Did the Native American people eat dogs?

The controversial history of dog meat, from ancient times to the Winter Olympics

Is dog meat legal in other countries?

Taiwan was the first Asian country to ban the purchase and consumption of dog and cat meat. In 1998 the ban on the slaughter of dogs and cats and the sale of their meat came into force. However, a flourishing black market then developed. In April 2017, Taiwan passed a stricter law that imposed a fine of $ 8,500 for eating dog meat. The country also tightened penalties for deliberately causing harm to dogs and cats: a $ 65,000 fine and a two-year prison term are now due.

But globally, there are still numerous legal gray areas for killing and consuming dogs. Even in some countries where the practice is officially banned, it is still widespread and rarely punished.

"Although it's not legal everywhere, there are countries that still allow it: Indonesia, Vietnam, China, South Korea, Cambodia, Laos and the Philippines - the latter only for religious festivals," said Jill Robinson, founder and director of Animals Asia Foundation.

However, it is becoming apparent that this practice is becoming less popular. A 2016 poll in China found that nearly 70 percent of the country's residents have never eaten dog meat. A 2014 survey in South Korea showed that the vast majority of people there rarely ate dog meat. Most young South Koreans who have eaten dog meat at some point say they did so only under pressure from their families and older generations.

Is dog meat only eaten in Asia?

No. Dogs have been eaten all over the world. According to archaeological research, some Native Americans ate dogs thousands of years before Columbus ‘arrived. For example, a 2011 study described a dog bone over 9,200 years old found in well-preserved human feces in southwest Texas.

Most people in the West stopped eating dogs centuries ago, but desperation sometimes drove researchers like Roald Amundsen and his team to eat their dogs. When the exhausted and freezing team reached the South Pole in 1912, they remembered - and did the same - stories of Greenland hunters who ate their sled dogs in winter. Amundsen later said the dog meat was delicious.

In the United States, killing and eating dogs is still legal in most states. However, it is difficult to say how often this is done nowadays, as dogs are often regarded as beloved pets and eating them is a social taboo. Slaughterhouses are not allowed to sell dog meat commercially, but in 44 states an individual can order dog meat for personal consumption. A bill has already been tabled to ban this practice entirely, but the law has not yet been passed.

Isn't eating dogs a cultural practice?

Some Native Americans did eat dogs, but others saw them as strictly taboo. Some only ate dogs for religious purposes. George Catlin, a 19th century artist, painted a painting of a Sioux friendship ceremony that he was allowed to attend. A special meal made from dog meat was also served. The ceremony was intended to celebrate the bonds of the tribe members by sacrificing their most loyal dogs. Catlin wrote in his notes: "Since we were aware of the Spirit in which [the meat] was being served, we could not help but treat it with respect and take it as an outright compliment."

Dog meat markets continue to thrive in some Asian countries, particularly Southeast Asia, and many people consider them part of their culture and tradition. Some people believe that dog meat can cure various diseases or give "warm energy". Others use the meat as a cheap source of protein.

In Indonesia, the booming dog meat industry operates largely covertly. According to experts, it continues to grow. The more people benefit from the country's economic development, the more people can afford to eat meat on occasion. Dog meat is often cheaper than beef or chicken and therefore more affordable for many.

In China, however, according to Robinson, interest in dog meat may decline as more and more people keep dogs as pets. However, around ten million dogs are still eaten there every year, especially during the cold winter months when the meat is supposed to warm the body.

Was there also a reaction to the criticism?

According to Robinson, the subject of dog meat was also brought up during the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul. Some international communities tried to put pressure on the country's residents to stop eating dog and cat meat. As a result, many South Koreans accused them of "cultural imperialism".

"The locals, unwilling to be told what to do in their own country, slaughtered and ate even more dogs to protest against the 'foreign imperialists interfering,'" said Robinson.

Catie Cryar, a spokeswoman for PETA, says some young people in China and Korea are starting their own protest against their parents' dog meat consumption by going vegan, in part because of the outrage over the dog meat trade they see on social media.

"Our team at PETA Asia just got back from Pyeongchang and was really excited to see all of the vegan options there," she said.

How has the dog meat debate changed over time?

Global pressure to end dog meat eating has been around for decades, Robinson said. But the change in Asian countries only started recently.

"I would say that it is only in the last ten to 15 years that local groups have been really vocal in their own countries," she said.

For example, Animals Asia has worked with local governments in China to show that dogs whose meat is sold are often illegally sourced. These days, according to Robinson, there are no longer any large dog farms in the country.

"Almost 100 percent of dogs these days are caught off the street or stolen from homes and are no longer bought from the dog farms that used to be," she says.

According to Robinson, the Chinese government is also increasingly convinced that moving dogs between provinces can spread bacteria and disease.

“There is also a social factor to this. The public understands that dog thieves create social discord by stealing other people's 'personal property', ”she says.

Doesn't that notorious dog meat festival also exist?

Yes, the dog meat festival in Yulin, China. It's an annual festival that first started in 2010 and made headlines around the world as thousands of dogs are slaughtered there every year. In 2017 there were rumors that the city of Yulin wanted to ban the sale of dog meat at the festival due to international criticism. However, the dog meat sellers put the government under pressure so that there was no official ban and the festival continues as usual.

Millions of people around the world have signed petitions to end the festival. However, some also give it an economic or cultural right to exist, which makes the festival a central focal point in the international dog meat debate.