From: Animal People July/August 1999

Where else dogs and cats are eaten

The ANIMAL PEOPLE files indicate that dogs and sometimes cats are also eaten in parts of Cambodia, China, Japan, Laos, the Philippines, the Asian portions of the former Soviet Union, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam––but almost exclusively by either members of an ethnic Chinese minority, or by remote indigenous groups.

Tibetan and Thai Buddhists especially disapprove of dog-and-cat-eating, because dogs and cats are believed likely to possess reincarnated human souls. Resettled in Tibet as part of the ongoing Beijing government effort to subvert Buddhist influence, ethnic Chinese immigrants are at times accused of deliberately provoking outrage by butchering and cooking dogs in the streets of Lhasa. Dog-eating among refugees from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam likewise exascerbates ethnic strife in northern Thailand. The start of exports of dog meat during the mid-1990s brought widespread suspicion that the trade is fed by pet theft.

Dog-eating––but apparently not cat-eating––is known and perhaps common in Angola, Cameroon, Lagos, and Nigeria, but is associated with low socio-economic status.

We also have reports of dog-and-cat-eating from around the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Europe. Most involve either recent ethnic Chinese immigrants from Vietnam, Korea, and Cambodia; restauranteurs or butchers illegally passing off dog or cat meat as something else; or remnant members of a few “dog-eater” Native American tribes, who were apparently considered poor and backward by bison-and-elk-eating neighbors even before Europeans brought their own notions of dog meat as taboo. The Aztecs, whom the Spanish conqueror Hernando Cortez found eating dogs in 1519, were among the few dog-eaters known to have formed an empire; dog-eating persists among some of their isolated descendants.

Dog-eating has been reported occasionally in Cuba, and cat-eating in Argentina, but only during acute food shortages. A 1996 TV expose of cat-eating by Argentinian slum-dwellers brought immediate outcry for social reform, including from the Roman Catholic charity Caritas.

Except in Korea and China, the numbers of dogs eaten seem relatively low. David Derbyshire of the Daily Mail indicated that as of 1996 the Philippine toll was about 26,000 a year. Dog-eating was banned in Manila in 1982, and nationwide in 1998, as result of IFAW campaigns, with exemptions for dogs killed and eaten as part of indigenous ritual. Dog-eating as routine practice persists, however, in seven mountainous northern provinces dominated by Igorot tribespeople.

Proposals to regulate rather than abolish dog and cat killing for meat have recently come up elsewhere in Asia––often after such practices spread to new locations. In Nanjing, China, for instance, an uproar arose in January 1994 after a long-established dog butcher began selling cats, too.

But the Hong Kong Agriculture and Fisheries Department rejected the very concept of allowing dog-and-cat slaughter as recently as January 26, 1999, when a representative wrote to Jill Robinson of Animals Asia, “We see no way that you can kill dogs for food in a humane manner. This includes both how you kill the animals and also the pre-slaughter arrangements. The dogs would be highly stressed in a situation such as you would have in an abattoir. There are internationally accepted standards for slaughter of other livestock, which minimize the stress on the animals. For dogs there are no such standards. There is no way that you can kill a dog humanely” for human consumption.

Hosting the 1999 International Horticultural Exposition, from May through October, the city of Kunming, capital of Yunnan province, China, banned dog meat ads for the duration. Dog meat restaurants, however, remain open. The expo is expected to bring about one million foreign visitors.