In the wake of the coronavirus crisis, the Chinese government finally seems set to ban the sale and consumption of canine meat.
The news came on April 8 when the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs issued a list of 31 types of poultry and livestock permitted for human consumption.
Missing from the list were dogs. And crucially the document included an explanation as to why Man’s Best Friend had been excluded.
“With the progress of human civilisation and the rising public concern for the protection of animals, dogs have changed from traditional domestic animals to companion animals. Dogs are generally not regarded as livestock and poultry around the world, and China should also not manage them as livestock and poultry,” it said.
The move follows a decision by the Shenzhen provincial government to ban the consumption of cats and dogs two weeks ago.
The ministry said the new list of permissible animal meat will be sent to the State Council for approval on May 8. Yet the one-month period of public consultation is already stirring heated debate, with many arguing that dog meat has a long history in China, especially in places like Guangzhou and Guangxi, and among the ethnic Korean population in the northeast of the country.
Those against the ban argue that dog meat can be farmed in a way that ensures the meat is safe. They also take issue with the argument that consumption of dog meat is “uncivilised”.
“It is logically absurd to consider that not eating certain animals is the standard of ‘civilisation’,” railed Guancha.cn in one strongly worded commentary.
“Hindus do not eat beef, so should Hindus accuse Westerners who eat steak of being ‘uncivilised’? Muslims do not eat pork, should they blame Westerners who eat ham for being ‘uncivilised’?”
The piece went on to challenge the ministry’s assertion that the new rules would bring China into line with international practice, pointing out that the South Koreans eat dog as well.
“Who represents ‘international practice’? It should not only be Western countries,” the author fumed.
However animal rights activists and public health experts have welcomed news of the probable ban, saying that it is neither safe nor cost-effective to raise dogs for meat.
Various investigations have shown that the vast majority of the 10 million dogs eaten in China each year are strays or stolen pets. To catch the animals, the ‘poachers’ often leave out poisoned food – which often subsequently sickens the persons consuming the meat.
Experts say that raising dogs for meat is also difficult because dogs are slow growers and require costly vaccinations so as not to fall sick.
As WiC went to press this week a study in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution even suggested that wild dogs may have been an intermediate host for the coronavirus. However, most scientists dismissed the theory saying it was entirely hypothetical and based on computer analysis rather than biological testing.
“I do not see anything in this paper to support this supposition and am concerned that this paper has been published in this journal,” James Wood, head of the department of veterinary medicine at the University of Cambridge in the UK told CNN.
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