The consumption of cat and dog meat in the People’s Republic of China is far from being an unusual pastime. According to various reports, 10 million ‘dog meats’ and 4 million ‘cat meats’ are consumed every year. The meat is not a staple food of the Chinese diet, and can be eaten as little as once a year. Part of the meat’s popularity is down to the advertisement of its nutritious quality—an assertion which scientists have proven as incorrect.
Following Animals Asia’s latest investigations in 2012, it was found that most of the ‘meat dog farms’ have closed. What we are seeing, instead, are stolen or stray cats and dogs being used. The animals then suffer extreme mistreatment, with disease amongst the animals rife.
Carrot Chen is the Animals Asia China Cat and Dog Welfare Deputy Manager. She joined Animals Asia in 2011 and now works in South China’s Guangzhou office. Carrot is responsible for the cat and dog welfare public awareness in China.
One of the main reasons to stop the practice, she says, is because of how the animals are subjected to “violent deaths, as they are either bludgeoned over the head, stabbed in the neck or groin to bleed out, hanged, electrocuted or thrown conscious into vats of boiling water.”
It is not just in death, but in transport too that the animals suffer being “crammed into tiny cages with several other dogs, virtually immobile, and transported long distances across provinces without water or food for days at a time […] they suffer from violence and torture in the process of being caught, delivered and slaughtered. The cats and dogs are captured roughly and squeezed in narrow steel cages by force. Their tails and legs are broken by clamping, they don’t have any food and the pregnant cats and dogs give birth during the long-distance transportation. Dogs become injured after fighting with each other in the crowded cage environments. Finally the animals to be killed are wailing and trembling while witnessing their companions being slaughtered” Carrot explains.
The business thrives, Carrot states, on meat festivals which attract travellers, ‘examples of this are the Yulin dog meat festival and Jinhua dog meat festival [… with] ‘dog meat festivals’ […] promoted by the government in some provinces […] Initially some dog farms were developed and bred giant pedigrees, such as St Bernards mixed with the local Chinese dogs in order to produce a fast-growing, large and docile ‘meat dog’ that could be slaughtered at four months.’
As with many animal cruelty issues, tradition is a defence for the practice. Carrot sees though that ‘if a practice is connected to a cultural pastime, then change can be fatally halted[…]although this kind of eating habit exist in China’s history in some areas, it doesn’t mean we should take it as “culture” and respect and develop it. Culture and tradition shouldn’t be the excuse of cruelty. Many inhuman “traditions” are gradually abandoned in the development of human civilization, such as slavery, “foot-binding of women”, “child brides” and so on.”
Furthermore, dogs and cats are now considered companion pets with the Chinese media reporting ‘that a large number of cats and dogs that were sent to the dining table were stolen domestic animals or strays that were captured in the street. Some were even poisoned to death in order to avoid their struggles against being captured. In a media report, several doctors in the interview warned that succinylcholine and potassium cyanide contained in the dead cats and dogs might remain in the meat even when it is cooked at a high temperature. There is potential danger in the consumption of such meat” says Carrot.
There is also a danger posed for pet owners Carrot elucidates as “stealing dogs is both easy and cheap, and today stories highlight that the owners of such dogs are hurt or even killed by thieves caught in the act and then desperate to protect their stolen wares…Simply put; for dog stealers, it is a low-cost and often no-cost business. Even after the dogs are stolen the subsequent acts of transporting, selling, buying, and consuming should all be considered as acting against the law when this evil chain of events not only harms the animals but causes suffering to owners who have seen their dogs disappear to a trade that is seemingly beyond the law.”
Animals Asia’s China Cat and Dog Welfare Programme has carried out a series of different initiatives, working relentlessly towards improving the welfare conditions of cats and dogs in China since it started in mainland China in 2004. Carrot and her team continue to fight their battle against such cruelty, and with more awareness of this issue, laws and the public’s demand for the meat will hopefully disappear in the near future.