CHINA: How it was a political perversion, not culture,that led to the Dog Meat Trade as we know it.
By Sarah Brownlee
If you speak to the average person in western society about the Dog Meat Trade in China, you will usually be met with the same response. Dismissive or impassioned, the answer is almost always the same:
“It’s in their culture.”
Sadly, very, very few people know that the dog-eating trade in China has absolutely nothing to do with culture. Subsequently, this mass ignorance does nothing to help the millions of dogs that are tortured and slaughtered for consumption every year. Both international governments and citizens alike do not dare criticise another’s “culture” for fear of being deemed racist. The result? A country with zero animal welfare laws, countless dogs being burned, boiled and skinned alive on a daily basis, and millions of grieving, weeping dog-lovers and owners throughout the country who have had their dogs snatched and killed for the trade, and are utterly powerless to act, because they have a government that simply will not listen to them. For it is true that the majority of these dogs are stolen pets – and why? Because if the dog is under-nourished, this could cause a potential health hazard for the consumer, and if a dog trader wants to ensure his meat is plump and well-fed, he only needs to look to the beloved pet of a family home where the dog has been cared for and looked after. This adds a whole new layer of sickening depravity to the trade; and even if it was in the name of culture, in what world is it morally or remotely acceptable to steal a person’s pet dog before hauling it off to the slaughterhouse?
And yet, culture has nothing to do with it. While Ancient China condoned the consumption of dogs, the spread of Buddhism in the 10th Century saw a massive decline in dog meat, and from 1644 to 1912 when the Qing Dynasty reigned, dog meat was banned. The Qing (Manchus) considered killing and consuming a dog to be barbaric. This stemmed from the legend of the first Manchu leader, Nurhachi, whose life was saved by a dog; after, he told his followers:
“In the mountains, there are so many kinds of animals which you can hunt for food, but from now on, no one is allowed to eat dogs, nor wear dog skin. When dogs die, they should be buried because dogs can read man’s emotion and can rescue their masters. Dogs are loyal.”
For almost three hundred years, dogs were revered and beloved by rulers of China who considered the slaughter and consumption of them to be so heinous that they outlawed it; only in the south did they continue to defy this rule. It all changed drastically in 1912 when the Kuomintang (KMT) Nationalist Party got to power; as a symbol of their hatred towards the Manchu, they would boil dogs alive simply to spite them. This was only the beginning of the dogs’ descent into hell, for when the communists subsequently took power a few decades later, Chairman Mao ordered the mass execution of dogs, declaring them filthy, unclean and representative of the elite. This led to the annihilation of millions of dogs, perpetuating a widespread hatred of them which continues to this day. So, let’s acknowledge China’s dog meat trade for what it truly is: not culture, but a political perversion that manifested in the last century and was the result of one political government hating the previous rulers. Let’s call the ‘cultural revolution’ by its true name: the “politically perverse revolution” that led to, not only the near-extinction of many breeds, but a deep-rooted hatred and loathing towards dogs that still prevails within China’s current authoritarian state. Let’s knock this cultural argument on the head once and for all; only by doing so do we stand a chance of urging the international community to rise up and openly object to this corrupt, vile practice. When a nation is guilty of styling a political perversion as culture, other nations must hold them accountable. Political perversions can, and should, always be challenged, not just for the sake of the millions of suffering dogs, but also the millions of suffering people who are likewise desperate for the trade to end.
China is in a civil war over canines. The international community must choose their side. The cruelty these dogs are subjected to has an underlining, resentful current which is not normal to the methods of killing ‘livestock’ in the west; the west does not inflict deliberate cruelty on the animal with the intent to cause as much pain and suffering as possible. I believe that due to the political travesty that occurred in China over the last century and the hatred previous governments felt towards dogs, it is spite that fuels the trade. In many ways, China was more advanced than any of us in its kindness and compassion to dogs during its distant – and recent – history. But where China is unique is that it has gone backwards, not forwards, in terms of dog welfare. It continues today under the current president who has implemented no animal welfare laws due to the subsequent, inherent hatred that stemmed from 1912, a product of politics … not culture.
When a person brings up cows, chickens and pigs, let them know we do not inflict deliberate pain and torture onto them due to a deep-rooted hatred of them spurred on by political ideology. When someone talks about culture, tell them about China’s true history with dogs and how, for many years, dogs were respected and loved by rulers who forbid their murders. Tell them also of the current dog war going on in China between the people vs the government and ask them whose side they want to take. Eventually, we should reach a point where the international community understands this is not culture and our own governments may be more inclined to voice aloud collective condemnation of the trade. A united global demonstration from international governments may be what spurs China’s government to take note. For this, we must remove the cultural excuse. It is untrue, unfair and damaging. If China wish to be respected on the world stage, it is essential they stamp out this barbaric, cruel practice for the trade is simply unacceptable in a civilised world.
For the dog, an animal that is more human than beast, who fights for us in our wars, aids our blind and deaf, assists our police, catches poachers, herds our cattle, protects us, defends us and loves us unconditionally, the current cruelty that humans in dog-eating countries inflict on them is one of the greatest betrayals mankind commits towards the one animal that has, as a species, always shown such unwavering loyalty and devotion. Each of us has a moral obligation to end it. The dog would sacrifice himself for us in a heartbeat; it is poor repayment from Man if we do not return this favour by doing everything in our power to save him from the torture and cruelty he is so grievously subjected to in China and the Far-East.
Article written by Sarah Brownlee, Head of Operation Hound and Campaigner against the Dog Meat Trade.