Can eating dogs be done humanely?
A Chinese animal lover consoles a dog after a convoy of trucks carrying some 500 dogs to be sold as meat, were stopped along a highway in Beijing on early April 17, 2011, and the dogs were later rescued to the China Animal Protection Association. (Getty Images)
July 26th, 2011
12:00 PM ET

Can eating dogs be done humanely?

By Emily Lodish, GlobalPost

A few weeks ago, a canceled dog meat festival in South Korea prompted this Rice Bowl blogger to ask: What's really wrong with eating dog?

A few things, turns out.

Animals Asia Foundation, an animal welfare group based in Asia, chimed in via email with a response.

In comments attributed to founder and CEO Dr. Jill Robinson, the group focused on how cruelly dogs are treated before they are slaughtered, as well as how inhumanely the slaughter itself is carried out.

Here is what Dr. Robinson had to say:

(1) Dogs are carnivores and are inherently different in temperament to most domestic livestock species that are more commonly raised for food. As pack animals, hierarchy is important. The dogs are crammed into cages to be transported to the markets, which leads to aggression and fighting. Equipped with efficient canine teeth — carnivore attacking carnivore — they are seen tearing into each other, inflicting horrific wounds.

(2) In many cases, dogs are bludgeoned to death slowly. They are given a blow across the muzzle, using an instrument resembling a baseball bat. The blow is not hard enough to render the animals unconscious for long — they regain consciousness within seconds, and try to get up, sliding around in the blood and crashing into other dogs also flailing around. At this point they are howling pitifully in pain and confusion, with blood and mucus pouring from their nose and mouth — only to be bludgeoned again and again.

There is no defense for the cruelty to animals, in my opinion. Everything outlined above I find abhorrent.

But, to me, these arguments fail to address the crux of the issue.

An in-depth look at the Dog Meat Mafia

The question is not what is wrong with beating the bejesus out of a dog. I wouldn't condone that sort of behavior as it related to any senient being, be it a dog or a goldfish or a person. The question is what is wrong with eating the meat of dog.

Assuming the slaughter of an animal is something that it is possible to do humanely, what is wrong with eating the meat after it is done?

So, I suppose there is a new question: Can the slaughtering of dogs be done humanely?

It is possible that by legalizing and regulating the dog meat industry, we could put an end to the cramming of dogs in cages and the bludgeoning of dogs to death.

This may be an unrealistic expectation to put on China, a deadly trainwreck this past weekend has been so disastrously mismanaged, calling attention to the country's failure to regulation key sectors.

China's latest craze involves dyeing pets to look like other wild animals

But what about South Korea, where dog meat is also on the menu? Is this a reasonable goal, or one that simply allows the systems described above to continue under wraps?

I'm not sure what the answer is, but given that millions of dogs are euthanized every year, it is worth talking about.

As Jonathan Safran Foer pointed out in the Wall Street Journal:

The simple disposal of these euthanized dogs is an enormous ecological and economic problem. But eating those strays, those runaways, those not-quite-cute-enough-to-take and not-quite-well-behaved-enough-to-keep dogs would be killing a flock of birds with one stone and eating it, too.

Given that we put an end to the lives of so many dogs every year, doesn't it make sense to put those lives to good use?

Post by:
Topics: Animals • Culture

soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Shane G

    If it can be done "humanely" (to use the word that makes an allusion to perhaps the most brutal of animals, the human being) - if it can be done humanely, "What is wrong with killing dogs?" is your question. That is a theoretical question which is certainly not addressed by the practical matter of how dogs are treated because in theory they could be treated better. Why do we not kill humans for food? Perhaps because we are most able to connect with and identify with humans, and there is definitely consciousness there, not just meat. By that standard, one might look at the various animals out there and start drawing the line in different places. Dolphins, chimps, apes, dogs, cats - they all are intelligent creatures. Perhaps because the dog evolved with humans, they are able to read our emotions better than other species, they are among the most loyal of friends. Some people would draw the line at all living things, suggesting none should have to suffer. I personally think killing is worse than beating, so there is no "humane" killing. Yet, I would much prefer to see animals slaughter which have no real connection to humans than to see the same species of a best friend slaughtered. It is not a black and white distinction perhaps (unlike what vegetarians believe) between right and wrong, but of all species that ought not be slaughtered for food, the dog surely must be the last species to be used for meat.

