Eating dogs is something we joke about when we think of Chinese food, and then we are often scolded by those who are more “politically correct” than us. However, throughout much of China dog meat is a fairly common delicacy.
Lately there has been some discussion as to whether or not eating dogs and cats should be banned, but that discussion became a nationwide argument this week after volunteers rescued/stole 500 dogs (ministry of tofu covered this store in more depth). I am heartened by the news that an increase in pet ownership in China has spurred on more animal rights activists, since human rights are more or less taboo.
I’m somewhere in between on the issue. After all meat is meat, and it all comes from somewhere (read my post about Chinese markets). If the dogs were being butchered in a humane way I might find it acceptable, since they are raised for consumption.
However, the way these animals are treated is beyond the pale (if you are susceptible to human emotions, now would be a good time to stop reading).
I had a Chinese friend in Guangxi who attended a staff barbecue. She noticed two small dogs tied to a tree when she first arrived but thought nothing of them. A short while later she was horrified as one of the dogs was placed into a sack and beaten to death with sticks. The men pulled the bloody dog out of the bag and put the other one in repeating the process. She felt ill and had to leave.
This is the part that many Chinese leave out of the discussion about eating dog meat. It is generally believed that the dog must be beaten before it is killed to cause maximum adrenaline flow and therefore more flavor, and that is the aspect that I cannot condone as a cultural tradition that should be continued.
Tom – since I am involved in a project in China, I am traveling to Asia on a monthly basis and the food is one of the things I struggle with each visit (although I don’t think I’ve been fed dog – yet). I read your blog with great interest and appreciate the “inside” perspective on this amazing country and people. Thanks!
Thanks for your comment Rick.
Just FYI dog meat is more expensive than beef, pork and chicken, so if someone is going to serve it to you, they will usually announce it with great fanfare (or at least that’s what happened to me). If you are down in Guangdong and Guangxi you are more likely to see it on the menu than most other places in China, especially in the winter since dog is a “yang” food (good for cold months).
Good to know – I’ll pay attention to any food-based “fanfare”, and since we’re heading into summer, I can be a bit less apprehensive. I’m (at points) in the Hunan province although Shanghai and Beijing are also places where we have had meetings. Cheers!
Dogmeat gives you hives (urticaria) if you’re ‘sensitive’ to it – and you won’t know until you’ve fed it. The hives can be so bad that it could resemble leprosy in appearance. You heard it here first, folks.
I had a student tell me once that because she was sick as a child she could no longer eat dog. I’m wondering now if that was because of it’s yang nature, or because of the hives. Thanks for this.
Personally, this yin/yang business is utter crap. Dogmeat, catmeat, monkeymeat or any meat from carnivores have a high propensity for hives. To cut a long story short, it’s related to differences in the animal’s and our endocrinology (hormones) and differential metabolism. The yin/yang thing is just a mythological conceptualisation – an artifact that can be proved or disproved either way quite easily. But hives, that’s a different ballgame… Just to clarify, the resultant condition provoked is only called urticaria/hives but it’s actually closer to leprosy (sorry, I’m just recalling from my woefully out-of-date medical labtech training).
It was my understanding that eating dog is now illegal in China?
I don’t believe that it is illegal, since this truck had the proper documents. Banning it wouldn’t stop the practice anyway.
Just to clarify, in my experience, it was far more prevalent to have dog meat available to eat in the south than it was in the north. My northern friends are honestly rather repulsed by the idea.
Are you a vegetarian Tom?
Not at all Dan. In fact I used to even be a butcher (which was a terrible part time job). It’s really just the awful way that the dogs are killed that bothers me. I honestly used to eat while walking through the market in Longzhou.
Oh ok. I agree that the way those dogs are killed is inhumane, but so are a lot of other practices in factory farming. I’m sure that in unregulated China, factory farmers probably get away with a lot of pretty terrible stuff.
[…] intestines, a variety of fowl flippers, and pig arteries, brain, and even urethra (my previous post on dog meat). I’ve seen so many animals served up that I doubt that there is even a Chinese word for […]