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Dog: The other white meat!

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Well, it’s really not a white meat… More like a very gamey beef. Sarcasm aside, and Western mores to the contrary, people eat dogs in the Philippines.  Like it or not, it is an integral part of Asian culture. Not every Filipino eats dog meat, but there are many who do, particularly the elderly and those in the provinces, and the possibility may arise that someday you, too, may be offered a steaming bowl of dog stew.

OK, now that is out of the way, and this may tick off some of the readers who are animal lovers, but I have no problem with people who eat dogs. Really, I don’t. I’ve even eaten it myself. The first time I tried it was on my first trip to Korea a number of years ago, and we were driving on the highway outside Ulsan. We pulled over for lunch at a small restaurant, some words in Korean were spoken, and several bowls of stew were brought to the table, with chunks of  meat, noodles, and lots of red chile. All presented beautifully (Like most Korean food, with all the assorted accompaniments). So, thinking it was beef, I started to eat, and I guess the look on my face told my hosts that something was wrong. They asked if I liked my lunch, and I replied, truthfully, “It’s OK, but I think that the beef might be a little old or something… It tastes a little off.” With much chagrin, my colleagues said, “That isn’t beef.” Hence, my dog-eating experience. Afterward, I had had dog in both Borneo and Thailand, which is also commonly eaten in those places. The taste is similar to beef, or more like venison, but you really wouldn’t know what you were eating if you weren’t told. Would I go out of my way for it? No. But, I’m not disgusted by the practice, either. Meat is meat, no matter how you look at it. I will say that dog meat has a rather pungent smell that reminded me of mutton.

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In the West, animal rights groups, nearly always with political agendas, rally against the eating of dogs. By Western norms, eating dog is taboo, yet the practice of eating dogs in Asia is thousands of years old. Who’s to say that it is wrong? In part, most Westerners are thinking about Rover, Lassie, Spot, or Butch. How is eating a dog different than eating a cow, pig, chicken, goat, or carabao? Those animals are all slaughtered and eaten, normally by no means more inhumane or cruel than dogs. Is it because puppies are cute? Or perhaps that the “man’s best friend” belief is so ingrained in the culture in the West?

In the Philippines, slaughtering dogs for food is illegal, according to Republic Act 8485, the Animal Welfare Act of 1998. That being said, particularly in Luzon, you can still find dog meat in some wet markets in the Provinces, and there are restaurants that specialize in dog, known as an Asocena. Since the meat is easy to find, it quickly becomes apparent that the law really isn’t enforced.

So, will dog meat hurt you if you eat it?

The answer is possibly. Dogs are carriers of rabies, endemic in the Philippines, and an average of two people die each year from rabies contracted from eating dogs. The rabies virus is not destroyed during the cooking process, and humans can become infected. If you catch rabies, there is no cure. You will most likely die. There are also specific diseases that can be caught from unhealthy dogs, particularly if the organs are consumed.

OK, then is dog meat good for you?

The only study I was able to locate was performed by a university in Korea. Here’s the nutritional information:

One hundred grams of raw dog meat contains 60.1 percent water, 19 grams of protein, 20.2 grams of fat and 44.4 milligrams of cholesterol. It also contains vitamins, potassium, ash, phosphorous, iron and sodium. Compared to other meats or ingredients, dog meat has less cholesterol. There are 1,280 milligrams of cholesterol in an egg yolk, 82.4 in tuna and 65.2 in pork. Compared to beef, pork and chicken, dog meat is not high in protein. But it is true that its amino acid content is superior to other meats.

Therefore, dog meat is a source of protein. Not as much as other meats, but it is there. Right now, dressed dog meat sells for around 65 pesos per kg at the palengke in Cagayan. If you are poor, compare that price to that of other meats and it becomes a cheap source of nutrition.

So, what about the more “traditional” benefits of eating dog?

The Igorot in the Cordillera have traditionally eaten dog. Up in the mountains, they say it “warms the body”. Conversely, in the lowlands in the Cagayan Valley, it is supposed to keep you cool during the hot days of summer. For men, it also makes the blood strong (if you get my “drift”… didn’t have that effect on me), especially if consumed with beer. At any worthwhile asocena, you will typically see that most of the customers are men, drinking beer, eating dog, and generally telling tall tales… A replacement for dinuguan!

