Skip to content

On the Banning of Eating Cats and Dogs in China

I've been blogging here less partly because I've been blogging at Animal Rights & AntiOppression (check out my latest post "On Corporate Personhood and Animal Rights" and the better-than-the-post comments) but also because I've been feeling like a broken record and I don't want to bore anyone.

It seems like the answer to most questions/responses to most issues is one of these:

  • Speciesism.
  • It's just another excuse people have concocted because they like the taste of cow/pig/chicken/fish flesh.
  • It's not difficult once you get the hang of it–it's just different at first.
  • We can care about animals and people at the same time; they're not mutually exclusive.
  • If you don't have to enslave, rape, dominate, or kill someone (or have someone else do it for you), why would you? Why choose enslavement, rape, domination and slaughter?
  • Just because you did something for years doesn't mean it has some magical inherent value and you should continue to do it today and tomorrow.

Sometimes an article has a couple of the above, as in the case of "Chinese Legal Experts Call for a Ban on Eating Cats and Dogs."

Let's deconstruct:

  • Legal experts in China are proposing a ban on the eating of dogs and cats.
  • Many people support this, particularly affluent types, who have become dog and cat people and now own them as "pets." This is what I hear: The wealthier people become, the more likely they are to want to own others for their pleasure.
  • The reasoning is fascinating: "We are proposing that all dog and cat eating should be banned because it is causing many social problems." So the ban isn't being suggested because eating cats and dogs is wrong, but because it's creating conflict. No one will propose a ban on eating chickens because there's no conflict there.
  • Here's an interesting combination of great sentiment and horrible sentiment that involves two responses from the above list: "Online critics said it was hypocritical to protect only dogs and cats, and that the government should focus on human welfare before protecting animals." Yes, it is hypocritical (speciesism), but who said that we either protect humans or animals? Where do people get that idea?
  • Let's just say the ban was meaningful. Notice how the story ends: "The focus has now been narrowed to prevention of animal abuse, which is defined as inflicting unnecessary pain and brutality." So we went from a ban to a vague statement about the prevention of abuse that clearly doesn't consider slaughter abusive. And I'm sure it will be claimed that what is done to the dogs and cats is necessary and isn't brutal. Or if it's brutal it is necessary. I think we all know where this is going. It sounds like it might not even help cats and dogs in a meaningful way.

Now, I haven't heard from Chris, who lives in Beijing, regarding this issue. He often has insight into why something might be different in action than what I think in theory when it comes to China. But my initial reaction is that this is like Americans giving up "red meat." All they do thereafter is replace cows with chickens and pigs and fish.

What do you think?

15 Comments Post a comment
  1. John N. #

    For a country like China who traditionally will eat anything that was breathing it's a step(a very small one) in the right direction. Vegan movements here in the US often use the analogy of why love your dog or cat then eat a chicken or cow when all have the same feelings. It's the mindset of the people that has to change as there will be underground availability of dog/cats if a ban does take place. Take it for what it's worth. Some animals will be spared by this action. The all or nothing approach(Francione) is getting so old.

    January 27, 2010
  2. Mary #

    John N,
    I agree, as I do think that once dogs and cats were codified as "food animals" in the culture (even by the middle class) it would be virtually impossible to turn that around. Cats and dogs would benefit, but when I read that last bit about the focus being narrowed to prevention of animal abuse, that tells me that perhaps it's already too late.

    January 27, 2010
  3. Nick #

    "Some animals will be spared by this action."

    Yes, but an equal number of cows, pigs, and chickens will replace them in the slaughterhouse.

    January 27, 2010
  4. I think you've made excellent points, Mary. We don't know whether this legislation will pass, and if so how many years it will take and what its final form will be. Activists can spend those years fighting for a token change that may ultimately be meaningless or they can be skeptical and look at other paths to pursue.

    I admit I don't know what path they should pursue. But Korean activists seem unduly optimistic about the Chinese proposal: I agree that some animals might be spared if there were enforceable legislation to punish deranged serial killers like the person mentioned in the second story that appears on the linked page. On the other hand, so many crimes would still go unpunished.

    As much as I'd like to support the Korean activists, I can't lend my support to a law that singles out certain species for special protection.

    January 28, 2010
  5. John N. #

    You're right Nick but we shouldn't throw are hands up and walk away from the ones who are now living or have a chance to live. Humans die everyday and are "replaced" by newborns everyday. If someone owes you $20 but they can only pay you $10 are you going to refuse the $10? We're talking about a country who's had serious issues with human rights so for the government there to give any thought to any type of non-human(rather than putting them on a grill) is a step in the right direction. No they're not getting some BS PETA type award from me I just think it's something, pretty minute but something.