    July 26, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Reply
    • Bret


      July 27, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Reply
  2. Cody

    "I would much prefer to see animals slaughter which have no real connection to humans than to see the same species of a best friend slaughtered."

    We don't have to eat/wear/abuse/exploit animals to be healthy or happy. It's not an "either or" for choosing between dogs or "livestock" animals. We can actually respect both, and it saddens me how many people "love" dogs and then go home and eat animals that, for all intents and purposes, are not really any different than dogs or cats as far as their capacity for feeling.

    July 26, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      I agree and I love animals too. I know it's paradox, but I don't mind a piece of meat occasionally.

      July 26, 2011 at 6:23 pm | Reply
    • Laurie

      My thoughts exactly, Cody. Thank you.

      December 4, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Reply
  3. GOPisGreedOverPeople

    If the GOP has their way, we'll find out soon. Humane or not.

    July 26, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Reply
    • john q

      U R a mental midget

      July 26, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Reply
      • GOPisGreedOverPeople

        But a correct mental midget.

        July 26, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
    • gimmeabreak

      No, just mental.

      July 27, 2011 at 12:29 am | Reply
  4. John

    We ate dogs in the US for many years. The Indians ate them for thousands. Why is it so bad now?

    July 26, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Reply
  5. Dave T

    Let's see, they've been eating dogs in Asian countries for how long and CNN is just now catching on? Or do they want America to send a few billion over there to teach then the benefits of Mickey D's? CNN, Consistently Not News.

    July 26, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Reply
  6. lukus

    Not too long ago, I read about a British man that has eaten nothing but roadkill for years. It started one day as he was taking a walk and saw a pheasant get hit by a car. It was fresh killed and he thought it a waste, so he took it home. Since then, he's eaten just about everything, including a couple of dogs. He said that (despite the mental yuck factor) they were really very good. Actually, one of the best meats. I've even heard the same thing from a couple of friends that went to South Korea. It kind of fascinated me.

    July 26, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Reply
  7. DWN2DV8

    I have a Chinese girlfriend who only got to the USA a couple years ago. She told me that when she was a kid, her grandparents had a feast and dog was on the menu. Where she grew up though, was a bit more prgressive and these days, dog eating is taboo. Now before you jump on your high horse and chastise her, think how an Indian person would feel to see YOU eating a hamburger.

    July 26, 2011 at 6:47 pm | Reply
  8. DWN2DV8

    Humans are the only species that can remain friendly with an animal that they intend to eat.
    -got it froma quote book.

    July 26, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Reply
    • leeintulsa

      @dwn2dv8: my brother-in-law raised a calf named Tablesteaks when he was a kid.

      July 26, 2011 at 8:56 pm | Reply
    • randomuser2349

      You know, a lion was reported taking care of a baby gazelle after killing its mother.

      November 15, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Reply
  9. Overthinking_It

    Have we become so depraved we're being asked to rationalize this sort of behaviour? Dogs are near sentient beings with some having the ability to understand several hundred words. Why not treat dead humans as feed stock for animals... great source of protein and perhaps if mixed right with other meal, might make sheep's wool a finer thing. Imagine being able to boast you're wearing the wool of sheep fed on only the finest already dead poors. Eating dogs indeed. Sick.

    July 26, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Reply
    • themoreyouknow

      Hopefully posting links is allowed;

      Dogs don't have a strong, if any, sense of self.
      Dogs would also eat humans if they were hungry.
      Meat is meat. Some people like duck, I don't. Some people like dog, you don't. Doesn't make it wrong.

