The last dog meat restaurant

The last dog restaurant closes in Beijing

The last ‘name’ restaurant specialising in dog-meat closed in 2009. There was a small voice suggesting that this last bastion of an ancient and traditional culinary practice should be retained, using the same arguments as are used in support of the preservation of ancient buildings. But modern times prevailed and recognising that eating dog is frowned upon, especially by potential visitors to the Beijing Olympics at the time, it is now gone from public view. It is still possible to find dog on the menu in some restaurants, but not usually where tourists will find them. In the village I expect it will take many years before this practice goes completely out of fashion.

For tourists, the dogs you are likely to see are pets and treated in ways directly comparable to western pets. Many Chinese consider their dogs to have a special relationship with them and this view is rapidly spreading throughout Chinese culture, resulting in what western viewers would consider to be a more humane treatment and consideration, or is that more correctly ‘human’ treatment.

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Chinese and Western dog cultures

The Chinese view of all this is clearly different to the usual western view. In China, animals are just animals and there is little distinction between feelings for a dog or a pig or chicken. Western peoples seem to be closer to their dogs, maybe as a result of the long history of symbiotic hunting partnerships and in guarding the home as light-sleeping watchman. The written history shows differences. Western texts before the advent of the novel show dogs in the roles of hunting and guarding, but rarely as pets, this closeness to dogs only appears after the Romantic era rise of poetry and the advent of the modern novel. Even then it is the ‘popular’ end of the market where relationships with dogs are described, somewhere even more ‘popular fiction’ than Dickens. Wordsworth would not have ‘wandered lonely as a cloud’ to find his ‘host of golden daffodills’ with a dog as company; Keats clearly did not take his dog into his fantastic ‘Hyperion’ to warn of the occasional approaching god or hero; if he had he may have found his way back out ! there is little mention in Chinese correspondingly recent texts about dogs, also the traditional place of the dog in Chinese society has traditionally been outside the house.

From Wikipedia.

‘Dogs, along with pigs, constituted the major source of animal protein in ancient China’

‘The ancient word for dog meat was ran (肰). Indeed, it was so common that theOld Chinese character meaning "to burn" or "to roast" showed dog meat on top of a fire (然)’

The Zhou Li divides dogs into three categories: the tianquan (田犬) or watchdog, the feiquan (吠犬) or barking dog, and the shi-quan (食犬) or edible dog. With the exception of the liver every part of the animal was considered edible.

On the other hand the original ‘lap dog’ is the Pekinese of Peking, (the previous name for Beijing) and this exception is reflected in the vast numbers of dogs with ‘Pekinese’ looks and manner still seen everywhere in China. In the older texts from the period that runs from the time the Roman Emire was upstarting until its demise in five or six hundred AD, (the same period that China was holding annual poetry examinations for civil servants).

Western soceties have been subjected to generations of Romatic era texts that have personified animals. ‘Lassie’ and ‘Black Beauty’ among countless animals imagined with human emotions and ‘feelings’, including frogs, badgers and foxes in 'Wind in the Willows' have elevated the cultural perception of emotion and reasoning in animals. This has created a dichotomy for the majority of people who still eat animals. When discussing the issue of eating dog meat the Chinese will genuinely ask ‘what is the difference between dog meat and pork, or beef ?’ A fundamental fact of animal intelligence is on the side of the Chinese in this regard, a pig is reckoned to be more intelligent than a dog by many people who ‘know’ a pig, or pigs, to the same degree most people might ‘know’ a dog; by this reasoning we might examine more closely our own confused relationships with dogs and with bacon!

The modern dog in China

The big change regarding dogs in modern China did not only come in Beijing with the Olympics, dog ownership has rocketed nationally. In 2007 it was normal to see the occasional old lady with a Pekinese, now in 2010, every breed of dog can be seen on leads and following obediently to heel in every street. This ‘pet keeping explosion’ parallels the increasing numbers of middle classes and more free income, but in any society the very poor will see an animal in a different light to that of the more wealthy! When daily difficulties include just getting the family fed then social niceties and inhibitions tend to evaporate.

