Charity Saving Animals From Illegal Dog Meat Trade In Thailand

dog meat
Dog meat for sale in Hanoi (Wikipedia)

Thailand has a thriving illegal trade in dog meat. While authorities have been cracking down on it recently, the demand is such that many dogs are stolen off the streets to supply restaurants in Cambodia and China, where the consumption of dog is legal.

Now a charity in Phuket, Thailand, is trying to save these animals. The Soi Dog Foundation has taken in hundreds of dogs seized by Thai border police and is asking for sponsors and adoptive families. Dog lovers as far away as Scotland have taken in some of the pets, but there are many more stuck in the charity’s bursting facilities.

While stealing pets and smuggling them across the border is certainly wrong, not to mention illegal, is eating dog meat wrong? Different cultures have different standards as to what food is OK and what isn’t. Hindus will tell you that eating any meat is wrong, and that eating beef is the worst of all. In Slovenia, they eat horse burgers, and while I’ve always loved horses I did give them a try. Horses are no less intelligent, loving and loyal than dogs, so what’s the problem? Is it all a matter of perspective? Tell us what you think in the comments section!

Want to read about some more shocking foods? Check out our post on the weird things people eat around the world.

Unusual aphrodisiacs from Asian countries

balut Wondering how to get you or your partner more in the mood for sex? Instead of opting for expensive pills or unnatural remedies, why not learn from the Asian culture and try one of these libido-boosting aphrodisiacs? From dangerously poisonous fish to fertilized duck embryo or snake’s blood, it is clear some people really will try anything to have good sex. While these odd ingestants may be useful for people in Asia, I’m thinking that others may want to stick to increasing their libido the old-fashioned way: getting drunk and watching porn.

Balut

Balut is a common finger food in Southeast Asia and is literally an almost-developed duck embryo that is boiled alive and eaten in the shell. If you want to try this delicacy for yourself, head over to the Philippines, where it is most common, or Vietnam, Laos, or Cambodia. It’s a very popular food to enjoy at bars while drinking a beer, which makes me wonder if it’s the Balut making people horny or the alcohol.Bull Balls Soup

Bull Balls Soup, also known as Soup #5, originated in the Philippines and is a dish made from the bull’s penis or testicles. The genitalia is washed and then scorched in boiling water before being cut into small pieces. These bits are then simmered in a pot along with other meats, vegetables, and ginger. Not only is it said to be tasty, but also the bull’s genitals in the soup are believed to have a higher potency than even Viagra.

durian Durian

It’s hard to believe anything that smells this bad could be considered arousing, but this odorous fruit is said to have a strong aphrodisiac power. In fact, in Indonesia a common saying is “the durians fall and the sarongs come up.” The stench of the fruit is so overwhelming that many public venues like restaurants, hotels, and buses prohibit durian from being brought inside. I guess some people find unpleasant smells sexy.

Monkey Brains

While the eating of monkey brains is controversial – the practice has, unfortunately, led to the over-killing of the animal in Indonesia – it is actually enjoyed in many countries around the world due to the dish’s believed ability to cure erectile dysfunction. Disturbingly, many people enjoy eating the brains of the monkey while the animal is still alive, although laws are currently being implemented to make this illegal. Before you go digging into this delicacy, however, just know that in return for horny side-effects, you’re running the risk of acquiring Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, an illness similar to Mad Cow.

snake wine Snake’s Blood/Wine

In Asia, snake products in general are believed to create an unusually high sex drive. One way to achieve an increased libido is by drinking a concoction made by infusing the essence and venom of a poisonous snake into grain alcohol or rice wine (shown right). While this may not sound appealing, your other option is to slice a poisonous snake open and drink the blood straight out of its body.

