Pooch on a Plate: Why Some People Eat Dog Meat

August 19, 2013

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Walk into a squalid, dingy Chinatown restaurant and you can’t help thinking about that old urban myth: When meat prices rise too high, Fido gets yanked off the streets and tossed into the dinner pot.

The validity and objectivity of these sort of stereotype aside, it’s undeniable that Chinese and Korean cooks have openly put dog on the menu for centuries. In China, the consumption of canine flesh dates back at least 7,000 years. In Korea, the truth is murkier.

Traditionalist historians believe that a dog-eating tradition is an intrinsic part of the national diet, while others claim that the practice arose during the Japanese colonization of Korea, World War II, or the Korean War as a response to extreme poverty and starvation.

Although dog meat is mostly associated with Asia, it has historically been consumed all over the world during food shortages – including Western countries.

In 2013, while debate and controversy over the topic rage in Asia, Canada still considers the selling and serving of canines legal. Though some restaurants serve it, dog is not especially easy to find. Insiders whisper about traditional dishes that rely on dog, but it remains a “poverty food” ,more likely to appear in rural communities than in urban centers.

However, due to its rumored effect on stamina and virility, dog does enjoy some popularity with a certain class of older gentlemen. Other old wives’ tales claim that it reduces sweat in the summer and can aid in healing or recovery.

Curiously enough, dog is also associated with Korean nationalism and the backlash against westernization. The stigma of dog meat is seen as a way of suppressing an aspect of Korean identity.

It serves as a protest against foreign powers who try to force Korea to import more beef. In this sense, eating dog becomes a political act, the act of consumption suddenly imbued with political meaning. You are unlikely to encounter dog unless you seek it out, but if you do try it, know that you are partaking of an ancient cuisine with a long, near-universal history.


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