In the Western World, consuming dog meat is almost akin to cannibalism. The consumption of dog meat is considered barbaric and immoral, yet many Westerners are perfectly content to eat animals that have been factory farmed. Although we might tut and shake our heads in disapproval at the mention of this miserable subject, the majority of us still wouldn’t think twice about ordering a juicy chicken burger. I have briefly flirted with the notion of vegetarianism and although I never did, I understand its ethical basis. I admire that vegetarianism applies an identical viewpoint to the consumption of all living creatures.
We carnivorous individuals in the West view dogs differently to other animals, dog is a man’s best friend – chicken and pigs are not. It is this stance that has conditioned our way of thinking and so the choice to eat dog meat is culturally dependent. Our adoration for the domestic dog is also undoubtedly rooted in aestheticism – we wouldn’t dare entertain the idea of cooking our furry friends. Dogs have been assigned the position of being our loyal companions and this is one of the key factors that prevent them from being served up on our dinner plates.
On the day of the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, locals can sink their teeth into the flesh of approximately 10,000 slaughtered dogs. Controversy surrounding the event has been spurned by the crime, cruelty and risk of disease. Animal activists are infuriated by the sordid conditions that the dogs are forced to endure – photos from the event reveal shocking images of the animals crammed into small cages with little to no room for movement. The primary concern is the very real potential spread of rabies.
There is now a widespread delusion amongst the British that snacking on the flesh of a dog is as common as munching on a packet of Walkers crisps. Approximately 50 million Chinese citizens are now converting to vegetarianism, for both environmental and ethical reasons. The restaurant menus I have encountered in the City are both predictable and tame – in terms of meat beef and pork are local favourites. Unfortunately a negative portrayal of China’s consumption of dog meat swamps the media, including a plethora of angry online petitions to prevent the Yulin festival from recurring.
Despite the festival being an age-old tradition in Guangxi, many Chinese citizens oppose it, including the vast majority of citizens in Shanghai. A multitude of beautifully groomed breeds can be discovered scampering along the streets and in my experience, most owners are perfectly happy to be papped with their pets! The citizens residing here take great delight in pampering their pooches – miniature shoes (very ‘Jimmy Chew’, if you will), bejeweled collars and neon ear bows are obligatory accessories. Although the dog days are not quite over in Yulin, the only doggy bags you’ll find in Shanghai are designer purses doubling up as mobile homes for hounds.