- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 4, 2001

BANGKOK Thailand's government is campaigning to stop people from eating dogs, but villagers contend their canine consumption is hardly unnatural.
Under pressure from animal-welfare groups, the national government is drawing up a bill that would protect dogs from inhumane treatment, including being killed for their meat and skins.
The move to outlaw killing and eating dogs is in line with the sensibilities of most Thais, said government spokesman Don Pramudwinai.
In addition, several provincial governments are organizing trade fairs to urge people to switch from dogs to other sources of protein and are initiating public relations efforts to discourage dog eating.
Eating dog is not common in many parts of Thailand, but in the northeast, the most rural and poorest part of the country, some people consume canines.
When properly prepared, dog meat tastes a bit like chicken.
It is considered a delicacy in many Asian nations, including China, South Korea and Taiwan.
In Taiwan, where dog meat is considered a winter treat, the legislature passed a law yesterday outlawing butchering or selling what is known as "fragrant meat" in Taiwanese slang.
Food stalls serving dog stew were once popular in Taiwan, where some people believe the meat strengthens the body against the winter cold.
But in recent years, dog eateries have become less common because the Taiwanese have become more affluent and are influenced by Western values.
Most urban Taiwanese consider those who eat dog to be backward and cruel.
In Thailand, dog meat is sold in open-air markets in Sakhon Nakhon, a northeastern province.
One well-known cafe in Nakhon Phanom, another northeastern district, reportedly serves up twelve to sixteen dogs per day in soups and stir-fried dishes.
Slaughterhouses in Tha Pae, a village in the northeast, kill an estimated 400 dogs per week for their meat and skins.
Once practiced in obscurity, the dog trade has recently captured the attention of animal-rights groups.
Over the past year, European and Thai animal-rights groups have begun protests against the Thai canine meat industry, which they claim forces dogs to live in filthy cages while waiting for a painful execution.
Torturing dogs prior to slaughter is believed to improve the taste of the meat.
In early December, Kim Cooling, a British animal-rights campaigner, traveled to Bangkok to warn that the trade in dogs is growing alarmingly and to petition the king of Thailand to stop canine slaughter.
"I can't understand how barbaric treatment of dogs like this is tolerated," she said.
But residents of the northeast claim that eating pups is no more barbaric than consuming other intelligent animals that could be kept as pets.
"Dog eating is just a way of life here, a tradition like in many other parts of Asia. And in the West, you eat pigs and horses, which are also pets," said one dog vendor.
Ultimately, economists say, Thai dog eating will not be reduced significantly until the economy picks up.
At about 50 cents per pound, Thai dog is generally cheaper than chicken, pork or beef.


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