    January 28, 2010
  6. Dan #

    John N,

    You might want to accustom yourself to the abolitionist approach, which you pejoratively call the "all-or-nothing" approach. As far as I can tell, it's the early stage of the beginning of the beginning of a genuine AR movement. The only hope you have is that a genuine AR movement gets snuffed out so that we can have another 200 years of traditional welfarism combined with another 30 years of new welfarism — now THAT is old.

    January 28, 2010
  7. John N. #

    Sounds redundant but it begs repeating because apparently it's not getting through…to shut the door on an org. or start up AR movement that primarily concentrates on protecting a certain species of animal does very little in saving those current lives at stake. All because they don't follow the Ahimsa approach and don't use empty catch phrases like The World Is Vegan If You Want It? Yes the contradictions abound within the many welfarist/protectionist groups out there but to take an all out abolitionist approach and live by that creed is NOT living in the realism of what steps are required for human society to change. As long as Jack in the Box can fill someone's belly for $3 we've got a long long way to go to convince people that they shouldn't be eating dead animals. Remember when you were an omnivore Dan?

    January 29, 2010
  8. This is a strange set up… The proposed ban of eating cats and dogs in China – Meanwhile in the U.S. I'm hearing many tout the advantages of having "pet" chickens, rabbits and goats… Why? But of course because after they've out lived their purpose to be "owned" as "loved" family members – They taste good!

    I'm thinking that all social progress usually has two steps forward, and one back. I don't advocate for one species to have more status than another. But if dogs and cats are no longer considered "food animals" – (no matter what the reasons) – I will be glad for this (small) step.

    I think the more people bond with "pet" animals, the more chances are that they (might) have empathy for other animals as well. I know it's not the way it's suppose to be… People should be rational enough to connect, without having to experience or "own" animals in the process. But I still think that's just how it (s-l-o-w-l-y) goes.

    BTW – Mary… There's not a single thing you've written that has ever bored me! 😉

    January 30, 2010
  9. Dan #

    Yes, of course we have a long way to go, and one of the reasons for that is that welfarists – who make up the vast majority of animal “advocates” – are not living in the realism that welfarist steps are, and always will be, useless at best and more often, counterproductive.

    For more information on why this is the case, consider the following:

    What’s Wrong with Single-Issue Campaigns?

    Abolitionism versus Welfarism: A Contrast of Theory and Practice

    PETA: A Corporate Tangle of Contradictions

    PETA’s Undercover Investigations: Another Example of the Welfarist Business Cycle

    Yes, John, I remember being an omnivore. And it might surprise you, but welfare reforms, single-issue campaigns, and “happy meat” had absolutely nothing to do with my decision to go vegan. What did cause me to go and stay vegan? Again, this might surprise you because it seems so counterintuitive to people who support welfarism, but vegan education – the why and the how to go vegan, especially Tom Regan’s and Gary Francione’s books (the why) and information on vegan cooking and nutrition (the how) – caused me to go and stay vegan. If anything, PETA probably delayed me from going vegan several years prior because they don’t do any genuine vegan education campaigns and do so many self-promoting idiotic stunts and single-issue and welfare campaigns.

    January 31, 2010
  10. John #

    Morrissey started me on the track to veganism. I'm not a supporter of PETA but you know it and I know it, they've influenced a lot of people to go vegan. Maybe it wasn't overnight and maybe it was vegetarian first but whatever their method it has worked for some. Actually I'd never even heard of Francione until earlier this year. He's really not in the mainstream of the public eye. I suggest he step up his campaign if he so chooses to reach the masses. Thank you for the links(all from your blog) but I've read all those before and or similar write ups.

    For me it's not about single issue campaigns not focusing on a long term goal of vegansim or to abolish the use of animals. I don't really know if a majority world population of vegans will ever be possible. No that's not going to stop me from spreading the word by educating people, supporting/becoming involved in animal rights issues or wearing "go vegan" on the back of my cycling shorts because hey, it's what I believe in and what I think is morally right.

    Here's one of those single issue campaigns you are against since they don't campaign directly against all animal exploitation or for that matter, for veganism. The banning of greyhound racing in this country. You can tout that the closing of tracks and the decline of interest was more from an economic result but that's only part of it. It's opened up peoples eyes to the cruelty of the "(blood)sport" and thus got more and more people involved over the years helping to shun the myth that "these dogs love to compete", they're athletes", "they're well cared for" and so on and so on…
    I mean come on, how many others of this particular breed of dog have to suffer and die because of this?


    In this particular issue your suggestion and please correct me if I'm wrong, is to sit idly by and do nothing and wait for the vegan campaign to kick in?? You ARE NOT going to get the general public to just all of a sudden stop all forms of animal exploitation. Action needs to be taken now and quickly regardless if it's only focused on a single issue.

