The slaughter of dogs and cats for food or other purposes

Man's best friend held captive in China!

"Dog does not eat dog, but the Chinese, Koreans and Vietnamese do".
Oh, the joy and pain of stereotyping! Pain for those to whom it does not apply.
Why the others should resent it is unclear. Unless they feel that there is something wrong with it after all.
Some arguments in defense.
  1. People are poor and hungry.
  2. Dogs and cats are considered to be similar to vegetables there, not companions.
  3. "None has ever been able to give me reasons WHY NOT to eat dogs or cats".
  4. Why is eating dogs any different to eating cows, sheep, horses or rabbits?
  5. Dog and cat eating is cultural.
caged dogs
Interested in some facts? (focus on dogs as cat eating is less prevalent).
  1. Dog meat is more expensive than beef pork and therefore not suited to small incomes. It is considered good against the cold in China and good against the heat in Korea and is also eaten in a variety of ways for "medicinal" purposes. When the vast majority of people in this world, particularly in Africa and India, suffer from hunger, why do only China, Korea and Vietnam have this practice? And consider this: where do "compassion" and "empathy" come in, traits humans claim as virtues that set them apart from animals? Yet, no animal tortures its prey to death. To give you an idea of the reality of the fate of millions of dogs in China and Korea, please read the observations of eye witnesses below.
  2. "Regarding" animals as akin to vegetables, does not make animals vegetables. It merely shows up the ignorance and stupidity of those that make this argument. Animals share much of our DNA, dogs as much as 75%, the primates and pigs even more than that. Even in most of the developed world, animals are classified as "matter". The law nevertheless punishes cruelty to dogs and cats in the same countries and efforts are under way to gain the rights of farm animals to lives and deaths free from suffering.
  3. What argument is there for not eating dogs? The reasons why Japanese laws have protected dogs long before any Western nation did, should provide some clues. Not only are dogs man's most loyal friends, unconditionally giving trust and affection, but there are countless examples where dogs have saved human lives, often of their own accord and at risk to their own lives and they have done so for centuries. They rescue people from collapsed buildings and mines, sniff out drugs, arms and land mines, guide the blind through the densest traffic, help the old and handicapped, speed the recovery of the sick and much more. The benefits of touching dogs and cats to reduce stress and other illness in people are proven. It is a pity that, because of their attitudes, those that regard them as food, deprive themselves of any such benefit. Noone has been able to put forward an argument for not eating humans either. There are laws against it in most countries, of course. Nonetheless, the practice of cannibalism existed until not long ago and, in isolated areas of the world, still does. Then there are the commandments of different religions, but not everyone subscribes to those. The most persuasive is that their friends or kin are likely to kill you in return, although they might not care to eat you. Dogs are at a distinct disadvantage there, of course.
  4. Cows, sheep, goats, horses, rabbits are not carnivores while dogs are. It is unnatural and unusual in nature for one red meat eater to eat another.
    Sadly, there are many examples of cruelty to animals all over the world, including the practice of stuffing geese to fatten their livers in countries like France. But we must work to STOP these, not excuse one appalling cruelty with another. Instead, we need to allow animals, all of them, to live free of suffering and to die free of pain inflicted by us.
For those that would justify anything on the basis of "culture" and "tradition", here are some cultural practices that might give you food for thought. Most of them no longer exist, others are disappearing, through the efforts of civilised people around the world.
  • The Roman Circus where throwing people to the lions was considered entertainment.
  • Slave markets where shackled humans were offered for sale.
  • Burning unwanted and uncomfortable people at the stake.
  • Bull fights, which Spain has now agreed to abolish.
  • Female circumcision.
  • Cannibalism.
  • Honor killing, still practiced.
  • Food binding is an ancient custom that has been phased out of China for being cruel and unnecessary. People now look back at in with shock and disgust… why can't we relegate dog eating to the history books too?
The list could go on at some length. Fact is that primitive practices are not more acceptable because they are "part of the culture".
Of course, there are people in every society who are cruel or criminal, who steal and murder, who are without compassion, remorse or honor. But several wrongs do not make a right. If we are to strive for a better world, this must include lifting humanity from the base levels on which many groups still exist. To quote the author Coetzee writing about the work of "Voiceless", which strives to improve the lives of farm animals in Australia.
"Steadily, and not so slowly any more, we are making progress. One day, not in our lifetime perhaps, but in a future that is not unforeseeable, animals of non-human species will be born into a world in which they stand a fair chance of living a life that is happy by their own standards and fulfilling.
"When that day comes, they will not look back with gratitude to the human beings who helped to make this dispensation possible, that is to say, who helped to restore a decent life to them. But that does not matter. We are a species whose nature it is to look back; other species have what they consider to be more important things to do with their time than looking back".
"Voiceless acts in the most practical of ways to fund projects across the country whose goal is to ameliorate the lives of animals. Voiceless is a small part of what has become a large and I would hope irreversible movement among human beings to make this planet a less harsh and deadly place for all those to whom it is the one and only home".
