Saturday, September 4, 2010

Dog Meat – What’s So Wrong with Eating Man’s Best Friend?

Before I’d set off for a recent trip to Northern China, I remember my friend pulling me aside at a dinner party, and with that slurred solemnity induced by four shots of vodka, she made me promise her that I would not eat dog meat. Thinking about the various dishes I’d sampled at local restaurants and side streets, I really can’t be sure if I’ve broken my half-hearted vow to her, but I doubt it. Dog meat, according to the Chinese side of my family, has a distinctly pungent taste and aroma. Regarded as ‘the fragrant meat’, it’s been part of a longstanding culinary tradition, known to keep diners warm in the winters and to speed up the metabolism. This however, as expressed by the pleading, wide-eyed horror of my friend, can be very difficult for many of us to stomach. While we suffer no qualms feasting on the flesh of other animals, dogs and cats are simply out of the question. A dog is no gentler than a lamb, smarter than a pig or even more affectionate than a goose (as anyone who has kept a pet goose or chicken that nestles in your lap while you watch the television and follows you keenly around the house would know), so is it really a matter of morality or cultural gap?

Rationally speaking, one might encounter some difficulty deciding why it is essentially more wrong to eat dogs than it is to eat any other creature. Some argue that dogs are bred for their companionship, but this of course is restricted to the West. In countries like China and Korea, dogs are specifically bred to end up on dinner plates. Anti-dog-trade activists claim that it is ‘uncivilised’ to eat dogs, but one can recognise the hypocrisy of this argument, coming from countries where factory-farmed livestock are crammed like sardines into overcrowded pens and blasted with antibiotics to be kept alive until they’re finally ready to be slaughtered. Dogs bred for consumption are kept in no better conditions, but with just as much self-awareness as those creatures routinely slaughtered and served up on the Western dinner table, it is very difficult to understand why treating dogs in this way is any less moral or ‘civilised’. Peter Singer, Australian philosopher and specialist in applied ethics, reasons that all animals are equal and that one cannot reasonably proscribe the eating of certain animals and permit the eating of others based on subjective, moral grounds. This however, is what has been happening in recent years, with the Chinese government allegedly yielding to the pressures of anti-dog-trade activists and Western ideals of ethical eating.

10 year companionship: Man and his goose near
Ijburg in Amsterdam after enjoying a swim in the ocean
During the Beijing Olympics in 2008, official ordered dog meat off the menus at local markets and in the southern province of Guangzhou, where dog meat is widely consumed, vendors were reportedly warned to stop selling dog meat ahead of the Asian Games which will be held later this year. The Chinese government has signalled a willingness to completely ban the sales and consumption of dog meat on a national scale, and harsh penalties are allegedly being considered for individuals and businesses that are found violating this impending law. The move is certainly controversial, with spectators claiming that the ban is tantamount to succumbing to foreign prejudices, and in disregarding the long culinary tradition of consuming dog meat in China, it does appear to be a classic example of cultural imperialism. Despite this, it is only natural for our emotional bias to take precedence over proper reasoning, and once such bans set in, many of us will raise our voices in triumphant cheers while heedlessly stabbing into our Sunday roast.

See also: Bizarre Trends in Pet-Keeping


  1. The short of it as I see it is that in western society our 'family based life' has nearly completely collapsed. We now welcome dogs, cats and other prefered animals into our homes and our lives to replace family members who no longer suit our way of life. The dog is always there when you return matter when that is, and is always happy to see you even at three in the morning when you stagger in pissed. Regular family members are usually not that forgiving!(ask my wife) Once we replace our family, or at least place undue emotion on our pets, it's then impossible to see them as just animals. It's all in the mind of course, but take away the meat, guts and bone and the mind is all we actually are!

  2. If you're going to eat meat, you may as well go the whole hog and eat human flesh. Let's not forget the late Bernd Brandes, who willingly gave his body to a cannibal. Eating someone who wants to be eaten is better than murdering an animal.

    1. There's a massive difference between humans and the lower animals, in case that wasn't obvious to anyone with a brain.

