A South Korean court delivered a landmark verdict recently. Handling a lawsuit filed by an animal welfare organization against a dog farm operator in the city of Bucheon, the court ruled that it is against the law to kill dogs for their meat.
Even though the court didn’t directly outlaw the consumption of dog meat in the country, the ruling was still welcomed by animal rights activists, and regarded by many as a milestone that could pave the way towards outlawing the notorious practice.
In other words, the South Koreans, who, like mainland Chinese, have a long history of dog meat consumption, are now moving towards ditching the barbaric tradition in order to meet the universal standards of social norms widely adopted by the international community.
Given the developments in Korea, perhaps it is time for mainlanders too to reflect on their habit of eating dog meat.
In June every year, over 10,000 dogs are slaughtered, often in a brutal way, for their meat during the infamous Yulin dog meat festival in Guangxi province.
The festival has sparked such a heated controversy worldwide that the event is drawing not only dog meat lovers, but also tens of thousands of angry animal welfare activists, both from within and outside China, to protest against the event and try to stop the killings.
Back in South Korea, even before the recent court ruling, dog meat consumption has actually been falling out of public favor in recent years, with local public opinion increasingly turning against the practice.
For example, in Seoul alone, the restaurants that serve dog meat were down almost 40 percent in number, from 528 in 2005 to just 329 in 2014.
Even among those which still remain in business, many have changed their menus and are using euphemistic terms for the dishes in order to avoid upsetting or offending diners who don’t eat dogs.
As a matter of fact, apart from being inhumane and uncivilized, the habit of eating dogs carries significant health risks, as recent medical studies in the US have indicated that a new breed of deadly flu virus is found in dogs.
And some of the genes of this mutated virus are similar to those of the H1N1 swine flu which is estimated to have killed 245,000 people across the world in 2009.
Even though there is yet to be further proof that human beings can directly contract this new virus through eating dogs, no health authorities can afford to ignore the potential risk.
Even more worrisome is that a lot of the dog meat that is being served in restaurants across mainland China actually comes from stray dogs randomly caught by unlicensed dog meat dealers.
These unvaccinated strays could carry not only mutated flu viruses, but also some other unknown diseases as well, thereby posing a huge public health risk to society.
Given that, we believe the Chinese authorities should start thinking about banning dog meat consumption in order to safeguard public health.
Amid mounting calls for outlawing dog meat consumption, some people in China have argued that foreigners are in no position to talk on this issue because eating dog meat has been a Chinese tradition that dates back thousands of years.
We feel strongly compelled to take issue with them here, as we believe “being centuries-old” doesn’t necessarily justify a traditional practice.
For instance, foot binding for women and live burials of servants along with their deceased masters were once part of the ancient Chinese customs, but does that constitute any justification for preserving these barbaric practices?
The fact that thousands of Chinese animal welfare activists and ordinary citizens are flocking to Yulin every year trying to save the dogs waiting to be slaughtered indicates that mainlanders are increasingly against dog eating.
Besides, apart from the perspectives of animal welfare and sanitary concerns, banning dog meat consumption may also produce huge economic benefits, as the profitability prospects of the pet market are definitely a lot more promising than those of the dog meat industry.
Take South Korea as an example. According to local business forecasts, it is estimated that the total sales volume of the domestic pet market is likely to jump to some 6 trillion won by 2020 from less than one trillion won in 2012.
As the standard of living among the Chinese people is continuing to improve, they are now having access to a very wide variety of foods as their daily diet, which makes dog meat increasingly redundant.
As such, perhaps it is time for mainlanders to start taking “man’s best friend” off their dinner tables.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 26
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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