A Chinese government proposal to ban the consumption of dog and cat meat has sparked a heated debate between animal welfare groups and defenders of traditional values. In what would be China’s first law against animal abuse, anyone caught consuming or selling the meat could receive a fine or up to 15 days in jail.
Dog and cat meat has been used in Chinese cuisine for thousands of years and is commonly available around the country, particularly in the north where dog stew is popular for its supposed warming qualities. However in recent years the custom has come under attack by animal right groups and a growing middle class.
“We need something more than moral pressure”, said Zeng Li, founder of a Beijing cat shelter, who supports the proposal. “Beijing's dog restaurants get their meat mainly from vagrant and stolen dogs. In the suburbs, dogs are hung and slaughtered in front of buyers." Chang Jiwen, a law professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences that drafted the proposal, explained that the law was proposed as the dog and cat trade causes many social problems such as murders and theft, and assured that the economic impact of the ban would be small because an increasingly affluent population was less dependent on dog and cat meat.
However, opponents insist that the law would destroy a centuries-old custom in a country which is known for its experimental culinary traditions, and would force the closure of thousands of dog restaurants and butchers which supply the meat. “The proposed law is totally infeasible here, because eating dogs and cats has been part of the Guangdong culture for so long,” said a Guangzhou dog meat restaurant manager. “I don’t believe the draft could be passed, nor would I change the way we operate our restaurant.” Regions where the meat is popular have been the most vocal to criticize the proposal, saying that it will exterminate many traditional local and dishes. “I hear a lot of people saying dog shouldn’t be eaten,” said a worker at the Wan Family Dog Meat Restaurant in Guizhou, “but here...dog meat is a famous traditional dish. It’s a stew and very delicious.”
The recommendation was proposed by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and is expected to be sent to parliament, the National People’s Congress, in April as part of a draft bill to tackle animal abuse.