Today, the U.S. House has overwhelmingly passed legislation to ban the sale of dog and cat meat in the United States, responding to the global movement to keep dogs and cats off the table and sending a signal to end the biggest form of companion animal exploitation in the world.
At Animal Wellness Action, we care about all animals, and yet there is something unique about dogs. They have a special kinship with human beings, accepting our company with the same, if not greater, appreciation as members of their own kind. They are the first domesticated species and the one that irreversibly changed the course of the human experience.
Most people consider our canine companions to be members of the family — and dogs undoubtedly consider us members of their packs. They are our companions, our protectors, our emotional support animals, our eyes, our guides, our sentries, our herders, our retrievers, our law enforcement and military partners, and so much more.
But so many dogs — at home and abroad — are not so lucky to be treated as family. Some are confined in small cages at puppy mills, used as breeding machines until their bodies buckle and give out. Other dogs are placed in pits and forced to fight while spectators gamble on the outcome. And some are even raised or collected off the streets and slaughtered and eaten by humans. It is a betrayal to kill and butcher animals who’ve shown us such loyalty and provide so many forms of service to us.
Yet, the dog meat trade is brisk in South Korea, where dog meat traders raise and slaughter tens of millions of dogs. In China, these dog meat men gather up street dogs to kill them for meat. Many dogs die from dehydration, suffocation, or heatstroke during transport, and watch as men kill their cage mates before their eyes. These abhorrent practices are even celebrated with a days-long, annual festival in Yulin, China.
The images of their terrified eyes and their broken spirit, in the hours or minutes before slaughter, breaks the hearts of anyone with compassion or alert to the suffering of others. These helpless victims must wonder what they did to deserve this kind of punishment and heartlessness.
The slaughter of dogs for meat is, to our great fortune, not widespread in the United States. But it does occur, and it is a global industry that can readily spread wherever there are no legal and cultural barriers to entry. The point is, we don’t want the practice to gain any kind of foothold in the United States.
Only six states specifically ban the slaughter of dogs and cats, including California, Delaware, Georgia, Mississippi, New Jersey, and New York. Now the United States is one step closer to banning it nationwide, with the House passage of the Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act, H.R. 6720, led by U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan (R-FL-16) and Alcee Hastings (D-FL-20). H.Res. 401 which should also pass by voice vote later this afternoon, calls for all nations to outlaw the dog and cat meat trade around the globe.
By adopting these policies, we are associating with nations that have adopted similar policies, including Thailand, the Philippines, and Taiwan. Enacting these policies reminds nations with dog-meat industries that we are morally consistent when sharing our disdain for this conduct and the presence of this industry. Indeed, in countries where dogs and cats are consumed, it is not unusual for supporters of the trade to point out that the U.S. does not even have a ban.
When it comes to the treatment of animals, we must establish clear standards, and that’s why Animal Wellness Action wants this legislation passed by Congress and signed by the President. One of our core values as a nation is opposition to animal cruelty, and these policies flow from that belief.
While we can’t dictate what other countries do, we have an opportunity to protect dogs and cats from a future where they are subjected to this cruelty and set an example for other nations to do the same. Because here in the U.S., dogs and cats are family.