In some countries, apart from being kept as pets, certain breeds of dogs are raised on farms and slaughtered for their meat. Dog meat may be consumed as an alternative source of meat or for specific medicinal benefits attributed to various parts of a dog. In parts of the world where dogs are kept as pets, people generally consider the use of dogs for food to be a social taboo.
Though the consumption of dog meat is generally viewed as taboo in Western culture, some Westerners support the right to eat dog meat and accuse other Westerners who protest against dog eating in other countries of cultural imperialism and intolerance. Joey Skaggs, for instance, organized a hoax in the United States in which a fictitious Korean restaurant asked animal shelters for unwanted dogs to be made into dog meat in order to expose the prejudice of those opposed to dog-eating. Others, however, oppose the consumption of dog meat in non-Western countries, particularly Korea. They perceive dogs as inherently emotional and friendly to humanity, arguing that the slaughter of a dog for food is excessively cruel. In Islamic culture, eating dogs is forbidden under Muslim dietary laws.
Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen famously ate sled dogs during his expedition to the South Pole to survive. By eating some of the sled dogs he was able to transport less dog food, thus lightening his load.
Dog meat has been a source of food in parts of China from at least the time of Confucius, and possibly even before. Ancient writings from the Zhou Dynasty referred to the "three beasts" (which were bred for food), including pig, goat, and dog. Mencius, the philosopher, recommended dog as the tastiest of all meats. Dog meat is sometimes euphemistically called "fragrant meat" (香肉 xiāng ròu) or "mutton of the earth" (地羊 dì yáng) in Mandarin Chinese and "3-6 fragrant meat" in Cantonese (3 plus 6 is 9 and the words "nine" and "dog" are homophones, both pronounced gáu in Cantonese).
In the past in China, during a hard season when the food store was depleted, dogs were occasionally slaughtered as an emergency food supply. Today it is consumed for its perceived medicinal value. Due to this belief, people eat dog meat in the winter to help to keep themselves warm. This is also the reason why it isn't eaten by some other Chinese because they think it will overheat your body.
Contrary to some popular beliefs, the Chinese eat only dogs raised specifically for meat, not those raised as pets. The dogs are slaughtered between 6 and 12 months of age.
Despite being a socially acceptable practice, the average Chinese does not usually consume dog meat as it is relatively expensive compared to other meat choices and hence generally more accessible to affluent Chinese. More concentrated dog meat consumption areas in China are in the northeast, south and southwestern areas. Peixian County in Northern Jiangsu is well-known in China for the production of a dog-meat stew flavoured with soft-shelled turtle. The dish is said to have been invented by Fan Kuai and to have been a favourite with Liu Bang, founder of the Han dynasty.
The Chinese normally cook the dog meat by stewing it with thick gravy or by roasting it. One method of preparing the dog carcass is by immersion in boiling water.
In Hong Kong, a local ordinance dating from British colonial times, which has been retained after the handover to Chinese sovereignty, prohibits the slaughter of any dog or cat for use as food, whether for mankind or otherwise, on pain of fine and imprisonment. Four local men were sentenced to 30 days imprisonment in December 2006 for having slaughtered two dogs. In an earlier case, in February 1998, a Hongkonger was sentenced to one month imprisonment and a fine of two thousand HK dollars for hunting street dogs for food. Apart from this, a large proportion of Hong Kong residents are currently against the consumption of dog meat.
For Korean people in Japan, China is the only exporter of dog meat to Japan and exported 31 tons in 2006. In Japan dog meat is available in Korean towns such as Tsuruhashi, Osaka and Okubo, Tokyo. Korean residents in Japan frequent dog meat restaurants there.
Some controversy has emerged about the treatment of dogs in China not because of the consumption itself, but because of other factors like cruelty involved with the killing including allegations that animals are skinned while still alive.
A growing movement against consumption of cat and dog meat has gained attention from people in mainland China. Those changes began about two years after the formation of the Chinese Companion Animal Protection Network, a networking project of Chinese Animal Protection Network. Expanded to more than 40 member societies, CCAPN in January 2006 began organizing well-publicized protests against dog and cat eating, starting in Guangzhou, following up in more than ten other cities "with very optimal response from public."