  3. I have to sadly agree with you on the dogs as meat concept. Not that I'd ever eat Fido - unless the doomsday prevails and the only nutrition is the canine/feline population - but what's the diff between eating dog/cat versus horse, rabbit, goat.

    Humans are omnivores. When I went to Paris I was warned to ask if my burger was made of horse or beef. After barely a nano-seconds thought, I decided what I didn't know wouldn't bother me, and just ordered whatever I could read off the menu. Turned out to be Cordon Blu. Ok, I know what they do to the calfs and pigs to make that meal.

    Food is food, right? Luckily, I'm not much of a meat eater myself. But the world is a viscious killing machine.


  4. Hi Lady, wow! I love your this posting. You sure made me think, ha ha.
    A few of my friends having worked or working in China have told me they have tried, but will not go overboard for it....prefer more McDonalds, ha ha.

    I guess I will take a pass, together with ducks, lambs, monkeys. The Chinese will eat anything that walks on 4 legs, flies, swims, ha ha....

    You sure have a very interesting blog.
    You have a pleasant week, and keep a song in your heart, best regards, Lee.

  5. It's sad to see all those pigs in small cages like that. I've heard they have horrible lives.

    Interesting post. Very thought provoking.

  6. I have a friend in China and he sent me a photo of a dog on a BBQ. That was just awful. Love the duck photo though. I can't stand to hear about what's happening in the farming world. It's too horrible.


  7. What's really a matter of morality here is eating meat at all no matter which animal was slaughtered, butchered, sliced and diced in the most brutal and immoral of ways to satisfy someone's appetite.
    If most people knew how are poor animals being raised and killed for food or fur, 90% of them would never eat meat again nor wear dead animal carcasses on their backs.

  8. I guess in the western world, the majority of our meat comes from herbivorous animals and even then, not family pets.
    A friend of mine used to raise piglets on milk and grain.
    Everyone wanted them once they went to the butcher yet she couldn't eay pork for a month to make sure that she didn't get her piglets.
    You can actually buy unborn veal----the meat of an unborn calf found during slaughter---most people find that abhorent yet will eat the veal of a born calf that is slaughtered.
    I have to say that the Chinese are a cruel race with animals. You can buy dog at a wet market--live and slaughtered for you--usually with broken front legs tied behind their head and mouths tied.
    We like to think that we are humane to the animals we eat

  9. You always make me think when I read your posts. However, when I was reading this one, I was watching my two dogs stretch at my feet, looking at me with beautiful puppy dog eyes and thought - nope, no way I could ever eat dog meat.

  10. If you set your personal feelings aside, ultimately it is just a cultural distinction.

  11. This morning I heard that they uncovered some garbage from a dump in Brooklyn where there was a ten year old hot dog that had retained its integrity (for lack of a better word). Dog meat is probably healthier than hot dog meat.

  12. Meat is meat. Culturally, of course dog meat is taboo in the west but swine is dirtier still than dogs so meat consumption lies in the cultural eye of the beholder

  13. What will Andrew Zimmer eat if he can't sample dog tar-tar?

  14. I would never eat dog, but I agree with your points.

  15. I eat fish and crustacheons...I think it's called being a pesotarian, but I call myself a mostatarian...I stopped eating meat because my daughter became a vegetarian 4 years ago (at age 10). I wanted to make sure that she was getting the right nutrients. I would occassionally eat meat at first, but then I started to see meat as animals...Now I get kind of sad when I see cows in a pen with no grass...and lots of grain, getting fattened up. I cook meat for my husband, but I can't eat it anymore. Did someone say it was full disclosure Sunday?

  16. Our meat eating habits are no less disgusting than other cultures' - as others have commented. Give me a kosher dog and, well, no. Still, no. Eating an animal that you love as a family member does feel different. But we do this too in the US. I just avoid meat, generally.

  17. As always a thought provoking post.
    I am interested in Singer's argument but can't entirely agree with him. The quality of suffering an intelligent animal like a pig will endure if treated cruelly is vastly different to that of say a snail.
    I am a very long way from being a vegetarian, but I can't abide cruelty to animals. Eating meat doesn't have to be cruel If you treat the animals with respect.
    I grew up on farms where animals were both well treated and eaten, and I don't see there is necessarily a contradiction.
    The problem is when people stop seeing the animals as creatures but as commodities.