Filipinos have pet dogs, just like most other cultures. They love their pets just like anyone else, and these animals are not what ends up on the dinner table. The dogs that are cooked are usually either strays or raised for food. Many educated Filipinos will get irate over the mere mention of dog-eating and deny that the practice even exists.  They believe it is a custom solely of the poor or ignorant. They feel insulted. I can say, however, that most of Rebecca’s family has eaten dog, though not frequently, and it is considered a delicacy up in Abulug. Last year, I hit a dog with my truck, accidentally, and when I stopped to check the damage, there were two witnesses who got into a heated argument. Rebecca told me that they were arguing about who got to keep the carcass and cook it (They ended up splitting it and sharing the unexpected bounty)!

So, if you get the urge to try dog, you have a couple of options:

1. Visit an asocena up in the North. (Since it is technically illegal, you may have to find a local resident to guide you where to go.)

2. Buy the meat in a palengke and cook your own. For those who want to try it, here’s a recipe:

Wedding Stew

3 kg dog meat — * see note
1 1/2 cups vinegar
60 peppercorns — crushed
6 tablespoons salt
12 cloves garlic — crushed
1/2 cup cooking oil
6 cups onion — sliced
3 cups tomato sauce
10 cups boiling water
6 cups red pepper — cut into strips
6 pieces bay leaf
1 teaspoon tabasco sauce
1 1/2 cups liver spread — ** see note
1 whole fresh pineapple — cut 1/2 inch thick

1. First, kill a medium sized dog, then burn off the fur over a hot fire.
2. Carefully remove the skin while still warm and set aside for later (may be
used in other recpies)
3. Cut meat into 1″ cubes. Marinade meat in mixture of vinegar, peppercorn,
salt and garlic for 2 hours.
4. Fry meat in oil using a large wok over an open fire, then add onions and
chopped pineapple and saute until tender.
5. Pour in tomato sauce and boiling water, add green pepper, bay leaf and
tabasco.
6. Cover and simmer over warm coals until meat is tender. Blend in liver spread
and cook for additional 5-7 minutes.

* you can substitute lamb for dog. The taste is similar, but not as pungent.
** smooth liver pate will do as well.

JohnM

John Miele is a Citizen of the World, having spent time in many locations around the globe. Currently, he finds himself in Manila, but travels throughout the Philippines. John joined the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine in mid-2008.

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Paul Thompson
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Paul Thompson

John;
I’m checking in on this article every day, this will be a good ride.

John Miele
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John Miele

Paul: I just try to write the truth… Though, about the recipe, Rebecca told me that it is more properly a “Dog Caldereta” rather than “Wedding Stew” (I found it online). To the Ybanag, dog meat is unlucky to serve at weddings, since dogs fight and are noisy. Eating the meat at your wedding could bring disharmony into the relationship.

roy
Guest
roy

Hello John, you are correct in saying that not all Filipinos eat dogs. More even accurate is the fact that dog eating is more prevalent in the north, among ilocanos and ybanags and more so in the mountain provinces. I think they are the only ones exempted in that law prohibiting dog-eating since they insist that it’s part of their custom, etc. Maybe as a child, I must have eaten a dog (hopefully not a whole dog hahaha). Now I have very indescribable feelings about it.

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

Roy:

Actually, they are not exempted, but that is part of the reason that the law is really not enforced: They would do it anyway. Heck, even though headhunting was prohibited for hundreds of years, it really only truly ended with the Igorot during the Marcos years.

roy
Guest
roy

[Republic Act No. 8485] reads in part the ff: SECTION 6: It shall be unlawful for any person to torture any animal, to neglect to provide adequate care, sustenance or shelter, or maltreat any animal or to subject any dog or horse to dogfights or horsefights, kill or cause or procure to be tortured or deprived of adequate care, sustenance or shelter, or maltreat or use the same in research or experiments not expressly authorized by the Committee on Animal Welfare. The killing of any animal rather than cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, poultry, rabbits, carabaos, horses, deer and crocodiles is… Read more »

Roberto
Guest
Roberto

Hi John: Nice article, food is always in the mouth of the beholder.

