I could have titled “I ate dog meat without knowing it” but I preferred for this article to start from this famous story that took place in China.
As you know if you are an avid reader of this blog, I have travelled alone in China twice already, the first time in 2008 in the Southeast and Hong Kong, the second time in 2009 in the former Tibetan province of Amdo, Xi’an and Shanghai.
During my first trip, I also met three people who are very dear to me, who live in China and with whom I am still in contact.
So you could say that I know what I’m talking about when I write about China…
In this article, you will discover:
- The story of this French couple who ate their dog by mistake in China and its deciphering.
- That China is far from being the only country where eating dogs is/have been cultural.
- If you risk eating dog meat without knowing it.
- My experience with dog meat.
“This French couple had to eat their own dog in China!”
I am going to tell you a terrifying and shocking story that happened to friends of a colleague during their trip to China…
This couple had come to visit China and took their dog Rex with them.
They walked into a restaurant and while they were looking at the menu, they asked for a bowl of water for Rex. So the waiter took Rex into the back room with him.
At the end of their meal, surprised not to see Rex, they asked for him…
The waiter, taken aback, told them they had just eaten it!
This couple cared about their dog like their own child. I might as well tell you that they were devastated. The woman even attempted suicide. Even today, they’re so traumatized that they’re still in therapy…
Spoiler alert: This is a hoax!
This story is obviously totally false and yet I’ve been told it twice already and I had to explain why it’s absolutely not possible…
- “So it happened to a friend of a colleague.” It’s already off to a bad start. Nobody knows the couple personally. We just told them the story. All the ingredients of an urban legend!
- Visiting China with a dog, it’s super easy as everyone suspects!!! You need a Z permit, which is a resident permit; oh boy, it was a couple of travelers…
- There is also a 30-day quarantine period at a location determined by the administration. So even if a traveler could take his dog without a resident permit, 30 days of quarantine is a bit repulsive, isn’t it?
- If the dog is more than 5 kg, it must travel in the hold. When you care about your dog, you really don’t want him to travel as a piece of luggage, do you?
- We also see a lot of travellers taking their dogs to another continent and having to take a plane to get there. I meet hundreds of them every time in Asia 😉
- A dog in a restaurant in China? Again, I’ve seen hundreds of owners take their dogs to restaurants in China…
- The couple entrusts Rex and only worries about his fate at the end of the meal… My little westie’s like my baby. I might as well tell you that neither he nor I would have agreed to let strangers take him away, that Jahan wouldn’t have waited two seconds to be heard. Then wait until after the meal to worry about it myself, even less!
- Last thing I’ll come back to later: a dish made with dog meat, you can’t prepare it in 5 minutes in China if you have to kill the animal…
To go further on urban legends in general or Chinese legends in particular, I recommend the two books below. You can find my review of Pu Songling’s here
Note: I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post at no extra charge for you.
Where is eating dog meat cultural?
Cynophagy, a dietary practice of eating dogs, is not unique to China, far from it!
In North Vietnam, every time I entered a restaurant, customers was eating dog meat.
Torajas on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi also eat dogs to build up their strength before walking in the mountains in particular.
Cynophagy is also practiced in Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia, Laos, Philippines, Assam, in some African countries like Congo or Burkina Fasso… in Hawaii, Switzerland and French Polynesia! It’s only a few examples and you can find the full list here
Let’s continue this little overview to put things in their proper place…
Until the beginning of the 20th century, there were dog butcheries in France!!! The dog market was held in Rue Saint Honoré.
In their writings, Gustave Flaubert, Victor Hugo, Guillaume Apollinaire among others talk about dog meat meals.
Map of the countries not banning dog meat.
Darkest colour: countries where it is legal to eat dog meat – or at least without a law forbidding it. France is one of them! To be totally accurate, the Rural Code prohibits killing a pet to eat it. But nothing prevents eating a dog that has just been run over in a car accident…
Dark pink: Countries where it is partly illegal.
