Do all Chinese eat Dog? What’s the Truth?

Chinese Eating Dog in 2022 – 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?

Do Chinese Eat Dog – Where did it all begin?

Do Chinese Eat Dog – Lychee Dog and Meat Festival

Do Chinese Eat Dog – What do Chinese think

Do Chinese Eat Dog – FAQ’s

Before we get into this topic in more detail let’s put one myth to bed.

Not all Chinese people eat dog. In fact, a very small percentage do, despite the stereotypes, this is something that genuinely upsets many Chinese nationals.

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.

Disband the Myth - Not all Chinese eat dog
Do Chinese eat Dog?

On the flipside, there is absolutely no denial that dog is on the menu for a small minority of Chinese people.

These are mainly based in the south of China in Guangdong and Guangxi (Northern Jiangsu, Guizhou, Guangdong and Guangxi) province.

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.

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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.

Chinese Eat Dogs?
Chinese Eat Dogs?

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. 

Although in Chinese traditional medicine dog meat is believed to have health benefits and to provide warmth during the winter.

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 (over 20,000USD) 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.

Kill the myth - Chinese is a dog loving country
Kill the myth – China is a dog loving country

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.

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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.

China's thoughts on the Dog meat trade - Poll by Horizon
China’s thoughts on the Dog meat trade – Poll by Horizon

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 dumplings are much more common! Uncommon snacks to the West do exist in China, but they’re much more interesting than we’ve been led to believe.

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Chinese Eat Dog? – FAQ’s

Is Dog served in all restaurants in China?

Absolutely not, in fact, it is very rare travelling across China that you will find dog on the menu. This is even more true in the larger cities in China.

What is the most common dog breed in China?

The Pekingese is the most common and popular dog breed in China. Generally in China dogs of a smaller stature are more widely seen.

Do Chinese have dogs as pets?

Yes. A common misconception is that Chinese don’t like dogs as westerners do, but this is untrue. In fact, Chinese people take great pride in their dogs and you will often see families, older couples and children playing with dogs.

Generally, in small community areas, older couples will get together in common areas and gardens and stroll around with their dogs numerous times a day.

How many people in China have eaten dog meat?

According to a survey from Horizon, 69.5% of the Chinese population have never eaten dog meat before and 64% support the end of the Yulin Festival.

Will you find Dog meat in bigger cities like Beijing or Shanghai?

No, the practice of eating dog will not be found in China’s top tier cities.

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