, I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say that animal cruelty in the West exceeds China.
    From horrible zoos, to the poaching / eating of endangered species, to practices like extracting bear bile, China does not have a particularly good record on the protection of animals. (The cuddly panda is probably the big exception).
    Even just talking to average people, it’s pretty clear that animal rights are not particular well understood, or a major issue, among most Chinese.

    • When one is not interested in a subject, one does not spend a lot of time worrying about it. China is obviously not interested in so called “Animal Rights”. Just like the West is no interested in so called “Communism”. It’s the same for individuals. We only care about what we are interested in. The things that do not interest us, we don’t care about and don’t think about.

  22. I have a question. I found this blog today and my question is this. If both Indians and Chinese are very poor, then why is it the Chinese who have such, well, strange food choices. Why don’t Indians eat the animals or scorpions or ants, or whatever?

    • Indians [ and this isn’t a simple adulation of my country] tend to be a little more compassionate, in general. Of course, there is widespread cruelty which is increasing because of the infiltration of the self-centered and “don’t give a shit” mindset, but I have to say, far less number of animals who sneak into farms and eat fruit from orchards are killed here than in the West or even in other asian countries. I see homeless [ I try to help some of them] far kinder to animals than any of the affluent middle class jerks, and I have to say, the primary reason for depletion of tiger population in India or rhino population in Africa are the Chinese markets. I’m trying really hard to not be racist here, but you wouldn’t normally find tiger penis or rhino horm powder or whatever in traditional Indian medicine, not frequently. Ayurveda, atleast focuses on using herbs. Plus true Indian religion has strong grounding in compassion towards all creatures, but of course religion is distorted to satiate twisted appetites [ Suppression of women, much?] China, Korea, Vietnam seem to have some brutal cultural trends [ I can’t help saying it. You don’t see Indians eating bear paw or using bear bile]. I know there are many many individuals in those countries that combat these heinous abuses, but the fact is, they have practices that tend to be more atrocious. I kinda love my country. [ Though I hate the fuckin patriarchy].

      • Yes, Indians may be more compassionate towards animals on average, but what about humans? India is well known for the society’s incredible indifference towards the poor, which beats anything you get in China or Vietnam. I have been to all these countries, and in China and Vietnam you feel that there is a much stronger social cohesion than in India, where the rich and the poor seem to live in different galaxies. And what about the traditional caste system?

      • It’s true. Some Vietnamese cultures make me ashamed. I had to go through a kid asking me if I ate dogs and cats because I’m Asian, Vietnamese in particular. That’s just wrong. These people need to learn kindness and morality.

  23. I am an animal lover but I also eat meat. The idea of me eating a dog or even a cat seems so devastating and outrageous because I have had dogs since I was a young child and I don’t see dogs as just an “animal” but rather as a loving friend and companion. To me, dogs are a bit different to other animals. But that is because I take care of my dog and cuddle it and play with it and have a bond with it and generally when you look after something, you get attached to it. I have never had a cow or sheep as a pet and although I love them too, because of that reason, it doesn’t affect me eating it… However, some one who has never had a dog as a pet would never understand the feelings that I have towards dogs, and would probably see them just as I see a cow or sheep.
    I don’t judge people for what they eat. Here in Africa people eat weirder things as well but the problem arises when people torture and ill treat animals before they eat it. Even though we see humans as having more worth than animals, that doesn’ mean we should treat animals just any how. I totally disagree with the cooking of animals while they have not been slaughtered quickly without pain and suffering. I don’t think people realise that animals feel pain as well.

  24. Why this ‘hitler was a vegetarian’ shit all the time? how do you even know it’s true? i am a vegetarian just as is the author and i wonder how he would feel if the chinese wanted to eat him? probably not quite so altruistic. eating dogs is asia’s greatest remaining cultural evil, but they [or you!] won’t ever find out unless you get close enough to a dog to find out. if you aren’t human enough to manage that, go eat everything that moves.

  25. My father’s family raised horses (clydes) for 400 yrs. I traced the history back to 1568 and like most farmers they most likely had pets. I know my father did. He came from a poor family and he told me that he often went hungry but he never once mentioned that they ate horse meat or pet meat.
    When discussing how the Chinese could eat dogs and cats, he was mortified. He was a decorator and refused any invitation from Chinese restuarants to decorate them. We always had pets in our house. I still do albeit she is now 14yrs old. Before my bro’s passing he too had pets, There is no law in China for crualty to animals and therefore no respect. You say it is cultural. Ok, I’ll go along with it. But what happens when they immigrate to other countries who have crualty laws. They ignore the laws of that country and get away with it? If I was to kill and eat my dog, I’d go to jail. That’s discrimation!

