Do People In China Eat Dogs? Why Do Chinese Eat Dogs?

why dog Chinese eat dogs

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This content was reviewed and fact-checked by AKC Certified Dog Trainer & Behaviorist Madison Tanner Clark.

Do people in China eat dogs? If so, why do Chinese people eat dogs? One of the questions friends and acquaintances asked me after I returned from China was whether or not dog eating in China was a fact.

The belief that “all Chinese people eat dogs” is a widely circulated stereotype that oversimplifies a complex issue and overlooks the diverse cultural landscape of China. It’s crucial to approach this topic with an understanding that practices vary widely among different regions, communities, and individuals within the country. In truth, the consumption of dog meat is confined to specific regions and represents a tradition that is neither uniformly embraced across the nation nor reflective of the dietary preferences of the majority of Chinese people.

We encourage readers to engage with an open mind and a willingness to understand practices that may be unfamiliar or differ from their own. By setting the stage with these clarifications, we hope to contribute to a more informed and empathetic understanding of a topic often fraught with misconceptions. Let’s dive in!

The History of Chinese People Eat Dogs

The practice of consuming dog meat in China dates back thousands of years to when some Chinese regions used dog meat as a food source. Even Mencius (372 BC – 289 BC), the philosopher, talked about dog meat as edible, dietary meat.[1]  In ancient times, dogs held a dual role within Chinese society: they were protectors, hunters, and companions, as well as a source of sustenance during periods of scarcity. It’s thought that wolves in southern China may have been domesticated as a source of meat. Historical records also show that dogs were eaten as an emergency food source during wartime. More recent reports describe that people think dog meat has medicinal properties, and it’s believed to raise body temperature after consumption and promote warmth.

How Did Dog Eating In China Begin?

Dog eating in China dates back to around 1700 B.C. The practice started in the country’s north, where dogs were considered friends and food. Dogs were buried with their owners to provide company in the afterlife but were sacrificed as offerings to the Gods. The Chinese character “to offer” 献 (xiàn) contains the character “dog” 犬 (quǎn).

Buddhism & Chinese Traditional Medicine

Around the 10th century, Buddhism’s growing popularity condemned killing dogs for food, believing that bad karma would come to those for killing such a loyal and faithful animal. Despite that, canine meat consumption is believed to have health benefits in Chinese traditional medicine, and it’s thought to provide warmth during wintertime.

Do People In China Eat Dogs?

Not all Chinese people eat dogs, and the extent of dog consumption in modern times varies by region. Estimates for total dog killings in China range from 10 to 20 million dogs annually for human consumption purposes. Today, a small minority of Chinese people still have dogs on their menu. The regions where dog eating is still prominent are mainly in the south of China. These include:

  • Guangdong
  • Guangxi
  • Jiangsu
  • Guizhou
  • Guangxi

The most well-known place where dog eating happens is “Yulin.” This is where the famous “Lychee and Dog Meat Festival is every year.”

Lychee & Dog Meat Festival

This festival is relatively new, starting in 2009 to mark the beginning of the summer solstice. According to folklore, eating dog meat during summer can bring luck and good health. Animal activists and pet owners worldwide see this 10-day festival as an atrocious and inhumane event.

Lychee and Dog Meat Festival runs from 21 to 30 June every year, and it’s held in Yulin, a city in the Guangxi province of China, where over 10,000 dogs are eaten. Local authorities deny any endorsement of the festival. It’s only seen as a customary event attended by some residents. Activists report animals are slaughtered inhumanely. Some dogs are seen wearing collars, which may indicate that these pups could be stolen.

Is this why people around the world think all Chinese people eat dogs? We believe that stereotype is, in fact, primarily due to this festival.

What Do Chinese Have to Say?

According to a survey by the NGO Humane Society International in June 2016, 69.5% of Chinese have never eaten dog meat, while 64% are against the Yulin Festival. 62% think Yulin damages China’s reputation, while 51.7% say the event should be banned. Although some had tried dog meat and eaten it more than once, most Chinese people I talked to while living in the country assertively said it’s not a tradition or regular practice. Eating dogs is NOT a common practice in China and Chinese restaurants. Tofu and pretty much anything else is much more common.

