A truck transporting over 500 dogs to restaurants in northeastern China was recently forced off the road by an angry animal lover who spotted the truck on the Beijing highway.
According to the Washington Post’s William Wan, after news of the confrontation hit the Chinese blogosphere, more than 200 animal activists rushed to the highway with water, dog food, and veterinarians, forcing traffic to a standstill in a 15 hour standoff as dozens of police officers were called in.
The activists were successful in recovering the dogs, but they discovered most of the dogs they unloaded were suffering from deadly viruses. That fact alone should be enough for the Chinese government to heavily regulate or outlaw a trade in dog meat.
Wan notes this event signifies “a battle that has been brewing for years between the rural and the urbanites, the poor and the rich — between China’s dog eaters and its growing number of dog lovers”.
“The standoff last month has sparked the widest-ranging discussions to date in China over animal rights. Pictures and videos from the incident have spawned endless arguments on e-mail groups and blogs, Web polls and news stories delving into each side’s points.”
Wan claims the battle between the rural and the urbanites has reignited the specter of class warfare — “a common meme in modern China amid the widening gap between rich and poor. In online debates, many have noted the symbolic nature of the confrontation: a working trucker forced off the road by a black Mercedes-Benz whose driver was on his way to a resort hotel with his girlfriend”.
During the Cultural Revolution, having a pet was seen as a capitalist activity, notes Jiang Jinsong, a philosophy professor at Tsinghua University. “Only the rich and arrogant had dogs and allowed them to bite poor people,” he said. “So there’s this implication that if you treated pets well, you will treat those who are weaker badly.”
According to Wan, a Chinese man enraged by animal activists posted threats online to kill a dog a day until these animal lovers donated the money they raised to peasants living in poverty instead of to dogs.
“I felt I had to do something to represent the grass-roots people,” said Zhu Guangbing, 35. “I grew up in a poor village. We raised one dog to watch the door and one to be killed in the Lunar New Year because we were too poor to buy pork. I don’t understand what’s wrong with that.”
Within days, Zhu found his name, cellphone number, office number, and even his parents’ number posted online. “My parents got calls condemning them for raising a son like me,” he said, having logged more than 200 threats so far. “One elementary school teacher even called me and had her students insult me over the phone one by one.”
“People are saying it’s a silly thing protecting animals,” says a Chinese dog activist. “But it is a question of civilization. By teaching people in this country to love little animals, maybe we can help them to love their fellow human beings better.”
I didn’t even intend to kill dogs, said Zhu, who was forced to quit his job after his company began receiving threatening phone calls. “I was just making a point,” he said. “The animal activists claim to have the moral high ground, but look at what they did to me. Can they really say they have love at the front of their heart?”
Origin of Domesticated Dog
Dogs were domesticated from gray wolves about 15,000 years ago in East Asia. A research paper (“Genetic evidence for an East Asian origin of domestic dogs”) that appeared in a leading journal of scientific research states: “…we examined the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequence variation among 654 domestic dogs representing all major dog populations worldwide.
“Although our data indicate several maternal origins from wolf, 95% of all [DNA] sequences belonged to three phylogenetic groups universally represented at similar frequencies, suggesting a common origin from a single gene pool for all dog populations. A larger genetic variation in East Asia than in other regions and the pattern of phylogeographic variation suggest an East Asian origin for the domestic dog, ∼15,000 years ago.”
There is speculation that emigrants from Siberia crossed the Bering Strait with dogs 12,000 years ago. According to “Dog Behaviour, Evolution, and Cognition”, archaeological evidence of dog-like canids in North America dates from about 9,000 years ago.
Dogs were part of the North America Paleo-Indian culture as early as fourteen thousand years ago.
Who Eats Dog Meat?
According to Calvin W. Schwabe’s book “Unmentionable Cuisine”, dog meat was consumed by humans in ancient China, where ironically, as noted above, dogs were also domesticated 15,000 years ago. But dog meat was also eaten by humans in ancient Mexico and Rome, and all through Europe at one time or another.
The French ate dog meat during the Franco-Prussian War. And historical sources report that in 1870, when Paris was under siege, at butcher’s shops, people lined up to buy dog meat.
In Germany, during the 2nd World War, dogs, wolves, foxes, bears, badgers and wild hogs were legalized as meat. “Dog meat has been eaten in every major German crisis at least since the time Frederick the Great, and is commonly referred to as ‘blockade mutton’”.
And in the early 20th century, consumption of dog meat in Germany was common.
Today dog meat is still consumed in China, as well as Vietnam, the Philippines, Korea, Taiwan, and even Switzerland. In East Timor, Dog meat is considered a delicacy [scroll down].
In the Swiss Alps, there is a long tradition of eating dog in the form of jerky and sausages. In an interview a farmer told a journalist that “meat from dogs is the healthiest of all. It has shorter fibres than cow meat, has no hormones like veal, no antibiotics like pork”.
Japan imported 5 tons of dog meat from China in 2008, compared to 4,717 tons of beef, 14,340 tons of pork and 115,882 tons of poultry.