On Eating Dog in China

Do they really eat dog in China?  This is a question that we are seldom asked and yet is often alluded to when we are speaking with people from home.  The allusions most often come packaged in a valiant stab at cross-cultural humor such as, “Hey honey! Hide the dog, the Joneses are here (pause for comedic effect) and they live in China.”  This is followed by obscenely loud laughter (usually restricted to the jokester) and an awkward moment of silence.  When the comedian senses the joke is bombing he generally goes for the gold with his absolutely original attempt at speaking Chinese.  “No seriously,  Ahsooo.  You riv in China.  You speaka da Chineez.  Ah ching chang willy willy bing bang bong.”  To which my favorite response so far is “Really?  You should have a doctor look at that.”

So the failed attempt at comic relief still leaves the question unanswered.  Do they?  

Oh if it were only that easy.  There are so, so many cultural dynamics surrounding this powerfully loaded question that it becomes a challenge for most Westerners who have lived in China to answer without biting a hole in their lip.  This generally leads to complete avoidance of the question and the types of people who might ask it or even worse, allude to it.  It’s not that we wouldn’t love to give a simple “yes” or “no” it’s just that we know where this is going.  More bad jokes.  Unbearable.  Must avoid at all costs.

Ok but do they?  

Nice try but not so fast.  I have yet to hear of a single instance of dog for dinner in the States.  Scratch that.  I have heard of a few, but only in the context of someone making brilliantly clever jokes about a Chinese restaurant. In good conscience though I can’t count those because I’m not sure if they meant to say “wing ching dilly dolly dong” or “bing ching dilly dolly dong” which, as we all know, means something completely different.  So no verifiable dog dishes to my knowledge.  Why?  This is the least considered question surrounding the topic but it could be the most valid.  Why don’t we eat dog?  Answer:  (say it with me) “Because that’s disgusting!!!”  This surfaces another completely different question . . . “Why?”  Why are we so disgusted by the thought of eating dog?  Immediately thoughts rush our brain. Lassie, Benji, Max (my best childhood friend). Poodles with their Brady Bunch perms and those big monstrous dogs that carry a keg of beer around their neck to rescue skiers who have been lost in the Alps for weeks (evidently with no beer).  Dogs are friends.  They are family.  They are heros and in our culture we don’t eat friends, family or heros.  Why?  Because that’s disgusting.

Just answer the question!  Almost there.  


So where does our concept of disgust come from? (said the writer, attempting to spark the most pointlessly philosophical discussion on dog meat ever).  I believe it all started with the things in your nose.  You heard me.  You were three years old and there was something in your nose.  You didn’t know what it was or how it got there but you did know you wanted it out.  Now.  “Oh look, I have a finger!”  It’s as if God had specifically and strategically designed a special nose cleaning tool and placed it right on the end of your hand.  He even equipped it with a little scraping mechanism for greater functionality.  So you picked.  Maybe you even ate.  And your mother said calmly, “please child, don’t do that.”

“Why mommy?”

“Because it’s disgusting.”  And there it began.  The seed of disgust was planted and from that moment on it was watered and fertilized.

“Johnny ate a bug!”
“Ewww! Disgusting.”
“Billy kissed a girl!”
“Awww! Disgusting”
“Chinese people eat dogs!”
“Oooooo!  Dis – gus – ting!”

The plant was trimmed and pruned until it grew into the fully blossomed, fruit bearing tree that has it’s roots buried deeply into the very fiber of your being.  We don’t eat bugs or dogs.  We do kiss girls.  This fell off of the disgusting tree when puberty was allowed to do the pruning for a bit but most things stuck.  So eating dogs is quite frankly . . . disgusting.

But do Chinese people eat them?   


Maybe a better question would be are Chinese people disgusted by the thought of eating dog?  In the interest of not speaking ignorantly on behalf of a billion and a half people I chose to discuss the topic with our assistant who is, in fact, a real life, 100% authentic, Chinese person and will therefore (for the purposes of my research) represent and speak definitively on behalf of all Chinese people (and possibly all Asians).


The conversation was rich and lively and funny and led us to an unexpected ending.   

We discovered a list of thirteen meats that I had eaten and she had not (some in China, most in America).  Here’s the kicker . . . some of them, she found absolutely disgusting (most likely because she also picked her nose when she was three).  Evidently disgust goes both ways and I can’t help but think that somewhere in China there is a painfully unfunny, self appointed comedian cracking bad America jokes.

Here’s the list and yes . . . they do eat dog in China.  Tastes like beef.

1.  Deer
2.  Frog
3.  Alligator
4.  Snake
5. Squirrel (highly protected by Chinese law)
6. Silk Worms
7.  Shark
8.  Bear
9.  Moose
10.  Lobster (she owned as a pet)
11.  Veal
12.  Chicken Fried Steak
13.  Bologna (Ironic this doesn’t hit our disgusting scale)

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