China Declares That Dogs Should Be Companions — Not Dog Meat

by | April 10, 2020

Chinese officials have declared, for the first time, that dogs should be treated as “companion animals,” not “livestock.”

“With the progress of human civilization and the public’s concern and preference for animal protection, dogs have changed from traditional domestic animals to companion animals,” stated China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs

“Dogs are generally not regarded as livestock and poultry around the world, and China should also not manage them as livestock and poultry.”

This follows a ban on wildlife consumption in the country sparked by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

dog and pig
Many question whether the distinction betweem dogs and pigs should dictate their treatment (Grigorita Ko/Shutterstock.com)

Speciesism — The “Companion Animal” Versus “Livestock” Distinction

China has long managed dogs as a resource — or source of dog meat — a reality met with significant objection from voices around the world. The country’s annual dog meat festival in Yulin has drawn a particularly large amount of criticism.

Some, animal activists and otherwise, have called this response hypocritical, largely because it often comes from those who choose to eat animals themselves, many of which are party to large-scale animal agriculture practices. This, many argue, amounts to speciesism — or the belief that different species deserve different treatment based on real or imagined distinctions between them.

dog rescued from dog meat trade
A dog rescued from a trick bound for Yulin (plavevski/Shutterstock.com)

Dog Meat Is To China As Bacon Is To Britain?

Animal activist Ed Winters — better known as Earthling Ed — took to London’s streets to discuss this double standard, chatting with participants at a local dog meat protest targeted specifically at Chinese practices.

He asked one man, a professional in the wildlife protection sphere, about the line drawn in the sand.

“Do you think there’s any difference between killing a dog to eat it and killing a pig to eat it?”

“There’s a difference between the relationships,” the man answered. 

“Now you can say why that happens, but those relationships go back hundreds of thousands of years. The relationship we have with dogs particularly, is more complex. People would argue with me that you could have similarly complex relationships with pigs, I’m not saying that couldn’t be the case but what I am saying is that if you look at the global animal welfare situation, there are strict rules for how you can deal with dogs and cats in terms of welfare, legislation, in terms of how those animals are to be treated — and I see this as an animal welfare issue.”

Winters brought the mistreatment of pigs in the UK back to the table — citing tail docking, and other painful practices put upon pigs raised for meat.

The interviewee acknowledged that he believes those things are wrong, but steered the conversation back to changes he sees as necessary with respect to Asian cultures.


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