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Animals Asia says cruel dog meat trade a risk to human health
12 May 2010
Transport and slaughter conditions for dogs (and cats) are so unhygienic that they pose a grave risk to public health, Animals Asia Foundation said yesterday.
Animals Asia’s Irene Feng said that as well as being horrendously cruel, the trade and consumption of dog meat was another “food scandal waiting to happen”. She was responding to reports about a new book by national hero Yang Liwei, China’s first astronaut in space.
Ms Feng, who runs Animals Asia’s animal-therapy Doctor Dog programme in China and is also World Animal Day Ambassador for China, said: “When Yang Liwei revealed recently that China’s space team included dog meat in their diet, I was a little shocked. There are so many health risks associated with the farming, slaughter and consumption of dogs. I hope our national space team will consider these issues.”
Ms Feng said there was no scientific evidence to support claims about the nutritional and medicinal benefits of dog meat. “In fact there are a number of diseases associated with the dog meat trade, such as cholera, rabies and trichinellosis, and all of these can be transmitted to humans. We also believe that in some areas, teams of dog killers use cyanide to poison the dogs before selling them to meat markets,” Ms Feng said.
She said dog farms provided optimal conditions for microbes to reproduce, affecting animals already in a weakened state due to the poor health and welfare conditions. The trade and movement of dogs over large distances also increased the risk of disease transmission.
“Many of the dogs in the meat markets are stolen or abandoned pets that have been rounded up on the streets – they are terrified and fight back when traders catch them, so the cruelty involved in their capture is terrible. They are beaten and clamped around the neck with metal hooks,” Ms Feng said. “Dogs are our friends. They don’t belong on the dinner table.”
Animals Asia founder and CEO Jill Robinson said that as well as the human health issues, the terrible cruelty involved in the dog meat trade could not be ignored. “These dogs are piled on top of each other in tiny cages and driven for days on the backs of trucks in the freezing temperatures of winter without cover, or the scorching heat of summer with no water or shade. Then when they finally arrive at the terrible meat markets, they face more days of terror before suffering a horrifying and brutal death.”
“Yang Liwei is a role model for so many young people and he is one of China’s greatest heroes,” Ms Robinson said. “We hope that he might recognise dogs as the heroes they are too – they found survivors during the Sichuan earthquake and protected people from potential terrorists during the Olympic Games. Surely they deserve more.”
Dog meat is consumed as a tonic food in China, allegedly providing warmth in the winter months, as well as combating fatigue, lower back pain, poor memory and slow digestion in older men. (Paradoxically, in the same continent, dog meat is eaten in South Korea during the summer months to cool the body.) Dog skin and gallstones are used to invigorate the body or heal sickness, dog penis and testes are used for impotence and lowered sex drive, and dog kidney is consumed to cure impotence and premature ejaculation. The bones of dogs are sometimes used as an alternative to tiger bone to treat rheumatism. At least one company in Jiangsu Province is attempting to market “dog brain powder” as a treatment for various neurological disorders.
Cat meat is eaten during the winter months in China “to warm the stomach” and delicacies include paws (stir fried with garlic), eyes, stomach and testicles. Cat meat, which apparently tastes like tough chicken, is often eaten as an aphrodisiac, or to treat rheumatoid arthritis, though recent research has proven that cat meat is not effective in the treatment of this illness. Cat consumption has historically been confined to parts of Guangdong Province in southern China, but has recently spread to other parts of China due to the popularisation of Guangdong cuisine. Cat meat is also passed off as mutton.