The burgeoning pet-dog population threatens to produce the next phase of difficulties, dog excrement in public places that most western countries faced at one time or another. Although Chinese are no less reluctant to get their hands dirty than anyone else, more so maybe with a cultural habit of not touching anything from stair rails to toilet seats, social peer pressure is a greater force in China than bylaws ever were in western countries; in public places the practice of cleaning up after a dog seems to be the normal practice without the demand of little gangs of bullying little laws.

Still the treatment of pets is different, puppies are on sale in many streets, many people buy puppies and the clearly obvious ‘lesser numbers’ of older dogs would indicate that not all puppies survive past their cute stage. The same applies to rabbits. The favoured pet rabbit is a miniature Disney generated white rabbit with long ears. These are sold in tiny cages, mainly to children, and although not apparently mis-treated they sicken easily and it is rare to an adult rabbit except occasionally where somebody brings a number of caged pets and birds outside every day; in these cases they would appear to be the owners hobby and they are skilled in animal care.

To summarise. Dog culture in China is evolving rapidly, in the cities dog ownership and care is similar to any Western city while in the countryside there is a different relationship where dogs are still pets but are not imaagined to have human characteristics and privelages.

For tourists, the dogs you are likely to see are pets and treated in ways directly comparable to western pets. Many Chinese consider their dogs to have a special relationship with them and this view is spreading throughout Chinese culture, resulting in what western viewers would consider to be a more 'humane' treatment and consideration, or maybe western perception is confusing this with ‘human’ treatment.

Comments 22 comments

sam3m profile image

sam3m 5 years ago from New York

eating dogs is reprehensible.

cats are a whole different thing.

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recommend1 5 years ago Author

Hi Sam, I used to think the same about children, then I became a teacher.

smackins1974 profile image

smackins1974 5 years ago from UK

Hi, very informative. We are all very quick to jump on other cultures for doing things we wouldn't do but looking at it from anothers point of view would do us some good every now and then. We eat cows yet in some countries this animal is considered sacred I dont see them moaning at us every 5 minutes.

With the starvation around the world maybe we should think twice about what should or shouldn't be considered edible!! I wasn't sure I'd like squid yet some years ago when I had he opportunity to try some it was actually quite nice. Sarah

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recommend1 5 years ago Author

Hi Sarah, This is a typical cross-cultural issue that challenges our own perceptions of things if we are forced to think about them.

For tourists and visitors however - the fact that eating dog has almost died out is GOOD NEWS, there are plenty of less distressing challenges that can be overcome with real contact and just a few words :)

Joy56 profile image

Joy56 5 years ago

yuck eating dogs..... nice hub..... written any poetry lately??????

amymarie_5 profile image

amymarie_5 5 years ago from Chicago IL

Eating dogs just seems disturbing to me but at the same time it's hypocritical to say a pig or cow is okay to eat but not a dog. All animals have feeling and reading this article just reminds me why I'm a vegetarian. :)

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recommend1 5 years ago Author

Hi Joy, not recently as I have been busy with website etc - and the affiliate writers to write for it :) Wrote a short story with just short, simple, words for easy reading for second language learners - all over on my other name - alternate poet

Thanks for dropping by and yes , yuck !

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recommend1 5 years ago Author

Thanks for that ameymarie :) It would appear that only vegetarians can get out of this dichotomy ? My daughter went through a veggie phase for the same reasons, we had a house full of pets, and I joined her for about a year. Hard work being a veggie isn't it? at home it wasn't so bad, but I was eating outside most of the time and Fred's Kaff never had anything more exciting than beans on toast to offer :D

amymarie_5 profile image

amymarie_5 5 years ago from Chicago IL

Yes it's very hard work to be vegetarian! I get very tempted around the holidays!

DIYweddingplanner profile image

DIYweddingplanner 5 years ago from South Carolina, USA

Very interesting and I also feel torn about the dogs vs. pigs issue...since I eat bacon. But maybe it makes it easier that I've never had a personal relationship with a least not in the literal sense! But maybe it's like anything else humans do that's reprehensible, we close our eyes, hold our noses, and say we'll think about it tomorrow.