Mauve: countries where it’s illegal.
Is eating dog meat really part of Chinese culture?
No!!! My Chinese friend Lei has never eaten dog, nor has his family, and it wouldn’t occur to him.
The consumption of dog meat is more important in some regions than others. These include the south. It is also in the south that the very controversial Yulin festival takes place.
Contrary to what some would like us to believe without ever having set foot in China, not all Chinese are sex maniacs, consuming dogs and other oddities to improve their sexual performance. It would rather be the belief in Vietnam (check it out though, I was never told there). In China, meat is rather considered as energy.
During my trip to Vietnam, I made a loop in the North, through the ethnic minority villages, starting from Hanoi. The consumption of dog meat is very widespread there, including in Hanoi where you will find “Cày” or “Cày To”, dog meat restaurants… Just like the consumption of cat meat. On the markets, dogs are sold in the same place as pigs, and often in cages.
One can also question ourselves about this cultural notion, since in France it was consumed until the beginning of the 20th century. What is considered cultural in a country at one point in its history is not necessarily considered cultural a few years later.
Why only the Chineses are blamed?
I think there are two reasons:
- Fear of “yellow peril.” Denouncing China has always been very fashionable.
- Culinary habits in China. The Chinese believe that in order to tenderize meat, the animal must suffer at the moment of his death. The animal will therefore often be hung by its feet, cut at the neck and left to bleed to death in horrible screams and suffering. I witnessed this at the Yangshuo local market. Yet again, this is not unique to China. The Vietnamese do the same. The tribes of the Lower Congo beat the dog to death or break its legs and let it whimper until it dies.
Far beyond the cultural prohibition, the problem is therefore much more the suffering inflicted on the animal…
Do you risk unknowingly eating dog?
No uniform answer: it depends!
It is quite unlikely that one restaurant will serve you dog meat over another, especially if you stay in tourist areas.
If like me you like to travel more adventurously, you may indeed eat it without necessarily knowing it. Either because you are used to being invited by the locals often, or because you eat in street shops without knowing what you order but following your instinct.
My personal experience with dog meat.
While I was visiting the market in Fuli, a small village a few kilometres from Yangshuo in Guangxi, China, some gentlemen invited me to share their hot pot.
Before eating, I wanted to know what it was, but none of them spoke English. They obviously couldn’t read either. So I took out my Just Point! They didn’t recognize any of the animals…
So I took the plunge and ate this very spicy hot pot, which was served to me with the best pieces in Chinese culture: giblets.
On my way back to Yangshuo, I asked a Chinese friend how to say “dog” in Chinese… and it was indeed the word my hosts pronounced! The next day at the market, I got confirmation in front of the dog meat stall…
My second time was in Toraja Country on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. With my travelling companion, we took a local bus in the mountains. For the lunch break, we had the choice between dry donuts and a small butcher shop… which only sold dog stew! Again, it was very spicy and with hairy…
My next many times were in Vietnam. When I got kicked off a bus in the mountains and refused to pay much more, I decided to hitchhike. To make up for the bus’s malevolence, my car companions invited me for the night and… cooked dog meat especially for me!
This time it wasn’t very spicy. The taste was extremely strong and the meat was very fatty and difficult to digest. In Vietnam, dog meat is easily recognized: it’s served with purple sauce – with horseradish. If you see “Cày” or “Cày To” and you don’t want to risk eating dog meat, pass your way!
Surprisingly, other travellers speak of an insipid, chewy and rubbery meat. I imagine the preparations were different…
Conclusion – eating dog meat.
Have you ever heard this urban legend? Or have you ever eaten dog food without knowing it?
Share your experience or thoughts below.
Read more: My articles about China.
Disclaimer: The pet comedians in the photos have voluntarily participated in this article because they are campaigning for the end of the consumption of dog and cat meat 😉 Thanks to my Jahan Jones from the Bahia del Txingudi’s Faithful Buddy and to Siam the homeless cat for their implication.
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