Chinese Eating Dog – What is the truth?
It’s a tender and sensitive question, but one many expats in China get asked all the time by friends and family back home.
- Do all Chinese people eat dog?
- Do you eat dog?
- Is it common to see dog eaten in Chinese restaurants?
Before we get into this topic in more detail let’s put one myth to bed. Not all Chinese people eat dog.
It is quite astounding how powerful a stereotype can be. Media is a powerful thing and influences people daily, but without knowledge of the full facts, these stereotypes can be alarmingly incorrect.
On the flipside, there is absolutely zero denial that dog is not on the menu for a small minority of Chinese people.
If you’ve read up on the topic before then you are probably familiar with a place called Yulin. This is the home of the Lychee and Dog meat festival which runs from June 21st every year for just over a week.
The cruel event takes place in June every year, but increasingly activists are taking a firmer stance against the festival and pressurizing its closure. Time will tell.
Eating Dog Meat – Where did it all begin?
The practice of dog eating in China can be traced back to around 1700 B.C., starting in the north of the country. In ancient China, dogs could have different functions within a household: they could guard the farmhouse, they could be hunting dogs, but also they could be slaughtered to eat.
Furthermore, dogs and dog meat were considered both important offerings to ancestors and sacrificial food to gods.
The Chinese character “to offer” 献 (xiàn) contains the character “dog” 犬 (quǎn).
With the popularization of Buddhism (10th century), people started to believe that killing dogs created bad karma because of the loyalty these animals show to their owners.
During the Cultural Revolution, Mao Zedong banned raising dogs as a “bourgeois pastime” and during the Great Famine, peasants would eat their meat, just like any animal they could lay their hands on.
It was during the 90’s that dogs started to be seen in the cities. As said, nowadays there are less and less people willing to eat dog meat in China and the only “big event” that promotes its consumption is the Lychee and Dog meat festival mentioned above.
Do Chinese Eat Dog? Lychee Dog and Meat Festival
The festival is actually very recent, starting in just the Summer of 2010.
Despite Yulin hosting this event, even their local government “denies any official involvement or endorsement of the festival itself, and describes the event as a local custom observed by “a small percentage” of Yulin’s residents” (taken from the Wikipedia page link above).
Heart warming stories have occurred from the upsetting festival where a retired school teacher spent 150,000CNY to save 360 dogs.
A number of celebrities have also come out in support of stopping the event in Yulin and this continues to gain traction each year.
It’s mainly due to this event that the stereotype of “all Chinese eating dogs” exists.
Another question I often get asked as an expat is “do you eat/see dog on the menu at any restaurant”?
It’s very easy for the loud minority to stand out from the majority but the simple fact is most Chinese adore dogs just like many western households do.
The practice of eating dog meat in China is actually much less common than most expats think.
It must be said that despite the fact a large percentage of Chinese will be against eating dog, the belief that dog meat is tasty and good for health is etched into Chinese culture.
We can disband the stereotype as much as we want as dog lovers, but we also cannot deny the fact dog consumption is a very real occurrence in areas of China. Until the event in Yulin stops, perspective around the world will never change, and with good reason.
What do Chinese think about eating Dog
Interestingly, after a poll taken by Horizon (commissioned by the China Animal Welfare Association) shows Chinese residents attitude towards Yulin.
The results give a good indication of the general stance in China for consuming dog meat. Source here
Immediately, this puts to the bed the stereotype that all Chinese eat dog meat.
Most Chinese nationals I’ve spoke to on a personal level have the same beliefs as many Europeans or Americans would do and squirm at the thought of anything else. Through no fault of it’s own, Yulin, as a city, brings shame on China according to 62% of Chinese people. With a population roughly the size of London, it’s not a small fish, even in China’s rather large pond.
It’s a topic that will always bring controversy to China. The western world will always draw stereotypes and the only way that’ll disappear is if the Yulin dog festival does the same. Thankfully though, it’s not all bad given the above statistics and information. One thing we can say for sure, eating dog is NOT common practice in China and Chinese restaurants, tofu and pretty much anything else is much more common.
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