The religious history of eating dog meat
The ritual of eating dog meat started as a religious practice in the Philippines whereby dogs were sacrificed and their meat eaten when a family was faced with bad luck, or when a death was witnessed. The Filipinos believe that the spirit of the sacrificed dog protects and guards the spirits of the living family. The major difference between what occurred as an infrequent religious practice long ago and what is occurring today is how the dogs are treated. More than 20 years ago, before dog meat became commercialized, dogs were treated with respect and killed in a humane manner. Today they are tortured, made to suffer, and are brutally killed. Torture methods include tying their muzzles with rope so that they do not make any noise, stuffing them into the backs of trucks where there is little room to breathe, leaving them in vehicles for days without any food or water in the stifling heat, and slaughtering them. Another difference is that long ago dog meat was only eaten on certain tragic occasions. Today it is not hard to find dog meat in restaurants or public markets in and around the region of Baguio City.
What does the Animal Welfare Act say about torturing and killing dogs?
The Animal Welfare Act prohibits the torture of all animals and the killing of all animals except for livestock animals which include cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, poultry, rabbits, carabaos, horses, deer and crocodiles. Exceptions include those killed for religious purposes, which in our case pertains to dog meat. The Animal Welfare Act says: â€œAny form of cruelty shall be penalized even if the transporter has obtained a permit from the Bureau of Animal Industry. Cruelty in transporting includes overcrowding, placing of animals in the trunks or under the hood trunks of the vehiclesâ€ (Section 4). Section 6 of the act says: â€œIt shall be unlawful for any person to torture any animal, to neglect to provide adequate care, sustenance or shelter, or maltreat any animal or to subject any dog or horse to dogfights or horsefights, kill or cause or procure to be tortured or deprived of adequate care, sustenance or shelter, or maltreat or use the same in research or experiments not expressly authorized by the Committee on Animal Welfare.â€ Clearly, the illegal dog meat traders have violated the current law in place on two very important grounds: torturing and killing dogs for the purpose of commercialized sale.
What is the government doing about the illegal trade of dog meat?
Currently the government is doing very little to implement the law already in place to protect the welfare of dogs in the Philippines. Although it is not clear exactly why, there are a few reasons why this might be the case. First, it is believed that some if not many of the government officials partake in the eating of dog meat at restaurants in Baguio City themselves. Dog meat is often served as an appetizer along with an alcoholic beverage, making it more a more appealing choice. Another reason is that the police officials who are in charge of catching and arresting illegal dog meat traders are often bribed with money by the traders. If an illegal trader is brought into court, the trader usually pleas guilty as it is cheaper to pay the low fine that is charged than to hire a lawyer. Illegal dog meat traders are rarely arrested and are made to pay a small cost for violating the law, even though the law says the following about the penalty for violating the act: â€œAny person who violates any of the provisions of this Act shall, upon conviction by final judgment, be punished by imprisonment of not less than six (6) months nor more than two (2) years or a fine or not less than One thousand pesos (P1,000) nor more that Five thousand pesos (P5,000) or both at the discretion of the Courtâ€ (Section 8).
So who eats dog meat and where does it come from?
Although the majority of the Filipino population is against eating their dear family pet, or anyone elseâ€™s for that matter, there is still a large group of people located primarily in and around Baguio City and in the Cordilleras region who partake in the eating of dog meat. This is probably because dog meat is traded so openly and because there are numerous restaurants and eateries (approximately 60) that serve dog meat. The dogs that supply these restaurants and markets are transported from all over the Philippines, including the far reaching areas such as the southern Tagalog provinces, Visayas, and Mindanao. When they reach their destination, they are sold for as little as $1.30 USD/kg compared to pork and beef which are sold for $2.10 USD/kg and $3.00 USD/kg respectively. This is one of the reasons why dog meat is so popular. Another reason, which contributes to the cheap cost of the meat, is that dogs are readily available and donâ€™t need to be raised as they are found abundantly on the streets of every Philippines city. Individuals can be hired to catch stray dogs, providing an economic incentive to help maintain this market.
What happens to the dogs once they reach their destination?
Approximately half of the dogs that are stuffed in small cages in the vehicles for transportation to Baguio City and the Cordilleras region die of starvation and dehydration. You may think that this is a loss of profit, but many of these dead dogs are passed off as being alive and are slaughtered nonetheless. The dogs that do survive this arduous journey are made to suffer even more as they are transported directly to illegal slaughterhouses. There they are removed from their cramped cages using looped poles and bashed in the head several times with the pole until they become unconscious. They are then slashed in the throat at the location of the jugular vein so that the blood that gushes out can be collected and then sold. Following this, the dogâ€™s body is placed over a fire to burn its fur. The dog is finally cut into however many desired pieces for sale to restaurants and public wet markets.
What can be done to stop the illegal trade of dog meat?
Because the dog meat market generates about $3.8 million US dollars annually, it is very hard to stop the trade in its tracks. What is essentially required to bring this trade to a halt is for the government to feel compelled enough to take severe action against those who illegally sell dog meat, and effectively implement the laws that they pass. The illegal dog meat traders donâ€™t think twice about capturing and selling dogs because a small fine becomes part of the cost of doing this kind of business. In order to make these illegal traders think twice about what they are doing, and possibly stop the trade forever, the law need to be taken more seriously. You can help pressure the government into passing a stricter law and taking this matter more seriously by educating your friends and family, and getting them to write a letter to their local Philippines ambassador. To find a sample letter and the addresses where you can mail your letter, click here.