Observations by Annie Mather, Executive Director and Head of Media of Animals Asia Foundation, Hong Kong. Jill Robinson MBE, the Founder of Animals Asia, has been monitoring the live animal markets in China for many, many years. I only began doing so a few years ago. My reaction the first time I stepped into a live animal market was one of real horror. I know that animals "go to market" all over the world, in preparation to be sold and slaughtered…, but what shocked me so much was that so many of the animals in the market in Guang Zhou were really suffering and nobody seemed to care e.g. -cage after cage of different species (many of them endangered), many of them with 3 legs, e.g. civet cats, leopard cats (because they have been trapped in the wild), dying slowly of gangrene- waiting sometimes days or weeks in this condition until they were sold. It's really no wonder something like SARS incubated in such a market, I mean, the bizarre mix of species, close to each other, infecting each other, 3 legs, dying of infection, the stress, their immune systems crashing - a veritable melting pot of cruelty and disease…. Unfortunately, even though there was a panic when the SARS outbreak occurred and the markets became fairly quiet, they are once again heaving…the fact is, these markets feed an insatiable appetite for wild animals and - in winter especially, an appetite for dog and cat meat.
As dreadful as that is, nothing is as distressing as seeing the dogs come in…and their treatment. Lorries pull in with anything up to 2,000 dogs on the back, squashed in tiny wire cages that defy belief, 4 dogs literally squashed together in a cage unable to move a muscle. It's quite unbelievably horrific. Many of the dogs are very, very sick, with yellow pus dripping from their eyes, probably with parvo and distemper. We have learnt that those trucks have driven 3 days and 3 nights from other provinces. Imagine being a dog on that truck? surrounded by other cages filled with 1000's of miserable crying dogs - no food - no water - little air to breathe - and then to be off loaded by being dragged out of your cage by a man wielding a pair of iron "tongs" that tries to grab you by the neck, but sometimes misses because you are struggling to get away and gets you in your mouth - thus penetrating the soft palate, screaming in agony. Hoisted through the air into a metal cage where anything up to 30 dogs are packed tightly one on top of each other in order to be weighed.
It is so desperately sad - these poor dogs are then tipped out into a run with a big bowl of water, they literally pounce on it, they are so dehydrated - we go up to the side of the run and call them with a gentle whisper, and even after their ghastly ordeal, they will turn and wag their little tails, so grateful for a little comfort… these are dogs - dogs whose instinct is to be our best friends, to love us, to protect us - this treatment is an abomination!
However… worse is yet to come: we have witnessed these same dogs being killed hideously slowly - all by people who seem to behave as if they were handling sacks of rice, not living, sentient beings with feelings and the ability to experience pain. There is such a crashing lack of dignity in these live animal markets - you see whole families not only working in such a place but living there, small children running around, sliding around in the blood, the screams of the animals, a sort of everyday background noise… living in a soulless hellhole, but not knowing it. I felt as if I was in some bizarre nightmare that I hoped I would soon wake up from - but it was real and I felt desperately sad and angry at the total lack of humanity and dignity and filled with horror and disgust that this goes on in our world.
The cats fair little better - arriving in cages, dozens of top of each other, and some dead, wondering in bewilderment what they have done to deserve this treatment. They are also hoisted by the neck with metal tongs from cage to cage - as they are "sorted" between different traders. For what it's worth, I've never seen them actually tortured to death - their dispatch is pretty fast, stunning and a slitting of the throat - the ritual of torture, seems to be more reserved for dogs historically. However, it still makes you sick to your stomach that these wonderful creatures that make such incredible companions are subjected to this terrible treatment. Jill and I leave the market with our hearts breaking - all you can say in your heart is "sorry, I'm so sorry that I can't help you - but, we are going to use all our energy and our anger and our tears and this sickness we feel in our hearts to help those who come after you, to do everything in our lifetimes to put a stop to this atrocity".
It was because of seeing this ghastly treatment of dogs and cats that Jill came up with the idea of beginning the "Dr. Dog" animal therapy program in 1991.  She was looking for a way to show dogs in a new light, as our friends and helpers. Initially, it was a battle getting a hospital to agree to let "a dirty, smelly mutt into our nice clean, hygienic hospital". But finally one institution, the Duchess of Kent Children's Hospital for physically handicapped children in Hong Kong, relented. And the visit could only take place on the grass outside, no dogs could come into the hospital…. That first Dr. Dog visit so many years ago was so incredibly successful, with children and staff enchanted by the positive impact that the dogs had, that the whole program took off in a whirlwind. The following day Jill was inundated with calls from hospitals and homes, wanting visits, people wanting to join the program - and the rest is history! Dr. Dog now sees over 300 dogs and their Asian volunteer owners making regular visits to orphanages, schools, old peoples homes, hospices, homes for the mentally handicapped in 6 countries across Asia!
I want to emphasize that cats are just as much of a concern to us - but cats, because of their nature, are not really as suited to be "traveling" animal therapists as dogs are…it's easier to demonstrate the companionship of dogs through the program, though we are always promoting cats as our friends and helpers, just as much as dogs.