Since January 2007, more than ten Chinese groups have joined an online signing event against the consumption of cat and dog meat. The signatures indicate that the participants will avoid eating cat and dog meat in the future. This online signing event received more than 42,000 signatures from public and has been circulated around the country. Supportors of this online event also organized offline events in many cities, including several high profile performance-art shows.
Some Chinese restaurants in the United States serve "imitation dog meat", which is usually pulled pork and purportedly flavored like dog meat. e.g. "Northern Chinese Restaurant", Rosemead, California
Dog meat is consumed in the remote, inaccessible mountainous parts of North-East India such as Mizoram and Nagaland. Apart from the above area eating dog is a taboo in present day India. In addition, Hinduism, the primary religion of India has a strong vegetarian tradition. But there have been some stories about Viswamitra, vamadeva rishis eating dog meat when in complete scarcity of food supplies.
The consumption of dog meat can be traced back many centuries. Dog bones were excavated in a neolithic settlement in Changnyeong, South Gyeongsang Province. One of the wall paintings in the Goguryeo tombs complex in South Hwangghae Province, a UNESCO World Heritage site which dates from 4th century AD, depicts a slaughtered dog in a storehouse.
Today in Korea, a segment of the population enjoy bosintang (literally "invigorating soup"), believing it to have medicinal properties, particularly as relates to virility. Dog meat is also believed to keep one cool during the intense Korean summer. Many Korean Buddhists consider eating meat an offense, which includes dog meat. Unlike beef, pork, or poultry, dog meat has no legal status as food in South Korea. Some in South Korea and abroad believe that dog meat should be expressly legalized so that only authorized preparers can deal with the meat in more humane and sanitary ways, while others think that the practice should be banned by law.
In recent years, many Korean people have changed their attitudes towards eating dog meat from 'personal choice 'to 'unnecessary cruelty'. Animal rights activists in South Korea protest against the custom of eating dog meat.
In May 2008 a man named Rubén Cuellar of Veracruz-Boca del Rio was accused of engaging in the slaughter of dogs and selling the meat to local taco restaurants. He was detained by police pending investigation.
Nevertheless, as is reported from time to time in Philippine newspapers, the eating of dog meat is not uncommon in the Philippines. DogMeatTrade.com,an organization working in the Philippines to eliminate the eating of dogs in the country, estimates that 500,000 dogs are killed annually in the Philippine Islands for human consumption.
In the Province of Benguet, Resolution 05-392 has been passed declaring, among other things, "it has been an evolved cultural practice of indigenous peoples of the Cordillera the butchering of animals, dogs included, as part of their rituals and practices leading to its commercialization to a limited extent, and had become an inevitable common necessity in their way of life"; and resolving, among other things, "to seek the help and assistance of the Committee on Animal Welfare, Department of Agriculture, the Regional Police Office, Cordillera Administrative Region, the Provincial Police Office, Benguet Province, for the proper observance of the said rights of indigenous peoples".
A few years earlier, a news report on RTL Television on the two cantons set off a wave of protests from European animal rights activists and other concerned citizens. A 7000-name petition was filed to the commissions of the cantons, who rejected it, saying it wasn't the state's right to monitor the eating habits of its citizens.
The production of food from dog meat for commercial purposes, however, is illegal in Switzerland.
Dog meat is consumed in Vietnam to varying degrees of acceptability, though it predominantly exists in the north. There are multiple dishes featuring dog meat, and they often include the head, feet and internal organs. On Nhat Tan Street, Tây Hồ District, Hanoi, many restaurants serve dog meat, often imitating each other. Dog meat restaurants can be found throughout the country. Groups of customers, usually male, seated on mats, will spend their evenings sharing plates of dog meat and drinking alcohol. Dog meat is supposed to raise the libido and is sometimes considered unsuitable for women; in other words, eating dog meat can serve as a male bonding exercise. Nevertheless, it is not uncommon for women to eat dog meat. The consumption of dog meat can be part of a ritual usually occurring toward the end of the lunar month for reasons of astrology and luck. Restaurants which mainly exist to serve dog meat may only open for the last half of the lunar month.