Although the consumption of dog meat is frowned upon in most Western cultures, the consumption of dog meat is a centuries-old practice in many other parts of the world. Particularly in some Asian and African countries, dog meat can be considered a staple food, just as beef and chicken are in Western cultures. Western travelers may wish to be wary when trying traditional dishes in these countries and first confirm what type of meat is used. Dog meat historically and currently has a significant role in many cultures. While the consumption of dog or cat meat sounds odd or even repulsive to many Westerners, it is notable that other cultures and religions may view commonly consumed Western meats with the same disdain. For example, most Hindus in India, as well as many Buddhists consider it shameful, even sacrilegious, to raise cattle for meat. Some, such as the Jains in India, are so opposed to harming another living creature that they adopt a lacto-vegetarian diet.
Dog meat consumption in Asia
Asia is the continent on which the consumption of dog meat is most widespread, with as many as 30 million dogs killed for human consumption each year according to estimates by the Humane Society International. This estimate includes many family pets, which are often illegally stolen from their homes and taken to be slaughtered. The consumption of dog meat is said to be most common in China, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Nagaland region in India, but it is not considered widespread in any of these locations. Moreover, the practice is becoming less popular in many countries, where younger generations are more likely to regard dogs and cats as companions rather than cuisine.
China is the biggest consumer of dog meat globally, consuming an estimated 10 million dogs (and four million cats) per year. Dog meat has been a tradition in China for thousands of years and is still eaten in many regions of the country. The best known of these regions among westerners is Yulin, which holds a dog meat festival every year. Yulin's annual Lychee and Dog Meat Festival is widely protested and is increasingly controversial outside of China. In 2020, the cities of Shenzhen and Zhuhai became the first and second cities in mainland China to outlaw the consumption of dog and cat meat, and China's Ministry of Agriculture has changed the classification of dogs and cats from livestock to companion animals.
Another well-known country for eating dogs is Vietnam, the second-largest consumer of dog meat in the world, where dog is a dietary staple. The Vietnamese use almost every part of the dog in stews and soups and serve the meat spiced on a stick. Many believe that dog meat has medicinal properties and brings good fortune. The Vietnamese dog meat trade processes an estimated five million dogs per year (far more per capita than China), which has resulted in an illegal import market for dogs, which are imported from neighboring countries such as Cambodia (where dogs are also eaten), Laos, and Thailand. Dog meat is also an issue in Indonesia, where less than 5% of the population consumes it, but both pets and stray street dogs are routinely abducted and slaughtered. The dog meat trade in Indonesia is cited as particularly dangerous because rabies is quite prevalent in the country, and the locations and methods used to slaughter and sell the meat are often far from sanitary. Dog meat is also found in the Philippines, where it is the main ingredient in asocena.
On the other hand, Taiwan became the first Asian country to outlaw the consumption of cat and dog meat, as well as the sale of cats and dogs for the purpose of consumption, in 2017. Violators face significant fines, public shaming, and possible prison time. Similarly, the slaughter of cats and dogs, as well as the sale of their meat, has been illegal in Hong Kong for decades. However, the consumption of such meat has not yet been banned.
Dog meat is reportedly consumed in notoriously secretive North Korea, as well as Timor-Leste and Uzbekistan. It was once common in South Korea, where it is the key ingredient in dishes such as Gaegogi (also the general term for dog meat), Bosintang, Gae Suyuk, and the medicinal drink Gaesoju, but its popularity has plummeted in recent years. Humane Society International cites a Korea Times statement that nearly 40% of South Korean restaurants serving dog meat have closed in the past decade, and a 2020 poll by Nielsen and HSI revealed that 84% of South Koreans polled do not eat dog meat and 60% of people would support a ban on it. In late 2021, the South Korean government set up a task force to consider exactly such a ban.
Dog meat consumption throughout the rest of the world
Dog meat is consumed for ritual and cultural purposes in approximately 20 African countries. Burkina Faso sees dog meat as a cultural luxury and a delicacy—not to be served at restaurants but as a special meal to look forward to among families. The history of dog meat in Burkina Faso centers around family, friendship, and person-to-person bonding. Dog meat is also a delicacy in Ghana (where cat meat is inexplicably called "Joseph") and is often eaten as a bonding meal between the people of the Frafra and Dagaaba tribes. Dog meat is also consumed in other countries including Liberia, Central African Republic, parts of Nigeria (where some believe the meat has the power to cure malaria or boost libido), Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, as in Indonesia, the consumption of dog meat carries with it a non-trivial risk of disease, including rabies in Ghana and Nigeria and Ebola in Liberia.
Consuming dog meat is generally taboo in Europe; however, as of 2014, around 3% of people in Switzerland (particularly in rural areas) eat dog meat in the form of jerky or traditional sausages. Additionally, the Polish believe that dog fat has medicinal properties such as relieving joint pain and body aches. Laws in the U.K. forbid the sale of dog meat, but appear to allow for the killing and consumption of dog meat as long as the animal is owned by the killer/consumer and is killed humanely.
Eating dogs is widely considered taboo in the United States. Technically, the U.S. lacks a national law banning the consumption of dogs and cats—however, the Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act of 2018 prohibited the "transportation, delivery, possession, and slaughter of dogs and cats for human consumption," which effectively dismantled any non-clandestine business built around the practice. The act does include an exception for Native American rituals, as certain tribes have either a history or a tradition of consuming dog meat. The Kickapoo tribe residing in modern-day Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas has several traditional recipes involving dog meat, and both the Sioux and Cheyenne are known to have consumed the meat of domestic dogs, but not wild canines. Dog meat is also legal in Canada, though the meat must come from a licensed dog meat processing plant—none of which appear to exist. The sale of dog meat is prohibited in Mexico, though it is known that the Aztecs raised dogs for food.
Only one of Australia's 16 states and territories—South Australia—has explicitly outlawed the slaughter and consumption of both cats and dogs. However, the sale of cat and dog meat is prohibited across the entire country.