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

Roberto: Thank you… You have spoken words of wisdom there. Rebecca was first concerned that I would be making fun of the practice, until she read the article. They look at it as just another type of meat.

hudson
Guest
hudson

HI John,
Hey if somebody wants to eat dog…let ’em. I remember growing up here in Socal and we would have a pot roast for sunday dinner. It wasn’t until years later that I learned what was being served wasn’t beef but horse meat. We were poor I guess. Now of course Its Illeagle to serve horse meat here in California. That and foie gras.

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

Hudson: Horse meat is very common in Europe… Especially France and Belgium. It really is just about indistinguishable from beef (at least when I’ve tried it).

Paul
Guest
Paul

Hi John – Don’t forget that holiday treat: “black dog”! 😉

A dog hit by a car certainly brings people out. As you observe, it’s not about the accident itself. “Discussions” on who gets the carcass can come to fisticuffs if conditions are right.

Baguio is a reginal market for dog meat, though the locals there deny it, saying they abhor the practice. Yet, if you know where to go and/or who to see, you can come away with a kilo or two. I’m sure the system exists for the traditional and cultural-minded.

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

Paul: It is in the palengkes up in Cagayan… And I really wouldn’t be surprised if you could find it in Ilocos with a bit of searching.

A dog hit by a car equals a free meal for the family… Why let it go to waste?

PaulK
Member

It’s in the main market of Laoag City, too. Just have to know which floor and which stall. 😉

Neal in RI
Guest
Neal in RI

John
I have seen Dog cooked and for sale in Pohang Korea at one of them outdoor eating vendors. In that very same city I saw a Dog that been butchered being transported on the back rack of a Bicycle.
I have to say if I was in dire straits I would probably eat Dog so I wont rag on people for eating it. BUT there are lots of other things I would eat in the RP first before Dog. Frogs, Balut,Chicken feet, Heads,etc,

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

Neal: We kind of think alike on this. I wouldn’t go out of my way for it, but if you want to eat it, great! I do agree with you on Balut and the Chicken heads, though. The Chicken head is one of the few things I just couldn’t bring myself to try (Funny how a fish head doesn’t bother me, though)

Gary
Guest
Gary

I saw a dogumentary (sorry), I think it was PNG, but can’t remember for certain, anyway the guy who raised dogs for consumption also had a pet dog. Seems pretty straight forward, don’t eat your pet & don’t pet your food 8-D

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

Gary There’s a reason they don’t give names to the animals on the farm, except the family dog (“Tutung”).

Gary
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Gary

Got that right – can’t eat your buddy!!

MindanaoBob
Guest

Hey Gary – This posts brings a whole new understanding to your post about trying to name Mozart! 😆

Neal in RI
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Neal in RI

Paul
If I recall when I was on one of YOUR Navy Vessels in England we exchanged Beef for some Horse Meat with the English Chaps as some kind of friggin good will gesture. That SOS had a very odd smell to it.

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

Neal: I always had suspicions about the SOS we got in the army… Ground beef? Don’t think so. Funny how they always made it on gas mask qualification day. I smell conspiracy here!

Miss August
Guest

This reminds me of the time I ate some dog meat. I was about 7 or 8 years old and my brother was getting married to gal from San Felipe, Zambales. The day before the wedding the men were drinking and eating some “pulutan”; being a little kid, I asked for some of the dish and I started eating. I don’t remember NOT liking it because I went back for seconds. Later that day, they were teasing me that I was going to start barking soon! That was when I was told I ate some dog meat. That was the… Read more »

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

Miss August: Rebecca told me that when she was young, they used to pester the men to let them eat, too. Eventually, they gave in and she said that they liked it.

dans
Guest
dans

hi john, It is all about culture, tradition and belief, While the rest of the world raise and eat cow as a common food on the table, in some places in india cow is holy for them so they dont eat it. in the eyes of animal groups from the west who sees eating dog as the most disgusting practice, how about in the eyes of an indian? how an indian perceives people who eat cow? it all boils down to this, none of us should tell anybody that a certain animal cannot be eaten because our society dictates it… Read more »

