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To eat or not to eat: The problem with man’s best friend

By 13 June 2009 One Comment
Photo by Eva Romero

Woman bites dog: A visitor samples canine cuisine in a Beijing eatery | Photo by Eva Romero

“Do they really eat dog over there?” is a question many friends and family have asked me about China.

I wanted to find out for myself as well, since, according published reports, hosting last year’s Summer Olympics led authorities to mandate that 112 Beijing restaurants remove dog meat from their menus. Now a year later, I discovered that the consumption of dog meat is not as popular as stereotypes would have led me to believe.

In fact, Beijingers have become enthusiastic dog owners in recent years. On any given day, you can see ordinary citizens walking their toy poodles, Pomeranians and other smaller breeds. Yet even now, those breeds not deemed traditionally “cute”, especially the larger ones, might wind up being used as sources of protein or fur, rather than the pampered pets that seem so ubiquitous on the streets of Beijing. According to The Wall Street Journal, Chinese dog lovers and animal rights advocates caused an uproar last May when a local government in Shaanxi province began mass-killing stray dogs to prevent a rabies outbreak.

“Chinese people love their pets, so that might explain why dog meat is not easy to find,” said Ho Pin, a Beijing restaurant owner whose menu does not include canine fare. Instead, he directed me to look in Beijing’s Chaoyang District.

After a 20-minute taxi ride, I was dropped off in front of a row of small, dilapidated-looking eating establishments. One in particular caught my eye.  The “Xiang Cun Qing” restaurant, or “Village Feeling”, boldly advertised dog meat in big red Chinese characters on the window.

A Korean-inspired Chinese restaurant, Xiang Cun Qing’s whopping 30-page menu boasted beef, pork, and a smattering of  dog dishes. I sampled a plate of dog stir-fry for approximately 30 RMB (USD 4.39). I slowly ate the meat off the bone, leaving the fatty chunks behind in the thick gravy.

The taste and scent of the dish, slightly suggestive of lamb, made me think of my prized pet dachshund, Sparky. I thought of how disturbed he would be if he knew I had become an eater of dog.

My lunch left an unpleasant aftertaste which, coupled with my memories of Sparky, almost made me vomit when I burped later in the day.

“I have eaten dog meat only a few times,” said Li Xiaofong, a waitress at the restaurant. “Occasionally I see foreigners come in and order dog meat out of curiosity because they have ideas about Chinese people eating strange animals. Dog meat is only a small part of our menu.”

According to Li, the restaurant buys 30- to 40-pound dogs from an animal market in Dongzhou city,  just outside the Beijing city limits. The animals usually cost 10 RMB (USD 1.46) each, sometimes less.

“Eating dog meat might seem odd to Western society, but some [Western] food is [odd] to us,” said Miao Wentong, a local man standing outside the restaurant. “It’s all just part of experiencing culture.”

Miao was with his pet Siberian Husky, Haqi, who had also been purchased from Dongzhou City just eight months ago. As I stared into Haqi’s eyes, I knew I would never mix pets with lunch again.

One Comment »

  • Osvaldo Romero said:

    Cultural stereotypes aside, consuming dog meat seems no different than eating pork, who some religions view as unGodly. I’m reminded that menudo, considered a delicacy in some sectors of the Hispanic culture, includes as the main ingredient, the entrails of a cow, a holy animal among Hindus.

    While I would be hesitant to eat any part of a dog, if I were near starvation and Sparky, your dog was the only meal in sight, he’d better make a run for it, otherwise, I’d probably eat him with gravy and leave nothing behind.

    Great story…keep them coming!

    Osvaldo Romero

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