Is 2020 the start of saving dogs from eating in China?

Shenzhen is the first city in China ban on eating dogs and cats in May, receiving lots of criticism. Why opponents object to the ban and what is the current situation of the dog trade market?

Early morning in a rural village, a man is sneaking close to a dog sleeping outside of the house. The moment he uses the stun rod and touches the dog, the dog gets frozen immediately. Then it is dragged all the way by him until a motorcyclist showed up, waiting at a short distance. The dog will be sent to the table as food eventually like most of the stolen dogs.

Butchered dog in the market in Yulin Festival Credit:AP Images for HSI.2

The crime happened recently in China and it is not unusual to report dog theft both in cities and villages. In most cases, dogs in cities are pet dogs whereas dogs in villages are watchdog literally. But for dog thieves, both of them are called “Meat Dog”, a species of dog used for eating.

It is part of dog meat trade. According to Animal Asia, 10 million dogs are slaughtered for the dog meat trade each year in China and Most meat dogs are vulnerable strays or pets, stolen from their families.

A glance of a dog in a cage as one of the “meat dog” Credit:AP image for HSI

In fact, there is no law for regulating the process of breeding, circulation and operation in China. As for the registered meat dog breeding factories as some people claim, Gao Guan, Deputy Secretary General of China Meat Association said: “There is no such breeding industry for meat dog in China.”

Among those stolen dogs, a large number of them are poisoned by dog thieves. According to CCTV News, in 2017 the police in Hunan Province found eight tons of frozen dog meat containing Cyanide and succinylcholine which are toxic chemicals. If they become the food in the table, it would be a concern of safety issues for human.

Shenzhen City, Guangdong Province, was also the first city in China to stipulate banning on eating cat and dog meat. Later, Zhuhai city became the second city that prohibited eating dog and cat. This year from May 1, the ban will take effect, and offenders will be fined 30 times the value of the goods.

Guo Peng, Director of the Animal Protection Research Center of Shandong University argues that the interest chain of dog meat has existed in China for a long time, but it has not attracted much attention. Like the industry chain of poaching and selling wild animals, the dog meat industry chain involves with a big public health issue. She says:”The prohibition of eating dogs as companion animals in Shenzhen is not a radical approach, but a solution to a social issue that has been hidden for decades and should have been resolved long ago. 

Whether banning eating dogs nationwide has been heated discussed since several cities in China asked for public opinions for banning eating dogs online. Many voices show strong objection to the proposal.

College student Yann who is also a dog owner said: “The market is still there, and dog theft will not stop the crime even if the production chain is cut off. To satisfy the market demand, a lot more dogs would be stolen.

“Considering the market, the denial of the existence of the dog meat consumption chain is, in a sense, cruel to the dogs.”

For the meat dog breeder Hu from Hunan Province, the ban in Shenzhen has not affect his business at present, “Although Shenzhen has restrictions, but there will be a consumer circle around it, just outside the limit area.”

Except for them, some people hold the view that eating dog is people’s freedom of eating, just as same as eating chicken. For people living in some areas in China, eating dog is part of their life and associate with their culture.In Yulin Festival, local people celebrate the coming of Summer solstice by eating dogs.

Butchered dogs are transported to the local market in Yulin during dog meat festival. Credit: Reuters

“This is the food customs of people in many places in China, such as Guangxi and Yanbian and also the livelihood of many people. Keeping dogs in these places is actually a reasonable use of resources.” says Liu Haibo, Associate Researcher from Institute of Law, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

“It is not appropriate to use law to ban it for moral reasons. I don’ t eat dogs myself, but I object to being restricted.” He added.

Although Liu’s argument of eating freedom wins strong support by a large group of people, it is not accepted by animal loves.

“The meat of dogs is not a necessary like other meat. The relationship between dogs and human are different from other animals,” Tina, a volunteer from Chongqing animal protection association said. “In ancient times we still eat people and society is progressing. It is impossible to use the barbarism as an excuse for today.”

Instead of banning on eating dogs completely, some people suggest regulating farms for breeding dogs in legislation. But it proves to be a complicated proposal as well.

China Youth New reported the spam of breeding dog showing that it is not possible to earn profit by breeding meat dogs in a formal procedure. The cost of a breeding dog includes feed, vaccine, taxes, rents, utilities, labor.

A dog breeder called Ding told the China Youth news that a meat dog usually grows up to about 40 pounds, and needs to be fed for 6 to 8 months. Assume the minimum feeding cost is two yuan per day, it need 360 yuan. Besides, adding the cost of buying the dog and vaccine, it need 400 yuan in total. However, the selling price of a dogs is generally six or seven yuan per pound, only four or five yuan per pound in the off-season, so breeding meat dogs is impossible to make money.

For Wang, who works in Feed additive manufacture factory, claims that she has never heard of feed for breeding dog according to her knowledge.

As a dog breeder, Hu never uses vaccine for the dogs. As for eating, he feeds them with rice and chicken: “The secret of decreasing the cost is to control the cost of the food.”

Apart from the high cost of breeding dogs, the possibility of breeding dogs in a large quantity like chickens and the problem of whether inject rabies vaccine are being doubted.

“It is impossible to breed dogs on a large scale, because gregarious dogs will get small canine plague, which is why those dogs are basically sick.” Tina said.

“If these dogs are vaccinated with rabies vaccine, they are absolutely inedible. If not, who will take the risks of eating them? Who bears the risk of being bitten?” She added.

On a practical basis, it is not a better solution to develop legal farms for breeding dogs. It seems that there is no neutralized stance for both sides.

Journalist Hong Guangyu standing on the side of regulating farms for breeding dogs, believes the conflict cannot be reconciled in the short term and can only be resolved in time.

“Activists believe that this industry should not exist at all, and those who eat dog meat regard it as a common industry. The law can only choose one side, not compatible with two sides.”

To tackle with the dog theft, Tina and other volunteers stopped a car with stolen dogs by calling the police. And by buying, they saved the dogs waiting to be slaughtered. However, they cannot buy out all the dogs.

For Yann, the top priority is to make sure to stop dog napping:“No matter how it develops, we must first fight against dog theft. The country should protect the safety of pets and prevent the unqualified sick dogs from going into the market.”

Here is a map about countries eating dogs in the world.