Tiger Penis Soup

As we’re basically talking about the power of the penis here, it’s not surprising that a number of Asian aphrodisiacs are literally penises. Although the tiger is near extinction, that doesn’t stop locals of China and Southeast Asia from consuming the appendage for its sex-enhancing properties. Making the soup is a time-consuming process, as the tiger penis must be dried out and then soaked in water for a week. From there, the penis is simmered with spices and other ingredients. Sound tasty? Because of the difficulty of procuring the penis of an endangered animal, a bowl of this stuff can cost a few hundred dollars.

caterpillar fungus Caterpillar Fungus

Caterpillar fungus, or “dong chong xia cao” (summer grass, winter worm) in Chinese, has been a popular element of Chinese medicine for hundreds of years as a way to treat cancer, exhaustion, and, of course, impotency. The product is created during the winter when the ghost moth caterpillar burrows into the ground and hibernates. During this time a fungi enters the caterpillar’s body and eats it from the inside. Eventually, the caterpillar fungus will erupt from the dead insect’s head. While this may sound like the plot of a horror movie, this natural sex-enhancer can cost over $100 per gram depending on where you purchase it.

Bird’s Nest Soup

While many people think of a bird’s nest as nature’s architecture, others enjoy it as a tasty and libido-boosting meal. The soup is not made with just any old bird’s nest, but one made of solidified saliva, as these have the best texture for creating the cuisine. To make the dish, the nest is dissolved in water and, depending on if it is a natural white or red nest, can cost over $100 for a bowl.

hagfish Hagfish

This slime-producing eel is the only animal on the planet that has a skull but no vertebral column or jaw, making it difficult to classify. Although many are unsure as to whether the Hagfish is behind or ahead of the evolution process, one thing is certain – people from Southeast Asia love them. So what is it about these odd-looking creatures that turn people on? Most likely, it is the resemblance to a penis in shape and its production of a large amount of slimy liquid when stroked.

Dog Meat

Though many Westerners may object, in certain Asian countries it is said that eating dog meat creates a warm sensation throughout the body that is linked to passion, intensity, and carnal urges. What’s really unsettling isn’t so much the fact that it’s dog meat that’s being eaten, but that it is believed that the slower and more painful the death of the animal, the more flavorful the meat and the stronger the effects on sexual stamina. I guess for some this is worth it for a steamy night of passion.

[images via raeky, BorgQueen, Genghiskhanviet, Magnus Manske, Lmozero]

Horse slaughter: the meat of the matter now that Congress has lifted controversial ban

horse meatIf you’re of a certain age, you might recall that until the 1940’s, horse was eaten in the United States–most notably during World War II, when beef prices rose and supply dwindled. By the eighties, dining on Mr. Ed definitely wasn’t culturally acceptable, even if purchased for “pet food,” and in 1998, California Proposition 6 outlawed horse meat and slaughter for human consumption.

Why, when so much of the world–including much of the EU, Central Asia, Polynesia, Latin America, and Japan–routinely dines upon this delicious, lean, low cholesterol, abundant meat, do we shun it? Blame anthropomorphism and our fervent equestrian culture. Like dogs, cats, guinea pig, alpaca, and other cute, furry creatures consumed with gusto by other ethnicities, Americans just aren’t down with eating what we consider pets.

According to The Chicago Tribune, however, it’s likely that at least one national horse abattoir (slaughterhouse) will be opening soon, most likely in the Midwest. As stated in the story, “Congress lifted the ban in a spending bill President Barack Obama signed into law Nov. 18 to keep the government afloat until mid-December.”

Before you get on your high horse (sorry) over this seemingly inhumane turn of events, let’s examine why the ban was passed in the first place, and why reversing it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I should also state that I grew up on a horse ranch, and to me, meat is meat. My issues regarding its consumption have and always will lie with humane treatment of said animals during their life up until what should be a quick, merciful death. Is there such a thing as a humane death? Let’s just say that some methods of livestock slaughter are less traumatic than others. But that’s a separate issue, and not the point of this piece.

