Dogs in China Coddled and Eaten, Size Matters

 |  Mar 19th 2008  |   1 Contribution


China is banning dogmeat from the areas around the Olympics but can we expect any REAL change? Its a mixed picture according to this article.

Thanks to the International Herald Tribune for this article.

Please be aware that this article has some upsetting information.

As Chinese wealth rises, pets take a higher place
By Joseph Chaney
Reuters
Published: March 17, 2008

GUANGZHOU, China: Keeping pets has become all the rage among the affluent in China, even though some Chinese still consume dog and cat meat.


Spending on pet food and pet care in China will be worth an estimated $870 million in 2008, according to Euromonitor International, a market research firm. That is up about 15 percent from the $757 million spent in 2007.

"We still eat dog, but not this kind of dog," Liu Ming, a pet shop salesman said, pointing to a toffee-colored puppy with floppy ears on sale for about 500 yuan, or $70. "We eat much bigger dogs."

In the days of Mao, pets were considered a bourgeois indulgence. Now the cute dogs sold in pet shops are spared, while homely mutts tend to be sold at live animal markets as the main ingredient in dog meat stew.

"In China, more and more people are raising pets," Liu said as curious onlookers crowded his stall on a dusty street. "It's not as difficult as before."

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In Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, a growing class of the nouveau riche even sees pets - particularly dogs - as fashion items, outfitting them in designer clothing, paying for spa treatments and dyeing their fur.

That trend, experts say, is a stark contrast to the tradition of eating everything from silkworms to pangolins, or scaly anteaters.

"In Beijing, there's a huge market with pitiful dogs waiting in cages to be sold as meat, and literally a few yards away standard poodles dyed in all colors of the rainbow," said Jill Robinson, chief executive of Animals Asia Foundation, an animal welfare charity based in Hong Kong.

The thriving industry of fake designer goods is even taking on designer doggy-wear. In Guangzhou, hawkers were selling fake Louis Vuitton dog carriers one day as a dog in a faux Louis Vuitton sweater napped nearby on the dusty sidewalk.

There were nearly 11 billion pets in China in 2007, according to Euromonitor International, up from 10.8 billion in 2006. The bulk of the animals were birds, fish and reptiles.

China estimates it has 150 million pet dogs. Statistics are scant on the burgeoning industry because many pets are unregistered. Euromonitor puts that figure at 26.8 million, and says China has 10.7 million pet cats.

Despite the emergence of Western-style pet rearing, dog meat remains a popular winter cuisine in parts of China.

Beijing has more than 120 restaurants serving dog meat, although some may close as the city tries to change its image before the Olympic Games.

Known as "fragrant meat," dog meat is purported to have medicinal benefits and to improve blood circulation in winter.

The meat, culled from farmed animals that are mixtures of Chinese dogs and St. Bernards or other big breeds, are served stewed, roasted or sliced in a hot pot. Dogs with collars are sometimes seen at live animal markets, according to Animals Asia Foundation, suggesting that runaways sometimes end up on the dinner table.

China's pet industry is still tiny compared with its counterpart in the United States where owners are projected to spend over $43 billion on their pets this year. But experts say the industry's potential in China is enormous as incomes rise and more of the country's childless couples see pets as less needy substitutes for children.

Spending on pet food and pet care is projected to reach $995 million by 2009, up over 100 percent from $463 million in 2004, experts say.

Effem Foods in Beijing, a subsidiary of the U.S. food giant Mars - the owner of the Pedigree and Whiskas brands - claimed 53.8 percent of dog and cat food sales in 2006, Euromonitor said.

Nestl, the world's largest food group, is in second place with 17.7 percent, and the U.S. consumer product giant Proctor & Gamble is in third with 1.7 percent.

Nestl set up a production site in Tianjin in 2007 to be more competitive locally, a move that some analysts suggest may not be wise given a spate of food safety scandals in China. Last year, 800 tons of wheat gluten from China tainted with melamine was sold to U.S. pet-food makers, triggering millions of recalls there and killing over 200 cats and 100 dogs.

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