  26. Wow Ms. high and mighty Mary Anne Britnell. So your dad chooses to paint all chinese restaurant owners with a board stroke. Good for him. He is great at stereotyping just like you. Did thoses restaurant owners serve dog meat? Most people in china do not condone eating dog meat. So they ignore the laws of your country and illegally serve dog meat? What country do you live in? I’ve never seen a chinese restaurant in a western country serve dog meat. There would be significant backlash and bad publicity. Not to mention that the joint would probably be vandalized by PETA.

  27. What I don’t get is why the Chinese have to eat everything, even endangered species. Geez! Leave something alone, already. I eat no meat. And I know meat eating will never stop [ It tastes waaay too good, apparently]. But c’mon, you have to have chicken, pork, cow, goat, rabbit, fish, dog, cat, bugs, sea horses, everything! And they have the most brutal methods of preparing the food. I’m sorry, is compassion such a difficult concept for much of the human race?

    • I eat meat, but rarely, because my stomach just can’t digest it any more. O.o I mean…. really? Dogs and cats were not bred for food. This is just wrong. Plain, downright, wrong. Not just wrong, uncivilized. I’m proud to be Vietnamese, but these uncivilized barbaric practices make me feel ashamed. A kid once asked me when I was younger if I ate dogs and cats because I was Vietnamese. These outrageous, cruel people bring bad name to Asian, making me subjected to several taunts concerning my ethnicity. Two dogs are part of my magnificent family, and I help out with a feral cat colony. Really people. You bring shame to all.

      • Give me one reason that they are not edible, one indisputable fact that makes eating dogs “uncivilized” or barbaric. This sounds like that you want to conform to foreign standards. If that kid asked me that question, I would proudly say yes.

        • Silly argument. Using your logic- Give me one reason why humans aren’t edible? You’ll give me the same list of reasons I can give you for dogs…the only animal to work alongside people in so many jobs and life saving situations. Pigs are smart as argument, but… Dogs are hardwired to interact with humans out of the womb. Point and a dog will know what you are communicating…regardless of training. A chimp doesn’t even do that. A dog goes out of it’s way to seek human companionship out of pure instinct. They are bred as hunter/guardian companions…not livestock. Dare I also mention the dozens of studies published focusing on the unsanitary spread of disease through dog meat. So, in comparing what dogs were bred for and how they are being treated as livestock..damn straight it is “uncivilized” and barbaric. Ok, let’s forget about the eating habits for a second. I can forgive ignorance. Let’s talk about cruelty. Our western farming practices have a lot to be desired, but I haven’t seen any recent reports of sheep being purposefully tossed in vats of boiling grease alive. Where’s the empathy, man? What’s wrong with these people? Could you imagine the pain? That’s what they do to these animals. That’s not uncivilized? That’s not barbaric? I don’t know, man…. I wouldn’t go out of my way to support those practices. There’s a lot we can do to change things here in the west, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with criticizing backwards practices in other parts of the world. There’s a reason the more educated people are putting up a stink. It’s not a poor vs. rich issue. It’s an issue of the educated vs the uneducated.

  28. In my opinion it has nothing to do with being rich or poor. Being sensitive to the ways in which these dogs are obtained and kept is a separate issue than the fact that we think it’s taboo to eat animals. People need to get over what it meant to own dog In thebpast and focus on the cruel ways that animals are treated when they are destined for the slaughter house. As far as Americans getting involved…we have no right to impose our beliefs on any other culture . It’s simply none of our business.

  29. I have eaten Rattle Snake, Alligator, Chocolate Ants, Scorpions and “Dog!”  It is a long grain meat that is delicious.  What is the big deal here?  I will try anything(except human-no, no, no).  If people will get educated and out of there narrow mind sets, study the culture of other Countries and look at what they eat, it is Fascinating!  As Americans, I think, we limit ourselves to what society see’s as “Right!”  That’s OK, it’s worked for over 200 years.  BUT….People on this planet will eat almost anything and very often do.  If you and I are in a Restaurant, and I want steak and you want fish, are we different?  NO!  We only have different tastes.  The rich in many Cultures, just as the Poor, have different food items they can explore and do so with Gusto. So if I want Steak, and you want Fish, we can still be neighbors.  Let’s go get a Cheeseburger!!!!!

  30. Really??? Do any of you guys even have a heart? Does it make you feel good to know that people kill dogs and be ok with it?

  31. What doesn’t make sense is North Americans accusing rural China for eating dogs (they eat it for survival!) when some of them go hunting themselves (for sports). When survival comes into play, it is unjust to make such blames.

    • Yes. I love survival. Survival is my passion. I’m interested in it. Survival is also my dream. No one should be able to stop me from pursuing my dream!

  32. Let me tell you something u might not have thought of: this issue proves that there is actually more cultural freedom in China than in the West. Moreover, there is less cultural discrimination and judgementalism in China amongst its peoples. This means that there is more tolerance for others in China than among Westerners. If you tell a Westerner that you eat dog, the average response would be “that’s disgusting” which means that they think you are evil. If you tell a Chinese in China that you eat dog, the average Chinese would probably say: “was it nice?” They would not judge you on the spot for being “disgusting” or “evil”. This is the type of behaviour that shows maturity in civilisation. The Chinese have this maturity because they are not judgemental about what other people eat. It is purely an individual’s liberal right and business what they eat. The Westernern mindset, on the other hand, is purely hypocritical and legalistic when it comes to food. It shows that they’re still in the Middle Ages.

    • Yes, westerners are hypicritical. Neither should be eating animals who suffer for it.
      But if the Chinese are so mature, they wouldn’t be making the dogs suffer so much before eating them in order to fulfill some old wives tale about supposed “medicinal benefits”.
      You cant have it both ways.

  33. People have to start respecting other people more than caring about their “pet dogs”, when these animals do not even think about themselves like humans think about “pets”. By the way, who created the idea that we could have “pets” anyway? Having a “pet” kind of resembles having a “slave”. U go to the shop and u have to “buy” one. Then you enjoy the benefits it brings to your life and you have to feed it. What’s so “great” about that? That’s what Europeans used to do with slaves.

  34. What’s so complicated?
    I wish you’d mentioned the most important
    consideration about the eating of cats and dogs in the mostly Asian countries – the conditions the animals are ‘processed’ under. How could you possibly miss itheir trying to impose their will on China will only cause it to get its back upand end up being counterproductive.???
    It means long trips crammed into tiny metal cages to the point where bones break, the animals are strung up and beaten so they cant fight back. This means cracked skulls, broken jaws, all paws cut off while alive- then skinned alive. Then the skinned animals are thrown into pressure cookers with boiling water – ALIVE.
    The idea being the more the animal suffers, the more adrenaline is released and therefore a medicinal benefit is somehow attained.
    How selfish.
    Tell you what- do a Youtube search for – dog eating Moran market – and THEN come back and write your piece. Even arguments about rich/poor will fall by the wayside, as you seem to be a rather fair minded person.
    And no, whether it’s illegal or not has nothing to do with whether it should be done or not. If people didn’t ever object to things which were legal but wrong, we’d still be living like cavemen. Where are your references that
    “their trying to impose their will on China will only cause it to get its back upand end up being counterproductive.” That’s your own conjecture. And not very well thought out at that, Im sorry to say.
    When it comes to cruelty, there are no cultural borders. It shouldnt be happening here in factory/fur farms, laboratories, etc. Would it be ok for people to be tortured in another culture because that’s “their way”? No. Why would it be different for animals? One tries to stop it wherever it is.
    Finally, it’s superfluous to bring up the old >”supposedly< Hitler was a vegetarian". Well supposedly was Jesus. DaVinci was one. What's your point? Because some nut may have been, that's a yardstick that means what- when you're only putting up a fragment of an example of an irrational person- especially if it's not an accepted position at all?
    Look- You tube the Moran market. I think its in China.
    Then you will see how very simple and uncomplicated this issue really is. I'm sorry a good opportunity was missed to bring up the real truths about these places.

  35. It IS our business!!
    If people were tortured elsewhere, it would be our’s – and the world’s business.
    Suffering and cruelty don’t know borders, and no country should hide behind its borders to conduct it, human or animal.
    We’re living in a global society now, get used to it. Its not going to change.

  36. It’s a truck forced off on a High Way not Road! Breaking laws and taking risk of other people’s live for saving eaten dogs? Well I might say why not just respect each others culture for not seeing any Indian people forcing off a cow truck in front of your car on a High Way.

  37. I think what is most upsetting to people who object to the eating of dogs (and cats) is the fact that they are tortured to death. Even if the worst is that they are bludgeoned to death, this is often done in clear view of other dogs (or cats) awaiting a similar fate. However, more often than not, dogs and cats are tortured. Who has not seen the images of desperate dogs attempting to climb out of cooking pots as the water heats up to boiling point, or of cats in metal cages being suspended over burning embers, or the many other ‘imaginative’ ways of causing maximum pain and suffering to these poor creatures as they die? Of course, all farmed animals suffer in many ways before and during slaughter, sometimes with the added pain inflicted by sadistic farm workers and/or slaughtermen (and women), but comparing one form of cruelty to another does not excuse either one. And who has not heard the excuse that says those who care about animals do not care about people? This excuse is universal and, in my long experience as an activist, I find it is most often used by people who do absolutely nothing for others. As for the rich-poor divide issue, it will continue to be used as an excuse for atrocities of all kinds in all countries, as it always has been.
    If people do not like cruelty, wherever it occurs and whoever the victim, they should speak out and not be afraid of being ridiculed or falsely accused. We can expect people who hurt others to make excuses, but people who are kind should not remain silent. Martin Luther King explained this best when he said “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”.

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