Much of the world has heard about the dog and cat meat trade in asia. But what most DON'T know, is the reality of what happens to these dogs and cats in the process. Here IS THE TRUTH that the media neglects to tell you. THIS is the REAL dog and cat meat trade.
What is the best way to describe what many people in the Western world now consider to be a ‘backward’ and an ‘archaic’ cultural practice: the torture and the consumption dog meat? How does such a tradition continue despite the widespread outcry condemning it, especially in countries undergoing rapid processes of globalization, such as China and South Korea?
Over the past few years, the archaic cultural tradition of eating dog meat has become an issue around the world. It was estimated in just Asia alone, between 13 and 16 million dogs are consumed every year (Podberscek). These animals are being sold privately, in the markets and on the black market in places such as; Hanoi, Thailand, Beijing, Korea, Cambodia and China (Podberscek).
There isn’t a lot recorded in history about the consumption of dog meat. However, it can be dated as far back as 57BC to AD676. After this, it disappeared briefly and did not re-appear until the Choson Dynasty (1392-1910). During this time, Confucianism became the state’s philosophy, and it brought with it the return of the consumption of dog meat (Cwiertka, Walraven). To validate this, they used the Chinese “Book of Rites” (Burkhardt, p. 89) which classifies dogs into three groups: hunting dogs, watchdogs, and food.
The practice of consuming dog meat has historically been and continues to be widespread throughout Asia (China, South Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, India), Africa (Nigeria), Arctic and Antarctic, Switzerland and it is also one that is culturally defended by many. The consumption of dog meat also has ties to the restorative purpose (Kim, p. 150). In the book “Precious Mirror of Korean Medicine,” by royal physician Hoh Jun, he lists which parts of the dog’s anatomy that can be used for curative purposes (Cwiertka, Walraven). For instance, eating a dog’s penis is supposed to help a man overcome impotence while the eating the heart of a dog can help treat depression and anger (Simoons, p 205).
Some people believe that the more pain and suffering an animal is subjected to the sweeter, the meat becomes. The most common ways of torture, these animals endure range from hanging them and beating them with sticks, which supposedly increases the aphrodisiac qualities of the meat (Corrall). Supposedly, this is no longer done but animal rights groups have gone undercover and taken videos of this horrendous treatment still in practice. Some dogs are electrocuted to death; others are beaten with clubs, or skinned alive and thrown into boiling vats of water.
Listed at number four of the most consumed meat in Korea is the dog. The sale of unregulated dog meat has an estimated value of almost two billion US dollars, and this practice has come under fire for various reasons and from all sides. These range from personal attacks on the Korean culture, questioning the use of dog meat for medicinal purposes, and questioning the safety standards of the meat and the health and welfare of the animals involved (Kim, p. 150).
There have not been any clearly defined laws passed regulating the dog meat industry. The processing of dog meat has had to go underground, and it does not follow any safety or health guidelines to guarantee health and hygiene of those involved in the preparation or consumption of dog meat. The government is actually stuck between the importance of animal protection and a deeply rooted food custom defended by mainstream society. One particular member of the Grand National Party, Kim Hong-shin, said: "Foreign criticism of dog meat reflects a lack of understanding of our nation's ancient culture. It is blasphemy, not criticism (McElroy).
How then would they legally categorize a dog under Korean law? Well, according to the Livestock Act of 1963 they are classified as “domestic animals”. Since dogs are classified as “domestic” and not as “livestock” it leaves them out of having to be regulated. By excluding dogs from being listed as “livestock” means there is no technical recognition of dogs as a meat source, but it also doesn’t ban raising and slaughtering dogs for food (Kim, p. 153).
Part of the reason that there is very little enforcement is the fact that the responsibility is given to the local authorities and are reluctant to interfere or enforce what few laws are passed and in effect. After fifteen years with the Animal Protection Act, there was an amendment act passed in 2006 at the 262nd Plenary Session of the National Assembly. However, this does not change the legal status of the dogs. Under Article 7 the main anti-cruelty provisions are listed and states the following: “an act of killing in a cruel way such as hanging” and “an act of killing in an open area such as on the street or in front of other animals of the same kind watching” and are clearly forbidden yet they are not being enforced by local authorities (IAKA).
There have also been several outbreaks of human rabies noted as well from the consumption and/or handling of unregulated dogs. According to one study performed by PLoS Medicine, headed by Dr. Heiman Wertheim, “rabies is estimated to have caused a staggering 31,000 deaths per year in Asia” that is almost 60% of the cases reported globally! In 2007, the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology of Vietnam confirmed ten human rabies cases (Wertheim.) The NIHEV also oversaw a study of a slaughterhouse in Hanoi and discovered that two out of every ten (20%) of the sick dogs had tested positive for rabies (Wertheim).
The cruelty of the dog meat trade has been brought into the public’s eye even more thanks to the hard work of the rescue and advocacy groups around the world. (The Humane Society International, Soi Dog Foundation, and International Aid for Korean Animal Every) Every aspect of this industry is barbaric; it is heartbreaking to watch these dogs being mistreated in the markets on a daily basis, crammed into small cages with no food or water or a way to relieve themselves. They are seen as a lucrative source of income for dog farmers and breeders. Dogs suffer from scabies, demodex mange, and other skin diseases. They survive on decomposing food waste and other dog meat and often they have to turn to cannibalism.
Among the many documents, articles and reports written about this inhumane practice it has become apparent there is a need for drastic legal changes that would strengthen animal protection laws. This can only happen when the dog meat debate is resolved. Therefore, it would require a socio-cultural internalization of the custom against the consumption of dog meat. The leading barrier to actual societal acceptance of this tradition is how the consumption of dog meat is socially defined as being part of the Korean, Chinese, and Vietnamese culture, and the argument is framed as a clash between cultures. Only when these obstacles are redefined can legal measures to outlaw dog meat and improve animal welfare standards follow. Until this has been resolved, one cannot be accomplished without the other.