    February 1, 2010
  11. Dan #


    If you're concerned about single-issue campaigns being dried up because of a mass movement of dog, horse, and cat lovers toward vegan campaigns or education efforts, there is no need for such concern. As long as non-vegans outnumber vegans in any given population, single-issue campaigns will certainly outnumber vegan campaigns and education efforts. And by the time vegans and vegan campaigns outnumber non-vegans and single-issue campaigns (IF that ever happens), there will be a lot less need for single-issue campaigns. Seriously, think about that.

    The way I see it, welfare and single-issue campaigns are inherently characteristic of an extremely speciesist society. An increase in vegan education and vegan campaigns is the ONLY indicator of a decrease in society-wide speciesism. Far from “doing nothing” or “sitting idly by”, educating people about speciesism is not only the best way, but the only effective way, to shift the paradigm. And shifting the paradigm is the only way out of the unimaginable violence going on today. Everything else is – at best – a band-aid on a chopped off limb.

    Vegan education leads to more welfare campaigns, but the reverse is never true: single-issue campaigns never lead to vegans. (Unless there is, and only to the extent there is, vegan education embedded in a welfare campaign.)

    If vegans don’t START educating the public about speciesism and veganism, we will NEVER change anything, and animal exploitation will continue to blossom in severity and exponentially in number of animals exploited, as it has over the past 30 years of useless and often counterproductive single-issue campaigns. Billions of dollars spent on AW and single-issues over 30 years, and what do we have to show for it: virtually nothing.

    There are two paradigm shifts: the first is to go vegan; the second is to reject welfare and single-issue campaigns in favor of persistent vegan education.

    February 1, 2010
  12. Dan #

    BTW, with China and other parts of Asia starting to adopt the standard American diet heavy in animal products, the number of animals exploited worldwide will likely rise from over 50 billion annually to at least 150 billion annually. The only possibility of mitigating this trend is a global vegan movement. I'm not claiming a global vegan movement will ever happen (especially since most vegans are so adamantly opposed to a focus on vegan educaion), but it's the only shot we have at improving things.

    February 1, 2010
  13. Susan C. #

    Bea's observation about the marketing of chickens, rabbits, and goats as "pets" who can eventually become "food" shows me that shifting an animal's classification from "food" to "pet" doesn't do much good.

    I found Dan's concept of "the low-hanging fruit" to be quite illuminating. On the surface, it seems just to be a wasteful practice. Why spend energy on something that will happen anyway? Shake the tree further up and the low-hanging fruit will fall on its own. Or someone else will pluck it (like animal welfare organizations or the industries themselves).

    What is more troubling is that the act of picking low-hanging (read: "ripe") fruit is part of living in harmony with the tree. The tree wants its seed spread; it has poured energy into packaging sweet reward for whoever will pick it and deposit its seed elsewhere. Now that the fruit is ripe, picking it does not interrupt any of the tree's functions The connections are nearly sealed off, so there is no damage to the life of the tree.

    After picking, the tree may look bare, but it is well-equipped to come back next spring. Doing away with greyhound racing, with cat/dog consumption, with seal-clubbing, may look like its damaging to the tree of animal exploitation, but truly it's not.

    If this is the tree of animal exploitation, why are we living in a symbiotic relationship with it?

    February 21, 2010
  14. Chris #

    There's a pretty good run-down, in English, of Chinese coverage of the issue here:

    I don't have any opinion on this yet, except that it's probably all moot; at a gut level, I seriously doubt any nationwide animal protection laws of any kind getting passed in China anytime soon.

    Also, the issue of anti-cruelty regulations in general (which theoretically could apply to all domesticated/exploited animals, pets or otherwise) got spun by the Chinese media into an anti-dog/cat meat issue. The issues are distinct, of course.

    One interesting meme coming up in the Chinese media–and generated mostly by the media, as far as I can tell–is the idea that an ethical concern about treatment of animals is an "Western import" and China's not ready for it yet!

    This is patently bullshit and would generate both laughter and rage if any non-Chinese person said this. Chinese people can be incredibly humble and feel genuinely upset about the scale and intensity of the levels of cruelty to animals in China. But to suggest that Chinese civilization is any stranger to notions and sentiments about the ethical treatment of animals is beyond ludicrous.

    Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism all feature strong, if not uniform, vegetarian traditions. Sun Yat-sen, the founding father of Modern China, advocated a vegetarian diet. You could publish an Chinese Encyclopedia of Kindess to Animals and the diversity of entries would probably put to shame every other civilization on the planet.

    February 23, 2010
  15. Susan,

    Thank you for elaborating so well about the tree of animal exploitation. Yours is indeed the big question: Why are we living in a symbiotic relationship with it?

    February 23, 2010

Leave a Reply

You may use basic HTML in your comments. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS