From The Times January 27, 2010
Cats and dogs to be taken off menu in China
Owners are more likely to be bringing their dogs to the table to eat - rather than to be eaten - in future
From serving it with turtle to stewing it with snake, China has savoured the delights of dog and cat meat for thousands of years. But now, the country known for its experimental culinary traditions could be about to end a centuries-old custom and remove both animals from the menu.
In what would be China’s first law against animal abuse, anyone caught eating cat or dog meat would face a fine of as much as 5,000 yuan (£450) and up to 15 days in jail. Organisations involved in the sale of either meat could be fined between 10,000 and 500,000 yuan. A draft law is expected to be sent to parliament, the National People’s Congress, in April, according to state media.
Dog meat — known euphemistically as “fragrant meat” — is an age-old delicacy, believed to have warming properties that make it particularly favoured as a winter dish. Consumption is most widespread in the northeast, where temperatures plunge in the winter. Practitioners of Chinese medicine say that dog meat is high in protein and fat, good for the kidneys, and boosts energy levels and male virility. Some parts of China have large numbers of dog farms, particularly Peixian county in southeastern Jiangsu province, home 2,000 years ago of an emperor known for his love of stewed dog with soft-shell turtle. The animals are also raised for their fur.One waiter at the Cool Old Lady Dog Meat Restaurant in the northeastern city of Shenyang said that most customers were men in their 40s and 50s. “Dog meat is said to warm you up. When you boil it, it becomes very tender. We serve it with a sauce of ground coriander, spring onion, peanuts and sesame.” One serving costs 38 yuan.
At the Wan Family Dog Meat Restaurant in southwestern Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou province, where dog meat is a staple, a female worker said: “I hear a lot of people saying dog shouldn’t be eaten, but here in Guizhou, dog meat is a famous traditional dish. It’s a stew and very delicious.”
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Cat, however, is less popular. Most Chinese avoid cat meat because of a superstition that the animal will return at night to wreak revenge.
Residents of southern Guangdong province refuse to be spooked by such legend. Popular sayings have sprung up regarding their culinary tastes, including one that goes: “Guangdongers will eat anything except their father and mother.”
The most famous cat meat dish is “Dragon and Tiger Fighting” — a stew of cat and snake with spices. In recent years, animal rights groups have fought to halt mass shipments of cats from the north, squashed into wire cages and taken to the markets and restaurants of Guangdong.