Stopping the dog meat trade
LET’S clear up a few misconceptions before we proceed to the meat (pun intended) of the matter; firstly, the scale or volume of the trade in the Philippines is not as big as portrayed in the western media, say, compared to that of China, Vietnam or Thailand.
Less than one percent of the total Philippine population is involved in the dog meat trade and this includes the dog traders, the operators and owners of the illegal dog slaughterhouses and restaurants, and the people themselves that eat dog meat regularly.
Second, probably about less than 6,000 dogs are slaughtered each year from a high of 10,000 dogs 10 years ago and not the millions slaughtered annually as reported in the western media.
Third, the Philippines is the only country in Asia with an Animal Welfare Law which has just been amended, making it stronger with stiffer sanctions and fines against would-be violators and this is thanks largely to the efforts of local animal welfare groups .
Likewise the Philippines is the only country in Asia with an Anti-Rabies Law which has a provision making the trading of dog meat for human consumption illegal.
Fourth, it is also not true as reported in the western media that the government is not doing anything to stop this vile trade, again thanks largely to the efforts of local animal welfare groups, the government has stepped up its efforts albeit still needing much improvement in combating the dog meat trade.
The average animal welfare advocate in Europe or the United States has this romantic notion that they can stop the dog meat trade in the Philippines by conducting seizures of vans carrying dogs bound for the dog restaurants in Northern Luzon. That maybe be dramatic, good for photo-ops and makes a great advertising copy but as far as doing anything really sustainable in stopping the trade, not really.
The effect of that seizure on the dog meat trade can best be explained this way: “Let us say you want to stop smoking and you see a man with a cigarette in his mouth, you then take away that cigarette, for that moment you stopped the guy from smoking but when you leave the room he just lights another cigarette.” So in effect you really did nothing to stop smoking.
The same goes with the seizure of a van of dogs; you stopped the dogs from being traded for their meat in that instant but at that same moment another van with dogs reaches its destination and the next day they will just continue transporting the dogs.
As long as there are is a market for dog meat, the trading will just go on regardless of how many vans will be seized by these naïve campaigners.
“The killing will stop if the buying will stop.”
The dog meat trade in the Philippines has nothing to do with neither culture nor poverty; it is mainly because of greed and ignorance. These dog traders are in the trade because of the high profit margin and very low overhead cost, plus its illegal so no taxes.
In lowlands or Southern Luzon where the dogs are sourced, a dog will cost from P100 to P150 depending on the size; sometimes the traders will get them for free. By the time this very same dog reaches the market or dog restaurant in Northern Luzon, it can fetch a prize of P1,500 to P2,500. So you can see the very high return of investment.
By the way, it is mostly the people, particularly the male population of Northern Luzon (particularly those from the city of Baguio and the provinces of Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur and Norte) that are dog eaters. In the rest of the Philippines, dog eating is generally frowned upon and considered unclean.
The main driver that fuels the dog meat trade, aside from the obvious which is profit, is ignorance. There are a lot of myths and false beliefs all attributed to the eating of dog meat. The number one myth is that eating dog meat keeps the body warm (which of course has no scientific basis). Eating dog meat dishes in the Philippines is always accompanied with drinking of alcoholic drinks, which of course explains why the body feels warm; it’s the alcohol, stupid, not the dog meat!
Another myth is that dog meat is an aphrodisiac. Again, this has no scientific basis. It’s probably the same as tiger penis or bear bile; absolutely no scientific basis.
And then there’s this machismo attitude among male drinkers, particularly of the lower level of society, wherein during a drinking spree they would have as “pulotan” or “finger foods” weird food. The more weird, the more macho they are; hence they would partake of worms, grasshoppers, snakes, rats and dogs.
The lower the sophistication and education, the more prone they are to eating dog meat. So, what would be the most effective solution in stopping the dog meat trade in the Philippines? It’s quite simple really, EDUCATION.
An honest to goodness sustainable information and education campaign against the eating of dog meat targeting all levels of society with special emphasis in the “so-called dog meat eating areas” is the best possible solution.
It may not have the dramatic photos of campaigners lovingly holding a dog rescued from a dog traders’ van but educating the population why dogs should not be part of the human food chain has a sustainable and more permanent effect.
Thus, if you have a population that is well-informed and educated on not eating dogs, then eventually the buying stops and with it, the killing stops. The end result would be the demise of the dog meat trade and an animal welfare-aware and friendly population./PN