The Moral Dilemma Of Eating Dogs

February 8, 2024

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There are approximately 700 million dogs in the world. But some people estimate that number is actually closer to 1 billion dogs! This massive amount of barking pooches includes dogs living with families as companions and stray dogs. According to PetPedia, 70% of dogs worldwide are free-roaming stray dogs (dogs without a home), and this doesn’t include dogs living in shelters waiting to be adopted. PetPedia states that over 471 million dogs live as companion animals worldwide, making them the most popular pet globally. But what all these dogs have in common, regardless of breed, the color of their soft fur, the size of their wagging tail, or what country they live in, is that they all deserve to be loved and live a life free from harm. 

Dogs can smell our feelings

Have you ever seen curious dogs sniffing as they walk? Canine’s sense of smell is so much stronger than ours. In fact, according to several studies and many veterinarians, a dog’s sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times stronger than humans. Some experts even suggest a dog’s sense of smell to be 10 million times better than ours – now that’s a lot of sniff power! While humans have about six million olfactory (smell) receptors, dogs have about 300 million, depending on the breed. Due to this unique ability, dogs pick up on changes to our scent, which is how they have been able to detect certain diseases in humans, such as cancer or even perceive when a female is pregnant. It may not be a coincidence if you are having a hard day and your dog comes up to give you snuggles and wet sloppy kisses; they can smell you are sad or stressed and want to cheer you up.  

 A study in 2017 published in New Scientist reports that dogs can smell our emotional state, interpret both visual and auditory signs in relation to our feelings, and even adopt our emotions as their own.

“Dogs exposed to fear smells showed more signs of stress than those exposed to happy or neutral smells. They also had higher heart rates, and sought more reassurance from their owners and made less social contact with strangers.”New Scientist

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Dog Meat Markets

Knowing dogs can pick up on emotions and exhibit signs of stress when exposed to smells, imagine how they feel when snatched by predators and taken to a dog meat market to be tortured and killed. There are many dog meat markets in the world, and many countries like China, South Korea, Cambodia, Philippines, Viet Nam, and Indonesia kill dogs and sell their meat. This is no different than slaughterhouses in North America, Europe, the UK, and Australia killing cows, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, or turkeys.

In January 2024 the South Korea government unanimously passed a new bill banning the sale and production of dog meat be enacted starting in 2027, although eating dog meat will not be illegal.

 “Severe animal suffering is endemic to the dog meat trade. The animals are crammed by the hundreds onto the backs of trucks, packed so tightly in cages that they are unable to move. In Viet Nam, it is not uncommon for dogs to be violently force-fed with a tube down the throat in order to boost their weight before sending them to slaughter. Dogs are typically driven for days or weeks, often sick and injured, and many die from suffocation, dehydration or heat stroke long before they reach their destination.” - Humane Society International

We can replace the word dog with pig in the above quote because it happens to them daily. Toronto Pig Save has documented what pigs endure on factory farms, transport, and slaughterhouses for years. 

The Yulin Dog Meat Festival

One brutal dog market happening right now is in Yulin, China. The terror dogs experience at this annual 10-day June “festival” is unfathomable. Captured dogs include puppies stolen from their mothers crammed into dirty cages, many bleeding, starving, vomiting, and fighting for their lives. Many dogs arriving at Yulin are stolen family pets, some still wearing pet collars.

“Thousands of dogs, including stolen companions, will be crammed into overcrowded cages and trucked without food or water to Yulin for the annual Lychee and Dog Meat Festival where they'll be brutally killed for their flesh — often right in front of each other.” In Defence Of Animals

In other parts of the world, dogs are seen as pets, not food, and the Yulin Dog Meat Festival has become highly controversial and often criticized. People are repulsed at the idea of eating dogs, and it’s totally unthinkable to them. While some people believe eating dog stew is cruel and then munch on a bacon sandwich. If a North American restaurant served hot dogs made from the meat of Golden Retrievers it would be highly controversial. However, attitudes are slowly changing about animal farming. People are starting to realize how awful animals are treated in the animal agriculture industry, and perceptions are finally shifting towards a society that loves and respects all animals and is more open to a plant-based diet. 

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Protest at Yulin's dog meat festival (Getty Images)

Chinese Activists Speaking Up For Dogs

    Animal rights activists in China are doing everything they can to rescue as many dogs as possible from Yulin. Vshine activists (official partners of HSI) just rescued 19 dogs from a slaughterhouse in Yulin. 

    “This was one of the filthiest and bloodiest dog slaughterhouses we’ve ever seen. The dogs had just arrived by truck that morning and we were devastated to find that we had arrived too late to save five dogs who had already been killed. Those dogs who were still alive looked traumatized by the slaughter they would have just seen, and the smell of blood and flesh was overpowering…They were moments away from being killed for the Yulin markets.”Humane Society International

    There are also many misconceptions about the origin of the Yulin festival.

    “Most people in China do not eat dog meat, and 2016 opinion polls show that 69.5 percent have never tried it. It is not part of mainstream Chinese culinary culture. Humane Society International

    Furthermore, some people think the Yulin event is an ancient tradition, but it’s actually relatively new, although dog meat consumption has existed for centuries. The truth is that around 2010, the festival was created to try and boost diminishing dog meat sales and bring tourists over.

    Did you know that in many countries, including Canada, you can eat your dog if you want to, and it’s totally legal? That’s right, Canadians can kill their family pet and eat them for dinner. In an article published in The National Post last year, they wrote there are no laws in Canada preventing the eating of pets, despite it being illegal in the United States since 2018.

    “Technically, any Canadian right now can go adopt a schnauzer, turn him into stew and they won’t even get a ticket.”

    But just because something is legal doesn’t make it moral, ethical, or right.

    Take action

    1. Sign the Ban dog slaughter in the Philippines petition launched in collaboration with our team in the Philippines
    2. Consider a small montly gift to support our chapters in the Philippines secure a ban on dog slaugter
    3. Check out our vegan dog and cat food campaign
    4. Follow Stella the talking dog @Hunger4Words to learn about how dogs can express their emotions and preferences, as well as ask questions through a set of communication buttons 

    Written by Miriam Porter:

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