Feature Img
A truck carrying dogs can be seen travelling along a road on the outskirts of Beijing. REUTERS/DAVID GRAY
A truck carrying dogs can be seen travelling along a road on the outskirts of Beijing. REUTERS/DAVID GRAY

I strongly condemn today’s slaughter of thousands of dogs for the Yulin Dog Meat Festival in the southern Chinese province of Guangxi. Some dogs are being boiled alive, some are being beaten to death, and some are being skinned alive.

All dogs suffer, more than anybody ever should, and all are eaten.

An online petition to stop the festival has been signed by more than three-and-a-half million people who are rightly disgusted and outraged over the ongoing anguish and death. Making the very reasonable assumption that the overwhelming majority of these signatories are not vegans, their concern, however, demonstrates an all-too-common confusion for which the American legal scholar Gary L. Francione has coined the term moral schizophrenia.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, we kill approximately two thousand animals for food per second, not including fish and other sea animals. Most of these animals are not dogs, but chickens, ducks, pigs, rabbits, turkeys, geese, sheep, goats, and cows, all of whom are capable of experiencing pain just like dogs are, or you and I for that matter, and all of whom are severely mistreated before their flesh lands on our plates, some every bit as much as the dogs in Guangxi.

Yet, most of us rarely spare a thought for the animals we eat.

Even when we do read or hear about the horrible conditions in which food animals are raised and killed, we continue to eat them anyway, and enjoy doing so. No pangs of conscience. What is the difference between what happens in Guangxi today and what happens in every part of the world, on any given day?

Morally, I think there is not much of a difference. The killing of dogs in Guangxi might (or might not) be more cruel than the killing of animals for food usually is. But both are cruel, and both are equally unnecessary. There is no more need to eat chicken, lamb, or beef than there is to eat dog meat. In fact, careful studies have found that a well-balanced plant-based diet decreases the chances of suffering from diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers. If so, are meat-eaters really in a position to point fingers?

Rainer Ebert is a PhD candidate at the Department of Philosophy at Rice University in Texas, and an Associate Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics.You can follow him on Twitter at @rainer_ebert.

17 Responses to “The Yulin Dog Meat Festival and our double standards”

  1. jack

    your conclusion is just another kind of double standards… Plants are lives and are as PRECIOUS as any other life form on the planet.

    animals have to eat, plants or animals or both, we got to eat. THERE IS A REASON WHY PLANTS EXIST AS WELL AS ANIMALS AND EVERYTHING ELSE!

    scenario 1: we all eat plants, earth run out of plants, animals either over populate or die due to malnutrition.

    scenario 2: we all eat animals, earth run out of animals, plants either over populate or die due to malnutrition (lack of soil)

    scenario 3: we all eat everything as equally as possible. most plants /animals survive.

    so for the sake of mother earth, we should consume everything equally as nature intended.

    Of course, we NEED to have control. we absolutely shouldn’t over eat or waste food. we should treasure every piece of vegetable or meat as it is the sacrifice of another life for our own.

    us human is part of the nature, not above or below.

  2. Penelope

    i agree. I just wish Gary Francione wouldn’t use ableist terms like moral schizophrenia.

  3. Brendon

    Great so what plants are inanimate objects ? Plants are living things too just on a different scale.

    • Rainer Ebert

      Thank you for your comment, Brendon. It is true that both plants and animals are alive. But so are Salmonella bacteria, and I assume that you nevertheless don’t believe that it is wrong to kill them. The crucial difference between plants and the animals we eat is the fact that the latter are conscious and capable of feeling pain and the former are not. Plants lack brains, central nervous systems, and other structures that would allow them to experience pain. They also lack the ability to move away from sources of stress, an evolutionary trait linked with the ability to feel pain. Unlike animals, plants don’t have a point of view. There is “nobody at home” in a plant. Hence, nobody (no “somebody”) is killed when a plant is being destroyed.

  4. Dewan Rabita Arefin

    Dear Rainer

    I strongly agree with you. If anyone says that the killing procedures of companion animals and live stocks are different, that’s a mentality of believing double standard. I do believe most people eat meat because it’s tasty. I went through a research few days back and came to a conclusion that the fact of meat consumption heavily rely on religion and taste. The Chinese celebrate this dog festival for the same reason.

    In Islam Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) treated animals with respect and love. He clearly mentioned not to be addicted to anything. He discouraged consuming meat rather plants. He himself was a plant eater mostly.

    Particularly what I believe is, signing petition is easier. The people who signed for a petition, don’t bother so much thought process. They simply sign. On the other hand, people are good but confused. Modern science brought them too much information. Donating in a mosque gets high priority than donating in a human/animal welfare organizations. They grew up believing one concept and now the world is serving them with information which are mostly hoax.

    I believe to educate humans about not to kill animals or mistreat them at any circumstances will take time. Arguments or hurting humans won’t bring any solutions.

    Thank you
    Rabita (Animal Welfare Activist at ESHO FOUNDATION for ANIMAL WELFARE, Bangladesh)

    • Rainer Ebert

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment, dear Rabita. I agree with you. Custom and taste are probably the most important reasons why people continue to eat meat. It takes time to change age-old practices. What gives me hope is that people are increasingly aware of the cruelty of modern animal agriculture, and of its detrimental effects on our health and the environment. Education is the key, and I thank you for doing your part through your activism.