Despite our cultural aversion to eating horse, the U.S. still slaughtered old, sick,and injured animals, as well as retired racehorses. Even young healthy animals were sent to slaughter for a variety of reasons including overbreeding, profit, or abandonment. Even wild horses and burros were rounded up for slaughter as part of culling programs; it’s still necessary to thin herds to keep them sustainable, as well as protect their habitat from overgrazing and erosion; starvation and predation are cruel deaths. Fortunately, these animals are now protected species and legally can’t be sent to slaughter, so they’re put up for adoption. The downside? What happens to aging and unsound animals, now that rescues and sanctuaries are at capacity and struggling for funding?

The U.S. exported horse meat to countries that do consume it, although it was also sold domestically to feed zoo animals. In 2007, the last horse slaughterhouse in the U.S., in DeKalb, Illinois, was shut down by court order, and that was that until the ban was lifted last month.

Photo credit: Flicker user Atli Harðarson]

horse meatIs this a good thing? The result of abattoir closures means that there’s no outlet–-humane or otherwise–-for horses that can no longer be used for work or pleasure. Few people can afford to keep horses as pets due to age, illness, or injury, and as previously stated, most horse rescues are at capacity or struggling to find funding. The recession has only increased this problem.

The Tribune cites a federal report from June, 2011, that noted local animal welfare organizations reported a spike in investigations for horse neglect and abandonment since 2007. In Colorado, for example, data showed that investigations for horse neglect and abuse increased more than 60 percent — from 975 in 2005 to almost 1,600 in 2009. Explains Cheri White Owl, founder of the Oklahoma nonprofit Horse Feathers Equine Rescue, “People [are] deciding to pay their mortgage or keep their horse.”

Adds Sue Wallis, a Wyoming state lawmaker and vice president of the non-profit, pro-slaughter organization United Horsemen, “Ranchers used to be able to sell horses that were too old or unfit for work to slaughterhouses but now they have to ship them to butchers in Canada and Mexico [the latter of which has even more inhumane handling and shipping practices], where they fetch less than half the price.”

The Tribune reports that the U.S. Government Accountability Office also determined that about 138,000 horses were shipped to Canada and Mexico for slaughter in 2010: nearly the same number that were killed in the U.S. before the ban took effect in 2007.

I’m not disputing the lack of humanity previously displayed by U.S. livestock auctions and transport companies taking horses to slaughter (current treatment of other livestock: also fodder for another story). Fortunately, the 1996 federal Farm Bill mandated more humane conditions. Unfortunately, it didn’t go into effect until 2001. And the down side of reinstating horse abattoirs here, according to the Tribune, is that the Obama’s ban-reversal won’t “allocate any new money to pay for horse meat inspections, which opponents claim could cost taxpayers $3 million to $5 million a year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture would have to find the money in its existing budget, which is expected to see more cuts this year as Congress and the White House aim to trim federal spending.”
horse meat
Animal welfare aside, the loss of horse abattoirs is a divisive issue. I’m of the opinion that it’s impractical and wasteful to not have an outlet for surplus animals. This, of course, assuming the transport and facilities abide by regulations. I’m not a supporter of industrial livestock production and thus large abattoirs, which have been documented to cause undue stress to animals. Despite that issue, isn’t it ultimately more kind to put an end to their suffering, and make good use of the meat?

Proponents of horse slaughter frequently make the comparison to the millions of dogs and cats that are euthanized yearly in the U.S., because their owners were too irresponsible to spay or neuter. The cremation of these poor creatures is more than just a senseless loss of life: it’s wasteful.

While I’m sympathetic to recession-impacted horse owners, keeping a horse isn’t cheap no matter what your financial situation. When you buy, adopt, or take in any “pet,” you’re responsible for its welfare. If you can’t commit to providing for that animal for the duration of its life (barring certain illness/injury situations), have the decency to do the necessary research and surrender it to a reputable animal rescue or loving home.

If you’re not capable of that, a.) please don’t ever have children, and b.) never own a pet. It’s a living creature, not a toy, and I have absolutely no tolerance for irresponsible pet owners. There are valid arguments on both sides of the horse slaughter debate, but at the end of the day, the most important thing is the humane treatment of the animals in question.

