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A disease outbreak leads to new questions about a widespread Chinese culinary practice.
“Dogs are the main reservoir for human rabies, and the raising, butchering, processing and consumption of dogs should be regulated and controlled,” the researchers in Vietnam wrote.
In China, nobody is quite so open about the dog-meat trade and its potential dangers, likely because it’s so culturally sensitive. Even the most diehard fans know the habit is frowned upon elsewhere. Though there are no clear numbers, Robinson’s group estimates that 18 to 80 million dogs are eaten every year in China.
Chinese scientists investigating the rabies problem were reluctant to talk about the dog-meat issue, saying only that large dog farms create special hazards.
A recent Chinese study also mentions two separate cases of human rabies infection in this country among people who were infected while butchering or handling dog carcasses. In that study, published by medical researchers in the journal “Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases,” researchers noted that the vast majority of rabies cases occurred in rural areas, and were mainly contracted through dog bites in places where dog farming and ownership is unregulated. In other words, the Pekingese pups of Beijing and Shanghai are not likely to morph into Cujo.
The solution, since Chinese diners don’t appear willing to give up dog meat any time soon? Education and vaccinations, plus more pressure, Robinson said.
Still, she said, “No government in the world has devised ‘humane’ methods of raising and slaughtering dogs and cats en masse and, if we were to endorse this route, we would undermine decades of work by welfare groups in other countries of Asia who have successfully brought the consumption of dogs and cats to an end.”
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