  5. Sumit Mazumdar

    Dear Rainer:

    I do not know if there is or isn’t a moral difference between eating cows/goats/chicken/fish and eating dogs. But there is a strong difference from the scientific perspective – from thermodynamics. Let me explain.
    All the energy in our solar system comes from our sun. Plants use photosynthesis to grow. Some energy is wasted in the process. Plant eating animals eat plants and their metabolism comes from this. Again there is some waste of energy, but this is unavoidable. Meat eating animals generally eat plant eaters, which are on a lower rung on this energy consumption scale. Meat eaters eating meat eaters is a tremendous loss of energy, and it is hence unnatural. I suspect that this is why this is so rare (outside of the oceans, where it is true that fish eat fish).
    That said, the great apes – gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos are meat eaters too, though on a much smaller scale than us humans. That may indicate something about the moral aspect too. Perhaps our evolution needed meat eating, as some evolution theorists would claim (the large human brain needed much more energy as our ancestor diverged from the great apes’ ancestors).

    • Rainer Ebert

      Thank you for your comment, dear Sumit. I think you are right. Meat consumption did play a role in the evolutionary development of our large brains. Today, however, we can easily get all the nutrients we need from plants, and doing so is much less wasteful than eating animals. For example, it takes 4,664 litres of water to produce a portion of beef, but only 371 litres to produce an entire vegan meal. Animal agriculture further generates more greenhouse gas emissions than does the use of gasoline for transport, and is a major contributor to world hunger, as only a fraction of the calories fed to farm animals are returned in the form of edible flesh, eggs, or dairy — calories that would benefit much more people if consumed directly.

      • Sumit Mazumdar

        What you write here I can certainly agree with, but that is a _different_ moral issue from the one originally posed. By the way, National Geographic ran a whole series of articles recently on feeding the 9 B. people we will soon have. Sustainability need not mean vegan diet only. It can also include consuming insects. Many humans are already occasional insectivores and so are chimpanzees and bonobos.
        The point I am trying to make is – shaming people will not work (as gas prices have dropped internationally gigantic trucks have come back on US roads). Alternate approaches are called for.

  6. Anisul

    I completely agree with Mr. Ebert. One should consider his arguments seriously. All method of killings are cruel as they impart serious pain and suffering. Farm animals go through much more suffering in modern factory farms in terms of cruelty in raising and processing these animals as some video footages are starting to uncover. These were uncovered by Mercy for animals, PETA, etc. organizations. One cannot but cry to see these footages and it is extremely difficult to see the whole footages with so much inhuman cruelty imposed on these animals.

    • Rainer Ebert

      Thank you very much for your comment. Needless to say, I agree with you. I wish more people would watch these videos and understand under what conditions farm animals are raised and killed. Many people don’t even think about it, maybe because they know that they’d have to change their behavior…

  7. Abdullah Bin Rafsan

    I really don’t understand what’s the point the author tried to make? Eating meat is ok–be it dog’s meat or cow’s meat. The chinese and korean eat dog’s meat. Ok for them. Western meat-eaters cannot bear it–it’s their problem. If you have an issue about eating meat write it without labeling dog meat or cow meat.

    • Rainer Ebert

      Thank you for your comment.

      It’s not just “Western” meat-eaters who are outraged over the festival. Many people in Bangladesh are, too. My point is that this outrage is selective, and demonstrates a confusion. If you believe that it’s wrong to eat dog meat, you should probably not eat any other meat either.

      I’ve published a short article about meat-eating in general just a few weeks ago. If you’re interested, you can find it at http://www.dhakatribune.com/long-form/2015/apr/25/eating-other-animals

  8. Hypersloth

    are you serious?
    1. Dogs are highly intelligent animals
    2. The method of killing them is inhuman to say the least
    3. Dogs are not bred like domestic animals to act as a source of food

    It does not compare in anyway the humane methods followed for culling domestic animals world wide. You sir, just compared apples and oranges.

    • Rainer Ebert

      Thank you for your comment.

      Re 1: So are farm animals… Pigs, for example, are often said to be even more intelligent than dogs: http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/Science/story?id=771414

      Re 2: Please do some online research and find out how animals are treated in modern factory farms. Watching Earthlings is a good way to start. It’s freely available at http://earthlings.com/

      Re 3: How does it matter for what purpose a being has been brought into existence? The suffering is all the same.

    • jack

      1. cat, cows, sheeps, chicken are also highly intelligent animals.
      2. a kill is a kill, the quicker the better. the truth is, the method used in China (a quick slash.. for freshness) is much more humane than have all those animals wait in line to be chopped up by machines.
      3. those dogs in China ARE bred like domestic animals to act as source of food.

      you are double standard. period.

  9. Syed Imtiaz Ali

    What is their fault? That they have meat in their bodies and the Chinese relish it? For China to make a humane entry into the ‘civilised’ world of today, they must put this dog eating festival BEHIND them. It is absolutely CRUEL! How can the land of Confucius continue to indulge in such barbaric practices? Millions will be made happy and relieved if this is Forsaken for good; and truly for the GOOD of the soul that craves to eat dog meat.

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