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It’s a dog’s life

By Bernie Mitchell

In another life would you want to come back as a dog? If the answer is yes you might want a proviso in your contract that stipulates you don’t start your new life in China – unless you’re hoping for a short stay!

Yes, the Chinese do still eat dogs, but not all of the Chinese and not all of the dogs.

In recent times their attitude toward pets and dogs has undergone gradual change although at this stage it’s mostly a newly prosperous minority that is taking an interest in pets.

Why is that? Because dog ownership can be construed as social pretension, a quick and easy symbol of Western middle class extravagance.

Ironically, the fact the dog is one of the 12 animals in the Chinese calendar does not mean that the Chinese revere dogs or regard them as special animals. Far from it.

Until very recently, people in China have been more concerned with feeding themselves, rather than wasting food and affection on pets. Then, there are the negative associations: dogs, in particular, are associated with the lower strata of society. They have traditionally been despised as boot lickers, pawns of the powerful, bound and tethered servants, and simpletons.

So it’s not surprising that each year about 300,000 dogs are raised and killed for consumption.

Dogs used to be a symbol of the petite bourgeoisie and were, until recently, politically incorrect. Even today, the license fees are extremely expensive, as to suggest that they are some sort of material extravagance.

While cute little dogs might find comfortable homes, the larger types tend to be sold at live animal markets as the main ingredient in dog meat stew.

While not all Chinese eat dog meat it is still popular in parts of China, where people believe it has medicinal benefits such as improved blood circulation giving it an ability to help you keep warm in winter. Generally the meat is stewed, roasted or sliced in a casserole.

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