The background of dog and cat eating and the trade today

Dog eating has gone on for centuries in China and is really culturally ingrained. Few people think there is anything wrong with it… the dog protects your home and then you eat it… it's a very practical approach, and perhaps in times of famine that was a logical approach of survival.
However, in this day and age where dogs are proving themselves of intrinsic benefit to humankind the world over, from search & rescue dogs, police and tracker dogs, hearing dogs for the deaf, seeing eyes for the blind, police dogs, drugs and endangered species detection dogs, seizure alert dogs (that can sense that their owner is about to have an epileptic fit and head it off). Dogs are now even being trained to sniff out cancer from urine (before the doctors or the patient have any awareness that the disease is present). Scientific papers abound showing that simply being in the company of dogs has far reaching physical and mental benefit to all of us, through sharing the unconditional love of a species, which has rightly earned the accolade of man's, best friend. Surely this species, whose very instinct is to love, protect, guard us, and cheer us up, who literally lives to please us, surely in this 21st Century of building a more compassionate world, surely they should not be on the menu.
In China, dog meat is seen as a bit of a treat - it's something you eat mainly in the winter; it's strongly flavored meat, a bit like goat and traditionally is thought to warm the body. Dried dog penis is considered to be an aphrodisiac and is available (by the 1,000) in the market.
Ironically, in South Korea, dog meat is eaten in the summer to cool the body down - two conflicting traditions in the same continent! Traditionally, the dog is beaten to death in order to tenderize the meat. The idea is the more adrenalin racing around the body the better it will taste. We regularly witness dogs being killed slowly, in front of each other: the dog is semi-stunned, but not enough to make it unconscious - it wakes up, completely bewildered and tries to get up, slides around in the blood of the abattoir, where other dogs are flailing around, they bang it on the nose again, and it sits up and begins to cry pitifully wondering what's going on, with blood and mucus pouring from its nose and mouth - we're told the idea is that when they finally dispatch it, they want the heart beating rapidly so that the blood will gush out fast. It's tragic.
Unfortunately, in many supermarkets in China now, you can buy dog meat, both vacuum packed and also from the butchery-deli department. Sometimes they may have a dog section, with whole carcasses hanging up, you just order up a piece and they'll lop it off for you. We've also seen lots of different herbs and spice mixes available, especially to make special "dog hot pot". In almost any bookshop in China with a "farming" section, there will sadly be a number of books on "how to farm dogs". In addition, there are absolutely no animal welfare laws in China - any treatment of any animal is allowable.

Cat eating

Our research shows that cat eating is only prevalent in the South - and is pretty much unheard of outside of Guang Dung Province. Whereas dog eating is pretty much all over the country, though most popular in the South.