[Photo credits: cheval, Flicker user noodlepie; sashimi, Flickr user rc!]

Photo of the Day (10.18.10)

Street markets are a magical place. Various sights, smells and sounds assault your senses and you stuff your face with things you can neither pronounce nor identify. It’s easy to get lost in the excitement and energy of the market. That is, of course, until you see a tail. Americans aren’t used to seeing tails in their grocery stores or butchers. We see finished products. We buy trimmed steaks and boneless chicken breasts. We’re just not ready for the experience of seeing a boiled dog torso complete with tail.

That’s why this photo by Flickr user pirano caught my attention. At first glance, I thought that maybe it was an oddly-shaped pig. Would you believe that it’s boiled dog? After reading the blog post that went along with his photo, I learned the story about his conversation about dog meat in China. It’s worth a read if you want some background on this picture. No matter what you think about eating dog, you have to admit that seeing that tail is pretty mesmerizing.

Have a picture of some unexpected street meat? Or maybe just some great travel photos? Submit your images to Gadling’s Flickr group and we might use one for a future Photo of the Day.

Hold the dog, please. China’s proposed ban on sale of dog and cat meat

Most people will agree that dog is man’s best friend. In parts of Asia, however, it’s also what’s for dinner. The consumption of dog and cat meat by humans is practiced in parts of China, Vietnam, Korea, and the Philippines. Cat is eaten in parts of China and South America. The times they are a-changin’, however, because the Chinese government is considering legislation that would make eating dogs and cats illegal there, in part because of how the practice negatively impacts overseas tourism.

The Chinese government has signaled a willingness to take the meat off the market. To avoid upsetting international visitors during the Beijing Olympics, officials ordered dog meat off the menus at local markets. Officials in Guangzhou have warned vendors to stop selling it ahead of the Asian Games, which will be held there later this year.

Professor Chang Jiwen of the Chinese Academy of the Social Sciences is one of the law’s top campaigners. “Cats and dogs are loyal friends to humans,” he said. “A ban on eating them would show China has reached a new level of civilization.” Anyone else finding irony in that statement, considering 2007’s massive pet food recall — the result of melamine-tainted exports produced in China?

While inconceivable to most North Americans and Europeans, these animals have been used as food for thousands of years, usually for purported medicinal purposes, although poverty also plays a role in some countries or regions.

While owning dogs and cats for house pets isn’t the norm throughout Asia, it’s certainly common in China. But the roles of ingredient and animal companion never cross: special meat markets exist that cater exclusively to the sale of dogs and cats for the meat trade. Chang cautions, however that there is always a chance they’re someone’s lost or stolen pet.

Regardless of how you feel about dining on dog, the most critical issue regarding this “specialty meat” trade is animal welfare. The animals can be kept in horrifying conditions until they’re sold at market, and subjected to cruel, inhumane treatment. And before you condemn certain cultures as barbaric, take a second to think about the conditions in puppy mills and factory farms in the United States. Livestock sold at auction for the commercial meat market, and live meat animals and poultry at slaughterhouses may also be subjected to inhumane treatment. The U.S. government is cracking down on these abuses, but factory farms don’t appear to be going away anytime soon.

The ban on eating dog and cat meat is part of a larger proposal to toughen laws on animal welfare. Individual violators could face up to 15 days in prison and a small fine. Businesses found guilty of selling the meat risk fines up to 500,000 yuan ($73,500.)

The legislation is gaining support from China’s growing number of pet owners. With living standards rising and disposable income growing, more Guangzhou residents are investing in house pets.

Meat vendors and specialty restaurants, however, see their livelihoods at stake.”The dogs you raise at home, you shouldn’t eat,” says Pan, a butcher who also declined to give his first name. “The kind raised for eating, we can eat those.”

According to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the law prohibiting cat and dog meat could take as long as a decade to pass.

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