At some point in your life you have probably heard that eating dog meat is a Chinese tradition—that idea is wrong. Dog meat isn’t a daily meal in China; it’s considered a delicacy. And even so, it is only common among a small population of China concentrated in a few Chinese provinces such as Guangdong, Guangxi and Jilin.
Just a note, I do not condone dog eating. In fact, my family and I are proud owners of two rescued dogs for nearly a decade. I love dogs and cherish my dogs as part of my family.
To be fair, I was shocked when I first heard that dog eating is a thing. In my mind, dogs have always been man's best friend. Right now, when I think of people who eat dogs, I remember that I eat meat and that I’ve hardly thought much about the animals I’m eating.
To me, the small population in China eating dog meat is similar to how some people in parts of Southeast Asia eat balut—a fertilized duck egg that’s boiled and eaten from the egg shell.
I'd like to point out that we seem to forget the fact that dogs have different roles across different cultures.
Dog meat has been eaten in China since the Neolithic age but not excessively like pork or chicken. The revival of the dog meat industry was during the 1940s to bring the Chinese population out of poverty.
Dogs in some parts of Chinese history were similar to that of the western world where it was seen as working companions and emotional companions. The only difference was that dogs were also considered edible livestock. But today, most urban Chinese societies consider dogs to be companions and pets.
In Yulin, a city in Guangxi province, dog eating is highlighted during the summer solstice when they celebrate the Yulin Dog Eating Festival. Even in this province, dog eating isn’t the mainstream local food culture. Therefore, these dog meat eaters shouldn’t define China.
The Problem Now
Nevertheless, the problem that should be highlighted is the way the dogs meant for eating are collected.
It’s reported that most dogs meant for eating were stolen from owners. Small numbers of people have taken advantage of this new population of dogs within the urban societies of China.
There is also horrific evidence of how dogs from all over China are transported to Yulin for the festival. These pictures of dogs in unhygienic and tight cages with little access to food spread on the internet and the reports of how the transportation of these dogs being slaughtered are graphically disturbing.
Despite that, we do the same with the typical edible livestock in the US and in other parts of the world. Chickens, cows, pigs and many livestock are raised in farms that operate and look like factories and people allow that to happen.
In the end, we need to accept that we are also facing problems with our local meat industry and we should take action in our local communities first instead of blaming another country or culture. Remember that other people eat different kinds of meat and it's not necessarily more ethical to eat one kind of meat over another.