The situation in other Asian countries

Dog eating is dying out in many other Asian countries: e.g. Taiwan, which today has very stringent laws against it and has just raised the fine levied on anyone charged with it. Hong Kong and Singapore (previously both were British colonies) outlawed it in the 1950's - but, in Hong Kong it was still going on in the rural areas in the 80's and early 90's - today it is virtually non-existent, and most Hong Kong Chinese are disgusted by it.
Korea is still a big problem, but there are wonderful local groups speaking out on behalf of the dogs. I'm also glad to say that the law that they were trying to pass to make a distinction between "pet dogs" and "meat dogs" has just been withdrawn - so there is some hope.
Vietnam is a major dog-eating place, though traditionally (for what it's worth) they do not torture the dog to death. In addition, the Philippines has outlawed dog eating except for some tribal holidays - yes, it still goes on…but its moving in the right direction…I also would like to say that the push to stop dog eating in these Asian countries is driven by Asians, who feel exactly the same way about it as we do!
However, it's obviously something that is growing in China, it's very hard to know the exact number of dogs eaten, but it definitely must be in the many millions a year - maybe more. Still small if you consider that it is estimated that 556 million pigs are slaughtered every year in China. …AND STILL SMALL ENOUGH TO REVERSE… BUT WE NEED HELP: Amidst all this bad news for dogs there is hope - Animals Asia is the only group working on the ground in China on this issue and we know there are a growing number of Mainland China people who abhor dog eating! - we want to help them to find their voice, so that they are the ones calling for it to be brought to an end. Pet ownership is exploding in China and research shows that pet owners disagree with dog eating. Traditionally, entire families would live together, but today the trend is for young Chinese to move out and set up their own homes, and thus the older generation are living alone - they are lonely and the trend is to buy a dog for company. Plus with the one child family policy on the mainland, there are lots of lonely children and increasingly pet dogs are bought for company.
Under communism, dog ownership was forbidden in urban areas since it was feared as a public health hazard and seen as a sign of a bourgeois, capitalist society - in addition, because of the lack of civic education towards dogs, rabies is a big problem, in 2004 over 2,000 people died from rabies. That's a huge number and serves to make people afraid of dogs. The license to keep a pet dog in the city was, until very recently, extortionate - around £1,500 per year - this was basically to discourage people from keeping dogs. Today, the amount has been reduced, but is still quite costly. As much as £650 a year in Guang Zhou for initial registration. However in Beijing the amount has recently been cut from £350 for initial registration of your pet to £60. The subsequent yearly fee is about £30. But still a lot of money when you consider that the average workers salary is in the region of £500 per year. But despite this, pet ownership is growing rapidly…estimates are that there are now over half a million registered dogs in Beijing, with many millions unregistered.
Having a dog is now a status symbol - it seems that long term, the pet dog industry for pampered pooches is going to be a much bigger money spinner than the meat dog industry… from doggie salons to pet food, collars, leashes, vets etc..
Obviously, attitudes to dogs are in transition (pampered pet, meat dog, pet dog, street dog, rabid mutt), and largely the growth of pets is in the cities…whilst the situation for dogs in the country is quite horrendous. Dogs have been seen as something of a pest, but China is in a state of flux, everything is changing, people are so open to new ideas, the Olympics is around the corner - and because of that, we believe that we have a window of opportunity…what we need to do, and what we have begun doing, is to raise the profile of dogs and cats, to show them as our friends and helpers, in need of our love and respect and protection… we are reaching out to the new pet owner, who is open to seeing dogs and cats in a new light.
ANIMALS ASIA'S INNOVATIVE SOLUTIONS:   THE RESCUE OF MARKET DOG "EDDIE" - & HIS FILM "Dr. Eddie: Friend…or Food?" Some years ago, Jill rescued a little yellow dog that was waiting to be slaughtered in the market in Guang Zhou that I described earlier and bought him back to Hong Kong and made him into a Dr. Dog… his name is "Eddie" (short for "edible") and he's famous in Hong Kong… we have made a 16 minute film "Dr. Eddie: Friend or Food?" (which I produced); the film sees Eddie tell the story of his journey from "meat dog to doctor dog" from his perspective… flashing back to the ghastly market where he came from… and coming across with the message "We want to help you, will you help us?" The film literally compels the viewer to reconsider attitudes to dog and cat eating. We want to inspire the viewer to decide that he would rather not eat dogs and cats. The film is available in 3 languages - Mandarin for China, Cantonese for Hong Kong and English. CHINESE DOG AND CAT LOVERS SPEAK OUT IN "EDDIE'S" FILM! In the film, we have enlisted the help of Chinese dog-loving celebrities who say they are appalled and ashamed of dog eating, Traditional Chinese doctors (debunking the myth that dog meat has mythical healing qualities), Chinese chefs who say they would never cook dog. Chinese nurses and doctors in hospitals, who express their disgust at dog eating and instead praise the qualities of the doctor dogs. In addition, Eddie's Mandarin voice is done by a Chinese Superstar, Richie Ren, who was such a pleasure to work with and willingly speaks out from the heart against dog eating, which disgusts him intensely.