What Kind of Dogs Do Chinese Like to Eat?

Unfortunately, Chinese dog farms continue to operate. The Chinese do not like to eat a specific kind of dog; they consume dogs of all shapes and sizes. Humane Society International has found dozens of dog breeds in dog farms.

Is Eating Dogs In China Illegal?

In a landmark decision reflecting changing societal attitudes towards animals, the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture declared in April 2020 that dogs are considered companions, not livestock, for food, effectively signaling a shift in government perspective. Following this, several cities and provinces in China have started to implement bans on dog meat consumption. Shenzhen and Zhuhai were among the first to introduce such bans, with others potentially following suit. These legal changes are part of broader efforts to improve animal welfare and public health in the wake of health crises.

Unfortunately, it is legal to eat dogs in China. Around 10 to 20 million canines are killed for human consumption each year. China is not the only country to allow dog eating. In the United States, 44 states, it is illegal for slaughterhouses to handle dogs, and it is illegal for stores to sell the meat. However, individuals in most states can kill and eat a dog or cat or sell the meat to other people.

Despite this, attitudes towards dog eating in China have changed. Pet ownership has risen to 62 million registered pets, and most Chinese citizens are vocal and opposed mainly to dog eating.

Do Restaurants In China Serve Dog Meat?

Dog meat in China is more expensive than that of other animals. It’s highly unlikely that you will find a dog meat-based menu when eating at a local restaurant. It’s also rare that restaurants try to pass dog meat as chicken or other meat. Chicken and pork are the cheapest breeding animals in China. People who eat dog meat ask for it and are aware of it.

Do Chinese Eat Their Pet Dogs?

The dog meat eaten and sold in some Chinese restaurants is from specific breeds raised for human consumption. As heartless as it may sound, The Chinese know the difference between a pet dog and a dog meant to be served for dinner. According to China-Files media, a Chinese journalist from CNN said that the festival’s butchers had their pets at the Yulin festival. Dog breeds meant to be pets are very well taken care of. Even in some cities, they are treated with greater fanaticism than in the U.S. People take their dogs on buses and dye their fur, among other regular dog parent perks.

Is China The Only Dog-Eating Country?

The consumption of dog meat is not exclusive to China and has been observed in various cultures worldwide. Eating dog meat is common in several Asian countries, such as Vietnam and Korea. Dog eating in Taiwan was banned in 2001 and 1954 in Hong Kong. However, it’s common to find dog-based dishes in Vietnam and Korea.

Did you know up until the beginning of the 20th century, dog ​​meat was eaten in Germany and France? In the Swiss Alps, villages have a tradition of eating Rottweilers and other dog breeds. In northern Canada, Alaska, and even some ethnic groups in Mexico, it is acceptable to eat dog meat—local regulations state dogs must be killed in the most humane way possible.

The Bottom Line

We want to share a little anecdote. One day, a professor took us to a restaurant for an end-of-course celebration. Suddenly, a dog meat-based dish arrived at the table. While some Westerners tried it, most rejected it, stating that we would never eat dogs. That sparked a conversation between Westerners, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus. They asked us the difference between eating a dog and a cow, which is sacred to them, while Muslims criticized us for eating pork or any other animal.

The future of dog consumption in China appears to be undergoing significant change, influenced by shifting attitudes, a rise in pet ownership, and evolving cultural norms. Younger generations, in particular, are more inclined toward viewing dogs as companions rather than food sources. This shift, coupled with the increasing visibility of animal welfare movements within the country, suggests a potential decrease in consuming dog meat in the years to come. However, cultural practices and traditions evolve at their own pace, and it will be important to continue observing these changes with sensitivity and understanding. While we do not justify dog-eating and by no means support the slaughtering and torturing of any animals, we sincerely hope these practices end in China.

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