NGO in Special
Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United
Translation of an article published on 21st February 2001 in " Süddeutsche Zeitung " (Germany)
Fondue with Swiss meat dog
Chinese cuisine has discovered Saint Bernard dogs - the guests are enthusiastic - an animal protection organisation in Geneva is shocked.
The Saint Bernard dog, says Mr. Li, has an extraordinary future. This dog is indeed an exceptional dog. Rarely have human beings had such a good and useful friend. The Saint Bernard dog's courage and strength is legendary. In the darkest night these dogs on the Great Saint Bernard could find lost travellers under the snow. This was 200 years ago but still this dog's loyalty and gentleness is praised. The Chinese like the Saint Bernard dogs too. "Its meat is so tender and of an exceptionally good taste" praises Li.
Mr. Li's breeding site is in Datong, This place used to produce coal. They have lived off this industry for many years. But the Shanxi-coal mine has had financial problems for quite a while and they have been looking for new incomes. That is why they have started the Linxing-Saint Bernard breeding site. The former coal mine workers are now breeding Saint Bernard dogs. They cross them with local breeds and sell the puppies to restaurants.
The Saint Bernard dog has not been known long in China. That's why discovering this breed still adds to the euphoria concerning these dogs. "The ideal meat dog", comments professionally Professor Du Shaoyue in the Chinese TV CCTV. "Good news for the holidays - Saint Bernard dog meat is available", announces the Beijing Youth Journal.
In the Saint Bernard's home country there is not the same joy. "Can Switzerland watch silently what happens to the Saint Bernard dogs in China?" asks the shocked Geneva based organisation "SOS Saint Bernard Dogs - International" and answers immediately with a clear NO! 11,000 signatures from breeders and owners of Saint Bernard dogs all over the world was deposited at the Swiss government in Bern on 5th February. For the spokes-woman of SOS Saint Bernard Dogs - International it is clear, the Swiss government has to interfere in Beijing - now. Before Saint Bernard dogs were life saving dogs, now they are in trouble, they need our help, says Moser. She foresees the consequences for the image of China: "Chinese fill their stomach with Saint Bernard dog meat and then they come to visit Switzerland, the home land of Saint Bernard dogs. This is ridiculous." And for Chinese businesses - "who will still want to go to Chinese restaurants?"
In East Beijing at "Gourou Wang" the guests do not have to worry. Translated the name means "King of dog meat". One can only enter with a booking, as the restaurant is always full. In winter the dog fondue is particularly popular, as it warms the body, as the waitress says. The guests are Chinese and Koreans for whom dog meat has been part of their food for decades.
History books tell that 2000 years ago China's Han king had on his menu meat of panthers and dog meat served with celery. Soon medical handbooks spread the news that dog meat was good for the kidneys. Up until today it is still considered as a health food co-ordinating Yin and Yang. With the Yin character it still manages to warm the body. That is why Chinese eat more dog meat in winter. In Korea the opposite happens, dog meat is eaten mainly in summer.
In the past in China there were industrial breeders for cows and pigs but not for dogs until the Saint Bernard industrial breeders appeared. There are many dog breeds in the world and there is not only one type of meat dog, says Professor Du in the Chinese TV show, and continued that only Saint Bernard male dogs could be the best fathers of meat dogs. While in the TV show classic music starts playing, the camera films Saint Bernard puppies playing in the grass. At the same time the speaker praises the advantages of these dogs, their size, their gentleness, their resistance to diseases, and their rapid growth. The market expectations are excellent, says Song Shiyong, the boss of the research laboratory in Shenyang. He adds that breeders can expect 3 to 4 times more income with Saint Bernard dogs than with chickens or pigs. "This is the way to wealth".
The Shenyang centre announces proudly that they have so far created 48 sites with a total of 5000 Saint Bernard dogs. Eaten are crossbred Saint Bernard dogs, from Saint Bernard males and local females. The newspaper for Animal and Fish industries complains that import of Saint Bernard dogs is difficult, because foreigners who are not used to dog eating do not readily sell dogs to China.
Questioning of the population in Beijing and Shanghai confirmed that 43% have already eaten dog meat. Guo Lizhen, (a teacher) belongs to the number who has not. She has a pet. Presently approx. 160,000 people in Beijing have pets as companion dogs. She has once been the witness of dog eating. Her friend ate the dog meat with gusto, while Guo shouted at him. Her friend is French.
Traditionally dog meat is eaten in Canton and Korea. Diplomats to Europe and defenders of this habit say that there is no difference between eating a Saint Bernard dog and a calf. For SOS Saint Bernard Dogs - International, there is a difference - a calf has not yet saved human lives.
Animal protectors in China protest mainly against the brutal slaughtering methods. "Many beat the dog to death, others burn off the skin of an animal which is still alive", reports Grace Gabriel of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). The reason for this is the widespread belief that the suffering of the animal, which in its panic develops an important quantity of adrenaline, makes the meat tender.
The indifference and brutality, of which foreigners often speak, says Grace Gabriel, herself native Chinese, can be explained by the present situation in the country. In China people have to go through so much suffering that any kind of mercy has been destroyed in the Chinese population.
To date there is no animal protection law - but they get more and more positive feedback from the authorities.
Swiss diplomats do not see that this issue spoils the relation with Beijing. Whether Switzerland wants to become the international leader for the protection of the Saint Bernard dogs still has to be decided, says Daniel Zehnder, the spokesman of the Swiss embassy. The petition will follow the regular diplomatic route and will be studied by a commission, he comments.
In the meantime, in the coal mine city of Datong the Saint Bernard breeders cannot meet the demand. Li comments "The demand is unbelievable. We produce 70 to 80 pounds of dog meat per day in our own slaughter house". The meat is sold for approx. 3 Deutschmark per pound. They have waiting lists mainly from Beijing and Canton. He says, "We are expanding now".
A Saint Bernard stands alone among the cages stuffed with dogs. The animals show signs of neglect. This is the future!! Pictures showing well cared for Saint Bernard's and other western breed dogs at meat breeding facilities belie the fact that once out of these facilities, they are at the mercy of people who do not care how much suffering the animals undergo - These dogs do not belong in the food chain!