Friends...or Food?
An Animal Rights Article from


Anneleise Smillie
August 2008

As an animal welfare group based in Asia the Animals Asia Foundation would like to put forward a few salient points regarding the controversial practice of dog eating to show the other side of the argument and hopefully enable individuals to make informed and compassionate choices.

What is fundamental in the practice of dog eating is that the cruelty is often deliberate and slaughter methods have been designed to intensify and prolong the suffering in the misguided belief that 'torture equals taste'. In situations where the torture is not deliberate, the method of slaughter is still tragically cruel. Markets in China, Vietnam and South Korea reveal killing methods which leave both dogs and cats suffering a lingering, violent death as they are either bludgeoned over the head, stabbed in the neck or groin, hung, electrocuted or thrown conscious into drums of boiling water.

Dr. John Wedderburn, a Western medical doctor who has worked for thirty years in Hong Kong and has traveled extensively throughout Asia studying this issue, has the following to say: "I understand and respect the concepts and practices of medicine in the various Eastern cultures and I have conversed at length with practitioners of Traditional Medicine. I have yet to meet a TM doctor who believes that eating dog has any beneficial effect on any aspect of health including virility. The market is entirely from supplier to consumer without the recommendation of doctors. In any case, even if there was some slight beneficial effect from eating dog, the cruelty and suffering could not be justified as there are far more effective substances available in both Western and Eastern medicine."

Whilst Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner Dr. Lo Yan Wo states the following:

In Chinese tradition, eating cat is believed to enrich and moisten the body and eating dog is believed to warm the body and enhance male virility and stamina. However, culture should not be an excuse for cruelty and in Traditional Chinese Medicine there are many alternatives to the use of these animals. When we are making progress in civilization, we should also make progress in our hearts and minds. There is no need to kill and eat our faithful animal friends.

Culture and tradition should not be excuses for cruelty. The argument that a certain practice is historically part of a culture does not make it acceptable and this argument in itself is incongruous, as in many of the places where dogs are eaten the practice is less than a few generations old. In fact in Korea, contrary to popular belief, dog eating is a relatively recent phenomenon and has never been a part of a long-standing culinary history. The fabrication of dog and cat meat as an age-old part of Korean cultural heritage is a clever marketing strategy by unscrupulous vendors who are exploiting an easy to produce commodity.

"Culture has often been used as an excuse to turn away from suffering and people in both Asia and the West often use cultural relativism to soothe their conscience for doing nothing. Surely we want to regard various practices in our history (such as slavery and cannibalism) as something to be rid of rather than treat them as 'culture' and demand respect accordingly? In Asia where people regard friendship and loyalty as prominent virtues, we should work towards a society where love and respect are celebrated." (Sung Su Kim)

Arguments that a dog is no different to a chicken, a cow or even a frog, fail to address the core fact that no government in any country has devised a way of killing dogs humanely for commercial purposes. As carnivores, they are inherently different in temperament and physiology to those domestic species more commonly raised intensively en-masse for food. A Hong Kong Government Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department Veterinary representative has stated that dogs cannot be humanely raised and slaughtered for food. Whilst it is difficult to avoid accusations of double standards by deeming one animal a companion and another a 'food' animal (suffering cannot be excused with the argument that an animal has been purposely bred for food), we firmly believe that change must start somewhere and that dogs, as our age old best friends, can serve as valuable ambassadors for all animal species. If one can feel compassion for an individual animal, then hopefully this compassion will expand to include an entire species and eventually lend itself to a greater empathy for all animals.

Animals Asia is finding solutions to the problems of dog eating, through pioneering grass roots programs which promote animals as ambassadors and highlight the mutually beneficial relationship between people and companion animals, whilst working to implement and enforce appropriate animal welfare legislation. Our innovative animal therapy program, Dr. Dog, sees over 300 'dog doctors' spreading love and warmth to people in need in hospitals, disabled centers, homes for the young and elderly, orphanages and schools in six countries throughout Asia.

Similarly, our Detective Dog, Simba, who is the first animal parts sniffer dog in Asia, is working tirelessly to combat the escalating trade in endangered species. Our animal ambassadors, like Simba and rescued market dog Eddie, represent the driving force behind a new movement to promote the concept of animal welfare in Asia and give hope to the many animals that lie forgotten.

For more information, visit Friends of Dogs, Animals Asia, Korean Animal Protection Society, Chinese Companion Animal  Protection Network, All-Creatures Animal Exploitation Photo Gallery

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