> Why Don’t the British Eat Dog Meat? - The Food Safety Company Why Don’t the British Eat Dog Meat? - The Food Safety Company
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    Wednesday, 18 January 2017

    Why Don’t the British Eat Dog Meat?


    Eating dog meat is big business in some parts of Asia. In China, for instance, around 10 million dogs are consumed each year. Indeed, a popular argument for the liberation of the canine market in Europe often runs as follows: if you don’t have a moral objection to eating chickens kept in cages which are so small that their occupants can’t even move, there’s no reason you should deny yourself the indulgence of dogs which are inhumanely reared and slaughtered too. However, there’s one popular counterpoint which omnivorous advocates of canine-free menus often tend to wield in favour of their practices despite their apparent ethical double-standards: in short, they say that dog meat is more dangerous than most.

    A casual Google search regarding the nutritional information of dog meat returns far more articles warning against the stuff than it does counterparts claiming it’s just as healthy as (if not healthier than) conventional Western food stuffs – chicken, pork, beef and so forth. However, if we consider the refrains most often vaunted by the former species of pieces, there emerges a bothersome – even disturbing – degree of misinformation at their foundations. In the interests of fighting fake news, let’s problematize this popular health-risk counterargument which checks the consumption of what actually should (for the sake of consistency at least) be everybody’s favourite four-legged food.

    The Rabies Myth

    The most popular misconception spread by the web is that dog meat carries a comparatively high risk of food-borne disease – specifically, rabies; a deadly viral infection which transfers easily through the consumption of meat, attacking the brain and nervous system. It’s a disease commonly found in stray dogs – which are themselves often said to be those most commonly consumed by humans.

    KoreanDogs.org
    Sounds scary, right? Well, so too are descriptions of another meat-borne pathogen which is completely undetectable, causes severe dysentery and, in the US alone, killed over 380 people last year. That, however, is salmonella – which, we all know, is a big risk in poultry meats.

    The notion that dog meat is comparatively riskier comes from the observation of events like the annual Yulin dog meat festival in China where 10,000 dogs are (inhumanely killed and) sourced from more dispersed sources like rural villages. There aren’t industrial-scale dog farms in China akin to European battery farms for chickens; which at least immunise their inhabitants against disease. Instead, many of those consumed are said to be strays nabbed from the streets which, if true, would of course mean the risk of rabies is higher.

    But that’s not a fair test. After all, the risk of infection is not inherent within the animal but, rather, the sterility of its environment. Comparatively, if dogs were raised for slaughter in the same conditions as chickens, they would suffer horribly but, nevertheless, carry no greater health risk.

    So, battery farming dogs should be just as safe as battery farming chickens.

    The Antibiotics Resistance Myth

    Another case popularly made against the consumption of dog meat concerns antibiotics. Specifically, many activist organisations, like OneGreenPlanet.org, claim that battery farms that immunise dogs against certain diseases are also contributing to the development of superbugs.

    AnimalsAustralia
    However, even if (again) the evidence for the existence of mass dog farming wasn’t shaky at best, we should still highlight what is, again, a simple comparison: that the antibiotic resistance developed by the viruses attacking consumers of dog meat would develop regardless what meat they were consuming. We already have on our hands the threat of antibiotic-resistant superbugs arising from our consumption of other meats which contain traces of antibiotics – including chicken, beef, pork and lamb.

    It’s not, therefore, a problem monopolised by canine meat; and whilst dogs may require species-specific medicines which could entail a wider spectrum of superbugs developing, this probably won’t matter in the grand scheme. After all, we’re already a long way down the superbug road with chickens, cows and so forth: what’s one more to contend with?

    Conclusion

    A comparative approach is the best way forward in making a judgement about the health risks associated with dog meat. Indeed, it reveals that the most popular arguments to support the claim that dog meat is comparatively more dangerous than other meats popularly consumed in the West – pork, chicken, lamb and beef – are very shaky indeed. The notion that dogs are more likely to transfer disease is simply untrue; as is the other popular refrain that the proliferation of superbugs will be more of a problem if we turned to the mass farming of canines.

    It’s not merely the case that such debates prompt fiery retorts from irascible Westerners, but it’s generally true that such voices are also wholly implacable on the issue; because, culturally, breaking down the aversion to certain food stuffs, irrational though they may be, is a greater feat than 850 words (two of which I just learned) will allow. So, because the debate seems to have been dragged back down to the bare bones of an ethical struggle, vegans still retain the logical high-ground. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them – but good on you if you are.


    James Stannard

    James has a Bachelor’s degree in History and wrote his dissertation on beef and protest. His heroes list ranges from Adele to Noam Chomsky: inspirations he’ll be invoking next year when he begins a Master’s degree in London. 
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