      July 26, 2011 at 9:15 pm | Reply
      • Overthinking_It

        You'll be justifying a little bit of cannibalism next (just a little bit mind, wouldn't want to test those prions too much). Eat those Christian babies and all? After all, the only rational reason to avoid cannibalism seems to be those prions. Moral relativism is perfectly fine.
        No, I'm not going to rationalize. As a humanist once told me, some things just don't need explanation... they're just wrong. Period.

        July 26, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
      • Overthinking_It

        Wish we could edit our posts. Anyway, as we're contemplating a "sense of self" perhaps we should elevate the discourse and consider our sources?

        July 26, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
  10. leeintulsa

    When it all boils down, it's a human world. We make the rules.

    Who can say cows would not be very different had we not lined them up for eating since the beginning of time? I'm sure we thinned the smart ones out pretty quick, we're not stupid.

    We kill thousands of dogs every week, just for being homeless. We've got hungry people. It's wasteful.

    But then, i think aborted feti and stem cell research and the cure we've been looking for all this time were born to be together. If we'd just get out of the way.

    Waste not, want not. Why don't we eat humans? Are you thick? We make the rules.

    July 26, 2011 at 9:12 pm | Reply
    • leeintulsa

      Hey, maybe people would keep their dogs in *their* yards if we could eat them... Let's think this thing through, now...

      July 26, 2011 at 9:18 pm | Reply
  11. BIG PAPA

    Dogs are tasty, so is chicken,beef and pork. Pigs are pretty smart too, but you dont hear people talking about not eating them. If you want to eat a dog I dont care as long as it isnt mine and if I was hungry enough fito must go!

    July 27, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Reply
  12. bookwench

    I've tried dog once in Korea. It was delicious but I won't do it again, because it was a bit traumatic to be licked by a beloved mascot after coming back from that dinner. Still, that's a personal thing. Why would it be wrong for other people to eat dogs?

    It's an odd, emotional question. We love dogs. We look at them as companions, pets, members of the family. We care for them and know they depend on us, and that dependence makes them vulnerable to us.

    Of course, all animals are vulnerable to us, but if I eat venison I feel no real remorse when I next see a deer on my lawn. If I eat steak I still cheerfully moo out the car window when I drive past a herd. It's a different relationship. But why? Cows and dogs aren't inherently on some different level, from an objective point of view. Monkeys, dolphins and whales seem to have a certain amount of self-awareness that precludes my feeling it's ethical to eat them (or kill them, or keep them – but that last one I have to compromise on because it's more likely they'll survive as a species in captivity, given our inability to leave them alone in the wild.)

    Dogs, like cows and chickens, have been shaped by us in the selective breeding we've performed. But unlike cows and chickens we shaped them not for food but for companionship. Perhaps we feel that we betray their purpose, as though we were using a finely crafted saw as a crude hammer; and this feeling is made worse by their ability to feel and love. Yes, dogs love; cows love too, but we don't romanticize them the same way. They're bred to be food. Dogs are bred to be a part of our lives in an intimate fashion that no other animal achieves.

    But why not house-cats? Why dogs? Well, dogs are bigger, of course, and can eat a sort of vegetarian meal; cats are closer to pure predators. We, as a species, romanticize predators. We'll eat predators, but throughout history it's been used more as a sort of way of acquiring their spirit, as a way of making them a part of ourselves and less as a way of getting meat. Part of that is the limited population of predators versus the larger population of prey; part is taste (herbivore animals are much tastier); and part is that we feel a great deal of connection to things that fight us, things that it's a struggle to kill, things that hunt us in return.

    July 28, 2011 at 12:20 am | Reply
  13. Ross

    It's the cruelty of how they are treated that upsets me. It does not need to be like this.

    July 28, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Reply

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