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

Dan: Right you are. I find it interesting that Rebecca thought that I would mock the practice. It is part of the cultural identity. I remember reading a study that some cannibals down in New Guinea were offered a plate of Spaghetti and meatballs: They found the food absolutely repulsive and couldn’t comprehend people eating such things. It makes me pause a bit when I think of TV shows like Fear Factor and Survivor sensationalizing things like eating dog, or so on. My reaction to eating dog really wasn’t revulsion, but more being unfamiliar with the taste. That’s why I… Read more »

MindanaoBob
Guest

Hi John – Consumption of dog meat, I believe, is more of a northern thing. To my knowledge, dog meat is not very popular in Mindanao. I am not sure about the Visayas region. In my time living in Mindanao, I have only come across the consumption of dogs by two different families. When we lived in GenSan, our neighbors cooked Lechon Iro (roasted dog) pretty regularly, at least once per week, as I recall. After that, I had never seen it, until about 2 months ago here in Davao, I happened so see somebody butchering a dog and preparing… Read more »

Mike
Guest
Mike

Eating Aso in Davao is not as uncommon as you think, Bob. One of my dogs went missing & my neighbour told me that his cousin had taken the dog, for the dinner table. His cousin showed up a few nights later, presumably, for “seconds”. During a tussle, he sliced open my brother-in-law’s stomach with a large kitchen knife. In the end, my brother-in-law survived & they buried my neighbour’s cousin a few days later, by which time, I was on a flight to Canada & missed the investigation. Apparently, someone shot the poor fellow. I respect that it is… Read more »

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

Mike: Sorry for distressing you. Dogs cause many complaints between neighbors out in the province, not necessarily over food. I hear of many fights and vendettas over someone’s pet dog.

macky
Guest

true. deifinitely more of a northern luzon thing. it is my experience that whenever a topic of dog meal is raised in a casual conversation, there’s always a look of revulsion. i’ve met a handful who’ve tried it and it’s always “that one when i was a kid.” i’ve tried it myself once & it was decades ago. but i only found out after the fact. i won’t do it again, though. i’m a big dog lover and consider my own part of the family. but i admire the respect you handled in your article. now, with that law and… Read more »

roy
Guest
roy

So True Macky. I am revolted by the topic and I was wary where John is going with this topic. & I agree that he handled the topic very well. But then again, his wife is from the north so…
But I laughed so hard at Jim Cunningham when he admitted shyly that he too had eaten a dog meat.

Jim Cunningham
Guest

Hi Roy- Its true I had never admitted it to anyone before now.
Regards from Talakag.

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

Macky: Some Filipinos get quite upset when the subject is raised… As do many Koreans I have met. It is so regarded as taboo elsewhere that they seem to get embarrassed or defensive about it. It’s just part of the culture. Behavioral norms change over time, but they shouldn’t cause embarrassment (In my mind, at least).

roy
Guest
roy

And Bob, I would hazard a guess that those who eat dogs in Gen San are ilocano migrants.

MindanaoBob
Guest

Hi Roy – Wouldn’t surprise me a bit! 😉

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

Roy: Wouldn’t surprise me either… an awful lot of Ilocanos migrated to Mindanao (As a side note, there have recently been a fair number of Muslims from Mindanao moving to Aparri… Migration flows both ways.

roy
Guest
roy

Really John? That has to be a recent phenomenon. But then again I wonder too if ilocanos still migrate south. Muslims migrating to Cagayan must have been displaced due cross-fires in the south. Very interesting.

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

Roy: Last two years or so… They are up there for dredging / mining jobs. Somewhat distressing to the locals, given the probably 99% Catholic area there.

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

Bob: I think so… I couldn’t find anything online avbout it being eaten outside of Luzon. In particular, Baguio, as Paul said, seems to be the modern dog-eating capital of the Philippines. It really seems to be an Igorot tradition, and since many Ilocanos and Ybanags are descended from Igorot…

If you want to try, I can make some arrangements if you make it up North… 😉

queeniebee
Guest
queeniebee

Hi Bob and John, From my experiences in Cebu province, the occasional eating of a stray dog is usually limited to the Tanduay drinking set. I’ve never seen it for sale in the mercado here.

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

Queenie: It’s the same in Luzon most of the time… Always alcohol with it.

MindanaoBob
Guest

Hi John – I’ll bring the durian and a bottle or two of tuba! 😯

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

Bob: on second thought, how about a pizza instead! 🙂

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