In a great victory for animals, Taiwan has become the first Asian country to ban eating dog and cat meat and establishes jail time for individuals who torture and kill animals. Where previously the Animal Protection Act, Taiwan’s animal rights legislation, only covered the slaughter and sale of dog and cat meat, this amendment specifically prohibits the consumption of dog and cat meat as well. Now individuals who eat or trade dog or cat meat can now be fined between $1,640 to $8,200. Not only that, but the amendment to the Animal Protection Act also bans “walking” an animal on a leash pulled by a car or motorcycle and raises the penalty for cruelty to animals. The maximum prison term for animal cruelty has been doubled to two years and the fine is now up to $65,500 for “any act that deliberately harms animals and results in mangled limbs, organ failure or death.”
Taiwanese President, Tsai Ing-wen, is a known animal lover herself and even showcased her two felines “Think Think” and “Ah Tsai” on social media during her presidential campaign. Last year she adopted three dogs, on an island where society increasingly views cats and dogs as pets. With an estimated 30 million dogs killed annually in Asia for the dog meat trade, Taiwan joins Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand in trying to put an end to the horrific trade.
Eating dog and cat meat in Asia is not as wide as stereotypes suggest, although in some cities in China eating dog meat is considered a specialty, particularly at “dog meat hot pot restaurants.” At a dog meat festival in Guilin, in southern China, 10,000 dogs are slaughtered each year to make traditional dishes. Each year, the festival attracts the wrath of animal rights activists who call the practice of slaughtering dogs inhumane. But increasingly, many Chinese are against the consumption of dog meat, with one 2015 survey showing that nearly half of those surveyed believed the practice should be illegal.
In Hong Kong, the slaughter of dogs and cats for food was outlawed by the British in the 1950’s, but general consumption is not. High-profile cases of animal torture have previously led to public outrage, with campaigners claiming perpetrators were being “let off too easy”. The capital city Taipei has also banned the sale of dog meat, but an investigation by a Taiwanese newspaper in 2011 published allegations that slaughterhouses and dog meat restaurants were escaping prosecution by the authorities.
Wendy Higgins, of animal protection charity Humane Society International, said: “Taiwan’s progressive ban is part of a growing trend across Asia to end the brutal dog meat trade, and reflects the fact that a huge number of people in Asian countries do not in fact engage in eating dog and cat meat and are appalled by the cruel and often crime-fueled trade.
“Taiwan also sends a strong signal to countries such as China and South Korea where the dog meat trade remains and millions of dogs are killed by beating, hanging or electrocution for eating. It’s time for change, and bans like the one in Taiwan utterly dispel the myth that this is promoted by Western sentimentality. The animal protection movement is growing rapidly across Asia and the calls for an end to dog meat cruelty are getting louder and louder.”
While the news of Taiwan banning the consumption of dog and cat meat is great, the fight is not over. There are many options available if you want to help stop the cruel dog meat trade. Humane Society International has a wealth of information and resources to help raise awareness for the cruelty inherent in this practice, and they also run large campaigns encouraging country leaders to take action to ban the trade altogether. Many people are not aware of the dangers or even the existence of the dog meat trade, so your best course of action is to educate yourself and others to expose the truth of this industry!