Dog meat and its uses around the world
Dog meat refers to the flesh and other edible parts derived from dogs. Human consumption of dog meat has been recorded in many parts of the world, including ancient China, ancient Mexico, and ancient Rome. Dog meat has also been used as survival food in times of war and/or other hardships. Today, some culturesview the consumption of dog meat to be a part of their traditional cuisine, while others consider consumption of dog to be inappropriate and offensive on both social and religious grounds.
In response to criticisms, proponents of dog meat have argued that distinctions between livestock and pets is subjective, and that there is no difference with eating the meat of different animals. Historical cultural records in China have, however, noted how Chinese variations on Buddhism have preached against the consumption of dog meat, which is held to be one of the five ‘forbidden meats’. Eating dog is also forbidden under both Jewish dietary laws and Islamic dietary laws.
Dog meat (Chinese: 狗肉; pinyin: gǒu ròu) has been a source of food in some areas of China from around 500 BC, and possibly even earlier. Researchers in the Royal University of Technology theorized that wolves in southern China may have been domesticated as a source of meat. Mencius, the philosopher, talked about dog meat as being an edible, dietary meat. Dog meat is sometimes euphemistically called “fragrant meat” (香肉 xiāng ròu) or “mutton of the earth” (地羊 dì yáng) in Mandarin Chinese and “3-6 fragrant meat” (Chinese: 三六香肉; Cantonese Yale: sàam luhk hèung yuhk) in Cantonese (3 plus 6 is 9 and the words “nine” and “dog” are homophones, both pronounced gáu in Cantonese. In Mandarin, “nine” and “dog” are pronounced differently).
The eating of dog meat in China dates back thousands of years. It is thought to have medicinal properties, and is especially popular in winter months, as it is believed to generate heat and promote bodily warmth. The meat is popular in Guangdong and Guangxi whence it went on the menu for Chinese astronauts to consume in outer space. Historical records have moreover shown how in times of food scarcities (as in war-time situations), dogs could also be eaten as an emergency food source.
A few meat shops sold dog meat during the German occupation of Belgium in World War I, when food was extremely scarce. According to The New York Times, in the 19th century the Council of the Veterinary School of Belgium occasionally recommended dog meat for human consumption after being properly inspected. During severe meat shortages coinciding with the German invasion in 1940, sausages found to have been made of dog meat were confiscated by authorities in the Netherlands. Swiss recipes for dog meat include gedörrtes Hundefleisch served as paper-thin slices, as well as smoked dog ham, Hundeschinken, which is prepared by salting and drying raw dog meat.
According to the 21 November 1996 edition of the Rheintaler Bote, a Swiss newspaper covering the Rhine Valley area, the rural Swiss cantons of Appenzell and St. Gallen are known to have had a tradition of eating dogs, curing dog meat into jerky and sausages, as well as using the lard for medicinal purposes. Dog sausage and smoked dog jerky remains a staple in the Swiss cantons of St. Gallen and Appenzell, where one farmer was quoted in a regional weekly newspaper as saying that “meat from dogs is the healthiest of all. It has shorter fibres than cow meat, has no hormones like veal, no antibiotics like pork.”
A few years earlier, a news report on RTL Television on the two cantons set off a wave of protests from European animal welfare activists and other concerned citizens. A 7,000-name petition was filed to the commissions of the cantons, who rejected it, saying it was not the state’s right to monitor the eating habits of its citizens. The production of food from dog meat for commercial purposes, however, is illegal in Switzerland.