Eating dogs in the UK?

No evidence of spike in dog meat consumption, despite what The Sun says

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No, dogs aren't being eaten in the UK, but they are elsewhere

By Diane Cooke

The silly season is well and truly upon us, with The Sun saying there's been a spike in dogs being eaten by foreigners in Britain, and using a Labrador puppy for illustration, and the i saying there's no evidence to prove it.

The RSPCA told i: “It is illegal to sell dog meat to the public in the UK. There are also no abattoirs that have a licence to kill dogs and it would be against slaughter and animal welfare legislation too. So, while dog meat eating is not specifically banned here these laws mean that there is effectively a ban on the practice.

“The RSPCA has no evidence that dog meat eating is on the rise in the UK, nor have we ever received any reports on this issue. While we do not believe it happens here, we continue to monitor the situation.”

Essentially, while – in theory – it would be legal to kill a dog you own and eat it, you would have to do so in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) so that the death was humane and instantaneous. The reality is that’s not going to happen."

However, historically, human consumption of dog meat has been recorded in many parts of the world. In the 21st century, most dog meat is consumed in China, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia and Nagaland in northern India and it is still eaten or is legal to be eaten in other countries throughout the world.

Some cultures view the consumption of dog meat as part of their traditional, ritualistic, or day-to-day cuisine, while other cultures consider consumption of dog meat a taboo, even where it had been consumed in the past. It was estimated in 2014 that worldwide, 25 million dogs are eaten each year by humans.

This trade is well-organised, with high numbers of dogs being stolen or taken from the streets, transported over long distances and brutally slaughtered. In South Korea, dogs are also intensively farmed for the meat trade in appallingly deprived conditions.

Dogs are also known to be eaten in certain African countries such as Ghana, Cameroon, DRC and Nigeria, and there are reports that dogs are killed for personal consumption by some farmers in remote parts of Switzerland, but nothing compares to the sheer scale of the trade across Asia.

According to the Humane Society severe animal suffering is endemic to the dog meat trade. The animals are crammed by the hundreds onto the backs of trucks, packed so tightly in cages that they are unable to move. In Viet Nam, it is not uncommon for dogs to be violently force-fed with a tube down the throat in order to boost their weight before sending them to slaughter. Dogs are typically driven for days or weeks, often sick and injured, and many die from suffocation, dehydration or heatstroke long before they reach their destination.

Dogs on South Korean meat farms are kept locked in small, barren metal cages, left exposed to the elements and given just enough food, water or shelter to keep them alive. HSI has uncovered appalling conditions where disease and mental distress are rampant, with many dogs showing obvious signs of sickness, depression, severe malnutrition and abnormal behaviour.

One of the most controversial events which attracts thousands of protesters globally is China's Yulin dog meat festival.

The Yulin “Lychee and Dog Meat” festival is an annual 10-day event where over 10,000 dogs are eaten. Cat meat, fresh lychees and liquor are also available at the festival.

The first festival took place in 2009 to mark the summer solstice. Dog eating is traditional in China, and according to folklore eating the meat during the summer months brings luck and good health. Some also believe dog meat can ward off diseases and heighten men's sexual performance.

Eating dogs is not illegal in China. Around 10 to 20 million are killed for human consumption every year and although the festival is new the custom can be traced back at least 400 years.

But attitudes are changing. Keeping dogs as pets was banned during the Cultural Revolution, but dog ownership has become popular among China’s growing middle-class; there are now 62 million registered as pets. Animal activists, celebrities and younger Chinese citizens have been increasingly vocal on social media about opposing dog eating festivals and the practice in general.

The Yulin Municipal Government has repeatedly said that it is not able to stop the festival as it claims it does not exist as an official event.

As part of a pioneering scheme to end the trade, the Humane Society is now offering incentives to farmers to give up their animals and leave the industry behind.

In exchange, they are trained with new agricultural skills, some going on to run successful blueberry and chilli farms.

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