Most Americans Don’t Eat Dog or Cat Meat. So Why Are U.S. Lawmakers Trying To Make This A Felony Charge?

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Warning: This post contains graphic images.

In April, lawmakers proposed a nationwide ban on eating dog or cat meat, which initially prompted some head-scratching, considering neither animal is widely consumed within U.S. borders. (There are exceptions, of course, including a 2008 incident in which a German Shepherd/Lab Mix was killed and eaten after being dog-napped by staff on a Hawaiian golf course.)

Within a global context, however, such a proposal makes complete sense, says lawmakers, pointing to America’s efforts to lead by example. “Adopting this policy signals that the U.S. will not tolerate this disturbing practice in our country,” said California Representative Jeff Denham, one of the bill’s sponsors. (Denham is also known for the Pets on Trains Act, 2013, a law that demands small dogs and cats be allowed to travel on Amtrak trains and is inspired, in part, by his French Bulldog, Lily). If the proposal becomes law, eating dog or cat meat in any state will be punishable by fines, prison time and a felony charge.

Photo: Flickr/KaoG

Photo: Flickr/KaoG

In the past, U.S. activists and diplomats have come under fire for trying to encourage other countries to stop eating dogs and cats for dinner, while the practice is still technically legal in 44 U.S. states. (Following the aforementioned golf course incident, Hawaii has joined 6 U.S. states officially banning dog or cat meat consumption, along with Georgia, Michigan, Virginia, California, and New York). Meanwhile, implementing a federal ban would send a powerful message, while signaling solidarity with other countries that have taken similar stance, including Taiwan, which officially banned dog or cat meat consumption in 2017 – becoming the first country in Asia to do so.

Though less common than in past years, dogs still find themselves on the menu in China, South Korea, The Philippines, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and parts of India, according to Humane Society International, which estimates that 30 million dogs are still killed in these countries each year. Shifting cultural tides, fed in part by rising pet ownership, have led some to reconsider the merits of dining cats and dogs, but the trade still remains rife with charges of animal cruelty and stolen pets. Some cultures hold that an animal’s pain actually improve the meat’s flavor, leaving animals to be bludgeoned or boiled alive. Meanwhile, activists estimate that 70 percent of dogs starring on Asian menus have actually been stolen from their own neighborhoods or homes.

Unfortunately, the move to mandate a federal ban on dog and cat-meat consumption has suffered a recent setback, considering that Denham & Co. planned to piggyback their proposal on the back of the U.S. Farm Bill that just found itself up for a vote. Unfortunately, that legislation managed to fall apart on the House floor, rendering the fate of Denham’s proposal rather uncertain.

But where Congress has – at least for now — failed to act, celebrity activists have stepped up to fill the void. After investigations by an Indonesian NGO revealed how dogs and cats are brutally shuffled from animal markets to slaughterhouses to restaurant tables, over 90 celebrities — including Cameron Diaz, Ellen DeGeneres, Simon Cowell, and Ricky Gervais — signed a petition pleading with Indonesia’s president to halt this inhumane trade.

There’s plenty you can do, too, on behalf of dogs and cats who find themselves caught up in this horrific practice. First off, take care to never eat dog or cat meat abroad, which might mean extra diligence when ordering off the menu in some countries. Secondly, call or email your representative in Congress to let him or her know you feel strongly about this issue. Finally, sign one of the many petitions on our website devoted to stopping animal cruelty. You can get started by clicking ‘next’ on the link below.

Make eating dog and cat meat in the U.S. illegal!: Click “Next” below!

J. Swanson is a writer, traveler, and animal-enthusiast based in Seattle, an appropriately pet-crazed city where dog or cat ownership even outweighs the number of kids. When the weather permits, she likes to get outside and explore the rest of the Pacific Northwest, always with a coffee in hand.
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