There are many reasons for people to avoid eating dog meat, health is one of them.
Humans tamed dogs a long time ago, as far back as 18,000 BC. They domesticated pigs (13,000 BC) and cows (10,000 BC) much later.
If our ancestors had decided that dogs were meant to be eaten like pigs or cows or chickens, there would have been no debate on this topic.
The ancient tomes on Vietnamese cuisine have never mentioned anything about dog meat.
Before 1930, Hanoi only had one or two food stalls that sold dog meat. In the south, almost nobody did.
While there are some irrational beliefs associated with eating dog meat, at least in Vietnam, I think people should also consider the following facts.
First, dog meat isn’t as nutritious as people might think. On the contrary, the risks associated with eating it are real. Dog meat might contain parasitic worms, like the infamous Toxocara canis, which can result in blindness, myocarditis and respiratory failure.
Rabies is another legitimate concern. While the virus itself can be destroyed under high temperatures while cooking, kitchen tools like knives and chopping boards are vulnerable to cross-contamination, unbeknown to consumers.
Second, dogs have proved to be one of the most intelligent and loyal companions out there. You don’t see a chicken running out to greet you after a long day at work very often, do you? But dogs are different. No matter what happens, they will always have your back, wagging their tails and showing their happiness every time they see you. If that’s not unconditional love, I don’t know what is.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, the majority of dog meat consumed in Vietnam aren’t farmed, and it is likely that they are stolen from their owners. Given this, the chances are high that when you have dog meat on your table, you are complicit in the kidnapping of a loved one and a family is grieving, somewhere.
Fourth, we have already moved far beyond the days when we were hunter gatherers, and had to hunt, fish and collect fruits to sustain ourselves. Now we have many choices, and not consuming dog meat is one of them.
In China, a dog meat festival where tens of thousands of dogs are killed every year is regularly met with heavy criticism from animal rights activists.
In South Korea, another country which traditionally consumes dog meat, things are changing. In 2016, a poll among South Korea’s youth showed 60 percent had never eaten dog meat and consider dogs ‘friends, not food.’
Last year, Taiwan banned the sale of dog and cat meat, with violators facing fines of between $37,000 and $65,000.
Some may say that if dogs should not be eaten, the same should be true of all animals. We should not eat pork or beef, either. The fact is that humans are at the top of the food chain. But there is a difference between eating animals for sustenance and killing and eating them for fun. That’s really messed up.
We should accept that dogs were simply never meant to be eaten by humans.
(Editors’ note: About 25 million dogs are eaten the world over, every year.)
*Duong Hieu is a Vietnamese citizen living in Saigon. The opinions expressed are his own.