By Grace Girling
Legal consumption of dog meat in China could be coming to an end in the near future as the agriculture ministry of the Chinese Government has released a draft policy that would forbid it. The draft guidelines have listed 18 traditional livestock species which includes cattle, pigs, poultry and camels but no longer dogs.
This policy would reclassify dogs as pets rather than livestock, meaning that they can no longer be bred for the provision of food, milk, fur and fibre, or for the needs of sport. Although this is a huge step towards the “progress of human civilisation”, as described by China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, there is a question as to why only now they have made this decision.
It is clear that in response to the Covid-19 pandemic steps need to be taken now more than ever to prevent the spread of diseases that are transferred from animals to humans, from meat consumed at markets that often have poor hygiene standards. Apart from the threat to human health emerging from the risk of diseases such as rabies and cholera, there are other reasons for banning the consumption of canine meat that have been recognised by countries across the world for a number of years.
Shenzhen was the first mainland city in China to ban the eating of dogs at the beginning of last month, stating their reasoning was not to reduce transmission of diseases but due to the special relationship between people and pets. Human consumption of dog meat is a sensitive topic, it is unfathomable for many people to consider eating an animal that they have built a strong emotional bond with. An estimation of between 10 and 20 million dogs are killed each year in China for their meat, according to Humane Society International. The most shocking part of this trade is that most of these dogs are not raised in captivity for the purpose of breeding. Instead, they are stolen from the streets or from the gardens of their owners who have provided them a loving home and then beaten to death – a treatment even crueller than that of internationally recognised livestock such as pigs. Not only does this cause immense suffering for the animals but it is also a predominately criminal trade, fuelled by theft.
The sale of dog meat and the pain inflicted on these animals occurs because of the wants of a small minority of the Chinese population, of which most of these are older males who mistakenly believe in the health benefits of eating dog meat. Overtime, the practice of consuming canine meat has become increasingly controversial and less acceptable, especially as the increasing wealth of the Chinese population and influence of the younger generation has lead to a boom in the pet market.
The annual dog meat festival which takes place every June in the city of Yulin, results in around 100,000 dogs being consumed in the space of ten days. The new regulations being put in place may finally put an end to this festival which is condemned by many across China, and the rest of the world, as well as ending the cruel treatment of a species which has been domesticated for 15,000 years.