Hui (蕙) profile image

Hui (蕙) 5 years ago

I used to have a little white dog,named xiaobai(??). She was so pretty, so smart, and so spoiled, but somebody stole her away, whick almost killed me.

I am not a vegetarian, but only eat pork, chicken and some regular fish and lobster. Cows are so nice, how can we eat them?

Now, I am wondering why "eating dogs is reprehensible, while cats are a whole different thing?" Although I miss xiaobai so much, cat family is really my favorite animal. When I am at home in Shanghai, I had already take good care of a bunch of free cats for years. I am so not happy with eating cats, which is, for my defense, also reprehensible.

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recommend1 5 years ago Author

Hi DIY - the whole issue reveals more about us and the way we ignore these dichotomies than it does about animals :)

Hi Hui, nice to meet you - this makes for some interesting thinking about how we treat creatures - and each other. In certain extreme situations some people consider human meat as reprehensible but necessary. In all the movies and media that I have seen that has any element of these things they are never resolved properly, it is hard to find a solid base to decide on these things :)

Hui (蕙) profile image

Hui (蕙) 5 years ago

Human meat reprehensible only for human eating, not reprehensible for animal eating. If xiaobai eat that bad people who stole her, it'll never be reprehensible, but if a good person eat a bad person, s/he is supposed to be hanged.

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recommend1 5 years ago Author

Hui - the human meat restaurant will never close all the time that there are lions and tigers and sharks in the sea :D

earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 5 years ago from Melbourne Australia

I learned heaps here. I guess we wind up with only a local view if we don't think about it from a wider perspective.

Foe example, I eat pork, yet not dog, so in a sense when comparing sentient animals one equals the other, so my view is not better in any way, just different.

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recommend1 5 years ago Author

Thanks for dropping by Earnest, Your Oz aboriginal peoples are supposed to eat the widest variety of foods of any people - I doubt they would flinch at dog if they can eat live bugs :D

cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 5 years ago from northeastern US

now if only shark fin soup could be less popular. shark has a lot of mercury in it anyway, so isn't healthy to eat often.

i used to be a vegetarian for about ten years. then i married an omnivore. we eat fish (for the omega-3's) and poultry.

vegetarians live longer. if we were all vegetarians, there would be more food to go around to all people, because we wouldn't have to feed the animals. it takes many pounds of grain to produce a pound of meat. vegetarianism is good for the environment (scads of clean water is used to produce meat). vegetarianism is sure nicer to the animals. all that said, i am not a vegetarian. maybe someday.

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recommend1 5 years ago Author

Thanks for thoughtful comment :) I agree wholeheartedly - and what you point out is also part of what I am trying to say. Meat - in the quantities that we consume it - is commercially driven because it is a value added product and so is an artificially high proportion of our diets. Left to natural choices, and without the interference of big commercial groups, we would all eat a more healthy and cheap diet higher in vegetable content.

mel22 profile image

mel22 5 years ago from ,

'Eat Right 4 Your Type' is blood typing book that says Almost all Type o's are omnivores and that it is the type A's that need to be strictly vegetarian due to the N acetyl found in in their n-acetylgalactosamine blood. grains and veggies are high in nacetyl acid and in contrast type b's will be sluggish if on a nacetyl veggie diet because they are accustomed to dairy..could be the reason some cultures consider cows sacred for the milk rather than the meat... was in the philippines and not sure if i accidentally ate dog or not.. i learned later that carne' can sometimes mean dog meat as well in the upper Luzon regions.. oh well, i never noticed the difference if it was.

Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 4 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

I thought there was an economic reason for not eating dog meat. They eat meat themselves and are thus further up the food chain. Just saying!

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recommend1 4 years ago Author

Carne is always dog meat, so yes you have.

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recommend1 4 years ago Author

I don't think there are any practical reasons not to eat dog. The main reasons are to do with the dog's intelligence and its position as man's bes friend in most places, including China to some degree.

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