We have kicked off with an initial free distribution in China of 10,000 VCD copies of the film - together with a leaflet, encouraging Chinese people to get on board - to look at dogs in a new light - as our friends and helpers. We also are including a Pet Care Leaflet, since it is very apparent that basic pet care is severely lacking.
1,000 copies of the film and the pack (which includes: the VCD, leaflet on the film & work of, "Don't eat us" sticker of Eddie and a cat and the pet care leaflet) are being given away on Christmas Day in Shenzhen in Guang Dung Province, Southern China at a pet carnival which is being held by a Shenzhen Pet Club. At the same time we have launched our Dr. Dog animal therapy program in Chengdu - the press, who are really beginning to be a force for change in China - went mad over it, we had over 100 articles in newspapers across China, over 20 TV spots, and we are being swamped by calls from people all over China to begin Dr. Dog in their city. The whole idea of animal therapy is a totally new concept in China - the idea (now scientifically proven) that being in the company of dogs, lowers your stress levels, cholesterol levels, reduces the risk of heart disease and boosts your immune system, is totally new and amazing!!
We also rescued a pathetic little stray dog when we were on a field trip to the bear farms in Yunnan Province in May - she was almost bald, was thin as a rake and absolutely pitiful - in fact, she crossed the road just as the van we were in pulled out… we screamed at the driver to stop the vehicle, and rushed over - the little dog was fine, and had not a hint of aggression in her as Jill scooped her up in her arms… we named her Dali since we were in the city of Dali - and today street dog Dali has become "Dr. Dog Dali" and is figurehead of our Dr. Dog animal therapy program in China - proving that both a "meat dog" (Eddie) and a "street dog" (Dali), can both make wonderful doctor dogs!
Pet clubs are springing up all over China - and we are linking up with them, reaching out to the members to join us. Of course, many Chinese people don't have a clue what goes on in the markets (much the same way that most British people have never visited an abattoir) and we believe that the combination of Eddie's film with the expansion of the Dr. Dog program, will spark a new awareness and help them to find their voice.
China is changing so fast, the Olympics is round the corner, a new awareness of animals is just beginning, …it's early days, but we believe that our campaign is timely and can have real impact! People tend to think, "but China is such huge country - the culture is so engrained, what can you do"?
Yes China is a massive country, and perhaps one cannot change the mind of die-hard older villager who has eaten dog his whole life, but definitely with the youth, who are aspiring to be different, we have a real window of opportunity. The fact is, in the new China the opinions for the whole country are set in the big cities: Beijing, Shanghai and Guang Zhou and to an extent, Chengdu, strategically, we need to expand our message and reach out to the more educated people in these cities - so that attitudes can change and gradually a new consensus on the goodness of dogs and cats as our friends and helpers and not food can emerge.
The more money that we can raise, the more we can really expand our publicity campaign in China, speaking out for dogs and cats, injecting new ideas and awareness, so that change can come faster for those poor, poor dogs and cats, suffering such atrocities right now in the markets. With funding we can:
  • continue distributing the film - why not 100,000 copies or more?
  • with funding we can get it played widely on TV
  • we can spread Dr. Dog into the key cities in China
  • we have already placed a billboard in Beijing with the message: "Dogs and cats are human beings best friends, they need our love and respect", and find that animal lovers are getting in contact with us by email after seeing the billboard. With the funds, we can have billboards in every key city shouting out the beauty and wonder of companion animals
  • we have already begun working with supportive people at Publicis in Hong Kong who are putting together commercials and print adds for us on a pro bono basis… now we need the funding to get those commercials on TV and adds in magazines in China.
  • we can run commercials on TV,
  • we can run adds in magazines.
We need the funds to get our message out there as widely as possible, to be a rallying call for people to see dogs and cats in a new light. The more help we can get, the more we can do, the sooner that dogs and cats are seen as our best friends and helpers and not food - and the horrendous cruelty can be a thing of the past!
… In Thailand stray dogs and pets are being illegally snatched, bought, or even bartered for household items, then smuggled to Vietnam, where they are sold, butchered and eaten.
With bribery at border checkpoints, apathy in the transit country of Laos, and northern Vietnam's appetite for one million dogs a year, Thai authorities are struggling to stop an estimated 200,000 dogs every year being exported alive in this international racket.

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