Whilst it is defended by some as “culture”, the production of dog and cat meat results in the suffering of millions of dogs and cats every year in several countries around the world, most notably in Asia.
What is it?
Dog meat and, to a lesser extent, cat meat is often eaten for its perceived health benefits, or as food to accompany wine and beer. Its production has evolved from small-scale businesses into billion-dollar industries. Many dogs and cats are taken from the streets (stolen pets or strays) but in some countries millions of dogs are intensively bred and farmed in terrible conditions. The tens of millions of animals used in this industry each year undergo prolonged suffering through transportation and handling, and face an agonising death.
What you should know?
- The availability of dog and cat meat is most widespread in Asia, where conservative estimates suggest that over 18 million dogs and more than 4 million cats are killed for human consumption each year. It is estimated that 10-20 million dogs are consumed annually in China, 5 million in Vietnam, 2 million in South Korea, 500,000 in the Philippines, and an unknown but large quantity in Indonesia; though some believe the true figures to be far greater. Cat meat is also popular in some areas, notably in China’s Guangdong province where it is part of a famous traditional dish: “Long Fu Fung” -“Tiger, Phoenix, Dragon” (cat, chicken, snake). In Korea a liquid or ‘juice’ made from cats or dogs is sometimes consumed as a ‘tonic’ for its perceived health properties. However, wherever dog and cat meat is popularly eaten, the industry either operates unregulated or illegally.
- Dog and cat meat production is inherently cruel. It is widely acknowledged that these animals cannot be raised and slaughtered humanely for commercial use. In China and South Korea there are thousands of dog farms where dogs are intensively bred and reared for meat production. On these farms even their most basic needs are not met, such as the provision of adequate food and water and veterinary care, and physical and mental suffering is obvious. If they are not farmed, the dogs and cats used in the meat trade are either stolen pets or unowned strays taken from the street. In meat markets in some countries, the animals are slaughtered in full view of each other. Unhygienic and stressful conditions on farms and in markets result in high levels of mortality.
- No country in the world has devised a humane method of slaughtering dogs and cats for human consumption. Common methods of slaughtering these animals include electrocution, hanging and beating. There are also numerous reports of animals being dehaired and cooked whilst still alive. Unfortunately, in countries where dog and cat meat is consumed, it has either not yet been banned, or the existing legislation is not being sufficiently enforced, such as in the Philippines where dog meat has been banned since 1998.
- Whilst in some countries dog and cat meat is often consumed for its perceived health benefits, there is a growing body of evidence highlighting the significant risk its production and consumption can pose to human health. For example, the trade in dogs for meat has been linked to outbreaks of cholera, trichinella and rabies, and there have been numerous reports from China, Vietnam and the Philippines of rabies transmission to humans after preparing or consuming dog meat.
- Whilst dog and cat meat is often fiercely defended as part of ‘culture’ or ‘tradition’, it is a highly contentious and emotive issue in most countries where it is popular, and it is therefore sometimes advertised as something else to avoid negative attention from passers-by or law enforcers where its consumption is illegal. For example, an investigation in Shanghai revealed through DNA testing that in several restaurants across the city, cat meat was being passed off as mutton.
What you can do
- Culture or tradition can never be an excuse for animal cruelty. If you care about animals, never be tempted to try dog or cat meat – wherever it is available, it will always be the product of immense suffering.
- Whilst in some countries dog and cat meat is not yet banned, if you do see the meat for sale in countries where the industry is illegal, such as Hong Kong, the Philippines and Taiwan, please report this to your travel agent or tour operator and to a local animal protection organisation.
Where does this occur?
Dog and cat meat is consumed in several areas of the world, including parts of Russia, Europe, Africa and Latin America. However, it is most commonplace in Asia, and tourists are most likely to encounter it in the Philippines, China, South Korea, Vietnam and Indonesia.
Links to organisations for further information:
- Animals Asia Foundation
- Network for Animals
- Humane Society International
- Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth