Is Eating Dog Meat Really on the Way Out in Asia?

Is Eating Dog Meat Really on the Way Out in Asia?
Photo Credit: Cobris/達志影像

What you need to know

Taiwan's dog meat ban has been welcomed but China’s largest 'dog meat festival' is set to enter its eighth year, and Indonesia sees an increase in dog meat consumption.

In Taiwan, dog meat is known as “fragrant meat” (香肉) and despite the sale being illegal, people with a taste for dog meat can still find ways to acquire it.

In 2007 local newspaper China Post reported, “Taiwan military units once raised dogs to eat” and “people in some areas of Taiwan eat canines in the winter to raise their body temperature and improve blood circulation.” Four years later, animal rights activists exposed a dog slaughterhouse in Pingtung County that has a restaurant attached to it selling dog meat dishes.

Even recently, some shops in central Taiwan’s Yunlin County have signs claiming they sell mutton or chicken, but actually sell dog meat, according to local media reports.

However, amendments to Taiwan’s Animal Protection Act banning the consumption of dog and cat meat passed a third reading at the Legislative Yuan, Taiwan’s parliament, on April 11, Central News Agency reports. Violators will be subject to fines of NT$50,000 (US$1,600) to NT$250,000, and offenders’ names and photographs can be publicized. Fines for those caught causing “deliberate harm to animals that results in mangled limbs, organ failure or death” have been doubled to NT$2 million. The maximum prison sentence has been increased to two years.

The strengthened law makes Taiwan the first country in Asia to ban eating dog and cat meat. The sale of meat and fur of pets like cats and dogs was banned in 2001. Similarly, Hong Kong bans the slaughter of dogs and cats for consumption by people or otherwise. Hong Kong’s law also bans the sale of dog and cat meat.
Dog meat is still consumed in several countries across Asia.

Dog trade grows in Indonesia

The Humane Society International estimates that every year 30 million dogs are killed for human consumption across Asia. China slaughters up to 20 million dogs, while South Korea kills 2 million a year. Vietnam accounts for 5 million dog slaughters, while Thailand, Cambodia and Laos combined slaughter around 80,000 dogs.

Activists in Indonesia have noted a growing dog meat trade, with 215 dogs consumed daily in the city of Yogyakarta, the New York Times reports. The Bali Animal Welfare Association reports that around 100,000 dogs are killed on the resort island every year. However, these numbers could be higher, as the dog meat trade is generally illegal and completely unregulated.

South Korea has 17,000 dog farms where dogs are bred specifically for consumption under appalling conditions. The dogs are kept in small cages with barely enough food and water their entire lives.

In other countries, including China and Vietnam, pet dogs are either stolen from homes and gardens, while strays are poisoned or shot and taken off the streets.

They are then transported across large distances in cramped wire cages without food or water. Most are dead by the time they arrive at the slaughterhouse, those still alive are beaten to death; it is believed that the beatings make the meat more tender.

In Bali, the dogs are partially strangled and their body parts are hacked off while the dogs are still alive.

Results from an Animals Asia survey in China.
Results from an Animals Asia survey in China.

No longer a common practice

Dog meat is eaten in China, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Switzerland, in the Arctic and Antarctic, as well as in Polynesia. However, as incomes and pet ownership rises across Asia, the practice of eating dog meat is slowly dying out.

China’s Yulin Dog Meat Festival, also known as the Lychee and Dog Meat Festival, has been held annually since 2009 in China’s Guangdong Province. Ten thousand dogs are slaughtered every year at the 10-day festival. It has become one of the most prominent symbols of dog eating in Asia. Hollywood celebrities have appeared in commercials and marched to Chinese embassies to call for the local government to end the festival, which marks the summer solstice on June 22.

In South Korea, where the myth that the dogs bred for meat and pet dogs are different has fostered ignorance and indifference towards the dog meat trade, younger generations are also less likely to support eating dogs. Humane Society International has also managed to shut down seven dog farms in the country by offering cash incentives to the dog farmers.

A 2015 survey by Animals Asia found that eating dog and cat meat is not common in China, with over half their respondents saying they had not eaten dog meat in the past two years.

The survey also found that over 90 percent of the respondents believed that both pet cats and dogs and those that were bred for meat should be protected by the law, and around 90 percent of the respondents felt that cats and dogs are companions and cannot “morally” be eaten.

Results from an Animals Asia survey in China.
Results from an Animals Asia survey in China.
Why people eat dog meat. Results from an Animals Asia survey in China.

Editor: Edward White