The coronavirus has brought the world to its knees, and people want to get back to their regular lives. Quarantine is not a place that one likes to be in especially when you are stuck for an indefinite period pending the end of a lockdown. Since humans like dishing out blame on everything, then the coronavirus has been dubbed the “Chinese virus” which has been said to be racist. Still, the fact remains that it originated from China, and Donald Trump is feeling that even WHO is becoming China-centric in the fight against the virus hence is threatening to withdraw funding. China is, however, not ready to be the origin of another virus, especially now that it is no longer recording deaths. With the virus being linked with bats, a popular delicacy in China, then even dogs have been classified as pets and not livestock. So, let’s check out why the move is necessary and how it will affect China.
No more dog meat on the menu
When China classifies dogs as pets, then you know things are getting serious. After all, it is not every day that people give up on their favorite delicacies to have them as loyal companions, yet that is what the Ministry of Agriculture has opted to do. As per the Ministry, livestock, in this case, refers to any animal that can be reared for its milk, food, fur, medicine, fiber or be used for sports or in the military. As such, only 13 types are in the category of traditional livestock, and they include chicken, pigs, cows and turkey, among others. According to Quartz, another 18 types of animals have been included in the special livestock group, and they comprise some deer. That latter list is dynamic and can be expanded to include more animals; all they are waiting for is the public to endorse it then the draft document will go into effect in May 2020. So far, animal rights groups have shown their support for the banning of eating wildlife and classifying dogs as companions instead of livestock which could bring dog meat consumption to an end.
Implications of having dogs as livestock
Unlike in the US where special occasions such as Thanksgiving call for a turkey, in China the Yulin festival held on June 21, every year demands the death of over ten million dogs and four million cats for their meat. According to The Sun, the dogs are slaughtered, cooked and eaten during the Dog Meat Festival that lasts for ten days. They eat the meat alongside the lychee fruits since the Chinese believe that the combination will result in good health during the winter. While the meat is claimed to be sourced from dog meat farms, there are too few farms in the country to cater to the huge dog meat market. Therefore most of the dogs are usually stolen or strays. Consequently, besides encouraging theft, dog meat consumption has led to animal abuse since the canines usually have their legs broken or amputated. That way, the Chinese believe that the dogs can stay for longer as they prepare the meat since the adrenaline will still be pumping. It such a barbaric act and charities have been founded to rescue the animals.
Will the rule to have dogs as companions change things for the better?
Shenzhen was the first city in China to ban dog and cat meat consumption, saying that the two animals have close relationships with humans as pets, and it was time to move towards human civilization. While the decision was because it is believed that the outbreak of the coronavirus in Wuhan was due to the sale of wildlife meat, it is hard to stop the trade especially when the neighboring countries are also dog meat consumers. Only 20% of China’s residents eat dog meat while in South Korea, the figure is 60%. As a result, in South Korea, five million dogs are slaughtered every year to cater to the massive market. However, they do not just eat the meat; they have a booming cosmetic industry with dog meat. Since the dog meat market for food was shut down, then using the flesh extracts in skin lotions is still applicable.
Vietnam is even worse, with 80% of its population eating dog meat. The demand is so high that the locals do not get enough meat from the country, and they, therefore, have to smuggle dogs from neighboring countries, China included. In Vietnam, the dogs are kept in poor conditions because they believe that the more miserable the animals, the higher the quality of meat. Moreover, to the Vietnamese men, dog meat makes them manlier. That said, for a businessman who has been making a living selling dogs in China, they would still rather smuggle the animals to Vietnam where the profits are high.
Health concerns for dog meat consumers
According to the International Organization for Animal Protection, the Chinese government should have been convinced to stop the dog meat trade ages ago due to the health concerns. People who die from rabies are estimated at 1,500 per year, making the country that records the second-highest number of deaths worldwide, and the transmission is through dog meat consumption. Additionally, in Yulin, the morbidity rate of cancer was 78.9% in 2016, and since that is where the dog meat festival is held, then there is possibly a link between dog meat and cancer. Most types of cancer in Yulin are liver, lung and gastric. In other instances, dog meat is suspected of containing poison since the dogs are usually stolen, thus poisoned to capture them and of course, that poison affects the consumers. Therefore, while most Chinese keep dogs for their meat in the hopes of improving their health, in the end, it only harms their health. We can only hope that more cities will copy Shenzhen’s move and ban dog meat consumption and resolve to have the canines as pets, not livestock.