How many dogs are involved?
An estimated 30 million dogs are killed for human consumption each year across Asia in a brutal trade that involves terrible cruelty to animals and often, criminal activity. From 10-20 million dogs are slaughtered in China, up to 1 million in South Korea, 1 million in Indonesia, and around 5 million in Viet Nam; 80,000 or so of this last group are imported from Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.
Accurate figures are impossible to obtain, as the dog meat trade is entirely unregulated and often, illegal.
What countries are involved?
The dog meat trade is most widespread in China, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Laos, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Indonesia and Nagaland in northern India. This trade is well-organized, 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.
Is it true that some dogs are stolen pets?
In most Asian countries, the majority of dogs killed are either family pets stolen from homes and gardens, roaming “community” dogs or strays snatched from the streets. Dog and cat thieves use a variety of methods, including poison, and sell the animals to traders and restaurant owners. It is quite common to find dogs on trucks headed to slaughterhouses still wearing their collars. The exception to this is South Korea, where most of the dogs are born and reared on farms in an endless cycle of breeding; but some are stolen or relinquished pets, or animals raised for the pet trade but not sold as a puppies.
Do the dogs suffer?
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 behavior.
All of these dogs will eventually end up at a slaughterhouse, market or restaurant. The method by which they are killed varies: in South Korea, the most common method for slaughtering a dog is by electrocution, but hanging and beating are also used. In China and Viet Nam, dogs are usually beaten to death with a metal pipe and then bled out from a cut to the throat or groin, but they can also be hanged, or—less commonly—thrown conscious into large drums of boiling water.
Is dog meat widely eaten and popular?
Most people in China do not eat dog meat, and 2016 opinion polls show that 69.5 percent have never tried it. It is not part of mainstream Chinese culinary culture. There is a growing animal protection movement in the country that roundly opposes the dog meat trade, and there are frequent and documented violent clashes between dog thieves and angry dog owners. In 2015, nearly 9 million Chinese citizens signed in support of a legislative proposal to ban the slaughter of dogs and cats, and more than 100,000 people attended a massive rally in Dalian city.
A 2022 poll taken in South Korea revealed that most South Koreans (87.5%) don’t eat dog meat and 56% support a ban. Dog meat is most likely to be consumed by older generations and for perceived health benefits, particularly during the “Bok Nal” days of summer; younger South Koreans are far more likely to shun it. Polls show that the majority of under-30-year-olds have never eaten dog meat. Of those under-30s who do eat dog, the most cited reason is societal pressure, “because family members eat it.” Despite declining participation in dog meat eating, societal acceptance of others’ perceived right to eat it remains relatively strong.
What are the human health risks?
A significant threat to human health, the dog meat trade has been linked to outbreaks of trichinellosis, cholera and rabies. The World Health Organisation estimates that eating dog meat increases the risk of contracting cholera; a number of recent large-scale outbreaks in Viet Nam were directly linked to it. Rabies—which kills around tens of thousands of people across Asia annually—has been found in dogs traded for human consumption in China, Viet Nam and Indonesia.