Asia's dog meat trade was recently debated in Britain's Houses of Parliament for the first time. It was a passionate debate that touched on concerns about animal welfare, human health and crime that so define the trade. But it also raised the idea that eating dogs is cultural and, as such, Westerners with our soppy sensibilities about animals should be cautious in interfering. I strongly disagree.
The idea that the egregious animal abuse of the dog meat industry has any place in Asian culture is as offensive as it is naïve. Whilst the regionalized eating of dogs alongside other animals may be a historical fact in parts of Asia, it bears no resemblance to today's large-scale, lucrative dog meat industry underpinned by illegal activity and the mass movement of millions of dogs across whole countries.
China is a case in point. The consumption of dog meat does have historical precedence in China, but you must go back a very long way in China's history books - to the Han Dynasty 202 to 220 AD in fact - to find an era where dog meat was last advocated as a delicacy. Subsequent dynasties dismissed eating dogs as indecent, and in today's China dog meat is only consumed by an estimated 20 percent of the population. Even then, much of that consumption is confined to pockets of the country, and among older consumers in rural areas and in the country's ethnic Korean region. It's true that during the dreadful deprivations of the Cultural Revolution in more modern times, starving families did kill and eat dogs to survive. But let's hold off before jumping at that exceptional circumstance as "typical" of Chinese culture.