  18. If my neighbor doesn't shut up his yapping dog keeping me awake at night it's going to end up on my BBQ.

  19. Watching footage of cows and pigs being slaughtered in "humane" ways will turn most people vegetarian

  20. Like it or not, humans are carnivores/omnivores, by nature. We share that trait with many other animals, none of whom seem to care about giving their prey a merciful death. The big, and lamentable, difference between us humans and the other carnivores is that we tend to kill animals we have raised just for that purpose, and the way we raise them is often inhumane. Those poor pigs in your photo is a good example, as are the dogs in China that Clyde mentioned. We urbanized Americans tend to think of meat as unrecognizable slices and chunks of pink or red stuff in styrofoam packages. It tastes good when we cook it, and that's that. Try visiting China, folks, and see if your appetite for meat is as hearty as it was when you were sheltered from the truth. That being said, basically I agree that meat is meat, no matter which animal it comes from. I just wish we could find a way to be more considerate of the sources.

  21. This is a cultural thing. Some eat pork, some it cows, some eat dogs, and some don't. It's just a question about cultural background and traditions >:)

    Cold As Heaven

  22. It is a hypocrisy to eat one, but not the other. I've never had dog meat, and it doesn't seem appealing.. though, If I'm a situation where my family is starving.. I'm sorry, Fido, you're time is up. And yes, he maybe a family member as some might claim, but they are not at the same level with human. it wouldn't be cannibalism. It'd be survival. Like eating gator, or frog legs... its not something I want to do, but would do if needed.

  23. I agree with Cold as Heaven. It is a totally cultural thing. To that point, though you make a well-formed argument, I can't ever imagine eating dog meat. Nothing would be able to change that and I know there are others around the world who feel that way about other animals I have no concern eating. It's all about mutual respect for each other's traditions.

    Now if only we could translate that to other areas....

  24. I couldn't read the entire article or watch the vids, as that is too much for me. You make a good point regarding "living" conditions of Western livestock~ this was a reason I went veggo.

  25. All good points I think taking dog off the menu due to pressure from the West is ridiculous, we don't take pig off the menu because of Muslim believe do we?

  26. Great post!! It is weird when you think about it. Why not a dog...?(besides the carnivores only eating herbivores rule) I do eat meat but if I dwell on where it came from it I get grossed out. And if it has a bone still in it, --much worse. I did have a pet chicken as a child, she was very sweet, I came home one day to find out the neighbors dog had eaten her. --sometimes it's a "dog eat dog world", and sometimes a 'dog eat chicken'...sometimes 'people eat dog'. A dog would eat you if it got the chance...whatever happened to the food chain?

  27. I have an award for you over at my blog.


  28. I do my best to hold a live and let live view - recognise my own western values and that other cultures have different values, but this one, eating dogs, well it leaves me struggling.
    I blame Lassie. She was the first step into anthromorphizing dogs - we watched the movie and placed our human emotions into Lassie. It was downhill from there - Lady and the Tramp, all those Dalmatians...
    Sales of pork and bacon dropped dramatically following the release of the movie Babe.
    We don't seem to project the same human emotions onto cows and sheep, Larry the lamb was never in the same league as Lassie.
    So China and Korea have become the Cruella de Ville of the doggy lover world.
    As for me, I am typing this with my own 2 little dogs curled up next to me, I want to get on a plane and become a one-woman rescue mission for all those dogs destined for the food chain.
    Lassie got me at a very impressionable age!

  29. The real issue here is NOT whether it is more immoral to eat dogs/cats than cows/sheep, it is the nazi-like brutality these animals are suffering in Asia. No one but the most vile sadist would ok the boiling of living cows, sheep etc but that is exactly what is happening in the Gehenna-for-animals, Asia. IF your article had focused more on that, I think the response would be less flippant

    Great site otherwise. Really great