I am always hearing comments being made about Koreans eating dogs, normally these comments are filled with glaring inaccuracies. I thought that I would throw together a little article to put the record straight; this is coming from a dog-loving non-Korean. The simple answer to the simple question is yes, yes dogs do get consumed as food by some Koreans. Equally, there are many Koreans who object to the eating of dogs and would never do so. Korea seems to have been given a particularly hard time as a result, however there are also a number of people in China, Vietnam and the Philippines that eat dog meat.
Do Koreans Eat Dog Meat?
We have all heard the stories about Koreans eating dogs, but is it true? Well, yes and no. They do eat dogs, but they aren't exactly serving up pugs.
And it is just 'dog meat' that they eat of course, rather than dogs in their entirety. Western societies seem to collectively denounce this practice as evil, cruel or sick; although it is well worth noting that butchers in Paris were selling dog meat as recently as 1910 and in Germany dog meat has been eaten in every major crisis up to WWII; it was outlawed in Germany in 1986. And those are just the best examples of dog consumption in Europe, it was reported in 1979 that dog meat was still being consumed on a wide scale in Hawaii, the same Hawaii which had become an American state some 20 years prior. The raising of dogs for food was once as common as the raising of chickens for foods in Hawaii, and the tradition is likely to still exist to a small degree. In more recent times it came to light that dog food is widely eaten in two specific regions of Switzerland, a 1996 news report confirming such was met with a wave of protests by animal rights activists. In Ghana, the Tallensi and Mamprusi tribal people consume dog meat as a delicacy, whilst it is also widely consumed in some Nigerian states.
Is Eating Dog Meat Wrong?
I would never eat dog meat, and you probably never would either. I find the idea repulsive, and slightly upsetting. But that doesn't make the consumption of dog meat wrong, those who do eat meat simply argue that the perception of dogs as either pets or as livestock is subjective. And this is a view that I must agree with. We must remember that many of us eat cows, whenever we go to McDonald's, the last time that we visited a steak house, the last time that we had spaghetti bolognese. The Hindu population in India don't eat cows and see it as a taboo, they worship the cow as a symbol of their god. As a child I was horrified to watch relatives eat Duck, because I used to feed them at the park, yet now I eat it myself and - frankly - find them delicious. The only potential food seen as universally unacceptable worldwide is human flesh, every other ingredient is subjective to our personal opinion; and in any society there are people who refuse to see the distinction between a domesticated dog and a wild animal. Remember that dogs bred for food are unlikely to be the slightest bit 'domesticated', although they would be tamer than dogs in the wild.
Ultimately we have to conclude that eating dogs is not wrong, at least no more wrong than eating any other animal. If you are a vegetarian then you are more than entitled to consider the consumption of any meat to be wrong, including dog meat, but no carnivore is entitled to hold that opinion in a broad sense. If they do hold that opinion then they are probably unable to distinguish from their personal family pets, and the pets of their friends, and dogs bred for food. The idea of eating a dog sickens me, but that view is entirely prejudice by my own experiences of dogs as beloved friends. The proud owner of an in-house miniature pig is likely to stop eating bacon, and the owner of a rabbit in a hutch or a house rabbit is unlikely to order rabbit in a restaurant. I have never owned a miniature pig, and love bacon; in fact I had a bacon sandwich for lunch today. As a child, however, I did own rabbits; as of yet I have never accepted a kind offer of Rabbit for lunch.
What Does Dog Taste Like?
How would I know? If I can help it I will never know. A quick search on Google for the search phrase what does dog taste like will, however, bring up numerous accounts by western people who have eaten dog meat on their travels. Some state that it is pretty plain tasting but that it melts in the mouth due to its high fat content, others have suggested that it tastes a little like beef.
Is It Legal To Eat Dog Meat?
In some places it is legal, in some places it is illegal. Here are a few examples:
- Canada: It is legal to sell and serve dog meat in Canada, as long as it is killed in front of federal inspectors.
- France: Eating dog meat is seen as taboo in France, but it is not illegal. It was widely eaten in France less than 100 years ago.
- Germany: Dog meat was banned in Germany in 1986, having been widely consumed in all times of war and national crisis up to WWII.
- Hong Kong: The British colonial government made it illegal in 1950 to slaughter any dog or cat for food, four men were jailed in Hong Kong in 2006 for doing so.
- Taiwan: It was recently made illegal to sell dog meat in Taiwan, but it is not illegal to kill dogs for the purpose of consumption and it is not illegal to eat dog meat. Dog meat is still widely eaten in parts of Taiwan.
- Switzerland: Commercial production of dog meat is illegal in Switzerland, but is still consumed in some communities.
- United States: It is illegal to consume dogs or animals considered to be companion animals or pets.
- United Kingdom: It is illegal to kill dogs yourself or distribute dog meat, but it technically isn't legal to eat it. You would have a hard time finding a licensed abattoir to touch a dog though!
Which Countries Eat Dog?
The biggest consumers of dog meat are South Korea, North Korea, China, the Philippines, Taiwan, East Timor, Indonesia, Tonga and Vietnam. There is also a small market for dog meat in Japan, which imports around 5 tonnes of dog meat per year from China. These are not the only cultures in which dog is consumed however, dog meat is also a traditional emergency food source for communities in Alaska, Siberia, Greenland and even Northern Canada; if there is no other food available then these communities often turn to sled dogs.
Many famous explorers have also turned to dogs for nutrition, including the famous British explorer Ernest Shackleton. In China, eating dogs is seen as socially acceptable in the south but is frowned upon in much of the north; a Chinese space exploration team famously included dog meat as part of their diet for a space mission. In the nineties it was revealed that many Swiss people still eat dog, particularly in the St. Gallen and Appenzell cantons.